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anxiety, devotional, lessons learned

Peace in the Storm: Part 2 of Jesus in the Storm

We all want to experience God’s peace, but we cannot experience His peace until we first comprehend His power. And we cannot comprehend His power without a storm. These two attributes of God go hand-in-hand.

Catherine Segars

Pandemics, large and small disappointments, illnesses, deaths, family troubles—we all have storms in life. So, experiencing fear and anxiety in the midst of any type of storm is understandable.

But the real question we all have is, where is Jesus in the middle of our storms? Where is Jesus now, in the middle of the biggest pandemic our generation has ever experienced? Many of us feel, like the disciples in the boat, that Jesus is ignoring our plight by sleeping through it (Mark 4). And, like those doubting disciples, we tend to jump to the immediate—and incorrect—conclusion that he does not care about our fate.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus is, indeed, right in the middle of the storm with us. That in itself is extremely comforting. I find myself wanting to know that I’m not the only who’s been through abusive marriages and divorces, not the only one with concerns over my parents’ health or my children’s choices, and not the only one who’s ever lost a job or a car or a church due to circumstances beyond my control. 

And Jesus does care deeply about our fates. While he could snap his fingers and heal everyone with COVID-19 now, it’s not very likely that he will. That’s not his style. What he wants, instead, is for us to have faith that he is still in control.

He made the storm be still,
    and the waves of the sea were hushed.

Psalm 107:29

Without the storm, the disciples would never have realized that Jesus had control over the weather. Without the storms in our lives, we may never realize that Jesus is in control over our life circumstances, no matter what they are, and that when he says, “Peace! Be still!” (Mark 4:39) the peace he’s imparting might be into our hearts, not into our situations.

If you’re feeling in need of some peace today, try listening to some praise and worship music while you take some time to read verses about the kind of peace Jesus offers you today. Here are a few to get you started: Psalm 23; Psalm 91; Psalm 107:23-32; Isaiah 26:12; Isaiah 41:10; Mark 4:35-41; Philippians 4:4-9; 2 Timothy 1:7. Which passages would you add?

Pray and ask God specifically for a peaceful heart during your storm. Ask others to pray with you.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7

What’s your biggest storm in life right now? How are you finding peace in its midst? Please share with me, so I can pray with you!

anxiety, devotional, lessons learned

Jesus in the Storm, Part 1

A worldwide pandemic is not a literal storm, but I imagine it feels as unsettling as Jonah before he jumped overboard or the disciples before they saw Jesus walking on the water toward them.

While the current COVID-19 panic seems to be the biggest storm on the horizon, it’s not the only one. Parents are still dying of cancer, children are still rebelling in the most heart-rending ways, and divorce is still sideswiping many. 

Jesus told us that we would have tribulations in this world (John 16:33). Not might. Not maybe. But definitely. So it would behoove us to be prepared. 

We need to learn to see Jesus in the midst of every storm. While he did not promise us smooth sailing, he did promise to be with us at all times. 

“How apt is faith to stagger if it is not powerfully undergirded.”

Richard Baxter

When I was a teenager, my brother and I spent a summer sailing around Puget Sound on our grandparents’ sailboat. We had a blast earning our Junior Seamanship Certificates and sailing from island to island. 

Being Washington state, the weather wasn’t always sunny with a light wind. No, there were frequent storms replete with thunder, lightning, strong winds, and heavy rains.

The sailboat would rock violently from side to side as rain lashed the decks. We would lower the sails so as not to be pushed about more by the wind. Walking around, even below decks, was impossible. Sometimes my grandpa would drop anchor, and we would ride out the storm in the relative safety of a harbor. 

A few times, though, we were out in the main channel when the wind whipped up, and no immediate port of safety was available. But I was never afraid, even when we were told to batten down the hatches and go below decks. My grandpa was the most competent sailor and had weathered many storms; I trusted him implicitly to pilot the sailboat and us through the storm to safety. And he did. Every time.

Jesus is even better than Sailor Jack. 

When Jesus and his disciples were sailing one day, Jesus fell asleep and slept through a terrible storm. The disciples woke Jesus up because they thought they were going to die in the storm. Jesus, after he calmed the storm, said, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40).

Faith is the anchor for our souls. We need to soak up the Word through reading, meditating on, practicing, and passing on the Word of God (Romans 10:17) so that when trials come, our faith may be steadfast (James 1:2-3). 

What’s your current storm? Please share, so I can pray with you! 

anxiety, change, devotional, grief, lessons learned

Plan B

My life lately looks like a season of Well, That Didn’t Go as Planned. But here’s the thing. I. Love. To. Plan. Everything.

Perhaps you have this problem, too?

The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps.

Proverbs 16:9 ESV

I’ve learned to write in my pretty planner with erasable pens (they’re the bomb), but my stickers don’t always cooperate with being moved. Kind of like their owner.

Right now, my Plan A is for the purchase of my townhome to happen on a particular date. I’ve got a sticker for the movers on that date in my planner and friends with strong backs and muscles lined up, too. But yesterday, I received an email from my lender saying that the date would most likely be pushed back eight days. 

For four years, my baby girl has dreamed about and planned on going to Italy to study abroad this semester. (You already see where this is going, don’t you?) She had been happily ensconced in Rome for two months, racking up the steps on her FitBit when a teeny, tiny little virus spread like wildfire around the globe, aided by the media. 

Her dreams of spending five months traveling and learning around Europe fell like rose petals from a rejected lover as she was rushed back with the rest of her classmates to the “safe” zone of New York City. Platitudes of health and safety aren’t comforting. Now she’s quarantined (yet healthy) in her dorm and wondering how and when her classes will continue in a different country with different professors.

I can relate. I wish I had more comforting words. But I don’t. I wish I could hug her in person. But I can’t. All I can say is, “I’m so sorry, baby, but it will be ok. Eventually.” 

God comforts us when we’re on Plan B (or C or G or M or …) with this:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28 ESV

Everything—even the bumped moving date and the disrupted study abroad plans—is for our good, even if we can’t immediately see it. We just have to trust that God knows what He’s doing.  

I love the insight and inspiration of this article by Sandra Peoples: “Your Plan B Is Still God’s Plan A.” Peoples’ life didn’t go as planned, and she looks to a number of biblical examples of others whose lives didn’t go as they planned either. 

Above all, God is sovereign. Sometimes I just have to repeat that over and over to myself. Sometimes I need to remind myself of other times when my unwanted Plan B really did turn out to be so much better than my Plan A because it was God’s Plan A all along. When we surrender to God’s Plan A (even if it’s our Plan C or D), that’s when God gets the glory. And that’s what life is really all about: glorifying God. 

What’s your Plan B? Suspended travel plans? A child’s rejection? An unwanted diagnosis? A divorce? An unexpected death? A job loss? Remember that it’s still God’s Plan A for your life, and it will be better than your Plan A (eventually).

change, lessons learned

Authenticity

Many years ago, I had a close friend. Our kids played together. We worshiped together. We complained about our husbands together. We homeschooled together. We had coffee together. I thought we were best friends.

Then she started pulling back. She didn’t always answer her phone when I called. She started being busy when I tried to plan coffee dates. The real blow came when she and another friend went on a trip and didn’t invite me. We had been talking for several months about it, but hadn’t settled on a date. At least not that I knew about. I was crushed.

She refused to tell me what was going on. Our friendship quietly dissolved.

Years later, she told me why. One of her children was developmentally disabled and didn’t keep up with the same milestones that my same-age child did. Her husband was not saved and refused to attend church; mine was the youth pastor. She felt that her life was inferior to mine.

I was flabbergasted, but I learned a valuable lesson. True, deep friendship cannot flourish without true authenticity. 

If only I had told her that my marriage was also far from perfect: the youth pastor had a serious addiction to pornography that deeply affected our marriage and my own feelings of worth. The child who appeared to be academically advanced for her age had ADD, and I eventually found myself unable to homeschool her for several years because of it.

My pride and natural reserve kept me from enjoying and benefitting from sharing life with a valued friend.

Iron sharpens iron,
    and one [wo]man sharpens another.

Proverbs 27:17 (ESV)

We always kind of wonder how people could really love someone (like ourselves) who is such a hot mess. But here’s the thing, when we open up about our hot messes, when we invite others into our less-than-perfect spaces, we invite others into a shared authentic space.

It’s in that shared authentic space that true love (romantic or filial) and connection blossom. We feel true communion when someone says, “Me too.” Friendship can’t grow in the sterile environment of perfectionism. 

A [wo]man who has friends must [her]self be friendly,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 18:24 (NKJV)

Do you need to make an adjustment in any of your relationships?  I might need to make a few more changes myself.

devotional, divorce, grief, healing

Love Letters

Eight years ago, on my very first Valentine’s Day as a grieving, scared, newly separated, single mom, I got the ultimate rejection: legal separation papers. Yes, they were actually delivered on Valentine’s Day. I’m pretty sure I went through a whole box of tissues that day.

Last year, separated from my second husband, I found out that he was seeing another woman. Yes, before we were legally divorced. (I later discovered that they were married before the ink was even dry on his divorce from me.) 

Let’s just say I don’t have high hopes for this particular holiday. 

But there is Someone who sent me the ultimate love letter. Someone who won’t ever retract it. Someone who, although he loves many others, will never be unfaithful to me.

God sent us the ultimate love letter, so long that it fills 66 separate books. True, some books are more filled with obvious love than others, but the whole Bible is a story of redemption for undeserving people—the  ultimate definition of love.

Although nearly 800 verses displayed when I did a search for the word love in the Bible, the one verse that has been popping up over and over recently doesn’t actually have the word love in it: 

The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

What could be a better definition of love for someone who’s feeling rejected and forgotten on Valentine’s Day more than God taking great delight in me? That’s not an I-love-you-because-I-have-to love. That’s not you’re-not-quite-enough-for-me love. That’s an amazing kind of love! It makes me want to rejoice and sing, too!

Now I just need a way for this amazing truth to sink in the long 12 inches from my head to my heart. 

Friend, I know it’s hard, really hard, especially this week. But know this: you are not forgotten; you are not unloved. You are delighted in! Your Heavenly Father is rejoicing over you with singing!

about me, divorce, healing, moving on, writing

Why I Have to Write

Last week I shared why I’m afraid to write my story. It was enough to scare me off all over again! This week I want to share why, in spite of my fears, I feel compelled to write anyway.

God has put in my heart to share my story in order to help others who may be going through similar hard stuff. Hard stuff is hard stuff, that is true, yet some hard stuff is so unique that only those who have suffered through it can truly understand those with the same difficulties. Here’s a brief rundown of some of my hard stuff over the past seven and a half years. 

Within a period of a year or so, I endured a separation (that eventually resulted in divorce), a totaled car, bankruptcy and foreclosure through no fault of my own, a child who almost committed suicide, job loss, financial loss, custody suits, serious health issues with my parents, serious health issues for myself, loss of church and friends due to false rumors, loss of my home, and more. 

Just as I was getting back on my feet, the whole cycle started over again. I had remarried (after much prayer and thought), but that marriage, too, ended in divorce due to abuse. I had expensive car repairs and expensive health issues. Again, I lost a job and a church. A child did something that rocked my world. A parent called with another cancer diagnosis. Property and finances were stolen from me. This second cycle was a bit shorter, and I was better prepared, yet I cried out to God asking why I had to suffer through all of these hard things again

So why do I feel the need to share about some of these hard things? I need to shine the light of God’s truth onto the ugly places of marital abuse in the church. Divorce—even in 2020—is still heavily stigmatized in the church. Who are we to judge what others have been through when they most need love? I need to help parents of children living alternative lifestyles know they are not alone, and it’s not their fault. 

I need to share that even though my entire life crumbled around me—literally—more than once, I can remain standing because of God’s faithfulness. God has put in my heart to share my story to make stepping stones out of the pit back onto solid ground and to show others who are where I have been the path to freedom and wholeness. Spoiler alert: I’m not all the way there yet.  

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;     
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;    
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:22-24 ESV

The other reason I need to share my story is that I was silenced for so many years and made to feel like I was less than and not important. I lost my sense of self. I lost my opinions. I was made to feel worthless. I lost my self-confidence. All of it. 

I need to write in order to feel heard and to regain myself! I have been silenced long enough!

Which of these topics can you identify with? Which of these topics would you like to see in print first? (Well, on the blog, not really in print.)

anxiety, healing, moving on, When a Woman Finds Her Voice, writing

Why I’m Afraid to Write My Story

I’ve been procrastinating, which is unlike me. I’ve decided that this is the year to tell my story, but I want to communicate it with redemption and hope. As I was trying to figure out why I felt so anxious whenever I thought of writing recently, I came up with this (probably partial) list of fears. Can you relate?

I’m afraid I’ll be minimalized—again. I’m afraid my parents will disapprove of what I choose to say. I’m afraid others (kids, friends, family, strangers) will disapprove of what I choose to say. I’m afraid I’ll be told my story doesn’t matter. I’m afraid to relive some of the really hard parts of my story. I’m afraid people will think I’m not a good writer. I’m afraid I won’t come up with the right words. I’m afraid I won’t be able to craft the story with redemption and hope. I’m afraid I’ll have to do marketing and all that stuff that makes my brain hurt and makes me feel inadequate. 

I’m afraid people will say what happened to me wasn’t that bad. I’m afraid to be vulnerable because I don’t want to get hurt again/more. I’m afraid to dream. I’m afraid to hope. I’m afraid to believe that I could actually write something helpful that people would want to read (never mind the fact that part of my day job title includes the word writer). I’m afraid I’ve only got one word for how I made it through some of the toughest spots: God. I’m afraid I don’t know how to incorporate all the elements properly. I’m afraid I’ll fail. I’m afraid it won’t be perfect.

There are nowhere near 365 “I’m afraid” statements there, yet God has provided 365 different verses in the Bible to address fear. A bunch of them are found in the book of Joshua as he was setting out to do a new thing. Over and over, God tells him, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 ESV). Like Joshua, I feel as if I’m setting out to do a new thing (telling pieces of my story). Like Joshua, I feel as if I need daily strength and encouragement not to be afraid. 

David also knew all about being in situations where fear was a normal response, yet he reacted like this: 

“In God, whose word I praise,

in God I have put my trust;

I shall not be afraid.

What can mere man do to me?”

Psalm 56:4 (NASB)

Turns out, “mere men” can do quite a bit, but it’s not permanent. Their words are not as powerful as the words of the Almighty God who promises to “redeem the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned” (Psalm 34:22 ESV).

In the end, that’s what I’ve got to cling to: God. He’s been there all along, and He’s certainly not going to fail me now. 

change, devotional, lessons learned, reinventing

Praise Before Victory

It’s a dreary, chilly day here in North Carolina, but that’s no excuse to let my inside grumpiness be on display for everyone else. Although it may seem like no big deal, it’s not. Victory in small things leads to victory in bigger things. Learning how to have victory over a grumpy mood one day leads to learning how to have victory over the negative effects of a life-altering event next month or next year. 

Turns out, King Jehoshaphat of OT Judah, knew the right formula: “He appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.’ And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed”  — 2 Chronicles 20:21–22.

They’re giving praises to God BEFORE the victory! The praise band is walking in front of the soldiers. What? Isn’t that backward? Sure seems that way! We teach our kids to say thank you after we’ve given them something. Do you remember giving your toddlers something—anything—and then prompting them, “What do you say?” Sometimes I would even hold onto the item (with them holding the other side of it) until they remembered to say thank you. I was giving them the cookie, yet I wouldn’t release the cookie from my hand until they expressed gratitude. 

Lightbulb moment: Is that what’s going on here? God is giving us the victory, just like I’m giving my toddler the cookie, but just like a toddler, I often need to be prompted to say thank you. God is holding onto the victory until I get my brain in gear and acknowledge that he’s the source of the victory! But how do we gain a victory when we want to remain in victim mode?  

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”

1 Corinthians 15:57

Fill your mind with gratitude. Read the Psalms and notice that even when David was crying for help in a difficult situation, he always gave thanks as well.

Fill your ears with praises. Start singing praises to God—sing along with worship songs on the radio. Or just start by clicking on a praise and worship channel on Pandora or Spotify. 

Fill your hand with thankfulness. Express gratitude. Keep a jar on your counter and make a point every day to write one thing for which you are grateful on a slip of paper to put into the jar. For a dose of encouragement, at the end of the year (or month, or even week), take a look back at God’s personal faithfulness to you.   

Sometimes victory looks like showing up at work or church even when it took a monumental effort to pick yourself up off the floor from a crying jag. Sometimes victory looks like hugging the person who just screamed invectives at you and slammed doors on his way out because he’s your son. Sometimes victory looks like keeping your mouth closed during a work meeting or not firing off that angry (though perhaps justified) email. And sometimes victory looks like keeping the grumpiness inside and projecting cheerfulness. What does your victory look like today?

Uncategorized

How to Lose a Guy in 3 Emails

So, this online dating thing is supposed to be a great way to meet new people, right? You look at photoshopped pictures, read clichés masquerading as profiles, send digital winks, and attempt to start awkward conversations with strangers. If you’re lucky, some guy that sounds halfway interesting will say more than, “Hey, babe.” 

Then you get a conversation going, but it’s probably the most stilted, unnatural conversation you’ve ever had in your life. That’s ok, though, because there’s potential! You’re excited and respond eagerly to the incoming messages. Then he asks for your number, and you’re sure you’re finally going to get a date. It’s about time, after all, since you’ve been stalking profiles for several months. 

All of a sudden, the messages stop. What happened? You were sure he was The One! Or at least that you were going to get a free Starbucks out of all your efforts!

I’ll tell you what happened! Here’s your free guide to how to lose a guy in three emails:

  • Be too eager
  • Be a cold fish
  • Ask him tons of questions to get to know him
  • Don’t ask any questions
  • Return every message right away
  • Wait a few days, at least, before returning messages
  • Be proactive and message him first
  • Wait for him to initiate every correspondence
  • Tell  him all the details about your kids
  • Tell him you’re not interested in hearing about his kids
  • Ask him to go to church with you
  • Tell him he attends the wrong denomination
  • Say you hate sports
  • Run faster than he does and leave him panting in the first block
  • Text him good morning
  • And goodnight
  • Be possessive
  • Tell him you’re meeting other guys for coffee as well
  • Say you’re madly in love with him the third time you meet
  • Be totally disinterested in his most passionate hobby
  • And my final tip: actually give him your phone number!

Oy! Dating in this new-fangled age of digital matchmaking is hard, so we may as well laugh about it! What’s your best/worst tip for dating later in life?