about me, devotional, encouragement, healing, lessons learned, midlife faith, When a Woman Finds Her Voice

Embrace the Grace

Growing up in church, I thought all pastors’ families were supposed to be perfect. At least, that was what was to be portrayed. They were always smiling, always serving, always hospitable, and the children were always obedient (insert adult eye roll). 

And I don’t know how I acquired the false idea that some sins were worse than others, but somehow in my legalistic private school education, the list of sins started with short skirts and ended with girls who got kicked out for, well, you know what.

But somewhere between collecting demerits for too-big earrings and my second divorce—as the pastor’s daughter, no less—I figured out that short skirts aren’t a mortal sin—and neither is divorce, or speeding, or yelling at your kids occasionally, or having a ring around the bathtub. 

During that journey, though, Satan had a field day, making my sense of shame and guilt bow my chin to my chest. 

The devil suggests to people that they cannot change; God will not help them. They are helpless slaves to sin and its consequences. Romans 6 says instead, “No, you are free.” Romans 7 says, “The Law can neither save nor sanctify you.” Romans 8 says, “The Holy Spirit does enable you to walk in a manner pleasing to God, so you can be a conqueror.”

After we are freed from the bondage of slavery to sin, nothing can separate us from God’s love for us (Romans 8:37–39). God’s love is not conditional; He doesn’t look at the length of our skirts to determine the height or depth of His love for us.

A few years ago, my dad (the aforementioned pastor) noticed that I always seemed to be carrying around a sense of shame and heaviness for my current life situation (being divorced is no picnic, in case you were wondering). He reassured me that he did not see me through the lens of a divorced woman, or a woman who’d been fired from a job, or a woman who could never live up to some other imaginary standards. He just saw me as his beloved daughter. Period.

I feel the same way about my daughter. She is living far, far from God although she professed His name for many years when she was young. However, my love for my daughter is not based on whether she goes to church or plays DnD on Sundays.

So, how do we get from hanging our heads in shame because we were formerly slaves to living like the beloved children of the King of kings that we are?

We must learn to reframe the shame! First we face it, then we grace it. Remember, the opinions of others don’t matter. We will always be too much or not enough for some people, and that’s ok. Through the grace of God and Christ’s suffering, we are accepted the way we are!

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:1 ESV

Boom. Mic drop. That’s the whole sermon, right there. 

Romans 8:15 tells us that we have not been delivered from slavery to fall back into fear! We are to embrace the grace we’ve been given; otherwise, we’re throwing God’s gift back in His face. 

While feelings are, indeed, powerful, they are not what’s real. They may indicate that we’ve got some emotional baggage to unload, but they should not dictate our actions and our thoughts. We might just need to spend some time aligning our emotions with God’s truths. 

So, go live like the conqueror you are! Use your freedom to point others to Jesus. 

Read and Reflect:
Romans 8—read the whole context for this week’s message
Ephesians 2:8–9
Colossians 2:6–23

Think and Pray

  1. Are you stuck in a cycle of shame and guilt from which you need to be set free?
  2. Why is it often more difficult to receive grace for yourself than it is to extend grace to others?
  3. How do your feelings get in the way of your acting like a child of the King?
  4. What would it mean for you to actually live like a beloved child of the King of kings instead of a servant in the dungeon?

**This article also appears on the Beyond Sunday Blog.**

about me, lessons learned, midlife faith, reinventing

50 Things about Turning 50

Today is my 50th birthday, and to celebrate, I’ve listed 50 things I’ve learned in life (in no particular order).

  1. 50 is fabulous!
  2. Living 50 years is worth celebrating!
  3. Eat the chocolate.
  4. I am enough!!!
  5. Jesus has met my every need, and He’ll keep meeting every need.
  6. This, too, shall pass.
  7. Friends need to be cultivated and cherished.
  8. I’m feeling more settled now than I ever did.
  9. I wouldn’t trade the years spent at home raising my kids for anything.
  10. I don’t need as much stuff as I used to think I did.
  11. Go for gold—dream big!
  12. Take time for reflection.
  13. It’s never too late to start—or start over. 
  14. Take care of your health.
  15. My mother was right.
  16. My dad is still the wisest person ever.
  17. Parenting gets harder, not easier.
  18. My kids will break my heart (again).
  19. Don’t take anything personally (haven’t learned this one yet).
  20. Get up, dress up, show up.
  21. Give yourself grace.
  22. Give others grace.
  23. Base my decisions on myself, not on others (kids, men, friends).
  24. Friends are important.
  25. Change is the only thing that’s constant.
  26. Learn to let go (still working on this one, too).
  27. It’s hard (see #26).
  28. Be gracious.
  29. Take a chance.
  30. There are worse things than a few gray hairs at 30.
  31. Trying to please others means no one is happy, including myself.
  32. Give gifts for no reason.
  33. Fake it till you make it.
  34. Don’t complain. Just stop it.
  35. Ditch the attitude.
  36. Be grateful for the small things.
  37. Celebrate all the holidays.
  38. Celebrate small victories.
  39. It’s not always about proving you’re right.
  40. 50 is the new 40 (but 40 was the new 30 10 years ago).
  41. Apologize—even if you’re right.
  42. Traditions are important.
  43. But be willing to change or flex them as needed (see #42).
  44. Nothing lasts forever.
  45. Learn to embrace new and different seasons in life.
  46. Learn to be comfortable in your own skin.
  47. I can’t control everything, so stop trying.
  48. Choose joy daily.
  49. The one where I was quarantined.
  50. I am 50 and fabulous!
about me, encouragement, homeschool, organization, organizing, planning

Announcement … Homeschooling Help Is Here!

NOW AVAILABLE!!

One of the hard things many of you have been called to do in this current season is to homeschool or to school your kids at home.

Some of you may remember, but many of you do not know, that I homeschooled my own children for 14 years. During that time, I blogged, wrote, and spoke on the topics of homeschooling and organization (and the combination). My blog was called “Confessions of an Organized Homeschool Mom,” and I also had a regular column in the Homeschool Enrichment magazine, Heart of the Matter Online, and wrote regularly for The Old Schoolhouse magazine and some other places. All of that writing and speaking was under a different last name—LeBedz, just in case you’re looking for it.   

Then life happened. You know, hard stuff. I’ve written about some of it on the blog here. 

But with current events being what they are, I’ve been encouraged from several different fronts to refresh and republish my homeschool writing to encourage people right now. 

So, that’s going to be happening some here on the blog and over on the homeschooling page on my website (www.bethanylashell.com/homeschooling). Also, I’m working on categorizing my past homeschool blog posts here on this website, so keep checking back to see what’s here to encourage you along the way.

First up is a helpful ebook on the basics of setting up an organized schooling area in your house—even if you don’t have a whole, separate room for it. Originally written 10 years ago (what? I’m feeling old now!), it’s 14 pages jam-packed with tips and tricks for getting you, your kids, and their stuff set up and rolling. And, it’s only $3.99 for the first week. Then it’ll go up to $4.99. 

Click here to purchase Get Organized!, the first eBook in the Simple Homeschooling Series.

Forward this to your schooling-at-home and homeschooling friends! And please let me know which topics you need help with!

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.)

about me

I’m Baaaack!

IMG_20151008_201953_794I’ve missed this space! This past week, I’ve been thinking that I needed to get back into regular, personal writing for several reasons.

First of all, I need to get all this hot mess out of my head! I’ve heard fiction authors say that they have no idea how a story is going to end up until they actually write it. I think that’s true to an extent for non-fiction writing as well. I may have a vague idea of my feelings, but I often find myself surprised by their depth and/or direction when I read what I’ve written in my journal. Of course, this space is a bit less spontaneous, but when I listed out some possible blog topics yesterday, I came up with well over 30! My goal was to come up with 7, so that tells me I have quite a bit to share with you all.

Second of all, I teach writing for a living, and I discovered that I haven’t been practicing what I preach. I tell my students that writing becomes easier the more they just do it and that writing well, while an art, does take practice. I tell them that all employers—and life in general—require effective and efficient communication. Like other skills, writing can become rusty if not done on a regular basis. Here comes the oil can.

Third of all, I’ve been thinking of ways to supplement my adjunct professor’s salary, and decided that freelance writing, which I have done already, would certainly fit the bill. But if I want to write stuff that people want to read—and pay for!—then I need to get myself back into the game. While I loved writing for the homeschool market previously, I was never able to make (much) money from it, and frankly, as a single mom, I need to maximize my earning potential within my current time constraints. So, part of the public writing I hope to do in the next few weeks will be exploring new topics that fit within these parameters.

Let me know what kinds of stuff you’d like to read here in this space as well as what kinds of content you’d be willing to pay to read (in other venues).

about me, divorce, reinventing

The BIG, UGLY Thing

Jo Ann Fore

 Deep breath. I can do this. I have to get the BIG, UGLY Thing out of the way before we can go any further on this blog; otherwise, I’ll be the same, old me. I want to be a new me, even though none of this year’s yucky things are things that I have chosen. Not even a little bit. I don’t know about you, but I like choices in my life. And I’m not talking about the Apple Pecan Chicken Salad versus the Grilled Market Salad. But I digress.

The BIG, UGLY Thing is an impending divorce. There. I said it. When I was growing up–in a pastor’s family–I always felt like divorce was a bad word. I still feel like it is. I don’t want to be divorced; I really don’t. But I’m not being given a choice in the matter, so I’m learning to accept it. I couldn’t even say the word for months.

So now you know. The foundation has been laid for what’s to come. Anyone else out there with me? Anyone else going through or already been through a BIG, UGLY Thing like divorce?

about me

Reinventing Myself

This past year has been the year from you-know-where. Yes, I know everyone goes through hard times. In fact, a friend told me a some time ago that while her hard stuff was not like my hard stuff, hard times and still hard times. If it could go wrong this past year, it did. And I’m not talking about the roach and flea infestations we’ve had in the past month. I’m talking about the REALLY. BIG. STUFF. The stuff that changes your life forever. The stuff that makes you want to bury your head in the sand. Or run away. Or both.

I don’t know about you, but I seem to process stuff best by writing about it. I’ll spare you the gory details (you’re welcome), but I hope to discover a new me. If I can help you along your journey, let me know. Just know that whatever you’re going through, I’ve probably been through it this past year, and you’re not alone!

 

about me, learning styles, lessons learned, medical issues, organization

Dealing with Chronic Illnesses, Part 5: Organization Helps

I’m over at Heart of the Matter Online today. Hop on over and check out our other fabulous posts by our very talented writers.
Before y’all glare at me for suggesting more work for we who can barely manage the basics most of the time, let me assure you that being organized can help us. I promise. The end result of becoming and staying organized outweighs the effort and the time. I understand the overwhelming fatigue that comes with a chronic illness, especially if the one who’s sick is mom. However, having one or more children who have chronic illnesses is enough to sap the energy out of even the most energetic of us.
Benefits
When you feel well, take advantage of it, but try not to overdo it! When you don’t feel well, you’ve got routines, plans, and procedures in place that can just work themselves out. Obviously, the toddler is not going to feed himself breakfast, although he may try, but I’m more focused on school work and perhaps a little necessary housework.
What to organize
The question really should be, “What shouldn’t be organized?” Academics, routines, and appointments can be written down and displayed prominently for all family members to access easily. School supplies, art supplies, and toys can be in labeled containers. For those with nonreaders in the house, try using pictures instead of words, both for putting away toys and for routines.
How to keep it working
Don’t expect everything to get and stay organized with just a snap of the fingers a la Mary Poppins. Start slowly when you feel up to it. Gradually work your way towards a more organized home and a more organized routine. A little at a time, train kids to put stuff back, look at charts, and groove to routines.
Attitudes are everything
The right attitudes can go a long way towards making everyone feel more positively about homeschooling, organization, and chronic illnesses. The book of Proverbs reminds us that “A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken,” and “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones” (15:13; 17:22 NKJV). Let’s write these encouragements out and post them on the refrigerator beside the chore charts and schedules.

about me, encouragement, holidays

New Year’s Resolutions

If you’re anything like me, you’ve made resolutions to lose weight, do devotions daily, be nicer to your family, and have a home-cooked meal on the table every night by 5:30. While there’s nothing wrong with those resolutions, if you’re anything like me, you’ve already broken at least one of them–and it’s only two days into the new year.

Instead, let’s resolve this year to let go of the mom/wife/friend guilt we carry around. Just think how much lighter we’d be without all of that extra baggage! When our resolutions go out the window with the leftover Christmas fudge, resolve to be make more healthy choices the next time. When we hit the snooze alarm one too many times to complete our devotions before the kids clamor for breakfast, resolve to sneak in a little quiet time later in the day instead of giving up. Let’s resolve that the occasional drive-through meal doesn’t mean the end of our home dinners resolutions.

Deal? I’m in for less personal guilt, how ’bout you?

P.S. – If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to be more organized, stick around.  🙂

about me, change, learning styles, lessons learned, study skills

What It Takes to be a Good Online Student

Going back to school after you’ve been out for a while is scary. At least, it was for me. I entered college at age 17, full of dreams and plans to save the world as a social worker. Then I graduated and had to get a job to pay the rent. I found a social work job, but I didn’t think I could change the world anymore. I worked for two years, then started the job that never ends and really does change the world: motherhood. Somewhere between changing diapers and clutching the door handle of my car for dear life with a teen driver, I started writing and editing. I figured out that I really liked it. Then I figured out that to advance any in that field, I should return to school for a master’s degree in English. I waded through the hundreds of online choices, applied to a state school, and got accepted. Then I panicked!

School means studying, writing papers, and reading textbooks. In the world of online studies, it also means posting on the Blackboard (without the chalky mess of our childhoods), emailing questions to an unseen professor, and navigating Internet research materials. All of this happens in between driving the family taxi, cooking dinner, working, and a slew of other responsibilities.

How do I juggle it all? Very carefully! First of all, I am now the not-so-proud owner of brand new dust bunnies. I’ve had to lower many of my housekeeping expectations. Second of all, I recruit help; my teenagers do their own laundry, clean their own bathroom, and cook dinner occasionally. Third, I carved out a space where I can close the door to concentrate on my school work. Oh, it’s technically a shared office/school room, but when they’re done at the end of the day, I can put out my do-not-disturb sign.

So, what do I do with my do-not-disturb time? Not Facebook, not email, and not blogging. At least, not much. I dedicate the quieter times to the longer papers that take real concentration and the confusing textbooks that require my full attention. I do my best not to multitask during that time so that I can really focus on my schoolwork in order to make the most of my time.

I wish I could say I can get everything done when I’m locked in my own little space, but I can’t. I often take my reading to gymnastics and my paper drafts to waiting rooms. I’ve learned to check out the discussion forums while dinner is cooking.

This whole process is not easy. I’d much rather be reading a novel than a technical editing textbook on the way to the shore. I’d rather sleep on the long drive home for Thanksgiving than be working on a project due in a few weeks. But, it will all be worth it a year and a half from now when I hold that master’s of English degree in my hand!

Do you have a dream to back to school or maybe to go to college for the first time? You can do it! It takes a lot of discipline and a lot of determination, but it can be done. Go for it!