A few months ago, I had the privilege of being interviewed by Angie Baughman on her podcast Steady On. We chatted about all kinds of life stuff, especially what happens when we get to the middle-aged stage of life (defined by many as ages 40-65ish). I’m pretty sure I had a moment and totally forgot to post the link for y’all to listen to it, so here it is:
You can also find Steady On on most podcasting platforms.
Faith is important in every stage of life, but by midlife, we’ve been hit by some of the bigger storms of life, and our faith has taken a beating. Instead of drowning when the waves roll over us, we can learn to increase our faith.
Faith is a muscle; the more you use it, the bigger it gets.
I’ve finally figured out that I’m not alone in this stage of life—hallelujah!—and that we’re stronger when we’re together, so I’m creating a private group on Facebook just for women who are in this same, weird, hard stage of life called the middle. Please come join us!
Midlife Faith is a group for Christian women who are looking for encouragement and hope in the hard stuff of life – adult (ish) children, the (nearly) empty nest, aging parents, job transitions, divorce, church challenges, health issues, and more. Midlife Faith is for women who are in their 40s-50s (ish!) and wondering how to navigate this new stage in their lives. We’re all about pointing others to Jesus and speaking positively into each others’ lives. I’ll be sharing my weekly (ish) encouraging blog posts and other resources. This will be a PRIVATE group on *Facebook, so members can share comfortably.
Please invite your girlfriends who are in this same stage of life! While we are a Christian group and all about finding answers in the Bible, being a professing Christian is not a requirement for membership in the group.
*If you’re exiting Facebook in favor of other social media platforms, you can arrange your settings to open immediately to this group instead of your own page.
As we begin a new year, we often make goals or resolutions to improve our physical health—lose weight, exercise more, eat better, cook at home more, cut out sugar, etc. But we often forget about those goals before the end of the month. While there’s nothing wrong with improving our physical health and nothing wrong with making goals or resolutions, perhaps we’d be better served by focusing on the state of our souls.
It’s all too easy to hide the state of our souls behind the state of our physical bodies. Many overly health-conscious people hide the imperfections of their souls behind the perfection of their physical bodies. We obsess over counting points and steps while neglecting our daily devotions. (Just me? I thought not.) We preen in front of the dressing room mirrors while gossiping behind closed doors.
While we are definitely called to take care of our physical bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6), we are not called to make idols of them. Sin takes a good thing and makes it the only thing; at the same time, Christians tend to take a worldly thing and give it a spiritual spin.
For example, the premise of Daniel Fast is to eat just vegetables in order to lose weight; however, the actual reason Daniel chose to eat only vegetables was so as not to “defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank” (Daniel 1:8 ESV). As a result of following their convictions to remain pure, God gave them favor so that Daniel and his friends were “better in appearance and fatter in flesh” than their counterparts (Daniel 1:15 ESV).
What we see here and in other Scriptures is that being what we would call overweight or fat meant having enough food to eat during biblical times. Obviously overeating is considered gluttonous, but as in all things, balance is the key.
Another biblical principle concerning our physical bodies that often gets taken to extremes is the concept of athletic training. The apostle Paul often uses the importance of physical training to emphasize the importance of spiritual training. For instance, he talks about how only one person will win a race even though many people will train and participate in it. So, we are encouraged to run in such a way as to win. Of course, the point is to run our spiritual race in such a way as to win an “imperishable” wreath or crown (1 Corinthians 9:25).
Along with the extreme of doing our utmost to win the prize, what can happen when we idealize perfection too much? We put down those who can’t achieve it, and they somehow become less than. Instead of embracing all people and abilities as God’s unique creations, we revile them and leave them in our dust.
So our aim should be working to become more Christlike instead of focusing only on physical fitness:“while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way” (1 Timothy 4:8 ESV).
Another aspect of physical training taken to the extreme is exhaustion. Behind the mask of achievement and success lies a tired body with multiple invisible problems. We go and go and go while neglecting the rest our bodies need because our culture sees rest as laziness. But God designed us with a need for regular rest! Our need to be always on the go leads to drive-thru dinners several times a week that do not provide our bodies with the nourishment they need.
What’s the cure? When we’re so worn out that we don’t know what to do, Jesus invites us to exchange our burdens for his. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me … and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29 ESV).
In the end, it’s all about balance! When we’re tired or hungry or on a sugar high, we can’t focus on God. Let’s take off our masks of physical perfection and busyness, so we can focus on our spiritual well-being and ask God what our priorities should be.
Call to Action:
Read and reflect on these passages of Scripture in light of this week’s sermon.
1 Corinthians 6:12-13 (ESV)—“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything. Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food – and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV)—”Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
Ephesians 5:29 (ESV)—”For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”
Hebrews 4:10 ESV)—“For whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.”
Questions for Reflection:
In what ways do you find yourself masking your spiritual state behind your physical state?
How have you taken a good thing and turned it into the only thing, which takes the focus off properly glorifying God with it?
How can you create more balance in your physical priorities this week?
How can you create more time for physical and spiritual rest in order to prioritize your relationships with God and your family?
*Note: This article was originally posted on my friend Tammy’s church blog, Beyond Sundays.
Forgiveness is good and necessary. But it is HARD!! And as an intangible idea, it’s difficult to navigate. It’s funny how hurtful words raged once can echo through the memory like a kid shouting in a tunnel, yet words of forgiveness whispered quietly on our knees need to be repeated to be remembered sometimes.
As a practical girl, I like tangible steps. Here are a few that I’ve found helpful:
Make time to get alone with God. You need to feel to heal,as contrary as it may seem! Feelings that are swept under the carpet do not heal. They multiply like the hair ties my cat hides under the rug.
Write a list of the offenses lurking in your heart – no matter how long ago they occurred – then out loud (and in writing) say, “Father, I choose to forgive (who) for (what) that happened on (when) at (where). Please help me to leave the offense here at the foot of the cross.”
Writing about your feelings is a great way to process them and then to release them. The purpose here is to trace the redemption that comes through the process of forgiving someone. After you’ve forgiven a particular offense, either rip the paper to shreds or put it in your fire pit. Or, you can write in “FORGIVEN” across that journal page as a reminder to set aside the hurt when it comes to mind.
Spoken words have power. Hearing ourselves forgive someone aloud and release the desire for revenge is much more powerful than just thinking about it.
Sometimes the grievances are so significant or held for so long that you may need to see a Christian counselor to help you work through them.
What do those steps look like in reality? Here’s a glimpse:
Not long ago, a friend lovingly confronted me about the fact that I still sounded bitter about events that had happened years ago. Things I thought I’d forgiven. Yes, they were hard things—like betrayal, deliberate financial ruin, character assassination—but I thought I was past them.
So, I spent some time alone with God. I made a list in my journal of all the grievances I could think of off the top of my head, all the people whose wounds still lingered in my mind. I allowed myself a short time to acknowledge the hurts.
Then I reminded myself that I am not responsible for their words and actions. God has seen my every tear and heard my every cry. In holding on to my own desire for revenge, I was trying to act like God. That’s not my job!
God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. Ecclesiastes 3:17 ESV
Ecclesiastes 3:17 ESV
I prayed and told God that I wanted to forgive these people and these offenses, but that I needed help. I told God that I was so weary of carrying what I wasn’t meant to carry: the heavy burdens of unforgiveness, bitterness, and revenge.
The longer we try to carry that emotional baggage, the heavier it becomes. Jesus invites us to exchange our burdens for His:
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV
A few days later, I was blessed to witness more than 50 people get baptized in a river. To watch so many people publicly declare their faith and rejoice in Christ’s forgiveness was awesome and inspiring!
Afterwards, while I was standing on the riverbank watching kayakers and sticks float past me, and it occurred to me that this would be a perfect place to visibly watch my own bitterness float away.
I grabbed a handful of leaves and, one by one, audibly gave each leaf a name and an offense. Then I released each leaf to float down the river. Soon, I could not tell which leaf was which. After a few more minutes, none of the leaves I’d tossed into the river were visible.
While I was doing this, I prayed yet again for the Lord to help me release the burden of bitterness in my heart. After all my leaves and tears were gone, I felt a lightness and a joyfulness that I have not felt in many years.
Yes, I may still need reminders to myself that I have released that resentment, but that’s all they are: reminders that God can turn resentment into redemption. I tell myself that was then; this is now. I tamp down my desire to mete out a cold shoulder or a snide dig, and I take it to the Lord in prayer again.
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:31-32).
Your process of forgiveness may look different and may take more or less time. That’s okay. How can I pray for you on your journey toward forgiveness today, friend?
For many years, I operated on a faulty definition of forgiveness. My definition ran something like this: “Forgiving someone means they win the argument. Forgiving someone means I have to let them fully back into my life. Forgiving someone means I have to let them continue to run roughshod over my feelings. Forgiving someone means what they said or did doesn’t matter.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. No wonder my bruised feelings and resentment built up a nearly impenetrable wall of bitterness around my heart that spilled over onto friends and family alike.
If it’s not that faulty definition, then what is it? Forgiveness is not a feeling. It’s an action you choose to do. It’s giving up your right to resentment, retribution, and revenge. Forgiveness is refusing to revisit the offense in your mind and with your words or actions; it’s unlimited and unconditional.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you weren’t hurt, but rather that you are choosing to move forward. It doesn’t mean you forget what happened, but you don’t hold it against the offender. Forgiveness is not excusing the behavior of another person, nor is it allowing damaging behaviors to continue.
When you forgive, you choose to let go of the debt of sin. It’s basically ripping up the bill. Forgiveness releases you, sweet friend! Let God do his job—he will bring justice to the offender at his appointed time.
But why do we even need to forgive? Because it’s commanded in Scripture:
And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.
Mark 11:25-26 NKJV
The strength of our relationships depends on our ability to forgive. Want to preserve your relationships with people? Learn to forgive.
The Lord’s prayer “shows us that we need daily forgiveness as much as we need daily bread.”
R.T. Kendall, Total Forgiveness
Our emotional and physical health depend on our ability to forgive, according to science. Unforgiveness opens the gateway to depression, anxiety, heart problems, headaches, lowered self-esteem, high blood pressure, weight gain/loss, a weakened immune system, and a whole bunch of other issues. Yikes! Who wants to hang on to all that?
Unforgiveness leads to bitterness, which can escalate to hostility, hatred, and eventually a hardened heart. A hardened heart full of bitterness cannot engage in a loving relationship with anyone. The bitterness will seep over into your everyday life and people around you will notice your bitter attitude. Yikes again! No one wants to be around that much poison.
I’m not saying forgiving someone is easy, because it’s not, but can you appreciate just how very necessary it is, friend? Next time we’ll talk about the nitty gritty of how to forgive—even those who don’t ask for it, don’t deserve it, or aren’t around to receive it.
Can I pray for you on your journey toward forgiveness? Drop me a line and let me know!
Friends, we are doing our black brothers and sister a great injustice by being silent and ignorant about what’s happening to black people all around us. The Bible warns us:
Do not be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of others.
Philippians 2:4 NCV
I’ve always thought I was “color blind,” but it has been brought to my attention lately that that phrase is offensive. I am so sorry.
I’ve always thought that “white privilege” was ignorant people making rude comments to and about people of color. It’s more than that. It’s me. Because I was born white, I don’t have to worry about being racially profiled, and that right there is my white privilege.
By saying “all lives matter,” we’re ignoring the fact that right now, in 2020, black lives are in danger. All lives won’t matter until and unless black lives also matter. When your brother is stopped by the police and falsely accused, you don’t care that the “statistics” say it rarely happens. People’s real-life experiences matter. We don’t know the whole story unless we ask.
Our black neighbors just want to be heard and recognized for the struggles they’re experiencing. James exhorts us, “My dear brothers and sisters, always be willing to listen and slow to speak. Do not become angry easily” (1:19 NCV). If we have not gone through the same struggles, we cannot understand what they’re facing. And we should not even try.
Neutral means you’re choosing not to see what I’m going through.
I can never be color blind again. I am choosing to set aside my white privilege to stand with my black brothers and sisters.
I am choosing not to be neutral. I am choosing to listen, to stand up for the rights of black people, and to use my voice as a writer to help bridge the racial divide in my sphere of influence.
Now is the time to mourn with those who are mourning over injustice in our land toward black people. “Be happy with those who are happy, and be sad with those who are sad” (Romans 12:15 NCV).
What can you do? “Use the gifts God has given you to make a difference!” (K.W.). Not everyone is called to march in a protest. Not everyone can write. But everyone can listen. Everyone can pray for healing in our land. Everyone can say something when we hear racial slurs.
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).
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.
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?
So, maybe I’m a few days late to the game, but I’m still working on my vision for 2020. How ‘bout you? Or maybe your goals have already fizzled, and you need a reminder to reboot them. Here’s your invitation to keep working toward your 2020 vision!
Some of my goals feel so big and so audacious that I’m taking my time to break them down into smaller, more manageable chunks. I’m believing God for “a new thing” in this new decade. (Yes, I’m aware that some of you think the new decade doesn’t start until 2021, but let’s set that debate aside for now.) At the end of this year, I’ll be reaching a milestone birthday with a new decade of life. So, it’s time. It’s time to shed the past decade of hurts and hard stuff. It’s time to do something with the lessons that God’s taught me through all of the yuckiness of recent life events.
Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, … “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” — Isaiah 43:16–19
— Isaiah 43:16–19 (ESV)
If my God can make a dry path for the Isralites through the Red Sea, make water spring forth from a dry rock, raise a dead man to life, and create something out of nothing, then he can give me a new lease on life this year! I’m on the lookout for his path for me through the desert this coming year.
But here’s the thing: we can’t go forward if we’re looking back. We can’t make a new relationship work if we’re always bringing up the old one. We can’t hold new things if our hands are still clenched around the old things—physically or metaphorically. Dump out the cold coffee and brew a fresh cup, sister!
Together, let’s let go of fear, unrealistic expectations, old hurts, and feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. Let’s reach out and hold onto faith, confidence, joy, and the expectation that God will do something new in our lives in 2020. Who’s with me?
What if we’re just supposed to show love this Christmas season? Not judge. Not worry about how our show of love will be perceived. Not worry about what it might cost us. Not worry about whether we’re doing it the right way (whatever that might be). Just love.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you”
John 15:12 ESV
Like the lawyer in Luke 10, I want to question Jesus and say, “Surely you didn’t mean I have to show love to that person; he’s not my neighbor!” Like that legalistic questioner, we, too, are often guilty of loving just those who are like us, who have the same values and backgrounds. But instead, we are to have the attitude of the Samaritan—a pariah in the Jewish community—and go the extra mile for everyone, even our enemies. The Samaritan not only bandaged up his enemy’s wounds on the spot, but he carried him to the next town and arranged for his extended care—at his own expense!
For us, sometimes showing love looks like inviting your son’s awkward girlfriend over for Christmas dinner even though you wish they’d break up. Sometimes showing love looks like buying a gift for that rude coworker. Sometimes showing love means cooperating with your children’s father. A lot of times showing love looks like being a gracious hostess and a generous gift giver to those who don’t deserve anything by worldly standards. Showing love sometimes looks like letting go. Showing love sometimes looks like overriding your emotions. Most of all, at least for me, showing love is going to look like giving smiles and hugs, but keeping my opinions, thoughts, and fears to myself.
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you”
Luke 6:27-28 ESV
That’s the true spirit of Christmas!
What does showing love look like for you this Christmas season? Let’s share and uphold each other in prayer. May God give us the grace to show his compassion to all!