anxiety, devotional, encouragement, lessons learned

The Mask of Social Media Perfection: Mask Series #2

We all do it. We all post picture-perfect family gatherings, gourmet meals, and clean kitchens. 

But what lies behind the mask of perfection is the fear that our imperfections will lead to rejection.

Somehow, this social media craze has created the idea that only perfect people can be happy or that only perfect people can have friends.

But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the more we compare our imperfect lives with the perfection seen on social media, the more disenchanted we become with the blessings God has already bestowed on us. And the more we close off opportunities for true connections with other imperfect people. 

Lasting happiness doesn’t come from the one family photo when everyone’s smiling in their color-matched outfits. It comes from knowing our families are there to support us through thick and through thin. Pictures don’t capture the messy middle that’s real life, but we need to learn to find happiness in real life even when it’s not perfect. Somehow we’re afraid that if anyone saw what our families looked like and acted like behind closed doors that we’d be called out as frauds.

Sure, it’s fun to use those nifty filters to make our ordinary dinners look more delicious, but behind the mask of Insta-worthy plates lies the loneliness of a table set for one. And we would be horrified if our friends knew that on the nights we didn’t post the perfectly plated meals we ate frozen pizza, cereal, and ice cream straight out of the container. 

Somehow we’ve come to the conclusion that if our kitchens aren’t spotless, we can’t be hospitable. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Our friends need to know they’re welcome in our homes no matter how many dishes are in the sink. True friendships thrive when we know we can call a friend at 10 p.m. and ask to sleep on their couch that night. True friendships thrive when we open our doors to the neighbor for coffee even though there are toys all over the living room floor. 

The biggest lie we’ve bought into with our perfect social media posts, though, is that only perfect people can find true connections. The truth of the matter is that true connections flourish when we share our imperfections, thus inviting others to share their imperfections. 

The façade of social media fosters nothing but the danger and damage of comparison. But the openness of truthful imperfections invites what we’re all really seeking behind our masks—true connections.

So be encouraged to take off the mask of social media perfection and seek the happiness of imperfection.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV

What’s one way you can find happiness in your imperfections to connect with others this week? Drop a comment below or shoot me an email. I’d love to hear from you!

devotional, healing, lessons learned, reinventing

Crew: Anchor Series #4

praying in church

Who’s your crew? You know, your people, your tribe, your group. 

A large ship can’t sail with just a captain; it needs a crew, and everyone needs to do his or her job well. Real life is the same; we are not meant to do everything—literally or metaphorically—ourselves. God created us with a rich diversity of talents and personalities for a reason. As the poet John Donne observed 400 years ago:

No man is an island,
entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main. 

I’m convinced that one of the worst ailments of humankind is loneliness. I’m not talking about living alone during a pandemic although that’s no fun. I’m not even talking about wishing you saw friends and family more often because sometimes that can feel like you’re the fifth wheel in a coupled-up world.  

I’m talking about that core feeling of aloneness even when you’re surrounded by people. I’m talking about feeling like no one understands what you’re going through. I mean feeling like friends already have too much on their plates to handle your issues too. That’s the worst feeling in the world. 

We need to build a group of people we can trust—our own crew community. If the recent quarantines have shown us anything, it’s this. Sure, people often say the wrong thing. Forgive them and look at their intentions instead of hyper focusing on the unintentional hurt.  

Be sure you show up for others. If you don’t know what to say, sling an arm around her shoulder. Pray for her—right there with her. Nothing takes away the sting of loneliness like hearing someone pray specifically for you by name. 

Canva - Women Having A ConversationAnother aspect of the crew community is that we were not meant to do everything ourselves. We have different talents and interests, and that makes the world a more beautiful place. How boring would life be if everyone were soccer players and there were no orchestras!

We will become frustrated if we try to take on others’ jobs ourselves. No matter how hard I tried and desired to take care of my leaky kitchen faucet, all I managed to do was strew useless tools and parts over my counter. We need other people. Let’s stop pretending we don’t. 

A community is an integral part of spiritual growth as well: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10L:24-25 ESV

We need each other for encouragement, for advice, for comfort, for plumbing problems, for all kinds of things!

I won’t pretend it’s not hard to be a friend and/or to have a friend. It is. And we have to live intentionally, but, oh, sweet friend, it is so worth it! During this time-that-shall-not-be-named, it’s even more important to seek out our crew. Although our times of community may not look the way we want them to right now, we can still be intentional about helping others and accepting help when we need it. 

“Healthy spiritual growth requires the presence of the other—the brother, the sister, the pastor, the teacher. A private, proudly isolated life cannot grow. The two or three who gather together in Christ’s name keep each other sane. Spiritual growth cannot take place in isolation. It is not a private thing.” —Eugene Peterson

Don’t we all wish those moments of smooth sailing would last forever? But since they don’t, we’d best be prepared with an anchor to drop at a moment’s notice. Get your navigation, communication, and crew in order for the coming storms!

Remember to subscribe for a FREE “4 Simple Steps to Finding Jesus in the Storm” pdf AND a printable with 9 Bible verses on peace to post where you need it most.

Drop me a line to let me know your best tips for connecting with your crew!

anxiety, devotional, lessons learned, moving on

Communication–Anchor Series #3

Canva - Silhouette Image of Person PrayingMy grandparents planned a whole Junior Seamanship Course for us that summer—certificate and all. Part of the course was learning all of the sailing terminology and being able to respond appropriately to my grandfather’s commands whether we were in the middle of the ocean or sailing into our assigned slip at the marina. Communication was especially important when storms blew in. We had to know how to respond instantly without asking why or how. 

But during the calm times, that was when we could ask all the whys and hows we wanted. The questions and answers during the calm times brought us closer to our captain while the stories brought us closer to our grandparents. Both types of communication helped build trust, so we were prepared when the storms rose.

What does communication look like for the Christian? When everyone else deserts you, God is as close as your next prayer. When you’re lying alone on a hard, plastic chair in the emergency room in the middle of the night with your child who’s on a suicide watch, and all you can do is cry, “Oh, God,” he knows what you need. He can bring comfort and peace even then. 

When your church friends turn their backs on you because of false rumors spread by your soon-to-be-ex-husband (and church leaders—yes, for real), Jesus is right there beside you saying, “I know how it feels to be betrayed by those closest to me. Lean on my shoulder for a while.” It’s in those times that the comfort of memorized Scripture and wordless prayers are felt the most. But you can’t know that comfort if you don’t invest time in prayer and Bible reading before you get to that point. 

I know that God doesn’t always answer the way we want or when we want. But He is not on our timetable! And he always knows what’s best for us in the long run. Don’t be discouraged; keep praying.

Having trouble getting started? Me too. Here are a few ideas:

1.  Pray out loud when you walk around the neighborhood or in the park. I often pray as I walk around the pond on my breaks during the work day.

2. Write out your prayers. I find this especially useful because I can pour out my heart more easily than if I’m just trying to think about what I want to say. Writing my prayers often helps to clarify my thinking.

3. Just talk to Him like he’s sitting across the table from you at Panera Bread or on the couch next to you or riding in the front seat of the car on your way to work. Conversation with our Heavenly Father does not have to be complicated. He’s not hung up on any particular format.

4. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he taught them The Lord’s Prayer. It’s short, sweet, and to the point (Matthew 6:9-13). We can mimic it.

5. Pray Scriptures. Use the psalms or one of Paul’s prayers and personalize it with your name and the names of your loved ones. 

One of the most precious letters (yes, real ink and paper) came from my mum when I was in college. She shared that she had been and would be using Colossians 1:9-12 to pray for me. I still have that letter folded and saved inside my Bible in that passage.

6. There are many other methods. Kim at Salvaged Living has a lovely post describing six different models—and she even includes a free printable to put in your Bible or prayer journal. 

Praying helps get your anchor ready to drop when needed, and it helps hold the boat steady after you drop the anchor—it is the anchor. If you’re not prayed up before a crisis hits, your anchor may as well be buried under all the flotsam in the bottom of the hold. But praying (and reading your Bible and being involved in community) brings your anchor up to the bow of the boat, makes sure it’s secured to the boat, and has it ready to throw overboard as soon as it’s needed. 

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you” (Colossians 1:9 NIV).

What’s your favorite way/place to pray? Let me know! And drop me a line to let me know how I can pray for you this coming week.

anxiety, devotional, healing, lessons learned, reinventing

How to Navigate the Uncharted Waters of Life

When my brother and I sailed with my grandparents for a summer when we were teenagers, I never worried about how we would get from one island to another. My brother and I would just be excited about time on the open sea and the upcoming adventures on a different island.

Puget SoundOur Bibles are our navigation charts for life. The more familiar I become with Scripture, the more comfort it brings even when I’m not holding it in my hands. The more it filters into my eyes and ears, the more it comes to my mind and heart when I need it most. 

I totally get being so discouraged that you have a hard time reading the Bible or attending church. I do. 

But if you’re going to need to be able to navigate with truth when a stranger calls to tell you that your daughter is about to commit suicide. As you screech through town toward her while blowing red lights, you need Scripture to already be in your mind. When you’re trying to catch a few hours of sleep on three, hard plastic chairs in the emergency room hallway (because there’s not a room for your child), you need God’s comforting words in your heart. 

When life slams into you at the speed of a totaled car—while I was sitting in it in front of my own house—or legal separation papers arrive on Valentine’s Day, how do you navigate that? How do you navigate when your mortgage gets pushed back and pushed back multiple times—but you don’t know until you’ve already packed your coffee maker and the piano movers are at the door for the third time in a row?

First, you cry (or scream in agony). Then you cry to God. Then you consciously bring to your mind the Bible verses you need in that moment. 

God has so many verses that speak comfort and peace into our lives for such times. No, there are no verses about emergency rooms, but the psalms do speak peace into anxious hearts during hard times. There are no verses about wrecked cars or crushed marital hopes, but there are verses about lives being redirected (Joseph, Esther, Paul) and remaining steadfast in hard times (Job).   

BUT the only way to be able to bring these verses to mind in the moment of the crisis is to put them in there beforehand. To quote my pastor, “You need to get into the Word, so the Word can get into you” (Chad Miller). 

We need to be reading the actual Word daily, not just skimming someone else’s devotional. True confession: this is really hard for me! But it’s a discipline well worth cultivating.

We need to memorize Scripture. Trust me, I know how difficult it can be to memorize the older we get, but it’s not impossible. Write out verses on notecards and post them around your house where you’ll see them. And I’m sure there’s an app for that. 

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:5 ESV

Canva - Woman Reading a Bible OutdoorsReading and memorizing Scriptures are how we abide in the vine—John 15. Abiding in the vine is how we bear fruit—and how we know how to navigate the storms of life. 

What Scripture verses have helped you navigate through the hard stuff of life recently? What uncharted waters are you currently navigating, and how can I pray for you?

devotional, lessons learned, moving on, reinventing

Soul Anchor: Anchor Series Part 1

Life storms are inevitable although no one could have predicted anything like this recent worldwide pandemic, just like we have no way of knowing when life’s storms will hit us. 

But we need to be prepared for when our husband’s boss calls to say he had a stroke at age 52. We need to be prepared for when our child texts us to say she’s marrying her lesbian lover. We need to be prepared for city riots, foreclosed homes, and totaled cars. 

How? By anchoring our souls in Jesus as our hope!

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us.

Hebrews 6:19-20

When you’re out on the ocean in a 26-foot sailboat, you’d be foolish not to have an anchor on board. You’d be even more foolish if you didn’t drop that anchor overboard when the clouds started swirling on the horizon. But you can’t just drop the anchor over the side of the boat and hope it holds you. You’ve got to make sure it’s secured to the bottom; otherwise, you’ll still be swept along with the angry tides.

A sailor must have excellent navigation experience, superior communication skills, and a competent crew in order to be prepared for all possibilities. 

As landlubber Christians, we need to be able to navigate our way through God’s instruction manual for life—the Bible, have open communication—prayer—with our heavenly Father, and make sure our crew—community—is in tip-top shape. 

Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at each of these three ideas and figure out why they’re so vital in our lives so that we can drop anchor in a safe harbor when the storms of life assail us. 

Please join us on this journey, so you can make sure your anchor is at the ready! Just sign up to make sure you receive each new post straight to your inbox.

anxiety, devotional, grief, healing

Comfort in the Storm: Part 3 of Jesus in the Storm

My cutie-pie step grandbaby. Photo creds to Reshelle Stockton (both pics).

Oh, how we long to be comforted like a child who cries for her mama in the middle of a midnight thunderstorm! Somehow it’s not as acceptable to carry around a well-worn Minnie Mouse or stuffed puppy for security when we’re 49 as when we’re 4. So, how can we find comfort in the middle of whatever life storm we find ourselves?

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4 ESV

Turn to Jesus. I know, I know! That sounds like a platitude when you don’t have anything practical to say. But it’s totally the answer (keep reading for a few practical tips, too). Jesus understands loneliness; after all, He was deserted by His BFFs the night before He was sentenced to die. 

So, how do you turn to Jesus when you need comfort? Pray first. Ask specifically to feel comforted. Read the Psalms. David had many hard times, and he found comfort by turning to God every time. I myself find great comfort in reading the Psalms. Turn on some praise and worship music. Let the goodness of God fill your ears and your mind.

God’s a safe-house for the battered,
a sanctuary during bad times.
The moment you arrive, you relax;
you’re never sorry you knocked. Psalm 9:9-10

Psalm 9:9-10 MSG

Sometimes we long so much for physical comfort that it hurts. There’s no other ache like empty arms or an empty spot on the couch. During this forced time of quarantine, loneliness has been magnified. Even introverts are itching to see people! 

Ask for a physical hug from someone in your house, a close friend, or even your pet. If that’s not possible right now, FaceTime a friend; even seeing a loved one’s face can help more than just hearing his/her voice. Often just talking about some of our fears with an understanding friend can help us feel calmer (Proverbs 12:25). Cuddle up with a soft, cozy blanket, a cup of hot tea (coffee, cocoa), and your pet.

Let your steadfast love comfort me
according to your promise to your servant.

Psalm 119:76 ESV

As contrary as it sounds, one of the best ways to feel comforted is to look around for someone else who needs to be comforted. In encouraging someone else, you will feel encouraged and comforted yourself.

Be comforted and encouraged, sweet friend! Drop a line with your prayer request, and I’ll pray for you!

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).