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).

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!

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?