change, devotional, encouragement, healing, midlife faith, moving on

How to Forgive

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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.”
  3. 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. 
  4. Spoken words have power. Hearing ourselves forgive someone aloud and release the desire for revenge is much more powerful than just thinking about it. 
  5. 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).

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?

anxiety, encouragement, healing, lessons learned, midlife faith

The Mask of Political Correctness

Behind the mask of political correctness lies a divisiveness—even among Christians—not seen in our country for many years. While we pray for healing in our land, how do we remain friends with those on the opposite side of the fence, whether that fence is political, economic, social, or religious?

By being so focused on trying to be politically correct, we’ve become socially incorrect! In trying not to offend anyone, we offend so many more people!  

Somehow, we’ve turned into an angry mob that thinks it’s ok to scream and yell our every thought from the street corners and from social media platforms. In doing so, we’ve alienated even those we love.

I could give the all-inclusive exhortation:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32 ESV

Instead, let’s talk about what to do if you’re on the receiving end of a friend or family member’s tirade that goes against your views or grieves your soul. How do you maintain that relationship? Should you? How do you separate a person’s political/economic/social/religious views from the person herself?

It’s not easy! First of all, pray! Give your heartache over to the Lord. He knows all about betrayal and abandonment (Simon Isacriot, anyone?). 

Then, if the other person holds an immoral or unethical position, gently share the biblical position with her. She may not receive it, but you have done what you could. Then drop it and don’t harp on your position any more.

Here are some other considerations and actions you can take:

  1. How important is the relationship to you? Is it worth preserving? 
  2. Listen actively to understand, not to give an answer. Listen with an open mind—you may learn something. On the flip side, be sure you know what and why you hold to your beliefs. Get to the heart of the matter that’s separating you. 
  3. Don’t take it personally. I know, I know. I’m the pot calling the kettle black! But chances are, your friend is not attacking you but rather is desiring to prove her rightness.
  4. Set boundaries. 
    1. Block posts from groups that upset your equilibrium on social media. 
    2. Unfollow someone for 30 days (they’ll never know, and it’ll give you time to breathe and decide whether you want to keep seeing her posts after that).
    3. Don’t engage in public debates on social media! Those debates tend to take on a life of their own and involve half of your friend list. 
    4. If needed, set a time limit on how often or how long you’re willing to engage in face-to-face discussions.
    5. Have a go-to phrase to signal the end of the discussion, such as “Well, we aren’t going to solve the world’s problems today, so let’s set this aside and focus on something happier.”
    6. If you can’t meet at Starbucks without getting offended by something she says, become less available for a meeting.
  5. Let go of the notion of being right. You may, indeed, be right according to Scripture, but if you insist on winning every argument, you will lose your relationships; however, it is possible to give facts and evidence occasionally in response without attacking the person or destroying a relationship. 

How do I know, first of all, how difficult it is to separate the person from her beliefs, and, second of all, how difficult it is to truly love someone in spite of her contrary views? Someone very close to me has become increasingly vocal about a value that is completely contrary to Scriptures. I understand, sweet friend, and I’m praying for you.

How can I pray for you during this difficult time? Let me know!

anxiety, devotional, encouragement, lessons learned, midlife faith

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!

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!

anxiety, encouragement, grief, healing, lessons learned, midlife faith, moving on

The Mask of Busyness

Let’s talk about everyone’s favorite topic—masks! No, I’m not getting political or scientific, but just like we all have our reasons for wearing/not wearing cloth masks, we all have our reasons for wearing the invisible masks that hide our true selves.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been lonely lately. Sure, the whole virus thing hasn’t helped, but even before that, I was missing people. So, I thought I’d fill my evenings and weekends outside of work with busyness.

Surely if I went on enough hikes and attended enough game nights, I would find a bosom friend (think Anne of Green Gables and Diana). Surely if I attended enough Bible studies and volunteered enough, I would be more spiritual, and God would love me more, right? Surely if I ate out every other meal, I would forget that my own dining room table was set for one. 

Behind the mask of busyness lies a face of loneliness.

You guessed it. All of that busyness didn’t work. Going to all the game nights and other activities didn’t help to fill the gap left by a friend whom I no longer saw regularly. Surfing Facebook constantly didn’t fill in the gap for a lunch-time heart-to-heart talk with a close girlfriend.

Trying to be more spiritual didn’t make God love me more. He already loves me more than I can imagine. “’Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:10 NIV).

Joining dating sites didn’t garner me a partner to share the ups and downs of daily life. It just emphasized the sting of rejection and loneliness—over and over again. 

Eating out all the time just made my waistline expand and my wallet shrink. And I’m still faced with the empty spot at the dining room table.

So, when I remove the mask of busyness, I’m left to face my loneliness head-on. What will I do with it? The ultimate answer to the mask of busyness is Isaiah 46:10, 

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

God is the answer for my loneliness. God is the answer for your loneliness, too. Here are five simple, practical steps to combat loneliness:

  1. Seek a closer connection with God. Being alone is the perfect time to schedule dates with the Lord to spend more time reading the Bible and praying. Look around for a Bible study to join—you’ll make some new friends in the process! Read the Psalms. David knew all about feeling alone.
  2. Write it out. Journal your thoughts to God. It is okay to feel lonely. Write about the hard stuff, but also write about the good stuff that He’s done for you in the past. Thank Him for His current provisions for you and for what He will do for you in the future.
  3. Make an effort! It’s so, so hard to reach out (so hard that I dislike that actual phrase—true story), but it is, oh, so worth it. Chances are that others around you are also wishing they had closer connections, but don’t know how to ask for them.
  4. Get involved in a ministry and/or volunteering with those less fortunate.
  5. Remember this season won’t last forever. 

God wants us to turn to Him instead of to activities to fill our emptiness. He promises to give us what we need. He is a … 

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
     is God in his holy habitation.
God settles the solitary [lonely] in a home;
     he leads out the prisoners to prosperity (Psalm 68:5-6 ESV).

It’s time, don’t you think, to set aside our masks of busyness and seek God. He already knows us inside and out anyway (see Psalm 139). How do you mask your loneliness? Let me know, so I can pray for you!

Remember to subscribe to my email list for a great freebie on finding Jesus in the Storm!

Book Reviews, divorce, encouragement, moving on

When Happily Ever After Shatters (book review)

The big white dress. The flowers. The church. The kids. The years. The breakup. Wait–what? What do you do when your (or your friend’s) marriage disintegrates before your eyes? When you can stop crying long enough to read a chapter at a time, dig into Sue Birdsey’s When Happily Ever After Shatters, published by Focus on the Family in conjunction with Tyndale Publishers. Sue has first-hand experience in not only dealing with abandonment, divorce, and single parenting, but thriving through it.

Sue offers practical advice for those going through every step of this life-altering tragedy. She also offers advice for friends and families of those suffering. This book was so good that I read it straight through in two sittings. I highly recommend it for everyone because we all know someone going through divorce right now.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me free of charge from Tyndale Publishing in hopes that I would provide a review. The opinions expressed are my own.

devotional, encouragement

The REAL Christmas Story



About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancee, who was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: “Glory to God in the heavenly heights, peace to all men and women on earth who please him.”

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. it turned out exactly the way they’d been told!

~ Luke 2:1-20, The Message

Book Reviews, change, encouragement

Unglued (book review)

Lysa TerKeurst’s new book, Unglued, was written specifically for me. Okay, maybe not, but it sure felt like it as I worked through it! Why is it that when I’m at church or out with casual friends, I can be Mrs. Calm, Cool, and Collected, but just let one of my kids leave dirty socks in the back of my car (oh yes!), and I become completely unglued in the mouth? I’d love to say I’m not a freak-out kind of person, but I’d be totally lying. I usually try to stuff it all in, but when that fails, watch out!

Lysa honestly, lovingly, and clearly unpacks the glue to help us put ourselves back together. She gives us permission to make imperfect progress, thank goodness. She backs up and applies her practical wisdom with God’s ultimate wisdom.

I give Unglued two enthusiastic thumbs up. Gather a group of girlfriends and start letting God glue yourself back together. Go buy it & the participant’s guide over on Amazon (not an affiliate link).

Disclaimer: The publisher provided me with an ARC copy of Unglued in order to preview and review it, but the opinions expressed are entirely my own.

anxiety, encouragement, homeschool

Recharge Your Batteries

Let’s face it: homeschool moms expend a lot of energy. We’re not only the chief cooks and bottle washers, but we’re also the main teachers and guidance counselors for our children. And then, our hubbies like for us to reserve a little energy for them, too. Not to mention the fact that many homeschool moms also work-at-home (or even away from home) and volunteer at churches and other organizations. No wonder we often feel as if our batteries are dead! We’re expected to act and last like the Energizer Bunny on a dollar store charge.
So, what do we do about it? When, in our insanely overcrowded schedules and commitments, can we find time to recharge our batteries? Summer is the perfect time for homeschool moms to recoup. Some of us completely shut down our homeschools for the season (except for that field trip disguised as a vacation and the occasional worksheet or required book), while some of us keep going with the core subjects. Whatever schedule we follow, summer still tends to have slower, lighter expectations. Here are some ideas to get us started recharging our batteries:
·         Float in a pool
·         Catch fireflies in a jar with your kids
·         Pack a picnic lunch and relax near a playground while your kids do the monkey bars
·         Spend time at your favorite destination (beach, lake, mountains, state park, etc.)
·         Sleep in late a few times
·         Rent your favorite adult movie (And I don’t mean R-rated! I mean non-Sesame Street.)
·         Read your favorite book again
·         Journal about homeschooling highlights
·         Brainstorm with your hubby or other homeschooling friends how to improve this coming year, even if you had a good year
·         Sign your kids up for the free activities at your local library and spend that time browsing for new books
·         Set aside some girlfriend time and leave the kids home with your hubby or a responsible teenager (your own or a babysitter)
·         Soak up some sun (properly sunblocked and hatted, of course)
·         Soak up some Son—spend extra time reading Scriptures, praying, praising, and listening for God’s encouragement and direction           
I don’t know about you, but I’m solar powered. Sunshine makes me happy and energized! SON time is even more important. Add in a few of the ideas listed above to some quality solar time (both kinds) and your inner Energizer Bunny will be ready for the new school year come September.



anxiety, encouragement, homeschool, planning, writing

What’s Next?

What should I do next? That question has often left me in a tizzy trying to figure out which item on my very-important-to-do-right-now list ought to be the next thing to receive my attention. Yes, I’ve read the books on prioritizing. Yes, I usually make a physical, written list of all that needs to be accomplished in a day. But, my lists always seem to have the word urgent beside each item. How do I choose what to do next?
A few months ago as I was cleaning out some files, I can across a copy of a page out of an old devotional book that was sent to me by my mother years ago. It contains an ancient poem that sums up what one must do on those occasions when it seems impossible to do anything. It simply says to do the next thing. I’m going to take the liberty of quoting the poem in its entirety here. The original author is anonymous.
          Doe the Nexte Thynge

From an old English parsonage down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message to me;
It’s quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, it seems to me, teaching from heaven.
And on through the hours the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration: “DOE THE NEXTE THYNGE.”
 Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, guidance, are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, doe the nexte thynge.
 Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ’neath His wing,
Leave all resulting, doe the nexte thynge.
 Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering, be they demeanor;
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing.
Then, as he beckons thee, doe the nexte thynge.

Did you have plans that got shot out of the water before 9 a.m. today? Me too. “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Is your hand empty? “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you’” (Isaiah 41:13). Still not sure where to turn next? Isaiah 30:21 makes it clear that God will show you which direction to go—if you listen to him. “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’”
So, what’s next? Is the baby’s diaper emanating a stench? Change it. Is your fifth grader stuck on the mysteries of making equivalent fractions? Teach her how. Will your husband be home for dinner in an hour? Put supper in the oven. Find the next thing to do, and then do it. The longer you spend agonizing over what to do, the more time you waste. Just do the next thing.