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, 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, healing, lessons learned, moving on, reinventing

After the Storm: Part 4, Jesus in the Storm

The question now is, what will we do after the storm is over? Eventually, we will be unquarantined; eventually you’ll hold the divorce certificate in your hand; eventually you’ll find another job, another house, another church; eventually the drama in your children’s lives will settle down. But what lesson will you take away from these storms?

Through the more recent storms in my life, my prayer has been, “Lord, what lesson do you want me to learn? How can I glorify you through this hot mess?” 

My first takeaway has been to attempt to have a positive attitude throughout this whole quarantine business. I’ve had my moments; trust me! But overall, I think I may finally, after 49 years (!!), be learning how “in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11). What I’ve learned is that whining just makes it (whatever “it” is) worse. This morning, our pastor reminded us that we should not hear gratitude and complaints coming out of someone’s mouth at the same time (James 3:9-12). 

Everyone is eager to return to “normal” after being quarantined for the past three months or so. While I admit to wanting to ditch the mask and hug my friends in church, I often longed for the merry-go-round of life to stop just long enough for me to catch my breath. Well, the merry-go-round stopped. Sometimes we need to be careful what we wish for! 

Here’s the crux of the matter: Do we really want to return to the rat race of constant activity? Perhaps we’ll be more intentional about our choices for activities. For sure I’m going to be more intentional about how I spend my time! I’m also going to be more intentional about seeking out community.

My second takeaway is this: We need to check on our neighbors and friends whom we know live alone—even after we’re all allowed outside again. Chances are that if they were lonely during the quarantine, they’re still lonely now. Let’s make a plan and not just to keep them in our thoughts and prayers—keep them on our speed dial too! Make a plan to keep dropping off a plate of cookies every few weeks, just because.

Let’s be intentional about going to church and small groups even after the excitement of being allowed to meet again wears off. Don’t let church time get crowded out by sports games, beach trips, and sleeping in.

On the flip side, don’t sign up for every committee just because you feel like you have to. It’s still ok to say no and to realize that family time must be a priority. 

My daughter was in Italy having her dream semester abroad when her school canceled everything, so she had to come home and do her classes online. There is absolutely no online substitute for walking around Rome, Florence, and Sicily. Being locked in a small dorm room alone is no substitute for traveling to Spain and Portugal for spring break. I get that. I really do. And I still feel absolutely terrible about her missed opportunities. She cried. I cried. But, I have absolutely reveled in the unexpected blessing of having her here to help me move and to spend time with her. She graduates from college next year, so this is the last time I’ll have with her just to be together. And it’s so sweet. It’s an unexpected blessing in this difficult time. 

What unexpected blessings have you found during this weird pandemic time? Remember to keep looking for unexpected blessings even when life goes back to “normal”! That’s the third takeaway. 

My fourth and final takeaway comes from looking again at the story of Jesus and the disciples in the storm from Mark 4:35-41—after Jesus calmed the storm with just a few words, he looked at the disciples as if he were disgusted with them (that’s what my attitude would be anyway). 

Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?

Mark 4:40

They had already seen a bunch of miracles and heard some amazing parables. So why did they think that Jesus would not be able to save them in a storm? 

Yet how often do I think the same thing? When my bank account is a big, fat zero and my car breaks down at the post office, I forget that not once have I been without transportation when I needed it. When I scramble around looking for more classes to teach at the last minute to replace ones that got canceled, I forget that God has always provided a way for me to pay every single bill on time.

When my beloved daddy calls to say the doctor told him he has cancer—for the third time—I forget that Jehovah Rapha can do miracles. And if the miracle is that others will come to Christ through his death, well, Jesus will  be the only way to calm the storm within me. 

Yes, Jesus in the boat right there beside us, but he wants for us to experience his peace and his calmness. He wants us to know, truly know, who he really is and what kind of power he has.   

What are your takeaways from your most recent storm (being quarantined or something else)? How can I pray for you during your current storm?

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?

change, devotional, healing, lessons learned, moving on, reinventing

Out With the Old; In With the New

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?

grief, healing, lessons learned, moving on, reinventing

If I Don’t Say It . . .

If I don’t say it, it’s not true. If I don’t say it, it didn’t happen. If I don’t say it, I can sweep it under the carpet. Right? As much as my reticent Scottish ancestry would like to believe that, it’s not accurate. Feelings can only be suppressed for so long; events happen whether or not I verbalize them. 

This past two years (more like seven), so many things have happened that I don’t want to acknowledge. But I’ve learned that acknowledgment and acceptance don’t necessarily equal approval.

By accepting that certain things ARE, I free my heart to figure out how to live with their realities without losing my mind.

But how on earth do you accept losing your second chance at love, your health, your finances, your job, your church, and your dreams for your family? Prayer, prayer, and more prayer! Then . . .

You get up, dress up, and show up! You put one foot in front of the other. You cry. And you cry some more. 

Then you dry your tears and do the next thing. But the thing about crying is not allowing yourself to wallow indefinitely. So many bitter people wallow forever and never get through. They are stuck in the Fire Swamp of despair—like the quicksand in Princess Bride, but without hero Westly. 

Whatever you do, don’t keep it all bottled inside! From experience, I can tell you that doesn’t work. Forty-eight years is a long time to keep a stiff upper lip. When you keep it bottled up, it bubbles over—”out of the abundance of the heart, [her] mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). And that’s just not a pretty sound.

Feelings have to be traveled through. There is no around. Going through does not mean getting stuck in them, though. It means processing those feelings, so you can heal. Healing comes from going through, not from stuffing. 

David struggled with this very issue when he was being pursued relentlessly by his enemies. He was honest with the Lord about his emotions, but he didn’t stay there. Many of the psalms document David’s struggle with accepting the hard stuff of life. One of my favorites is Psalm 79. David begins by telling God what others have done against him. Then he lets the Lord know what he’s feeling. “How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever?” (v. 5). He is honest with God about his feelings; he doesn’t keep them bottled up inside. Rather, he gives them over to the Creator of feelings who knows best how to soothe them. He next asks for help: 

“Help us, O God of our salvation,
    for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
    for your name’s sake! (v. 9).

But the real sermon in this psalm is the last verse. David gives thanks to the Lord WHILE he’s in the middle of his mess. That’s what we need to do, too.

For me, writing is often the way through hard stuff and its accompanying emotions. What’s your way through the quagmire of messy life?

anxiety, change, lessons learned, reinventing

The New Midlife Crisis: Not Just for Men Anymore

In the good old days, we’d hear about men in their 40s and 50s leaving their wives, buying fancy sports cars, and running off to Mexico with 20-year-old blonde bimbos. We’d shake our heads sadly, judge him loudly, and say, “Oh, he’s having a midlife crisis. His poor wife!” And that would be the end of it.

I’m pretty sure there’s a new midlife crisis in town. And it’s not a 55-year-old bald guy speeding down the road in a red Mazda Miata with a young blonde in the passenger seat. It’s the moms with empty nests; it’s the victims of the 20-year-ditch club (women divorced after being married to the same man for 20-ish years and raising a family with him); it’s the resumes with the 18-year gaps. They’re still driving beige minivans; they’ve crammed what’s left of their belongings into a two-bedroom apartment; they’re still cooking meals for a family of six, but setting the table for one. They’re hopping from job to job, from church to church, from activity to activity yet feeling unfulfilled and lonely.

But the new midlife crisis is also hitting successful career women, moms with kids finishing up high school, happy wives, and lifelong church members. What’s up with that? We’re the richest country in the world with more disposable income and time than ever before, yet we’re unsatisfied with our lives.

At this age (40s-50s), we should have figured out what we want and acquired it. We should have learned our lessons and moved on. We should have the experience to know what we’re good at and to work at it. 

As Ada Calhoun wrote in “The New Midlife Crisis,” Gen X women all over America are experiencing a depressing shift into this period in our lives. It’s not just women going through upheavals and transitions. It’s women who look like they have it all together. 

I could cite multiple reasons for these feelings of panic and crisis, but that’s not my main point. If you’re feeling useless, rootless, and helpless to do anything about it, you’re probably not interested in the why. You’re just interested in the fix. Like yesterday. 

So, what’s the real answer? I don’t know! But I did some poking around to find out what the answer is because I, too, want the fix. Like yesterday.

First of all, don’t do anything rash or stupid that you might possibly regret later. Just. Don’t. Do. It. Second, cling to the truths you already know from God’s Word. Like these:

  • Our main purpose in life is to glorify God.
  • Cling to Christ and continue on–Philippians 3:13-20.
  • Wait on the Lord, and He will give you new strength–Isaiah 40:31.
  • Read the book of Ecclesiastes; Solomon’s musings will make you feel less alone.
  • Read Psalms 105-106 and other biblcal passages that review all of the good things that God did for Israel and reflect on what good things the Lord has done in your life.

Third, try a few practical things as well:

  • Journal–get all those angsty feelings out of your head.
  • Strive to eat healthier–most of the time. Hey, a girl’s gotta have her chocolate from time to time.
  • Start ramping up the number of steps you set as your goal on your FitBit.
  • Talk to your girlfriends. I guarantee that you’re not the only one trying to figure out hot flashes, teens/20s drama, parent care, and career crises.

So, am I fixed yet? Nope. But I know where my focus should be: on Christ, not on myself. And I know I just have to keep going because one day I’ll look back on this period in my life and be grateful for the lessons God taught me through it.

What about you? Where are you in this journey called life? (Sorry, more Prince!) Are you feeling the crunch of a midlife crisis? And what are you doing about it? Tell me about it!

change, divorce, moving on, reinventing

Identity Crisis

Us-passportWith my recent divorce, I decided to revert my last name to my maiden name. My married name has all kinds of negative connotations, and I don’t want to be associated with that name or that person anymore. As my girls are in their late teens, they’re old enough to realize that I need my own identity and that they’ll soon be changing their own last names.

Names identify people with other people. Names identify people with certain groups, ethnicity, regions, religions, and jobs.

What I didn’t realize when I decided to change my name is what a humongous hassle the whole process would be! So many, many places needed to have it changed. And, of course, half of them couldn’t just get it right the first time–like the DMV and my bank. Oy! Then there’s the whole email address change. I’m pretty sure everyone on the planet has my old email address. And persists in using it. Furthermore, it’s associated with all of my online bills and every single site I ever signed into in the entire World Wide Web. If one more person asks whether I just got married, I will scream! This whole process was so much simpler (and happier) 22 years ago when I did it the first time.

Throughout this whole process, I feel like I’m having an identity crisis, and I don’t just mean having trouble remembering how to sign my name. I’m not married, so I don’t want my former last name. Even though my father is an honorable man, and I am proud to carry his last name, I am not under his protection anymore as I was when I was growing up. With whose name do I want to be associated? To whom do really I belong?

I belong to God, first and foremost.

The Lord says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are MINE” (Isaiah 43:1).

As long as my heavenly father knows my name, it doesn’t really matter what my earthly name is. That’s comforting.

 

healing, lessons learned, reinventing

Brokenness Made Beautiful

                                                                                 “The world breaks everyone, then some become strong at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

     I’m broken. What good is broken? A broken bowl lands in the recycling bin. A chipped glass loses its place in the cupboard.

     Broken is ugly.  I kick a broken seashell aside instead of adding it to the sandy collection in my pocket.

     I’m so glad that God doesn’t have the same attitude. Instead of casting aside broken people, he lovingly gathers up the pieces and brings them into his workshop.

     Gold, on the other hand, is valuable in all its forms. It can make even ugly things beautiful. But before gold can become useful, it has to be refined. The refining process cleans away the dross and makes the gold malleable. The refining process is painful for the gold, but it’s necessary. It’s the same way with our lives. We’re a rough nugget of gold, and in order to use and beautify us, God has to refine us. The painful trials and challenges we go through in life have the potential to make us pure, malleable, and beautiful, if we allow them to.

     God then takes our broken pieces  and refined gold and turns them into something even more beautiful, strong, and useful than before. This process is beautifully illustrated in the ancient Japanese art of kintsugi, which means golden joinery. The gold adds value and strength to the ceramic piece. The vessel then becomes more valuable and desirable.

He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness. ~ Malachi 3:3, NKVJ

     Life’s trials and challenges, while seeming like a hammer swinging in a china shop, will eventually turn us into vessels of beauty for God’s glory.

     Lord, help me to remember that your purpose is to take my broken pieces and to perform kintsugi with them.