about me, devotional, encouragement, healing, lessons learned, midlife faith, When a Woman Finds Her Voice

Embrace the Grace

Growing up in church, I thought all pastors’ families were supposed to be perfect. At least, that was what was to be portrayed. They were always smiling, always serving, always hospitable, and the children were always obedient (insert adult eye roll). 

And I don’t know how I acquired the false idea that some sins were worse than others, but somehow in my legalistic private school education, the list of sins started with short skirts and ended with girls who got kicked out for, well, you know what.

But somewhere between collecting demerits for too-big earrings and my second divorce—as the pastor’s daughter, no less—I figured out that short skirts aren’t a mortal sin—and neither is divorce, or speeding, or yelling at your kids occasionally, or having a ring around the bathtub. 

During that journey, though, Satan had a field day, making my sense of shame and guilt bow my chin to my chest. 

The devil suggests to people that they cannot change; God will not help them. They are helpless slaves to sin and its consequences. Romans 6 says instead, “No, you are free.” Romans 7 says, “The Law can neither save nor sanctify you.” Romans 8 says, “The Holy Spirit does enable you to walk in a manner pleasing to God, so you can be a conqueror.”

After we are freed from the bondage of slavery to sin, nothing can separate us from God’s love for us (Romans 8:37–39). God’s love is not conditional; He doesn’t look at the length of our skirts to determine the height or depth of His love for us.

A few years ago, my dad (the aforementioned pastor) noticed that I always seemed to be carrying around a sense of shame and heaviness for my current life situation (being divorced is no picnic, in case you were wondering). He reassured me that he did not see me through the lens of a divorced woman, or a woman who’d been fired from a job, or a woman who could never live up to some other imaginary standards. He just saw me as his beloved daughter. Period.

I feel the same way about my daughter. She is living far, far from God although she professed His name for many years when she was young. However, my love for my daughter is not based on whether she goes to church or plays DnD on Sundays.

So, how do we get from hanging our heads in shame because we were formerly slaves to living like the beloved children of the King of kings that we are?

We must learn to reframe the shame! First we face it, then we grace it. Remember, the opinions of others don’t matter. We will always be too much or not enough for some people, and that’s ok. Through the grace of God and Christ’s suffering, we are accepted the way we are!

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:1 ESV

Boom. Mic drop. That’s the whole sermon, right there. 

Romans 8:15 tells us that we have not been delivered from slavery to fall back into fear! We are to embrace the grace we’ve been given; otherwise, we’re throwing God’s gift back in His face. 

While feelings are, indeed, powerful, they are not what’s real. They may indicate that we’ve got some emotional baggage to unload, but they should not dictate our actions and our thoughts. We might just need to spend some time aligning our emotions with God’s truths. 

So, go live like the conqueror you are! Use your freedom to point others to Jesus. 

Read and Reflect:
Romans 8—read the whole context for this week’s message
Ephesians 2:8–9
Colossians 2:6–23

Think and Pray

  1. Are you stuck in a cycle of shame and guilt from which you need to be set free?
  2. Why is it often more difficult to receive grace for yourself than it is to extend grace to others?
  3. How do your feelings get in the way of your acting like a child of the King?
  4. What would it mean for you to actually live like a beloved child of the King of kings instead of a servant in the dungeon?

**This article also appears on the Beyond Sunday Blog.**

anxiety, healing, moving on, When a Woman Finds Her Voice, writing

Why I’m Afraid to Write My Story

I’ve been procrastinating, which is unlike me. I’ve decided that this is the year to tell my story, but I want to communicate it with redemption and hope. As I was trying to figure out why I felt so anxious whenever I thought of writing recently, I came up with this (probably partial) list of fears. Can you relate?

I’m afraid I’ll be minimalized—again. I’m afraid my parents will disapprove of what I choose to say. I’m afraid others (kids, friends, family, strangers) will disapprove of what I choose to say. I’m afraid I’ll be told my story doesn’t matter. I’m afraid to relive some of the really hard parts of my story. I’m afraid people will think I’m not a good writer. I’m afraid I won’t come up with the right words. I’m afraid I won’t be able to craft the story with redemption and hope. I’m afraid I’ll have to do marketing and all that stuff that makes my brain hurt and makes me feel inadequate. 

I’m afraid people will say what happened to me wasn’t that bad. I’m afraid to be vulnerable because I don’t want to get hurt again/more. I’m afraid to dream. I’m afraid to hope. I’m afraid to believe that I could actually write something helpful that people would want to read (never mind the fact that part of my day job title includes the word writer). I’m afraid I’ve only got one word for how I made it through some of the toughest spots: God. I’m afraid I don’t know how to incorporate all the elements properly. I’m afraid I’ll fail. I’m afraid it won’t be perfect.

There are nowhere near 365 “I’m afraid” statements there, yet God has provided 365 different verses in the Bible to address fear. A bunch of them are found in the book of Joshua as he was setting out to do a new thing. Over and over, God tells him, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 ESV). Like Joshua, I feel as if I’m setting out to do a new thing (telling pieces of my story). Like Joshua, I feel as if I need daily strength and encouragement not to be afraid. 

David also knew all about being in situations where fear was a normal response, yet he reacted like this: 

“In God, whose word I praise,

in God I have put my trust;

I shall not be afraid.

What can mere man do to me?”

Psalm 56:4 (NASB)

Turns out, “mere men” can do quite a bit, but it’s not permanent. Their words are not as powerful as the words of the Almighty God who promises to “redeem the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned” (Psalm 34:22 ESV).

In the end, that’s what I’ve got to cling to: God. He’s been there all along, and He’s certainly not going to fail me now. 

moving on, When a Woman Finds Her Voice

Me Too . . . Again

FindYourVoiceLinkup

When I logged back into my lonely blog, I discovered this half-written post. I don’t remember starting it, but it’s still applicable, so I cleaned it up and posted it.

My biggest fear when it comes to sharing my story is that I’ll be judged, condemned, and rejected. What’s the worst thing that could happen if I share parts of my story? I’ll find out that maybe some people weren’t true friends. Or maybe I’ll find out that some people are gossips. Those discoveries hurt. A lot. I’ve had those things happen, and I survived.

But I’ve also discovered that others have gone and are going through the same things that I am. That makes the process a little less lonely. And when I’m able to focus on helping someone else, my current problems seem to diminish just a bit. I feel like maybe that’s where God’s calling me to go with this blog–helping others who are going through separation and divorce, abuse, job loss, financial loss, home loss, car loss, health loss, reputation loss, friend loss, caring for aging parents, suicidal kids, watching adult children walk away from everything you’ve taught them, being condemned at church, starting over . . . again.

So, how do I get brave enough to give a voice and a face to the story that God’s weaving in my life? First, I waited. The beginning isn’t the time to share. I didn’t even know what was going on myself. I journaled, read, and received counsel from a variety of wise sources in the midst of my storms.

Then I looked for people who have been through what I went through. Somehow, hearing stories with which I could identify made me braver about sharing parts of my story.

Jo Ann’s book, When a Woman Finds Her Voice, was a tremendous help at the beginning, and it helped me to find my voice even while others were suppressing it.

Does this mean I have to share all the gory details (and there are a lot!) of every part of my story? I don’t think so. As always when writing, I need to analyze my audience and purpose, then filter through my story through a more objective lens.

Care to rejoin me? Let’s walk together through this journey called life (shoutout to Prince; yes, I’m totally an 80s girl!).

moving on, When a Woman Finds Her Voice

Why Not? The Better Question

dad's bookEver asked God why bad things happen? To you? To your loved ones? To a whole country? Me too. All the time. But sometimes I wonder if the better question would be, “Why not me?” 

God never promises us that we’ll be exempt from life’s hardships. In fact, he pretty much says the opposite. Many reasons exist, but let’s go with this for now:

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. . . . Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matt. 5:11-12, 16

In our suffering, part of what God wants is for us to learn lessons about trusting him and living through pain. He also intends for us to use those lessons to help others who follow along behind us. What good is learning lessons about godliness if we keep them to ourselves?

In a country where more than half of marriages end in divorce, why should my family be exempt? I thought I did everything right, but maybe that’s not what I should be asking myself. The only thing that God has promised to me through this is that he will somehow, sometime, someway work this mess out to be a message for his glory and for my good.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Rom. 8:18

Maybe instead of asking, “Why me?” we should instead be asking ourselves, “Why not me? How can God’s light shine through me during this time?” 

What do you think?

If you want to read more in depth about the whys of suffering and ugliness in our world, I highly recommend the book The Beauty of God for a Broken World: Reflections on the Goodness of the Bod of the Bible by Dr. John K. LaShell.

FindYourVoiceLinkup2_zpsc204a424

anxiety, healing, When a Woman Finds Her Voice

Connection: The Hard Choice

Anne and Diana

“Let’s connect this weekend at church.” “Let’s meet for coffee next week.” Sure, as long as I don’t have to share any of my personal issues. I’d love to hear about YOUR struggles, though.

Only, real life community doesn’t work that way. It’s got to be a two-way street. Give and Take. Mutual sharing. 

Years ago, I was baffled and hurt when a friend suddenly turned on me and said, in essence, that she couldn’t be my friend because I was perfect and had the perfect family, and she wasn’t and didn’t. Hadn’t I been a good enough friend? Hadn’t I listened as she lamented her unsaved husband? Hadn’t I sympathized about her child with disabilities? Yes, I really had.

But, what I had not done was let her into my very imperfect life. Sure, my then-husband professed Christ while hers did not, but I didn’t share my loneliness when he was at church functions. Or the fact that he has major issues with porn. Or the fact that one daughter may have been ahead academically, but the other one wasn’t. And the fact that I had no idea how to deal with my kids’ ADD/ADHD tendencies.

I wish I had shared my imperfect life with my imperfect friend. Because when my perfect wall came crashing down on my head, maybe I would have had a friend to help me dig out from the carnage. 

Maybe if I weren’t so afraid to connect with other women now, I would have a bosom companion, a kindred spirit, who lives here in my town, even though I don’t live at Green Gables. Someone who would call me first with her good news or her bad news. 

When a Woman Finds Her Voice link

Don’t get me wrong, I dearly love my long-distance kindred spirits! I just sometimes long for one who lives just on the other side of Avonlea.

What about you? Have you checked your connection status lately?

change, reinventing, When a Woman Finds Her Voice

The Power of the Journal

journal and penWords have power. Sometimes when we can’t speak the words out loud, we can still harness their power by writing them. Sometimes just reading the words of Scripture can speak their power into our souls.

Words reveal truth. My writer-daughter says she often doesn’t know what her characters will say or do until the words are already written. Me? I like to plan out every word. I start with an idea, then move to an outline, and then begin the actual drafting.

My journal, however, is a different story (pun intended!). I sit down with a cup of hot tea, my Bible, a pen, and my well-worn journal. Occasionally I know that I need to vent my feelings about a particular event or conversation, but often I just know that I need to release my bound emotions. And out come all sorts of emotions and thoughts that I didn’t even realize I had. Writing–and then reading over my own writing–enables me to process my emotions more effectively.

My journal also has the power to reveal wrong thinking patterns. When brought to light, I can pray more specifically for healing from these damaging emotions. I’m currently participating in an online Bible study utilizing a new book, When a Woman Finds Her Voice, by JoAnn Fore.  JoAnn leads by example and encourages readers to release their emotions appropriately in order to find healing.

For so long, I’ve kept so many emotions and details of my life hidden because of shame and fear. I’ve been told, in fact, that it was difficult to be my friend in the past because I seemed too perfect. I wasn’t trying to be perfect; I was just trying to be liked. I was hurt by that comment, but I needed to hear it. It validates my longing for a like-minded community where I can safely, without judgment, unburden my soul to find healing.

I’m tired of being perfect. I’m ready to journey toward emotional freedom. What about you? Are you ready to join me in unbinding my emotional mess? Are you ready to release your own emotional baggage?

FindYourVoiceLinkup