devotional, encouragement, holidays

Advent Week 2–Peace & Preparation

When my kids were small, their father would take them to the mall (or WalMart) to buy me a gift for Christmas and my birthday, which are two days apart. They would be so excited to wrap their gifts and place them under the tree—almost as excited as they were about shaking and squeezing all the gifts with their own names attached. 

A month, let alone a few weeks, was such a long time for little girls to wait! They would grow more excited and animated about those gifts under the tree every day until I thought they would burst from excitement! 

Each day, more gifts would appear under the tree, building the anticipation even more. More Christmas cookies, more Christmas carols, and more Christmas parties fueled their frenzy.

Our custom used to be that we would each pick one small gift to open on Christmas Eve before heading off to bed. One year, my younger girl was so anxious for me to open the gift she had picked out for me, that she asked if I would please open “the umbrella-shaped gift”!  

As with children (young and old!) at Christmas time, we, too, anxiously await the second return of Christ to bring us peace, right all the wrongs, and deliver us from the cares of this present world. 

For he delivers the needy when he calls,
    the poor and him who has no helper. Psalm 72:12

Psalm 72:12

Even though the Israelites were longing for the promised Messiah, the Bethlehem of 2,000 years ago was not prepared for Jesus’ birth. 

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
    one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,    
from ancient days.

Micah 5:2

We’re looking for a Savior, just as much as the Israelites were over 2,000 years ago. So how can we prepare for Jesus’ peace during Advent? We can do good things for those around us. We can love and care for those within our sphere of influence. And we can pray to be transformed more to His likeness.

But just like the flurry of preparations that take place during December, we also must prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ. Lord, help us remember to prepare our hearts for your coming. Soften our hearts. Give us open hearts to receive the King.

Friend, what do you need to do to prepare your heart for the coming King this Advent season?

Read Advent Week 1, Hope.

anxiety, devotional, healing, lessons learned, midlife faith, 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?

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.