Beach Blog: Is it okay to be different?

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“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

As I ponder the power of the ocean, the eclipse of the sun, the water over Niagara Falls, and, most powerful of all, the conversion of a heart at salvation, I am struck by the true power of the Holy Spirit.  I recently recognized the conflict between my belief system and that of a family member.  We simply did not see things the same way.  I saw grace, and she saw condemnation.  I saw inability for peace, she saw compromise to avoid conflict.  I saw unwillingness to change, she saw no need for change.  These things showed me how truly different our perspective on life was.  And in recognizing this, she felt judged and convicted that I didn’t agree with her.  But I just saw how different we were.  I didn’t feel condemned by her, I just accepted that we were different.

Is it okay to be different?  As follows of Christ, we will inevitably be different than others.  We are called to be different than the world.  Sometimes this means different than immediate family members.  As our kids get older and form their own beliefs and worldview, it may even mean that we are different than our kids.  Scary, but true.

So as I move forward in this family relationship, I am looking forward to the conversations that establish our differences.  I don’t hope for conflict, but I do hope for opportunities to share a CHRISTIAN worldview with my family members and friends.  I don’t feel it is condemning them, but it is educating us both.  I plan to use the Bible as my guide for my beliefs and worldview.  I hope to discuss the interpretations and misconceptions out there, change my view if God reveals truth in a new context, and revise my worldview as the Holy Spirit reveals himself.  I do not see as the world sees, but I trust God in faith to show me truth from His Word.  I need to be diligent in studying it, so I can share lovingly and accurately the Biblical truths that it contains.  May God’s grace be ever present in these conversations and the conviction of the Holy Spirit, not the condemnation of man, be the true worldview changer in myself and my family.  Glory to God!

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Tomorrow We Fight

Our moms’ group has heartbreakingly seen two mamas lose their precious children to brain cancer in the last 6 years. When the second child died, our pastor gave a timely, encouraging sermon on Judges 20. The story in that chapter is how the Israelites fought against the Benjamites, lost many men in the fight, and asked God if they should fight a second time. God said yes, and they lost more men. So the men wept, fasted, worshiped, and enquired of the Lord if they should fight a third time. God said, “Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands.”

Our pastor reasurred us that though we lost the battle, we would one day win. He encouraged us to weep, fast, worship, and pray today, so tomorrow we could stand up and fight again.

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Now, a dear mom from that same moms’ group is fighting brain cancer for the second time, after being miraculously healed. She is now in a medical induced coma in hopes that her body can rest while she fights septic shock as well as some infections. We have seen her decline rather quickly, and it’s disheartening.

I’m writing this post, first to give a charge to the moms’ group and other friends of this family to keep fighting. Let’s follow the example of the Israelites in Judges 20. My second reason is to give encouragement to anyone going through something rough for the second or third (or fourth!) time. Take God at his word (as Ginger reminded us), study his promises, and keep fighting no matter how many battles you lose. We will win the war!

It Is Well…Really?

Can I really say, “It is well,” when SO many are hurting?  I am finding that sometimes I simply cannot say it, sing it, feel it, or really know it.  There are moments of truth when there is so much doubt in my heart that things are well, that I cannot come to grips with that saying.

I heard a story once that the hymn, “It Is Well,” was written by a man while he sat on the dock looking out to the ocean.  He was admiring the mighty seas and writing to the God Almighty after losing his family in a shipwreck.  What a testimony!  If this is true, and he penned those words in the heartbreak of his loss, then certainly I should be able to say them in the midst of my struggles and worries.  Even if I have friends and family member facing cancer, wasn’t his situation even worse?  Is what I say dependent on my circumstances?  Or is what I say dependent on who I believe in?

The writer of Hebrews records in chapter 11 verse 1, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  If we choose to believe the word of God, then there it is.  What I say is dependent on who I trust, not how I feel.  It is dependent on who is in control, not how little I feel in control.  It is dependent on the mighty God of the universe and what HE says is well.  If HE says it is well, then

 

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The things we should be telling each other more often

We gathered around the dining room table, a tissue box set right in the middle. This group of women was her village, come to say goodbye as she prepared to move away, to affirm, to validate friendship, share hearts and love.

Taking turns, we reminisced of meeting, of fun times that brought rounds of laughter and joking, of moments of deep friendship forged in times of trial that brought tears.

 

13433[2983]We told her how much she was loved and valued and all the things we would miss in not being able to live life together as we had been used to. And even though goodbye was imminent, our hearts were full.

Listening as each woman shared, I thought…We need to do this more! To not get “used to having,” taking for granted the blessing of friendship and love in our lives. But to purposely take the time to tell our families and our friends the things we

value

love

are thankful for

and would miss if we didn’t have them.

 

 

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(our last official book club night of the 5 Mamas!)

 

Read about one part of my village and so many others in The Mom Village.

Give the Weight (or Wait) Away

This is short and sweet.  It’s not just that it’s all I have time for, it’s that it’s all I need time for.  I’m burdened to pray for all you moms today, this special Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day beautiful, godly, moms!!!! I had a rough day on Friday.  So overwhelmed with the weight of grading, finals, illness, taxi-driving, grumpy kids, and grumpy me. The Lord clearly showed me that He would take the weight if I gave it to Him. I prayed out loud to give it all to Jesus, and He strengthened me. I discovered that I was attempting to carry other people’s burdens as well. Today is, of course, so much better. So continue to cast your cares on Him, beautiful moms! Because sometimes those burdens are heavy, and serious, and worrisome, but He will take them!  So whether you’re worried for yourself, or a friend, or waiting on a decent job, a baby, or a timely phone call, be encouraged!  May God get the glory as we give, give, give (isn’t that just what we do, ALL THE TIME?) and then remember to give it to Jesus.  Love you all so much.

If you or a mama in your life has loss this Mother’s Day…

I wrote this post last year remembering my first Mother’s Day on the other side of loss.  This year my Samuel’s day lands on Mother’s Day, and my heart is heavy for the mamas who are facing this day with fresh grief. I know from my own experiences and speaking to so many others who have gone through this, that what people say and do in these moments has such lasting impact.

When someone has a pregnancy loss, it can be difficult to know what to say or do. Many women suffer in silence because sometimes people don’t acknowledge that this mama has lost her child. Her child, whether at 6 weeks gestation or 6 months, a day after she found out she was expecting or the day after she gave birth, this is her baby.

What can we do to be a comfort to these mamas? These are just a few things I think are important to remember…

~say “I’m so sorry.” or

~”My heart breaks for you.”

That’s it. You do not need to explain it away for them, or give them a theological sermon on suffering, or a reason why. Just tell them how sorry you are.

I’ll never forget the well meaning woman who patted my arm and told me to try not to think about it. Or my dear friend, who was crying after the loss of her son, and someone said to her, “Oh, you’re still on that?”  But, of even MORE significance were all the sentiments of sympathy, validating my loss, valuing my grief, and showing me love during that time.

~Recognize that they have lost a child. Say “your baby”, or the name they had chosen. Value the life that was lost.

~Let her share…let her talk about it, feel, cry, whatever she needs. Listen. And keep doing this, because there is no time limit on grief.

loved

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~Do something. Drop off a meal, bring flowers, give her a gift to remember the baby by. If she has other children, take them for her or help her in the house. Saying, “let me know if you need anything,” doesn’t help. Find something to do and fill the need without being asked. Remember that she is suffering emotionally and physically. It is very difficult to recover from a pregnancy cut short by loss.

When I was in the hospital, two of my dear friends came into the room with my most treasured gift of that time, a beautiful memory box and a soft, brown bear. Still they sit on my dresser- the box filled with cards and memories of the love I received during that time. I can still picture the flowers and cards, the meals, the precious faces of the visitors who came and loved on me and barely said a word. The people who cared for my littles and cleaned my house and did my laundry. The cards and calls that came randomly throughout the years of those who reached out to let me know…I remember.  You don’t know how something you do could comfort so much.

And if that mama is YOU this year, remember…

Your loss is real. Let yourself grieve. Give yourself grace and rest and time. It does get easier.

You are not alone. There are so many who have gone through what you are experiencing. Don’t be afraid to share your pain with others.

You are loved and valued. Our Father longs to comfort you and strengthen your heart. Ps. 73:26 ‘My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the rock and firm strength of my heart and my portion forever.’

This year, as I celebrate my very full, very loud life with my boys, I still feel the loss of what could’ve been. I don’t know if that ever goes away. So, I’ll be thinking of all you mamas who know that feeling, too, and praying for comfort and peace in the midst of it.

 

Resources available for healing and help

Dream Dreams, and THRIVE!

Setbacks fuel new dreams.  This was said by American swimmer Dara Torres.  What is your dream?  Have you given up?  Is there a new dream?  Is our life exciting, or are we bored?

My kids often say in the summer time that they are “bored.”  Well, my sons and daughter, boredom is an emotion, and I’m more and more convinced that we have choices about our emotions.  We can wallow in our poor selves and claim “boredom,” or we can take captive those thoughts and choose to THRIVE.  If we think we are bored, then we are.  If we choose not to be bored, then we are NOT BORED!  This Christian life is so exciting.  There are endless opportunities to explore God’s creation, encourage a friend or stranger, serve someone in the community, or make a phone call.  Remember phone calls?  Not a text…a personal phone call. Even if the person doesn’t answer it.

The next step to a closer relationship with God may be to claim our lives for Christ and really live the excitement.  He calls us to follow in his footsteps as ambassadors of the Gospel.  There are so many hurting that can be cheered by the hope we have in Christ.  The word of God speaks for itself, so no need to worry about what to say.  Memorize 5 hopeful scriptures.  These are your truths.  Spread these wherever you go and you will NEVER be bored.

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Fasting

Keep perspective even in the midst of trials.  Despite the difficulty, and even looming dread, we can remember that HE will lead us to green pastures and quiet waters to restore our souls.  Be still and KNOW that I am God!  Why do we doubt?

Recently, I learned that several friends are facing serious health issues.  In my limited mind, it seems unheard of that young moms would be facing such trials.  Where is God? What is going on?  What will happen to their kids?  Their husbands?  And how can we help? Is it enough to just pray?

I couldn’t help but feel pressed to do more.  It’s time to fast. The Bible calls us to fast and pray when we seek the Lord.  I feel called to be reminded by those  pangs of hunger to pray fervently…to pray continually for my friends’ healing.   There is no doubt that fasting reminds us to pray and seek God.  He is our source of wisdom and counsel.  I am hoping to fast to feel closer to God and hear from Him.

F – Find a food to remind you to pray.  chocolateMaybe it’s chocolate.  Not having chocolate reminds me to pray at least 20 times a day.  It’s amazing how much chocolate is in my life!  The kids are selling candy bars, there’s chocolate macaroons in the fridge at work, and everyone is having hot chocolate, chocolate milk, mochas or frappe!  Just fasting chocolate and desserts has freed up my mind and time for prayer.

A – Allow yourself grace. What if you accidentally eat something when you’re fasting?  There’s grace.  You are under grace and God will not condemn you for forgetfulness. Keep going and pressing in. You’ll be amazed what God is going to say!  Keep praying and listening for His voice!

S – Set scriptures around to remind you to focus on the Lord and His word.  Placing God’s word around the house and listening to Christian music helps us focus on the things above, not the world around us.  You may find that if you’re fasting, you have a few minutes to work on your Bible Study lesson or devotional.  It’s amazing what time we have when we’re not preparing breakfast!  It’s a few minutes to spend with the Lord that you might not have otherwise.  Use your time wisely!

T –  “Testing your faith produces perseverance, so let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  James 1:3-4.  We can embrace a trial as a testing of faith.  Maybe we do not really want to be tested, but it’s a sure way to get stronger through belief.  Lord, help my unbelief!  I pray that we would come out stronger after these trials.  Let nothing keep us from the faith that God would freely give us.

And in the midst of it all, remember God’s unconditional love. This is a time of reconciliation, redemption, and resurrection.  I pray that the cross will change us into women of faith, not doubt, and that fasting and praying will draw us into a closer relationship with our Jesus.

Running Shoes

Running From Relationships

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I’m a runner. Oh no, not the kind you probably are thinking of….the put your sneakers on, hit the ground and go kind? No, that’s not me. I’m more of the kind of girl whose scars from the past have made her unintentionally (or maybe sometimes intentionally) flee when red flags or hurts in relationships happen. Yep, I’m a runner.

Did you know you can actually have friendship PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)? When I first read about it in Lisa-Jo Baker’s new book Never Unfriended: The Secret to Finding & Keeping Lasting Friendships, I thought it was a brilliant way to describe the hurts from childhood, teen, and adult friendships that stay with us, sometimes subtly, without even realizing the scars are there. For me, it showed up in my inner runner girl. It was less painful to run from a hard relationship or person than to stay and grow through it. Now, I do believe that there are some toxic relationships that we are meant to flee from. It’s learning to figure out the difference and trust your instincts to know when it’s worth working through. Some of my relationship scars go back as far as first grade and some as recent as last year. The good news is that I’ve discovered there can be healing for some of those wounds and restoration for some relationships …if we are willing to do the work and feel the discomfort that healing and growth sometimes bring.

our relationships have subtle, yet powerful, lifelong impacts on us. This means that while they can burden us with unwelcome PTSD, they also have highly reparative capabilities too. The relationship patterns we have learned can become clues that lead us back to the scene of the original crime and equip us with tools to investigate, understand, and prevent it from happening again.”
~ Lisa-Jo Baker Never Unfriended

When I was offered a pre-release copy of Never Unfriended, I had no idea how much it would impact me or even those I’ve shared it with. The subtitle is The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships, so I thought, well, I think I know how to do that…some of my friendships span decades. I cherish my relationships. But I realized I was overlooking the painful relationships in my life, the ones over the years where I hit my emotional remote control button and put my wall up or the ones I ran from. So, I decided to dig deeper and quickly found myself highlighting many of the author’s words. I’ve underlined so many sentences in Never Unfriended that it now resembles a coloring book. What I found most refreshing was the author’s gut deep honesty. She shared so many things that I’ve thought but didn’t have the words to say or maybe didn’t want to be vulnerable enough to share. It was a reminder to me that we are not alone. There is always somebody else going through something similar, and sometimes there are many somebodies. As Lisa-Jo shared, sometimes that person next to you is waiting for someone else to speak up. For someone to admit that relationships can be hard, that rejection stinks, and that even the strongest {appearing} person can actually be very weak. Lisa-Jo did that for us….she spoke up with all her vulnerability and raw insight, and all different types of women around the internet and coffee shops are shouting “me too.”

Speaking of the internet, the chapter on FOMO(fear of missing out) is one of my favorites. We are doubly blessed and cursed with all the ways to connect via social media. Actually, that term “connect” in reference to social media is interesting. So many studies have found that the more people are “connected” through Facebook, Instagram, twitter, etc, the more lack of connection and actually loneliness is taking place. It’s created a false sense of friendship and connection.

“…..we have got to demote our social media status, our obsession with inclusion, and our fear of missing out and get it OUT of the hallowed place. We have worshipped at the altar of inclusion when we were built to worship at the altar of the only living God. Living tied to clicks and likes and friend requests on Facebook will drain the life out of us”- Lisa-Jo Baker, chapter 2, Never Unfriended

Through my ever changing years of being a woman, I am so very thankful for relationships. What I ultimately found in reading this book was that our relationship with God and being able to rest in who we are is the most important thing. There’s an inner strength when you feel complete and loved by the Creator, which then helps in all your other relationships. Who knows? I just may hang up my running shoes. 


Jesus is never tired of me always needing Him. Instead, He is delighted by how desperately I need his validation and He never, ever withholds it from me. Or from you.” Lisa-Jo Baker, chapter 5, Never Unfriended

Great Expectations 2

More hope, less fear.  More love, less condemnation.  More power, less helplessness.  More joy, less worry.

I pray these things over my kids.  I expect that because they know the way to walk with Christ that they will have hope, love, and joy.  And I pray that when they get handed a flier announcing the “Coming Judgment and Wrath of God” that they will be confident of their salvation.  But WILL they know that they have hope against all odds?  WILL they know that their trust is not in riches, power, or politics?  WILL they embrace each day with joy, peace, patience, kindness, and love?

Recently, my college student received a tract from the boisterous evangelist on the Syracuse University campus.  He was visibly disturbed.  As he waited for us in the doughnut shop, he read the packet. When we came in, he said, “This is pretty awful. There’s a lot of bad stuff that happens.”

So true, so true.

If we live apart from Christ, there is a lot of bad stuff that happens.  We face eternal death in the lake of fire designed for the devil and his angels, and we face separation from God.  To fear death is good motivation to trust in the one true God.  But is this enough?

As we discussed the packet and the in-your-face evangelism that the local preacher demonstrated on the side walk in Syracuse, I was reminded of a verse.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57 says, “Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?  The sting of death is the law.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Death is real!  It is inevitable!  BUT WE NO LONGER FEAR DEATH! Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we have victory over sin.  So we do not fear death.  We have the opportunity to live righteously on the earth knowing that our hope is in Christ.

So I continue to pray. I expect my kids to be turned to the Lord and embrace their walk with Him.  I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide them.  And I expect many, many discussions in the future about the scriptures and how it impacts them.  The love of Christ is manifest in many forms and verses.  I pray that ALL my kids would know the fullness of Christ and fellowship with Him, whether they are in college, school, home, or the community.  I have great expectations for them in Christ.