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There’s a reason you and I struggle with forgiveness.

But I don’t think it’s because of how deeply we’ve been wounded by another.

Having ministered to women for nearly three decades, I have come to believe that the main reason we often don’t forgive those who offend us is because we have several misconceptions about what forgiveness really means.

Do any of these conditions (or excuses) sound like yours?

  • I’m still dealing with the consequences of how that person hurt me, so I’m not about to forgive that person.  
  • Why should I forgive a person who has never apologized?
  • I’ll forgive him when he proves that he has changed.
  • I never got resolution from this before he died so now I will have to live with his offense — and the inability to forgive him — forever.
  • I refuse to let that person back into my life so forgiveness is not an option.
  • I’ve lost track of that person through the years, so I can’t initiate forgiveness.
  • What that person did to me wasn’t right so I can’t bring myself to let him/her off the hook.

Forgiveness is quite difficult, and in some ways impossible, if we believe we must first receive an apology from the person who offended us. Likewise, we will have difficulty forgiving another person if we are expecting that person to show remorse or evidence of having changed. We can also tend to believe that if we forgive someone, we are giving them a license to hurt us again. I think mostly, though, we withhold our forgiveness because we don’t feel another person has earned it.

In my book, When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts, I address the healing power of releasing  yourself through forgiveness. We remain in chains of emotional bondage to those we refuse to forgive. By withholding forgiveness we are saying “You will never be able to make this right.” But what we are ultimately saying is:  “I will always hold onto this pain.” That is where you don’t want to be…stuck in a place of pain. When you’re stuck like that you end up living with the burden of bitterness. Instead, you can live freely by freely forgiving. When God forgave us of the debt of our sin, He expected us to then forgive others of their debts toward us (Ephesians 4:32).

Here are some misconceptions we have about forgiveness that often make it difficult for us to forgive someone:

  1. We think forgiveness is excusing a person or letting them off the hook. To forgive someone who has hurt you doesn’t mean you’re letting that person off the hook. It doesn’t mean you’re excusing that person for their offenses. It doesn’t even mean you’re completely over what they’ve done to you. It simply means you are letting yourself off of their emotional hook. When we admit that our offense was real, it hurt, and it’s inexcusable but so is our offense to God, we can forgive another person just as God has forgiven us.
  2.  We think we can forgive only when the offense no longer hurts. The fact is, you may never stop hurting from something someone did to you. But, I truly believe you will begin to heal emotionally when you release another person from the expectation that they will ever be able to reverse that hurt or make things right again.
  3. We think we must wait for an apology.  If you are waiting for your offender to show remorse and apologize for the offense, that apology might never come. Even if it did, your offender will never be able to undo the hurt he or she caused you. If an apology by the offender were necessary in order for you to forgive, then you would never be able to forgive someone who has died and never come clean with you. We are commanded to forgive an offender regardless of that person’s remorse or efforts to gain our forgiveness. Think of forgiveness as a gift that you give to someone because of how God has unreservedly forgiven you.  In fact, think of your forgiveness toward your offender as a gift to God, not necessarily the other person.
  4. We think we must meet face-to-face or resume the relationship. To forgive someone does not mean you are saying “We can be friends again” or “Let’s meet and see if we can restore the relationship.” It also doesn’t mean you are giving someone permission to hurt you again. In fact, you don’t even have to agree to meet with someone in order to forgive them. Forgiveness happens in your heart when you release another person from the expectation that they will ever be able to make right the hurt they caused you and when you stop identifying that person by their offense. You can still have boundaries for your protection and that is wise. But forgiveness does not have to happen in the context of a face-to-face encounter or even a verbal exchange. In the case that your offender is deceased, you can still truly forgive that person in your heart (in a conversation between you and God), even if you never had the chance to tell them.
  5. We’re afraid we won’t be able to forget the offense. Sometimes when we choose to forgive, we find we don’t forget the offense and then we believe we failed at forgiveness. When God said in Isaiah 43:25 that He would remember our sins no more, it didn’t mean He was commanding us to do the same when we forgive others. To forgive and forget is something only God is capable of. We have memories and, perhaps for our protection, we tend to remember hurtful things. When the offense comes to mind, remind yourself  “I have released that person from their obligation toward me” and move on, mentally and emotionally. To remember doesn’t necessarily mean you are holding a grudge. It could just mean that your memory kicks in, at times, to warn you of danger or to protect you from further heartache or offenses. The important thing is that you don’t let the offense — or the offender — continue to keep you on their emotional hook.

Just as I have seen the bitterness in people’s eyes when they refuse to forgive, I’ve also seen the freedom come when a person opens their heart to God’s healing process by saying “Just as You have forgiven me of my offenses toward You, I release this person who has offended me into Your hands and trust You will take care of the situation.”

Can you make that first move to forgive your offender – and release yourself? You won’t be letting the other person off the hook. You will, instead be releasing yourself to live freely by freely forgiving.

You hear it every year (at least I hope you do!). You might have called it “The Story of Baby Jesus” when you were younger. Then it became “The Nativity” as you grew older. Regardless of what you call it, the Christmas Story is still The Greatest Story Ever Told. And here are four reasons why it never gets old:

1. It Was All So Unexpected.

Who would’ve thought that the long-awaited Messiah – the Son of God who would come to save His people from their sin –would be born in a barn? And who could’ve guessed his parents would be relatively unknown in Nazareth, a place with a less than desirable reputation (John 1:45-46)? God didn’t bring His Son to earth in pomp and circumstance. Yet He did it precisely the way He had planned. It was so unthinkable, that practically a whole nation of Jewish people missed it.

What does that mean to us today? It reminds us that He is still the God of the Unexpected. You might be looking for Him to come through for you in a particular way and He might completely catch you off guard. But just like the Christmas story He knew from before the foundations of the world how and when He would come through for you, too. It’s alright if He’s not doing what you expect right now. The God of Miracles is still the God of the Unexpected…and the God of Surprises

2. It Was a Long Time Coming.

The promise of a Messiah was anticipated by the Jewish people for thousands of years. It was a promise that was a long time coming…but it came right on time. I imagine God’s people might have felt, at times, like God had forgotten His promise – during their slavery in Egypt, during their wanderings in the wilderness, and during years of darkness, injustice, and captivity. It was a long-awaited promise, indeed, that God would send a Messiah to deliver His people. But the Deliverer came – and in a way that many people missed because perhaps they had stopped looking. Are you tired of waiting on God for something you know He’s going to do, but He hasn’t yet done? Scripture tells us “For no matter how many promises

God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. …” (1 Corinthians 1:20). The Christmas story never gets old because it reminds us that God is faithful and fulfills His promises. And He is always right on time.

3. It Was About the Poor and Downtrodden.

I suppose what I love the most about the Christmas story is that it wasn’t centered around the Kardashians. Or the Royals. Or the Rich and Famous. The God of the Universe didn’t assign the Heavenly Hosts to announce His Son’s arrival to the dignitaries of the day, nor the celebrities, nor the religious elite. The Greatest Story Ever Told was first told to a group of lowly sheep-herders – the working class, a handful of hard-working, underpaid men who probably hadn’t bathed for days. Those guys – not the white-collared professionals – were invited to the baby shower in the barn to witness the miracle of God indwelling man. God still comes to the lowly, to the unfortunate, to those the rest of the world may have forgotten. And He still brings tidings of good news and great joy. He is not an exclusive God known only to the educated and astute. He is a God who extends first to the lowly and downtrodden.

4. It Still Rings with Hope.

Neither you nor I could’ve ever conceived of a gift as wonderful as grace. In a world in which we must work for everything we have, God crashed through and gave us something we could never earn or deserve (Ephesians 2:8-9). If God wanted to save the world, you’d think He would’ve come up with quite an obstacle for us to run through, quite a mark for us to hit, quite a ladder of achievement we could devote our lives to climbing. But instead, God thought up something so wondrous it is still, to many, hardly believable. He chose to come humbly in the form of a helpless babe so we can come humbly to Him, as well. There is nothing you and I could ever do to earn God’s unconditional love and the sacrifice of His Son for our sins. But that means there is nothing we could ever do to lose it, either. No wonder Jesus – and the grace He offers to those who surrender their lives to Him – is called the Greatest Gift of All. It is a story of hope to a world that would have otherwise been hopeless.

The next time you hear The Greatest Story Ever Told, listen to it as if for the first time. Because it never, ever gets old.

Are you dreading the holidays because of all there is to do? Or all you have to buy? Or all there is to eat?

You don’t have to be focused on your full schedule, your finances, or the food that inevitably causes weight gain this time of year. You can, instead, anticipate Christmas as a time of making memories with your Maker and cherishing special times with your family. Here are three steps to help you head into the holidays feeling refocused and refreshed.

Here are my 3 Steps to a Stress-Free Holiday:

1. Rely on God for your Emotional Support

With so much to do prepare for the holidays, it’s natural for us to rely on people around us to notice when we’re overwhelmed, offer a helping hand, or just lend some encouragement and support. The problem is, at this time of year, everyone else around us tends to be as busy as we are. These are the times to go to God in prayer and pour out your heart before Him. Scripture says God understands our thoughts from afar (Psalm 139:2); He is a refuge for us when we need to pour out our hearts to Him (Psalm 62:8); and there is nowhere we can go (physically or emotionally) where He is not right there with us (Psalm 139:7-12). When we look to others to understand what we’re going through, we are often disappointed. When we depend on others for emotional support or a kind word to keep us going, we tend to feel let down. But God, your Maker and Sustainer, knows and understands what you’re feeling. Go to Him in prayer. Talk to Him about how you feel. And be refreshed knowing He hears, He cares, and He understands.

2. Refresh Yourself in God’s Word

Scripture can be a spiritual source of energy to help you and me get through the day. Psalm 19:7-8 say that the commands of the Lord are perfect, trustworthy, and right and that they are capable of “refreshing the soul, making wise the simple, giving joy to the heart, and giving light to the eyes. Furthermore, Second Timothy 3:16 reminds us that “All Scripture is God-breathed….” Reading it is like getting a “breath of fresh air” from the Living God – a “second wind” to get you through your day! Go to the Psalms in the morning to get your daily dose of vitamins for your heart, mind, and soul.

3. Remember Your Priority Relationships

When we remember what’s most important in life it can keep us from stressing out. We were created to love God and enjoy Him forever. And Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). That means that all you think you have to do, and all the money you feel you have to spend, pale in comparison to the people right in front of you. As you start to stress, ask yourself: What is more important? The project or the person I’m neglecting in order to get it done? The perfectly-decorated house or my children who want me to play with them? The amount of money I spend on someone, or the time I’m willing to spend with them?

In your busyness this Christmas, don’t neglect the One this season is all about. And don’t neglect the loved ones He has given you to share your life with.

As you prioritize people over productivity this holiday season, what do you find is easiest to drop from your schedule?

It’s that time of year again…the time of year that stresses your schedule, stretches your patience, and drains your finances. About now you might be tired of hearing the same old Christmas songs, and getting a headache from the jingling of the bell outside every grocery and discount store, and overloading on Christmas commercialism.

But, what if I could help you experience the Advent season with fresh eyes and a renewed heart and truly see it as the most wonderful time of the year?

Let me share with you what I’ve focused on the past few years to keep from experiencing Christmas burnout.

1. Keep a Quiet Heart
I’ll admit this is my aim all throughout the year, but I never recognize the need for it more than during the holiday season. While everyone is hustling and bustling around you, buying gifts, yelling at store clerks, cutting others off on the streets, showing a “me-first” attitude because they’re short on time, short on cash, and short on patience, determine to be different. Smile when others look stressed. Wait patiently when there’s a line, and let someone else in front of you as if you had nowhere to go. Don’t be so caught up in busy this season that you forget Who Christmas is ultimately for. Try making your gift to Jesus this year a calm, quiet heart – one that is so immersed in the realization of what this season of giving is all about that you are oblivious to every other stressed out person in the store, on the freeway, or in the office.

2. Focus on Doing, Rather Than Buying
For the past couple of years, my husband and I have had a lot less money that we could spend on others. So we’ve had to get creative about doing, rather than buying. And it reminded me of Christmases from my childhood. When I was a child, I didn’t have any money to buy gifts for my family for Christmas (we were too poor to receive a weekly “allowance” from our parents). So each Christmas I would make my mom a “coupon book” of the things I would do for her in order to bless her…things that kids wouldn’t ordinarily do for their parents. Some of the things included “Wash the dishes without being asked” and “Help you dust stuff with a smile not a frown.” Some of those coupons she has saved to this day because she didn’t want to part with them (lucky for me, as a kid!). But when I became a mom, coupon books from my own daughter (which included offers like “A bubble bath with all the drinks of water that you want”) became priceless. I didn’t want to “spend” those coupons either. I wanted to continue to read them, preserved in the little stapled-together booklet, as a reminder of the precious young heart that went into making them.

How can you give a piece of your heart to someone this Christmas? How can you sacrifice yourself so others can be served? Christmas is all about the sacrifice God made for us by sending His Son to walk among us, die on a cross for us, and rise again to save us from our sins. Make a list right now of what you can do for others that represents who you are, not what you have. Did one of your neighbors or co-workers lose a spouse this past year? What about bringing a freezable meal to them the week of Christmas? Is there someone in your workplace that everyone else seems to avoid? What about taking that person to lunch or baking something and bringing it to them with a note saying that they are appreciated. Is there a family member you haven’t seen in awhile? They may appreciate a visit or a phone call much more than a gift or card in the mail. Ask God to show you tangible ways that you can show your love to others this year by serving them.

3. Give as You Get
I remember dreading the coming holidays because of the stash of stuff that would be coming our way…knick knacks we didn’t need, more clothes in my already-stuffed closet, candy box after candy box when we were trying to eat healthy. And then I realized there’s no reason to keep holding onto – and hoarding – everything that comes our way. Our family decided to give something away for everything new that came our way. A new sweater for the holidays? Time to let go of another nice sweater in your closet that someone else will enjoy. A new appliance that you didn’t need? Give the new one to someone else who needs it and keep getting by with your own.

You can even get ahead of the giving game, and this week drop off at your local thrift store a couple bags of not only clothing and house wares that you don’t need but some of your nicer possessions too. Imagine the thrill of someone shopping for Christmas in that thrift store and seeing something that was treasured, even a favorite of yours for many years. Chances are it will become a favorite of someone else’s soon. Look around for how you can give up more (the closer to your heart it is, the better) or how you can pass on to others some of the nice things you receive that you don’t really need. (Forgive me if this is tacky, but re-gifting can sometimes bless someone else in ways you hadn’t imagined…especially if it’s something you really like but don’t necessarily need.)

4. See it Through the Eyes of a Child.
Do you remember how much you anticipated Christmas as a child? We couldn’t wait for the season to arrive so we could write up our wish lists, eat those goodies that are only in the house once a year, and unwrap presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. Look around and observe children this holiday season. Revel in their joy and excitement. Cherish those cute things you overhear them saying. Better yet, be one who brings a smile to their face or brightens their eyes through what you say, wear, or offer.

5. Focus on the Gift.
As a child, Christmas meant presents—gifts to unwrap, new toys to play with. But as we grow older, we tend to think it’s just about giving to others. Yes, that’s the point. But don’t forget your gift…the One who was laid in a manger, grew to be a Savior, and died so He would never have to be separated from you. That wondrous love, wrapped up in the gift of Jesus, is something you could never earn or deserve. And it represents a standard to which we could never out give. So, yes, we focus on giving, rather than getting. But don’t ever forget the wondrous, priceless gift that you already received.

Young girls swoon today over the music, looks, and happenings of the popular British Boy Band, One Direction. But what if I told you that you could compete for that kind of influence in your daughter’s life?

Although you, as her mom, start out as the single, most influential voice in your daughter’s life, that may change the day she decides to look elsewhere for a role model. Friends, boyfriends, celebrities and musical artists all compete for her heart, mind and values. So I want to encourage you with some ways to remain (or reclaim) an inspiration in her life through some deliberate and intentional actions on your part.

After surveying daughters aged 15-45 as I was writing my book, When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter, I learned a lot about what girls need most from their moms. And three things stood out that, if practiced, can do wonders to build your relationship with your daughter, rather than break it. Here are three ways that you can be the one person your daughter looks to, over anyone else, for advice, approval, encouragement and inspiration throughout her growing up years and beyond.

Accept Her for Who She Is

This sounds like a no-brainer. But you’d be surprised how many daughters I’ve talked with who truly believe they can never measure up to their moms’ standards. In fact, not feeling accepted by her mother was the most common wound I encountered as I interviewed young women to talk about their relationship with their moms. Daughters need to know they are loved for who they are, not what they do. It’s one of the ways we show them the unconditional love of Christ. In most cases where daughters carried a wound of not feeling accepted, their moms were unaware their daughters saw them as critical and unsupportive.

If you tend to be a critical person, or somewhat of a perfectionist, your daughter may see that as a lack of love or support for her. Critical words can easily slip out of our mouths when we talk to our daughters. Through the years, I’ve found that Ephesians 4:29 is an excellent safeguard for how to talk to our daughters: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

A girl’s deep need for acceptance is often at the heart of every choice she makes concerning friends, boyfriends, activities, and where and how she spends her time. Knowing she is deeply loved and accepted for who she is will cause her to set her standards higher when it comes to relationships, rather than making decisions so she’ll “fit in” or “feel loved.”

You can show acceptance to your daughter by supporting her dreams and ambitions even if they are different from yours. You can also show your love and support by understanding and accepting the ways she is different from you. For example, you may be tidy and neat, she might not. You may be an early riser, she might be a night owl. You may have excelled academically, she might be more interested in art or music. Give her leeway to be herself and appreciate and affirm the ways she is unlike you, because those things make her unique.

Become Interested in Her World

Our girls will want to be around others who “get” them. Why do you think they are so attracted to musical artists their age and celebrities who talk about what they are interested in? They long to connect with someone at an emotional level and when a celebrity or singer says something they are thinking or feeling, they make the emotional connection. We can better understand our daughters by asking them questions and listening to them or, better yet, listening to what they are listening to.

Another way to enter your daughter’s world and be an encouraging observer there is to “friend” her on Facebook (if she’s old enough to have an account) and be an encouraging observer. Sometimes it’s better if we just verbally and positively comment on their posts, rather than write something that would embarrass them in front of their friends. Another way to enter her world is to take her to movies she is interested in and offer to bring one or two of her friends along. Or, become involved in what she is interested in by being the driver (if she can’t yet drive) or the greeter (who meets her at the door to share in the excitement of what she has just experienced). Be creative and find a way to take an interest in what she’s interested in…even if it is not something you would’ve liked when you were her age.

Cheer Her On, No Matter What

Our daughters will want to be around people who make them feel good about themselves. So that’s where you and I, as mothers, need to be doing all we can to build them up, not tear them down. My daughter recently told me “If you’re ever having a bad day, Mom, just watch a One Direction music video. They’ll make you happy.” Now why does she believe that? Because those boys sing things like “Don’t need make up to cover up. Being the way that you are is enough” and “You don’t know you’re beautiful.” When I realized the power of encouraging words on my daughter, I began to use them more often when talking to her. That caused her to listen more, rather than shrink away.

Our daughters are hard-wired to want to please their mothers and make them proud. That’s why it’s important that you and I, as moms, affirm their efforts, but also let them know that it’s okay to not have to look perfect or excel at everything. Your daughter may still be struggling to figure out what it is she does well and what she wants to pursue in life. Give her time. Allow her to fail. And be her cheerleader every step of the way. She will want you around if you praise her more than you point out what she’s doing wrong.

  • October 30, 2014

Our daughters watch us, look to us for what they need, and often imitate both our weaknesses and our strengths. So being aware of what they most need can help us focus on getting them through their teen and young adult years.

As I surveyed daughters, ages 15-45 for my book, When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter, I found that, overall, our daughters don’t need more money, leniency, opportunities, structure, extra-curricular involvement, or music lessons as much as we might think. Instead, what they all indicated that they needed – and still need – is their mother’s “love and support.”

My daughter, Dana, now 21, says: “I needed my mother’s love and support in everything I did. No matter if I did something completely wrong, I needed her to love me anyway and to let me know it was going to be okay.”

I asked my survey respondents to further define the phrase “love and support” so moms could get an idea of what it would tangibly look like to show that to their daughters. See if these sound like something your daughter might need, too:

She Needs to Know She is Your Priority

As a 19-year-old college student who has never doubted her mother’s love for her, Annie says: “My mom made me her center. I don’t think that spoiled me. Rather, it made me secure in the fact that she loved me and would do what it took to provide for all I needed.”

Another daughter said: “Not to sound selfish, but I needed my mom to choose me first over a lot of things, to let me know that I was a priority in her life over work and finances.”

Because we tend to live such over-scheduled lives, it can be challenging to let our daughters know they are more important to us than the job or the tasks at hand.

She Needs to Know She Is Accepted

A young woman needs to know she is accepted by her mom, no matter how old she is. She needs to feel accepted as she is recognizing her uniqueness, in the ways she feels “odd” or out of place in a crowd, and on the days she feels she didn’t measure up to others around her.

She Needs to Feel a Connection with You

Karen said she never really felt a deep emotional connection with her mom.

“My mom was a single parent raising me and my siblings. She worked outside of the home through most of my adolescent years. I didn’t feel a connection with her because she had a “hard shell” around her heart. While I always knew she loved me, it was very difficult to approach her.

“Even as I matured and became a wife and mother, I did not feel I could share with her the secret places of my heart. I never really felt like I could share intimately with her. Only a few times can I remember really opening up and sharing deep thoughts with her.”

Be the one who initiates an emotional connection with your daughter. Even if she’s acting like she doesn’t want that, she will know that you are the one who is reaching out.

She Needs a Spiritual Foundation

Katie, who was raised in a committed Christian home, says that although she might not have appreciated it at the time, her mother’s insistence that she attend church every Sunday and learn strong biblical values is one of the best things her mother could’ve done for her. It is something Katie intends to imitate with her own children.

Krystle, who is raising a teen and pre-teen daughter, said she wishes her mom had made more of an effort to bring her up, spiritually.

“My mother was a loving, devoted Christian stay-at-home mom up until my parents divorced when I was around 7 years old. Our lifestyle changed dramatically after my parents divorced. My mother struggled to support and raise four children on her own. She became discouraged and left her church for a while. She worked a lot, turned to friends and partying. She became more focused on her life and her needs and didn’t encourage her children enough. I feel that my mom should have drawn closer to the Lord during these times.”

Our daughters need us to have a strong dependence on the Lord so they can imitate that walk and develop a dependence on the Lord, as well.

She Needs to be Allowed to Fail

One young woman who was raised with a strong spiritual foundation said she wishes her parents had realized she was human and she would, indeed, fail.

“I felt very lucky in that both my parents were great examples who showed me love my entire life. The downside for me was that I never felt I could be completely open and honest because the lines of right and wrong were so clearly drawn I was afraid I wouldn’t be accepted for the mistakes I did make. I wish at ages 14-16, I had been given permission to make mistakes without judgment. That’s not to say I would have made better choices than I already did, but when I messed up, I didn’t feel like my mom was as approachable.”

When our daughters are young, there are times we want to step in and do something for them, rather than risk their disappointment or having to watch them fail. But it is crucial to their development as young women to learn how to pick themselves up after they fail and move on. Your daughter needs to be okay with the fact that it’s perfectly normal and human — to make mistakes. She needs to know it isn’t the end of the world if she fails to do something right. And she needs to know that coming in second or third or not placing at all, is often a part of life.

Guiding your daughter through disappointment and failure is just as important as guiding her through victory and success. Let her make mistakes. Let her feel badly. Let her live out what it’s like to be imperfect. And love her through it. Could anything show her more of the way God loves us?

She Needs You to be a Woman of Integrity

I can’t help but think that is my daughter’s greatest need from her mother, as well. I can raise her according to biblical principles, and talk to her about the importance of living frugally, being Christ-like, loving others and having a pure heart. But the bottom line is, if I am not modeling any of it myself, then my words are merely words. She needs to see the Christ-like life lived out in me every day of my life and know it is real before she will know how or even have a desire to live it herself. She needs an example to follow in making life’s choices and being the woman she knows I want her to be.

She Needs Your Stability

I will venture to say that your stability is even more important than hers. Our daughters can’t be the ones who hold us up, emotionally. That’s our job. Sure, it’s nice to have a relationship with our daughters in which we can share with them what’s on our hearts. But be discerning. Your daughter does not want to hear about your marital struggles, your loneliness, or your depression with how things are going in your life. It is our job, as moms, to bear their burdens when they need emotional support and nurturing.

If we’re not careful, we can reverse the situation and cause our daughters to feel the weight of having to emotionally carry us. I know many college-aged girls who feel guilty about going away to school because of how difficult it is on their moms to be away from them. Our daughters need us to be a rock because we look to Christ, our Rock, in times of trouble and adversity. Our daughters need us to be women of integrity who show them how to be in the midst of a compromising world. And our daughters need us to be women who can keep it together when life around us falls apart. If we are the ones with the emotional issues, we can lead our daughters toward depression, a sense of hopelessness, or a desire to distance themselves from us.

Because our daughters model our behavior in so many ways, they end up imitating both the positive and the negative in us. So, if you are constantly searching for your own identity, struggling for a sense of purpose, or dealing with insecurities, chances are she will be, too.

In short, be the woman you want your daughter to become. And chances are that she will, in time, follow suit.

Based on Cindi McMenamin’s book, When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter.

  • October 30, 2014

While going through my daughter’s backpack when she was in second grade, I found a paper on which she had written her spelling words for the week. I was pleased to see an “A” for correct spelling and grammar.

But as I read her sentences, I realized whom I had become in her eyes:

  • “Busy – My mom is always so busy.”
  • “Time” – My mom never has enough time.”
  • “Speed – My mom does things with such speed.”
  • “Garden – My mom used to spend time in the garden.”

My heart sank as I realized two things: The first was that, to my seven-year-old daughter, I was her whole world. Every sentence was about her mom. She observed me, studied me, wanted to be like me. And the second realization was this: She saw me as busy…as a mom who was rushing through life, not as one who took the time to be with her.

I took a good hard look at my life that evening and repented. I thought about what I wanted to teach my daughter and what I was inevitably showing her from my life. I told God I don’t want to be a mom who is all about what I do, and not involved in my daughter’s life. I asked God to help me realize that I only have so much time left to influence her in a positive way and to show her that she is more important to me than anything else.

It was then that God opened up my eyes to Psalm 90:12, a verse that became a guiding factor in my life – and parenting – from that point on: “Teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom (NIV).”

It was clear I needed to start “numbering my days” and focusing on the few things that mattered in life, my daughter being one of them. By the grace of God, I was able to make the necessary adjustments in my life, while Dana was still young, to slow down, seize the day, and play with her while she still wanted me around. To this day, that remains the best parenting decision I made, and I believe it’s why she and I are close today.

Just as I made certain changes in my life when Dana was 7, you can make them, too. Regardless of your daughter’s age, she desires the gift of your time. When she’s little she wants you to play with her. As she gets older, she wants you to shop with her. And as she moves out and has a life of her own, she still wants you to call and ask how it’s going. She will always need the gift of your time. And it’s never too early – or too late – to start giving it. When you give your time to your daughter, and not just your words, you are showing and teaching her three important truths:

  • that she is a priority in your life
  • how she can prioritize people in her life
  • how she can enjoy life and not rush through it

So how do you actually find the time to spend with your daughter? You can’t. Time can’t be found anywhere these days. We make the time for what is most important to us. As soon as your schedule frees up, something else will come up. Therefore, you and I must be deliberate and intentional about spending time with those we love the most. Here are some practical ways to start giving your daughter the gift of your time.

Look for opportunities to do something special with her.

Although she needs you on a daily basis, having specially planned weekly dates or monthly outings go a long way in letting her know she’s important. Here are some ways you can do something special with or for her, to show her she’s priority.

If your daughter is young and attends school:

  • Sign up to help regularly in her classroom.
  • Volunteer to drive for and/or chaperone her field trips.
  • Stay during her after-school lesson or sports practice, watching her, rather than stopping by to pick her up later. (Even if this is just once in awhile, it will make an impact on her.)

If your daughter is older and/or driving by now or living on her own:

  • Buy tickets to a play, concert, or special attraction that the two of you can attend together.
  • Schedule a weekly or monthly lunch with her (even if she’s still living at home).
  • Take her shopping for her or her children.
  • Suggest a book or Bible study the two of you can go through together (even if over the phone).
  • Talk weekly via phone if she is living far away and text her often just to tell her you’re thinking of her (whether she lives with you or not).

Listen for what’s important to her and join her there.

Is she often talking about something in particular? That means it’s important to her. Ask her questions about it, which will show your interest, but avoid the tendency to give your opinion or criticize quickly.

Learn how to draw her heart closer to yours.

Become a student of your daughter’s. Study her. Learn what resonates with her heart and invest in it. Pick up on the little things she likes and start incorporating them into your day or week. Whatever takes time and is spent on her will translate to her that she is important to you.

Lose the phone.

I have to say it: Put down the phone. I have regretted many times taking a call when my daughter was talking to me and realizing later, after seeing the look on her face, that she felt she had been “bumped” by someone else I appeared to consider more important than her . If you are expecting a call during time you are spending with your daughter, tell her ahead of time and ask “do you mind if I take this call?” just like you would if you were having a conversation with a friend or co-worker. It will help her to see that she’s not really being pushed aside for someone else more important. Better yet, leave the phone at home, turned off, or on silent.

(This article is based on Cindi’s book, When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter.)

  • October 30, 2014

For some children, it’s obvious what their calling is. They come out of the womb, it seems, with big plans of what they want to accomplish with their lives. For most, however, it can be a mystery – a secret worth pulling out of them.

That’s where you and I, as parents come in. You may have one child who’s a dreamer – it’s part of her personality – she knows exactly what she wants to do with her life. Yet, the other may take a while to develop creative abilities or academic interests. But by watching, and praying for wisdom to help cultivate that dream God has placed on their hearts, we can be there to be the wind beneath their wings when it’s time for them to fly.

In my book, When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter, I outline six steps to encourage your daughter to discover and pursue her dream (and I believe these steps can apply to our sons, as well):

Let Her Explore

Kelly grew up with a critical mother who didn’t lavish much praise on her. But she does remember one thing her mother did very well:

“She always allowed me to explore, try, and learn. I devoured books, movies, classes, and school stuff. I asked questions and got answers. I was able to go places and do things to learn more about everything around me, to challenge me, and to let me grow. Eventually I became comfortable in my own skin because I had a childhood to explore who God designed me to be.”

Help her explore new areas. One of them might be the area in which she truly shines.

Look and Listen for What Makes Her Heart Sing

Sometimes we don’t see a dream on our child’s horizon because that dream is still developing. Or, as it was developing, we weren’t necessarily looking for it.

Sara says she wishes she had noticed her daughter’s dream when Lauren, now 23, was a little girl. “It took me too long to recognize Lauren’s strong gravitation toward the arts. I am not artistically gifted but she is! She writes music and poetry, sings, plays musical instruments, loves photography and her painting aptitude is amazing! I wish I had seen this in her when she was little.”

Jean, who has five daughters ages 2-11 is aware of how easily each of them could slip through the cracks when it comes to encouraging them in the area of their dreams.

Jean says: “I spend a lot of time with them and try to be a student of all of my daughters – understanding who they are, who they are becoming, and what they want to become. By doing that I get an idea of what God’s purpose may be in their lives so I can help steer them in His direction.”

What is your daughter saying now about what she is interested in? What is she saying she no longer wants to do? That can give you an idea of where her dream may or may not lie.

Let Her Take a Break – or Change her Mind

Sometimes our children try something but find it’s not what they had hoped or wanted, after all. Yes, we need to teach our children commitment and how to stick with something, but after the commitment (and hopefully she never signs up for more than a one-year commitment at a time), let her reevaluate. Sometimes she was simply gaining skills for the next step, which is something different. And sometimes she just needs time off to get her heart back for it (as was the case with my daughter, Dana, when it came to giving up piano lessons. She returned to it five years later with an amazing ability and passion for it that I never saw in her earlier!).

Cheri Gregory says this about being made to continue with her piano lessons when her dream was elsewhere.

“I wish my mom could have understood how important horseback riding was to me and let me keep up with my lessons, instead of making me stop riding, but continue piano. I took 15 years of piano lessons from top instructors and quit, never to play again, after I went to college. It was such a waste, and I was terrible – just terrible – in performance. On the other hand, my riding instructor said I showed exceptional promise, and I’ve always wondered what my life might have been like if I could have kept doing the one thing I wanted to do. ”

Your daughter may know more than anyone else when it’s time to take a break from something and move on to something else. (Or when it’s crucial to stick with something that you don’t necessarily feel is worth the time, trouble, or money.) Yes, to excel means hard work. But if she is involved in something she truly doesn’t enjoy, then it’s not for her. Her dream is something she will want to do, no matter what. And if she drops out for a season, she will return to it again when the timing is right, if it really is something that is leading her to God’s dream for her.

Lighten Up

I don’t say this to sound harsh. I say it because we, as moms, can sometimes overdo it when it comes to helping our daughters pursue a dream…or pursue something we believe must be their dream. We can unintentionally get to the point where we are pushing. By becoming our daughter’s cheerleader we can sometimes be so into what they are doing that we unintentionally convey to them that it’s more important how they do, than what they do. Learn to back off now and then and see if your daughter is pursuing a dream because it’s on her heart, or because it was on yours.

Live it Out in Front of Her

Monica, who now has children in their teens, says: “My mom has and continues to inspire me to beat the odds and to never give up, not so much in words that she has said, but in the way she lives her life. She has inspired me to never let my fears be bigger than my dreams and to chase after the dreams and desires that God has placed in my heart.”

Is your daughter seeing you pursue your dream and live it out? If not, what can you do to model to her that you fully believe God can accomplish anything in her life that she gives to Him in faith?

Let God into the Process

I was a little fearful when my daughter expressed an interest in attending an acting school in Hollywood right after high school graduation. I was concerned about all the ‘what ifs’ and if that was the best environment for her. But God eventually made it clear to her what He wanted her to do and I didn’t have to be the one to do any arguing or convincing.

If your daughter is leaning toward an area that concerns you, talk to God about it first. Philippians 4:6-7 encourages us in this regard:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (NLT).

Make it a habit to be in prayer about your daughter’s dream. God will make a way for her or clear her out of it if she’s merely being distracted.

  • October 30, 2014

Every day that your daughter lives and breathes is a special day for the two of you to make a memory.

But some memories the two of you make together will no doubt stand out more than others. Through the years, I’ve noticed that the special dates I planned with or for my daughter were among the memories she cherished the most.

During Dana’s college years, she sang on a women’s choir that went on tour every year over Mother’s Day. During her second year on tour, she had worked on a gift that she left for me to open while she was gone. It was a photo book of all our “mother-daughter” memories – special trips together, days we dressed alike, times we goofed off together – all caught in photographs. I realized then how much it meant to her to have special “Mommy and Me” days from the time she was a child. And I was so grateful to have taken photographs of nearly everything we did together.

Whether your daughter is still an impressionable little girl or is a mother herself, it’s never too early or too late to start making memories with her that she will cherish for years to come. Here are some ideas for memory-making that Dana and I (or other moms and daughters) have enjoyed through the years.

1. Have a regularly scheduled “Mom and Daughter Day”

It may start out as a monthly tea party when she’s little, and eventually become a “shopping day” when she’s a preteen, and a spa day or makeover together at the shopping mall when she’s a teenager. The important thing is that you make sure you get into the chair, too – whether it’s the little chair for the tea party or the makeup chair at the cosmetics counter. We, as moms, get used to watching our daughters from the sidelines, but they have more fun when we actually participate with them. Share the memory, rather than just observe it.

2. Attend as many of her “special events” as possible

If your daughter is still in school, be a mom who chaperones the field trips as many times as possible (and take lots of pictures when you do…it will help the two of you remember those special times). If she’s in sports, cheerleading or band, be the mom who attends the tournaments, competitions, and year-end trips. She will be making memories of her growing up years, and you don’t want to miss them. Shopping for special occasion dresses together (for birthdays, Easter, homecoming, prom, graduations, and eventually a wedding dress!) is another great way to make special memories with her.

3. Surprise her with a “show”

When Dana was about 5 years old, I took her to see the off-broadway production of “Beauty and the Beast” live on stage in downtown Los Angeles. It was there that she developed her love for the theatre. Since then, we have tried to attend at least one show a year, whether it be an ice show, the circus, or another theatre production. Today, as an adult, she is buying tickets for her parents to see shows with her.

4. Attend a concert together

The first concert I took Dana to was to see and hear “Point of Grace” — an all-female Christian Contemporary Group that I got her interested in as an alternative to “The Spice Girls” which all her friends were interested in when she was growing up. (Yes, the “diversion” worked!) We had a great time together at the concert and it started a tradition of attending musical concerts together. But I soon found what meant even more to her was when I started booking concerts to groups she really enjoyed that I became interested in because of her. It was a tangible way for me to “enter her world.”

5. Make a tradition of a yearly trip together

Part of the fun is in the planning. Every year Dana and I get together with her best friend, Ellie, and Ellie’s mom, Midge, and head out to Palm Springs for a day trip or an overnighter. It’s become a tradition, around Easter time. We have our favorite stops along the way, our favorite restaurant for Mexican food, and our favorite hotels and pools to visit. On Ellie’s 16th birthday, Dana gave her a scrapbook full of pictures of their trips and fun times together from childhood. Midge and I had forgotten how many years – and how many trips – we had spent together making special memories for our daughters. But they hadn’t.

6. Start a Blessing Bracelet for her

When Dana was 10 years old, she received a silver charm bracelet from a friend with a cross on it the day she was baptized. I began to add to that bracelet, yearly, a little charm that represented some of the “blessings” we got to experience as mother and daughter, or as a family. There was an ice cream cone charm on it representing the day she and I went to Dana Point Harbor and spent the day together which included eating ice cream. There was a giraffe on it representing a day we spent together at the zoo. She got a “cell phone” charm the day after we had a conversation about the privilege of constant communication with God. And I gave her a tiny “cheetah-print” purse charm to remind her that she is “rich in Christ” because she knows Him and has an inheritance in heaven. Each of those charms represents memories, spiritual lessons, and the overall blessing of knowing Christ. Be creative with reasons for her to receive another “blessing” on her bracelet.

7. Celebrate her “Re-Birthday”

If you know the date (or even the month) when your daughter received Christ as her personal Savior, celebrate it each year as her “re-birthday.” Dana will never forget the day I picked her up from school with balloons in honor of her “Fifth Re-Birthday.” It was a great opportunity for her to tell her inquiring friends what all the celebrating was about. (Even if your daughter received Christ several years ago as a child, if you know about when it was, start celebrating her re-birthdays now…even if you start with her 10th or 15th!) Her re-birthday is another occasion to get her a charm for her “blessing bracelet.”

8. Try something new together

There’s something about the sense of adventure that can bond the two of you together. It doesn’t need to be extravagant or expensive. Maybe your new experience is trying sushi or taking a Pilates class together, or both of you trying something new with your hair. Be creative. And take turns with who chooses what the next new thing will be.

9. Enjoy a Girls’ Movie Night

What girl doesn’t like a chick flick? In our home, my husband would rather go to bed early than stay up and watch movies like “Ever After” and “The Holiday.” Just as your daughter would bond with her girlfriends in this way, be one of her “girlfriends” for a regular movie night with just mom and the girls.

10. Work on a project together

Do you both like to sew, paint, cook, scrapbook, or decorate? If so, set aside some time to do those things together, whether it involves you teaching her how or her teaching you. Today Dana loves event planning because of how she and I did that together for several years, whether we were decorating the house for holidays, planning and decorating around a theme for a special event at church, or planning another one of her birthday or graduation parties. And even though I’m not a cook, by far, some of our best memories involve her helping me in the kitchen, whether it be baking sugar cookies together or teaching her how to make Swedish pancakes for breakfast. Many daughters have said they have most enjoyed ” kitchen” and “in the home” memories with their moms.

  • October 30, 2014

By the look on my husband’s face, I could tell it was going to be another one of those silent nights.

Hugh had just walked through the door, mumbled something about being starved, and clanked together a few pots and pans as he dished out his dinner on the stove.

My husband, a pastor who often deals with stressful situations, had brought his pressures home again. Usually, I’d try to pull him out of his troubled mood by making light conversation or attempting to encourage him. But I had dealt with some pressures of my own that day and wanted him to attend to me. I could tell, amid the kitchen noise and exasperated sighs he was making, that this wasn’t going to be the night. So I withdrew to my study, sank into a chair, and started to cry.

Why do I have to feel so alone, God? I prayed. I can’t live in this silence! Can’t he come home once in a while and talk about how he feels? Or better yet, can’t he come home and be willing to listen to how I feel? Where are his words of encouragement for me?

Communication – or a lack of it – had been the central issue throughout our ten years of marriage. As a pastor, Hugh knew that communication was essential to any relationship. Yet he found it difficult to be vulnerable with his thoughts and feelings and to articulate what was going through his mind. It was easier, more convenient, and, he admitted, a bad habit to continue to internalize things. But I was tired of trying to pry words out of him, and I didn’t want to plead to get his listening ear.

As I sat in my study feeling sorry for myself, I noticed my Bible on the desk. Seeing it there reminded me that I’d skipped my devotional time with the Lord that morning, which probably contributed to my frustration and fragile emotional state. Now was as good a time as any to make up for what I missed with the Lord. But at that moment, I didn’t feel like spending time with God. I wanted someone to spend time with me.

Then a new idea began to convict my heart. Perhaps God wanted to spend time with me! I had been longing for someone to talk with me, and His Word had been there all day. I wanted someone to listen to me, and He had been willing all along. I picked up the Bible and opened it to the Psalms – the place I often go for encouragement. Psalm 62:8 seemed to jump off the page at me.

“Trust in Him at all times…Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.”

Did I trust God enough to pour out my heart to Him right now?

I began to wonder why I often feel so anxious and can hardly wait to “pour out my heart” to my husband. Yet, I usually have no idea what kind of pressure he’s been dealing with, so I can’t predict how he’ll react. Sometimes my “pouring out” comes across as complaining or demanding, when I really just need someone to listen to me and to understand.

The psalmist described God as a refuge, a safe haven for pouring out concerns and feelings without any chance of being misunderstood. He’s a protective port where I can unload my burdens without worrying that my intentions will be misinterpreted or discounted.

I realized then that if God could meet my needs for safe communication, He could probably meet a lot of other emotional needs as well. I began looking through my Bible’s concordance, concentrating on needs that I have and how God responds to them. I was amazed at what I discovered:

  • He comforts me when I’m hurting (2 Corinthians 1:3)
  • He makes me feel secure by promising He’ll never leave me (Hebrews 13:5)
  • He understands me because He can read my mind (Psalm 139:2)
  • He is always there, even when I try to get away from Him (Psalm 139:7-10)
  • He encourages me by assuring me a bright future with Him (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • He cherishes me by thinking only precious thoughts of me (Psalm 139:17)
  • He shows His kindness by freely giving me all things (Romans 8:32)

That night, I listed more than twenty ways the Lord is able to meet my emotional needs. As I looked over that list, I was amazed at the way God had communicated to me, through His Word, exactly what I needed to hear that evening. I knew then that He is the first One I should go to when those needs for communication, understanding, and comfort well up inside of me.

During the next few days, as I began going to the Lord with my host of needs, I realized that emotional fulfillment wasn’t something that was going to happen overnight. I couldn’t take a short-cut to God’s heart. It was going to take some time to establish the kind of intimacy with Him that would meet the deep desires of my heart. I would need to go beyond the surface of glancing at His Word every day and rattling off my requests. I would have to spend time getting to know Him, learning what He likes and dislikes, discovering what He expects of me in the relationship, and learning how to communicate with Him through prayer. In attempting to do all those things, I came up with a daily plan that focused on establishing intimacy with God through communication, commitment, and trust. It looks like this:

  1. Tell God first. When I have exciting news, when my world crashes in on me, when I’m facing something bigger than I expected, He’s the One I go to first. Sure, He already knows about it. But by going to Him first with the things that are close to my Heart, I reaffirm to Him and to myself that He is the most important person in my life. Plus I give God the chance to counsel and direct me before talking to my husband about a concern.
  2. Take God seriously. I need to know what He expects of me in my relationship with Him and to make His will a priority in my life. I must find out what He loves and cling to it, and be aware of what He hates and avoid it at all costs. Taking Him seriously means I determine in my heart to prioritize my life so that nothing I do takes time away from maintaining my relationship with Him.
  3. Trust God fully. Things will happen in my life that I will not understand. Trusting God fully means taking my greatest fears (the death of my child or husband? the loss of my dreams? a diagnosis of cancer?) and placing them at His feet. I acknowledge that Jesus Christ is in control of my life and I will trust Him no matter what pain may come my way to ultimately shape me for His purposes.

My three daily steps are sometimes difficult to live up to. But they’re providing an excellent return. I’m finding that when I tell Him first the things that happen in my day, take Him seriously in what He asks of me, and trust Him fully with the circumstances of my life, I experience a peace in Him and a fulfillment that can’t be compared to any earthly relationship. And my longings – for communication, understanding, security, and so on – dissolve into a desire to know more fully the One who speaks to me softly and tenderly through His Word.

Contrary to what it may seem, rerouting my needs for communication to God has not let my husband off the hook. It has, instead, made him a better communicator. Now that I have taken my expectations of emotional fulfillment off my husband, and left them with the Lord where they belong, Hugh has begun to come around a little more. Today he no longer sees me as a needy woman clinging to him for communication and hounding him for attention, but as an emotionally stable, confident woman looking to Christ to meet my needs. And I no longer resent Hugh at those times when he’s not in the mood to talk. That makes me more lovable in his sight and someone he likes to spend a little more time talking to.

But sometimes he just has to wait to get my listening ear.

My first appointment is with the Lord. And, thank God, He’s not the silent type.

(This article is based on Cindi’s book, Letting God Meet Your Emotional Needs.)

  • October 30, 2014

Jennifer’s sweet spirit, contagious smile and spiritual strength defy the fact that for more than 35 years she has been married to a man who wants “nothing to do with religion.”

When Jennifer married, she didn’t realize the seriousness of committing herself in marriage to a man who didn’t share her faith. Shortly after her wedding, however, she understood the wisdom of 2 Corinthians 6:14 which warns believers not to be “bound together with unbelievers” because “there is no fellowship between light and darkness.”

“Immediately I noticed the more I loved the Lord and His Word and wanted to live for Christ, the further my husband would go in the opposite direction.”

Early on in her marriage, Jennifer realized her struggle was not with her husband, but “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). So Jennifer developed a strategy.

“Daily, hourly, I needed to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power, putting on the full armor of God so that I might be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11, 13-18).

Like many women who are married to unbelievers or to men who don’t walk with their wife spiritually, Jennifer has been tempted to leave the marriage – many times. “But each time I would think seriously about divorce, God would bring someone or something into my life – a special message, a sermon, a book, a comment from my mother – that would focus my heart back upon God, trusting that He would bless this mess.”

When she was making plans again to leave the marriage two years later, a friend handed her a book that directed her attention to the error of her ways instead of focusing on her husband and his faults and how he needed to change. That began a new stage in her life, in which she quit looking to change her husband and started focusing on allowing God to change her.

“It was during this time of studying, reading, and trusting God’s Word that God removed the “D-word” from my heart, mind and soul and I submitted myself and my marriage to God forever,” Jennifer said. “I began to see that God brought me into my husband’s life to pray for him and for his eventual salvation through a silent ministry – right here in my home.”

Jennifer’s silent ministry is based on 1 Peter 3:1-2: “Wives in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe in the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”

Because Jennifer is a woman who has grown incredibly stronger through her spiritual walk alone, I asked her to share the secrets to her strength, the basis for her hope, and how she has found it possible to live with a man (who doesn’t honor God) in a way that will honor God.

Place Your Husband in God’s Hands – Jennifer said she learned long ago to let go of her husband, move out of God’s way, and allow the Holy Spirit to work in her husband’s heart. For many women this isn’t easy, but Jennifer found it a relief. “It has been a joy to let go and much more relaxing to trust God for His victory in my husband’s life. My husband’s salvation is between him and God, not between my husband and me.”

Praise Your Husband – God’s Word instructs us, in Philippians 4:8, to think about whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. “That reminds me to look for opportunities to praise my husband,” Jennifer says, “to thank him for those times he says or does positive things. I look for ways to encourage, support, love and respect him. Jesus has taught me how to look for the good in my husband.”

Prioritize Your Husband – By placing your husband’s needs first – above your own and anyone else’s – you are honoring him and giving him a chance to see God through you. “At first this was difficult,” Jennifer said, “however, when I saw the pleasing behavior that came from my husband, it was a confirmation that this is what Jesus would do. Before going out at night to a Bible study or away on a weekend retreat, I always make sure that meals are prepared, the house is in order, and the children’s needs are met.” There have been times when Jennifer has had to pass up an opportunity or a Bible study because of the needs of her husband or the obligations at home. She’s learned to do that without feelings of guilt or resentment, believing that her first obligation as a servant of God is to be obedient and submissive to her husband.

Pray for Your Husband – Pray not only for your husband’s salvation, but for every area of his life, as well. As you pray for him, God will soften your heart toward him. And as you show him love, he is able to see God’s love, through you, as well.

Pray with Other Women – “Not being able to share my prayer life with my husband, I began to look for other women who believe in the power of prayer,” Jennifer said. Praying with other Christian women has blessed her life and deepened her walk with the Lord. Every woman – regardless of her situation – needs women around her for support, prayer and encouragement. There are many women who share your burden for an unbelieving husband, too. Find them – in your church, in your small group Bible studies, at your children’s school, at your workplace – and pray with them. It’s a comfort not to have to carry the burden alone.

Finally, Jennifer says, remember that God is able to reach anyone’s heart…even the heart of her husband – and yours.

  • October 30, 2014

Do you know what it’s like to sit in church, week after week, and feel lonely?

For years, Debe longed to have Randy worshiping alongside her. She was tired of sitting in church alone, singing songs of praise alone, taking notes on the pastor’s sermon alone. Her heart ached for her husband to experience what she did through the music and the message at church.

Because her heart was focused on her husband’s need to be there, Debe remembers filtering every sermon through her husband’s life. Randy needs to hear that, she would think. Or, This verse is for Randy.

After several years of worshiping alone, Debe became discouraged – and sometimes even depressed – that her husband was not joining her in the most important quest in her life, and she was not growing because of it. She finally decided it was time to leave the marriage so she could find someone who would share her heart, worship alongside her, and encourage her in her walk with God. But Debe’s pastor talked her out of it. He encouraged her to start focusing on her growth with the Lord, not her husband’s. As Debe began to do that, she discovered that there was a whole new side of God she never really knew before.

Worshiping alone then took on a whole new dimension, Debe said. “The intimacy of my worship began to increase as I looked to God – and not Randy’s presence beside me – to fill the longings of my heart. It became more one-on-one with Jesus and me. My spiritual and even emotional needs were being met during those times.”

The day Debe realized that worship was not about who was – or wasn’t – sitting next to her was the day she really learned to worship. And she also came to realize that being alone in worship could be a wonderful thing!

Embrace the Alone Times

There are powerful stories in the Bible about women who were alone in worship. One of them was Hannah, the mother of Samuel. She knew well what it meant to worship alone, pray alone, and carry burdens on her heart alone. She desperately wanted a child more than anything else on earth. And one day she bitterly poured out her heart to God about it. She told Him of her longings, her sadness at seeing all the other women around her with children, her frustration that she couldn’t give her husband a child, and her sorrow at being the brunt of jokes from her husband’s other wife. She prayed, cried, and told God that if He would give her a child, she would give him back to the Lord for service in the temple all his life. This woman laid it on the line with God, and she did it alone. Her husband, Elkanah, must have been in another part of the temple worshiping and offering his sacrifices. But Elkanah didn’t need to be with Hannah. God met Hannah there as she prayed and worshiped alone. And He gave her that child she prayed for.

After weaning her son, Hannah again went to the temple, but this time she went to praise God for His gift to her and to leave her son with the priest. And she appeared to do that alone, as well. Do you ever wonder why she didn’t ask her husband, Elkanah, to pray with her for her child? Do you find it odd that it’s a mother’s prayer and song of praise that is recorded in 1 Samuel 2 and not one that is shared by the father, too? I tend to think that Hannah had such a deeply personal experience with God when she begged for a child that she wanted to be alone when she went back to God again. In her earlier visit to the temple, she had some “pouring out” to do and she did it alone. Later, after being given a child, she had some praising to do, and apparently she wanted to do that alone. It was personal –between her and God. And it didn’t matter to her, apparently, whether or not a man or someone else was beside her.

My friend, Sara, can relate. “Prayer is such a deeply personal thing between me and God, and I treasure those times alone with Him. My husband does pray with me, when I ask him to, but why would I want anyone else in the room with me when I’m pouring my heart out to God?” God had to show me – a pastor’s wife who many times feels alone in worship because my husband is in the pulpit ministering, rather than being alongside me – that praying to Him, and worshiping Him should always be a priority, no matter what the situation, and no matter who comes along.

Make It Personal

I was encouraged recently – while looking through the Bible’s “song book” – that more than half of the Psalms were written from a personal perspective, recounting a personal experience with God. Only about 25 songs referred to corporate worship, using the terms “us” and “we.” This seems to indicate that much of worship takes place as a personal encounter with God. While we are not to forsake assembling together with other believers for corporate worship (Hebrews 10:25), we can’t live off of church worship services as our extent of worshiping God. And we can’t depend on someone else being there beside us for it to be meaningful. Worship must flow from our personal lives, and much of that flow will happen when we are alone.

When Debe switched her focus from who was sitting next to her and onto who was above her, worship became a much more fulfilling experience – to the point that God’s presence alone was what she longed for.

I know you’d prefer someone beside you as you worship, dear friend. But as long as you and I keep our gaze heavenward, we won’t feel as if we’re worshiping alone.

  • October 30, 2014

Have you dreamed of what it would be like to be “spiritually one” with someone?

If you’re single and hoping for a spiritual partner in life, or married but not on the same page spiritually with your husband, chances are you feel you “walk alone” in your spiritual life. But you aren’t alone. Throughout time, countless women have walked alone, spiritually. And you’re in good company.

Throughout the Bible, we find women who walked alone in their spiritual journey. Deborah, Israel’s only female judge, was a wife as well as a prophetess. But we don’t hear of her husband being around to support her or work alongside her when she commanded Israel to engage in war against the Canaanites. Nowhere do we read about her husband’s concerns for her, much less coming out to help save her skin. Deborah carried out her “ministry” alone. (Judges 4:1-16)

Jochebed appeared to be alone, with maybe just her daughter Miriam by her side, when she put her infant son, Moses, into a basket and set him to float on the Nile River, trusting God to care for the child that would otherwise be killed by the Egyptians. Although Jochebed was married, we don’t see her standing on the riverbank with her husband’s arms around her, or her husband praying with her as they watched their son float down the river. It’s possible that he was at work somewhere and simply couldn’t come. But whatever the case, I imagine Jochebed stood there – and prayed her heart out – alone (Exodus 2:1-10).

And Abigail, who was married to a man described as “mean and surly,” listened to her heart one day and prepared provisions and brought them to David, the king-elect, despite her husband’s hardened heart toward helping God’s anointed. She was used mightily by God that day to save her whole household and prevent a small war, while her husband partied with friends (1 Samuel 25:1-42).

Throughout time, many women have walked alone in their spiritual quest. And today, studies show that women walk alone spiritually – perhaps more than they ever have before. In a recent study by Barna Research Online, it was shown that women were 10 percent more likely to say they were “absolutely committed” to Christianity, reading the Bible, and attending church; 13 percent more likely to pray to God; and 14 percent more likely than men to have a regular quiet time with God. The study also showed that men were considerably more likely to be un-churched (38 percent vs. 29 percent).

My friend, Linda, says “I have felt alone because my husband and I aren’t on the same page, so to speak, spiritually. We are definitely in the same book of life, but on totally different pages.”

In the words of another friend of mine: “It can be very lonely when you can’t talk about the most exciting, fulfilling thing in your life with the person that you’re supposed to be one with.”

I, too, have struggled with feeling alone, spiritually, even though I’m married to a pastor! Although my husband loves God with all his heart and has devoted himself to full-time ministry, there are still times when I feel alone in my spiritual life. There are certain expectations I have that – when unfulfilled – make me feel I walk alone spiritually. For instance, if I had my way, my husband would pray with me on a regular schedule every morning, go through a couple’s devotional book with me on a regular basis, and spend at least one day a week discussing what we’re learning in our personal study of Scripture. Although, he likes that third one, the other two are difficult to coordinate with our diverse schedules and there are times he doesn’t see the necessity for them, other than to appease his wife’s romantic ideas of “spiritual oneness.”

If you are single – or married to an unbeliever – you may find yourself wondering if you’ll ever be “spiritually one” with someone this side of heaven. If you are married to a man who just isn’t as fired up about his spiritual life as you are, you too may be asking this question. In either case, I want to encourage you that there is a certain “aloneness” that comes with your relationship with Christ that is precious and produces much blessing. So, rather than fight for what you feel is lacking in your life, here are some reasons to embrace the aloneness you may be experiencing:

Our Alone Times Deepen our Relationship with God – While we all need encouragement, support, accountability, and regular fellowship with other believers, our true spiritual condition comes down to our individual time alone with God. Rather than resenting that you feel alone in your spiritual quest if there isn’t a man alongside you, capitalize on it by taking the opportunity – when the sadness strikes – to bring it to God and relish in His presence with you.

Our Alone Times Drive us to a More Intense Prayer Life – I looked around at the prayer warriors in my church one Sunday and realized they all had one thing in common. They were all women who were alone, spiritually. Each of them was either married to an unbeliever, attended church by themselves or was single or divorced. Did their alone times cause them to develop a more intimate relationship with God? Did they learn, through not having a man at their side, to go to God more intensely and more often? Had they needed to rely on prayer for their provision and protection more so than women who tend to rely on their husbands for the same? When we have no one else in our lives to turn to, we turn to God, don’t we? I truly believe our alone times can intensify our prayer life.

Our Alone Times Remind Us to Invest in Others – While you may lack spiritual encouragement from a spouse, you can be that encouraging person in another woman’s life. When I complained to God years ago about not having any spiritual mentors in my life, He impressed upon my heart to start being a mentor in someone else’s life. As I was faithful to do so, He brought the encouragement and support I needed in due time.

Alone is a word we, as women, don’t tend to like. But as we grow in our relationship with God, perhaps it is something we will desire more and more, so we can be alone with Him.

  • October 30, 2014

I had always had a problem with pagans.

Their harsh language offended me, and their pointed questions threatened me. Worse, their lifestyle was an affront to God.

I knew I should be salt and light to a dying world. But I preferred to be around the Christian crowd, living a separated life far from those people who were so different from me. “I want to minister among Christian women,” I told the Lord one day. “Preaching to pagans is not for me.”

But God had a problem with my problem. And He made that evident the day He crashed into my comfort zone and sent me out to reach some rebels.

Sandra Dee meets the Spice Girls

I had announced the start of a women’s Bible study called “Getting to Know God” in a drug-plagued community in Riverside County, California (where my husband pastors a church). Some tough girls in the neighborhood had heard about the “religious group” that was forming. And I’d heard they had decided to come.

“Lord, help me,” I prayed. “This isn’t going to be easy.” I was sure it would be a case of Sandra Dee meets the Spice Girls. After all, I was a conservative Christian woman raised on the rules and regulations of my church. They, on the other hand, were a group of hard-living, Harley-riding women who wanted to get to know God.

“What an opportunity!” my husband said as I told him what I was up against. He, after all, felt called to reach people like these women. I did not. And I was dreading it.

When the day came, I arrived early at the house where we would meet. About 10 minutes after starting time, the group walked in. They apologized for their tardiness and blamed it on the slow clerk at the liquor store. They had stopped to buy cigarettes and lottery tickets, and they reeked of smoke. One of them swore after she accidentally dropped her keys, and another reprimanded her for cussing.

I took a deep breath, said a prayer to open the study, and started in.

Under the Influence

“Today, we’re going to learn about the attributes of God,” I began as they stared at me blankly. “First of all, God is omniscient.”

“What the hell does that mean?” blurted out Rita, the toughest member of the group. I swallowed hard and began to explain that God is all knowing. In spite of that, I emphasized, He still loves us.

One woman named Celeste was impressed that God knew everything about her. Then she began elaborating on some of the outrageous things she had done in her life. She was amazed that God still chose to love her.

Another woman began talking about her temptation to get high. “If God knows everything,” she asked, “does He know what that’s like?” Immediately, I had an idea. These women could relate to being under the influence of drugs and alcohol. So I shared Ephesians 5:18 with them, which commands believers to be under the control of the Spirit, not wine.

That sparked their interest. They thought it was a cool idea, and they began to compare the effects of drugs on their lives with the effect of God’s control as I’d described it. What followed was an animated discussion about the difference between being filled with God’s power and being intoxicated by chemicals.

Unorthodox Prayers

At the end of our talk, I suggested that we close in prayer. But when I bowed my head, closed my eyes, and started to pray, Rita interrupted with another question: “Why do you hang your head like you’re at a funeral when you pray? And why do you close your eyes? What’s with that, anyway?”

“I bow my head to humble myself,” I responded. “And I close my eyes to shut out distractions and concentrate on God.” It occurred to me that hard lives had taught these women never to close their eyes or turn their backs on anyone. They weren’t about to start now.

“How did Jesus pray?” Rita asked. I was impressed that she would be interested in praying like Jesus. I thought for a moment and answered, “One time before feeding a crowd of people, the Bible says He lifted His eyes toward heaven and prayed. Would you like to pray that way, too?”

So we did. Staring at the ceiling, these women began a conversation with God about their lives. They interrupted each other and awkwardly described their concerns to Him, laughing with embarrassment as they did so.

“God, help Celeste stay away from those creeps who keep coming to her door for drugs,” Rita prayed.

“God, help Joanne leave that jerk.”

“God, give us a new high that doesn’t cost anything,” one of them prayed, giggling. With disorderly and unorthodox prayers, these women addressed God for the first time.

Not So Different

As I drove home, I was in awe at how God had worked among us, communicating His love to women who an hour earlier had seemed so far out of reach. I was amazed at how He used me – someone worlds apart from them – to minister to their needs. But in that moment, I realized I wasn’t so different from them after all.

I had always concentrated on the differences between myself and women such as these. I had walked the straight and narrow, while they had lived hard lives. I lived by the Bible’s principles, but they lived according to worldly philosophy. I dressed modestly; they let it all hang out. Despite these differences, the Lord showed me that we shared many more similarities:

  • They’d been disappointed by other people, as I had.
  • They had painful pasts and dysfunctional families, much like mine.
  • They had failed to find meaning in superficial pleasures.
  • They longed for love, acceptance, security, hope, and purpose.
  • They experienced pain in relationships.
  • They wanted to live right but struggled with sin.
  • They wanted to raise their children well.
  • They wanted peace in their hearts and homes and the assurance that life was going to turn out OK.
  • Finally, like me, they were women for whom Jesus had died.

As the Lord showed me how much I had in common with them, my heart was convicted of my condescending and judgmental attitudes.

“O God,” I prayed, “forgive me for avoiding people like these women all my life. I’m sorry I believed I was so different, so much better than they are. How many times have I offended You with my self-righteousness? How many times have I, too, sinned? Yet by Your grace I stand justified before You because of Jesus.

“God, give me Your love for these women. Help me to see them through Your eyes. Help me to relate to them in a way that softens their hearts. Open their eyes – and mine – to our need for You.”

The Word and the World

The next time we met, something incredible happened. As I shared some of my own hurts, the “Spice Girls” saw that I wasn’t the “Sandra Dee” they had imagined. They began to open up, too. One by one, they talked about their painful experiences and their reservations about this “Christian thing.”

They cried as they realized how deep their needs were, and their eyes lit up as they began to understand how the Scriptures related to their struggles. Within a couple of weeks, they admitted they weren’t so tough after all. Each woman could see how she needed the Lord more than she had ever imagined.

Over the next several months, I taught these women about the Word, and they taught me about the world. They opened my eyes to see people with deep wounds, not just “sinners” with messed up lives. They tuned my ears to listen beyond offensive words to the cries of broken hearts. They trained my heart to look past hard exteriors to see every soul’s need for Jesus. They’ve become living, breathing proof that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Today, when I look at all the changes God has made in their lives, it moves me to tears. Just as they once went to sinful extremes, now they are wholeheartedly committed to Jesus. Their tenacious faith within a difficult environment puts me to shame.

But God is working in my life as well. He has radically changed my perspective on people. Instead of seeing two kinds of people – Christians and pagans – I now see just one kind: people who sin. And that makes me one of them.

  • October 30, 2014

What do you desire that you believe God has with held from you?

More than 100 women of all ages and walks of life have answered for me that question. And their answers tell me what we, as women, are desperate for:

  • I’m still waiting to find the man of my dreams
  • My greatest desire is to have a baby
  • I am desperate to have a more intimate connection with my husband
  • I want to experience the joy of being “equally yoked” with a godly husband
  • My greatest desire is to have family unity and peace in my home
  • I want God to open the doors of ministry and reveal to me what I was called to do

As you look through that list, maybe you’ll find one or two that you, too, are desperate for. They are all good things… But are any of them enough?

The Dangerous Road to Desperation

The Bible tells us of a woman named Rachel who longed to have a child. Nothing wrong with that. But she wanted that baby so badly that it fractured her relationship with her sister, created divisions between herself and her husband, caused her to compromise her morals, and ultimately cost her life. Her story, in Genesis 29-30, warns us of what can happen to us when we want something so badly that it becomes an obsession. Rachel took some dangerous steps down the road of desperation that we need to be aware of so we don’t take them as well.

She Resented Her Circumstances and Responded in an Ungodly Way

Do you find yourself becoming resentful that God is withholding something from you? And does that resentment increase when someone else receives what you were hoping for? When Rachel saw her sister, Leah, bearing children but realized she couldn’t have any, we don’t read that she took it to God in prayer. Instead, she became jealous of her sister and lashed out at her husband. If God is withholding something in your life, there is a reason…and a good one at that. It’s about trust. And often it’s about timing. Thus, Rachel’s next step of desperation came about because she was unwilling to accept God’s timing.

She Rejected God’s Timing and Forged Ahead with Her Own Plans

We live in a day and age in which it’s possible to go after what we want and get it. But is it God’s best for us? And is it according to His perfect timing? Internet dating sites, fertility treatments, liposuction, plastic surgery – the options abound. Rachel wanted something she didn’t have and she was determined to get it, regardless of the Lord’s plans and will for her life. So she resorted to downright desperate means – she gave her maid to her husband to get a child through her! After getting two children that way it still wasn’t enough for her, so she resorted to a cultural superstition believed during her day to bring about conception. With no fertility clinics around, Rachel took the next best step and tried to conceive a child through the use of some bitter herbs. But her attempts at conceiving a child were again futile. While God may work within the means of medical techniques, internet dating sites or other technologically advanced options, it’s imperative for us to bathe our situation (and desperation) in prayer so we’re convinced our action is a result of His leading, not our forging ahead.

Rachel’s last mistake is shocking.

She Remained Desperate Even After Receiving What She Wanted

One of the marks of a desperate woman is that she never really finds what she’s looking for. Once Rachel received her long-awaited son, she no sooner had him cleaned off and wrapped up before she was planning her next one (Genesis 30:23-24). Rather than relish the blessing she had just received, she was already looking for something more. Her ability to bear a child simply fueled her obsession for more children.

Sadly, Rachel’s story closes with a dramatic end to her desperation. After giving birth to her second son, she died as a result of the delivery. Ironically, Rachel – who spent most of her life longing for children – died in fulfilling that desperate wish. And a woman who expected children to bring her joy spent her last breath calling her newborn son a name that means “the son of my sorrow” or “child of my grief” (Genesis 35:16-18). Ultimately her heart’s greatest desire brought about her grief and demise.

Which Road Will You Take?

Desperation is dangerous because it focuses on self: What I want. What I must have. What I cannot live without.

Jesus told us to forget ourselves and focus on a life given over to Him. “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16:25)

Jesus wasn’t saying “Give up your dreams and be miserable.” He was saying “When you give up your plans and desires and all you think you need to be happy and are determined to just have Me, then you will truly find a life worth living.” I know that’s what He meant because He says in John 10:10: “The thief (Satan – who deceives us into thinking we can find fulfillment when we follow the desires of our own heart) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

My friend, if you are desperate for something you believe will fulfill your life take that longing to God and ask Him to turn it into a longing for Him alone. God will either change your circumstances or change you. Most of the time, it’s you He wants to change – so you’re desperate for Him.

  • October 30, 2014

Can we meet some time and talk?” Heather asked as I was packing up my teaching materials after the Bible study.

“Sure! How about now?” I responded. We ended up at a local coffee shop where Heather asked a slew of questions.

“I’m trying to learn all I can about walking with God,” she said. “What kind of books would you suggest that I read?”

I rattled off the titles of a few classics while Heather took notes.

“What else do you think I should be doing to grow spiritually?” she asked next, posing the question every disciple longs to hear.

I mentioned a Sunday morning class I would soon be teaching and a discipleship group being offered that summer. I could tell by the look on her face, however, that my answers weren’t what she was hoping for.

She dropped her eyes, and I sensed a bit of hesitation. “I want to, umm, be able to know the Bible and talk about it like you do.”

“Oh, so you’d like to teach?”

“No. I just want to, you know, get excited about it…really live it.”

Suddenly, I understood.

Heather wasn’t looking for books to read or things to do or classes to take. She didn’t want to know more. She wanted passion. She was searching for something to engage her heart. Our conversation opened my eyes to an element of discipling I hadn’t considered. It’s fairly simple to communicate a list of things to do and beliefs to understand. But how do we pass on our love for God?

I went home that day and began to take inventory: What had helped me move from knowing about God to a loving relationship with Him? As I began to share the following ideas with Heather, I watched her transform from a woman who simply professed Christ into a passionate follower.

Express your commitment daily.

Three basic principles have helped deepen my relationship with Jesus. They’re easy to remember and can be done every day. When Heather began to practice them, she found they made a world of difference in her love for God.

Tell God first. When I have exciting news, when my world crashes in, when I’m facing something bigger than I expected, I tell God about it before I tell anyone else. Sure, He already knows. But by going to God first with the things that are closest to my heart, I reaffirm to Him and to myself that He is the most important person in my life.

Take God seriously. I’ve found that I need to know what God wants from me and make His will a priority. I take God seriously when I find out what He loves and cling to it, and when I become aware of what He hates and avoid it at all costs. I explained to Heather that taking God seriously means I prioritize my life so that nothing steals time from nurturing my relationship with Him.

Trust God fully. Sometimes God asks something of me, or allows something to happen, that I don’t understand. That’s where trust comes in. Trusting Him fully means I take my greatest fears to Him and place them at His feet. Heather and I talked about how to acknowledge that God is in control of our lives and how to trust Him to shape us for His purposes (Romans 8:28). For example, when I say to God daily, “No matter what comes my way today, nothing comes between You and me,” I am cementing my love relationship with Him.

Look for God all around you.

After Heather joined my Jazzercise class, we explored how each workout could be an expression of praise to God for the bodies and health He has given us. She began to see that worship could be incorporated into every facet of her life. Bringing God to our Jazzercise class brought up the question of how to look for Him (and how to praise Him) everywhere we go and in everything we do.

I told Heather about the day I took my daughter, Dana, to see Hercules. Although the movie is based on Greek mythology, one scene paralleled what Jesus did for us. After Hercules died to rescue the woman he loved, he became immortal. “Dana,” I whispered excitedly, “that’s what Jesus did for us – He gave His life for us so that we won’t have to die. Now He lives eternally, and so will we!” The illustration made a lasting impression on my six-year-old daughter; the next day I heard her tell a four-year-old friend the story of salvation.

We can find God and examples of His story anywhere: in the beauty of creation, in the lyrics of a song, in a movie scene, in an exercise class. As I showed Heather how to be alert to God in everyday life, her relationship with Him began to encompass everything she did, not just church and Bible study.

Linger in God’s presence.

The next time Heather and I got together, I told her what makes me want to meet with God every day. She was interested to hear that I originally set a daily appointment with God out of obligation. But after discovering some meaningful ways to get into His Word and to worship Him, I began coming to Him because I wanted to. The more I lingered with Him, the more my love grew. I suggested that Heather incorporate the following elements into a regular time with God.

Spend time in the Psalms. Because these emotional songs engage our hearts, it’s difficult to encounter them without being changed by their passion. Together, we paraphrased a Psalm, personalized it, and prayed it back to God. We even sang one. Heather was excited to realize that some of the songs we sing in church come straight from Scripture.

Put yourself in the picture. I showed Heather how to read one of the stories in the gospels and put herself in the place of one of the characters. How would it feel to be talking to Jesus face-to-face? What would He tell her? What might He be saying to her now about a personal situation? As Heather began to experience Jesus as a person, not just a belief, reading the Bible became something she looked forward to.

How can you pass along your love for God to the person you’re discipling? The ideas I shared with Heather were meaningful to her because they came out of my personal pursuit of God. The ways you maintain a love relationship with God will likely be different from mine. But no matter how we express our love for God, Heather’s questions helped me understand how important it is that the relationship shows. When our passion for God is visible, the person we’re discipling may be prompted to ask, “How can I experience that too?”

  • October 30, 2014

I’m a collecting addict.

I should say, a recovering collecting addict. For as long as I can remember, I’ve collected stuff. At age five, it was Raggedy Ann dolls. Then it was cat figurines. By the time I was 10 or 12, I was collecting just about anything I came across: rocks, stamps, marbles, postcards. Believe it or not, I even collected bubble-gum wrapper comics!

Today I’ve limited my collecting to Cinderellas. Dolls, ornaments, figurines, and clocks take up every bit of space in my seven-foot-high, five-shelf curio cabinet. And they make me feel good. They remind me that I married a prince – that my dreams and wishes have come true. And since most of them have been gifts, they remind me of people who love me.

But lately, my collection has become a bit of an inconvenience – and a bit convicting.

My collection is inconvenient because, every few weeks, I have to dust each piece. Plus, the more Cinderellas I acquire, the less room I have to display them; they begin creeping into other parts of my house.

There’s a bigger problem, though: It’s the anxiety my collection is producing.

A few months ago, I awoke from an earthquake jolt. I jumped out of bed and ran to my curio cabinet. With feet apart and both hands out in front of me, I prepared to brace my body against the 250-pound shelf to keep it from falling over should the shaking increase. As the house stilled, I remembered my six-year-old daughter, who was sleeping soundly near a shelf that could have toppled onto her! And my husband, who was still dreaming beneath a large picture frame that now hung crooked. And there I was protecting Cinderella! My concern for my collection had outweighed my concern for my own family. My “treasure” had gotten a little out of hand.

Jesus once said that my heart would be where my treasure is (Matthew 6:21). I thought of how good it would feel not to worry that an earthquake – or fire or robbery – would destroy my “treasures.”

When my husband and I first married, we had few possessions of value. And you know what? We didn’t worry about a thing when we were vacationing or away from home all day. If someone were to break into our one-bedroom apartment (and we lived in an area where it happened quite often), we wouldn’t lose much. There was literally nothing worth taking. Some old furniture. A few basic appliances. Nothing costly. Nothing valuable. Somehow, it was comfortable to live so simply.

Today, I fear my Cinderella collection will break the next time another five-point quake rolls in. I fear my laptop, DVD or CD player/stereo might be taken the next time I forget to lock the back door.

Jesus’ advice in Matthew 6 was more practical than I realized. To store up treasures in heaven rather than in my home means I never have to worry that they’ll break or be stolen or destroyed. And treasures in heaven will greet me someday when I arrive; my trinkets on earth will not.

Heavenly treasures are the things that last forever. According to Scripture, only two things are eternal: God’s Word (Isaiah 40:8) and people (Revelation 22:5).

How do I invest in God’s Word? By studying it, applying it, memorizing it, teaching it, allowing it to transform my life.

How do I invest in people? By loving them, showing Christ to them, discipling them in the faith, helping them turn from a life of sin, having a hand in transforming their lives.

Such investments are spiritual and often cannot be displayed here on earth. In fact, the more we let God do the accounting and displaying the more we have that we probably didn’t realize!

If you like the idea of storing up heavenly treasures instead of earthly trinkets, here are some ideas for your collection:

  • All nine fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
  • Scripture verses you have memorized (Psalm 119:11)
  • People with whom you’ve shared the gospel (Mark 16:15)
  • Children you’ve loved and cared for, or widows you’ve “adopted” as grandmas (James 1:27)
  • Leaders you’ve trained in ministry (2 Timothy 2:2)
  • New believers you’ve helped usher into the kingdom and disciples who’ve learned to walk with God from your instruction and example (Matthew 28:19-20)
  • Lives that have been touched by your encouragement (Ephesians 4:29)
  • Worn-out, read-through, marked-up Bibles, full of your own study notes (2 Timothy 2:15)

Are you starting to get the idea? Then go ahead and start storing up. And experience the joy of collecting the right stuff.

  • October 30, 2014

Do you ever feel like you’re about to go over the edge?

I remember a season of my life in which I was feeling desperate. My teenager was not giving me the verbal respect I felt I deserved. My husband, in hearing what was going on between us, was not intervening on my behalf. One evening I’d had it with that routine.

I just want to go somewhere far away, I found myself thinking. I am not appreciated. I am not feeling respected or supported. I am not feeling understood or loved. (Now did you notice how many times I used the word “feeling” and how many times I used the pronoun I? We get that way when we’re on the edge.)

Aware of how much my thoughts were focused on me, and yet still feeling I had grounds in the battle I was fighting, I desperately wanted change – not just a change of circumstances, but to change. I desperately wanted wisdom to know how to respond to my daughter – and my husband – in a more mature way. I desperately wanted peace in my home. I desperately wanted to be able to re-do some arguments we’d had.

I realize now why I was succumbing to the meltdown: 1) I was depending on my feelings, not the facts of the situation; 2) I was expecting everyone else around me to change, rather than looking at my own heart and actions; and 3) I was listening to those voices in my head rather than being the one to do the talking!

Today, I have a distress call – an S.O.S. – when I begin to feel like I’m going to go over the edge because of certain situations that feel out of control. It’s all about Sorting the facts from the feelings; Offering my own heart to the Lord for change; and Starting to talk, rather than listen to, myself.

Sort the Facts from the Feelings

In my moment of frustration, I had to ask myself: What am I believing about God that isn’t true? (I could best answer that question by looking at how I was feeling, and lining up the facts next to it):

  • I was feeling that God had abandoned me as a mother and left me to figure this out on my own. But the fact is that God has promised that He will never leave me nor forsake me; therefore He had not abandoned me as a mother
    (Hebrews 13:5).
  • I was feeling hopeless in my situation. But the fact is that God promises He will work all things (even that difficult season with my daughter) for good to those that love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
  • I was feeling alone in my situation, like God was unaware and unconcerned with my pain at the moment. But the fact is that God is aware of what I’m feeling at every moment. He has searched me and He knows me (Psalm 139:1-4).
  • I was feeling it was impossible for God to give me the kind of wisdom I needed to be a better mom. But the fact is God is able to give me the kind of wisdom I need because James 1:5 says “if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” In other words, I had to look at the facts (about God’s character) and not at what I was feeling.

Offering My Heart to the Lord for Change

My prayer as I was feeling so lousy was not “change my daughter’s heart” as it started out. It was not “open my husband’s eyes” as it started out. But “God, grant me the discernment and the grace to treat and respond to my daughter and my husband in a way that draws a loving response out of them.”

I had to look at my own heart and say “God, show me what I need to do to be more like You” even though I was convinced that they were both the problem that day. My responsibility before God is to say: In what way does my heart need to change so I can be more pleasing to You in this situation?

The prayer: “Change me, God, not all of them” is usually where real change starts.

Start Talking to Myself

Now you may be thinking “if I start talking to myself, then I really have gone over the edge!” But I found I needed to incorporate this principle in my life to keep me from going over the edge!

We are told in 2 Corinthians 10:5 to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” and to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” The reason we are to take every one of our thoughts captive is because our thoughts will wreak havoc in our lives if they are allowed to run loose. Bind them. Imprison them in the truth. Keep them from running rampant through your head!

In Psalm 42, instead of listening to his downcast soul, David started telling himself what he would do: “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him” (verse 5)

As you send out your S.O.S. (Sort the facts from the feelings, Offer your own heart for change, and Start telling yourself what to do) you will be able to cling to the truth and not fall so easily over the edge.

  • October 30, 2014

1. Our Hearts – So They Can Be “Set On Things Above”

Women often stress over the temporal – bills that must be paid, whether or not a man will come into our lives, if we’ll be able to have a child, what someone is saying about us, how our body looks, and so on. At times we are more concerned about what the scales say than what God says. Our heart is closely attuned to our bank balance, rather than our life’s balance. Yet God instructs us in Colossians 3:1-2: “set your hearts on things above.” If our priorities were in heaven, not on this earth, we would not only be happier and healthier, but less financially drained and emotionally spent. Matthew 6:19-21 tells us not to “store up treasures here on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” It takes God’s touch to clear our hearts of what this world says is important and focus it on the things above.

2. Our Minds – So They Are Transformed and Renewed

It’s amazing how many women profess to know God and follow Him, yet their thinking patterns are just like those of anyone else in the world. Scripture commands us: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is” (Romans 12:2, NLT). Furthermore, God’s Word instructs: “fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise…and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9, NLT). What mental anguish we would spare ourselves from if we would let God transform our mind and renew our thoughts to think as He would.

3. Our Mouths – To Be Wholesome and Pleasing to God

Because women tend to be communicators, we can cause much damage with our mouths if we do not bring them under God’s control. Whether it is gossip, criticism or unkind remarks, our mouths can be instruments of righteousness or unrighteousness. In Ephesians 4:29 we are told to “not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” God’s touch on our lives can make us women whose words heal and encourage, rather than distract and destroy.

4. Our Bodies – To Be Pure and Holy for Him

Are you one to worry and stress about what the scale says, how many calories you took in, and whether or not you can still fit into a certain size? God’s command to us is “Give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?” (Romans 12:1, NLT). It is important that we keep our bodies healthy and in good shape (as we are His temple), but God says our most prevalent concern should be that we keep them holy. In fact, God calls keeping our bodies holy our “spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1, NIV). One of the ways we can keep our bodies holy is how we dress. People can tell much about us, and whom we love, by how we dress. Do we call attention to ourselves or the God who made us? If the way we dress says “Look at me!” we may want to rethink how we dress so that others can see Christ through us. Can others see Christ in you or are you getting in the way?

5. Our Emotions – To Be Calmed with the Peace of God

There are days when, hormonally or just circumstantially, we need God’s touch to calm our frazzled emotions and level out our lives. Philippians 4:6-7 says “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and request to God. Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel.” (CEV) A woman who is controlled by God’s peace is not on the edge, but in the spacious place of His embrace. I truly believe if we sought God’s touch in those five areas of our lives we would rarely have reason to feel we are going over the edge. For instance, when you get frustrated in a relationship, go back to the principle of letting God transform and renew your mind to only think on whatever is pure, right, lovely and good and so on. And when you are about to lose it over finances or something that takes you by surprise, remember to not be anxious about anything, but to pray about everything…keeping a heart of thanksgiving for what you’ve been given. And when your heart begins to desire something that you cannot attain, remember to set your heart on things above.

  • October 30, 2014

What is it about not being in control that makes us women on the edge?

Adriana, 48 years old and still single, knows God is in control of the intimate details of her life. And yet…

“It never used to bother me that I had not met the “man of my dreams” but now as I’ve gotten older and the lines on my face have crept in, I have found myself thinking about it more. There are times when I feel life is passing me by. And I wonder if God has forgotten.”

If Adriana had her way, the man of her dreams would have been in her life long ago.

Janet’s inability to control her husband’s addiction leaves her wondering if there’s any hope for change…

“I have been married 38 years to the same man but with two different personalities. During the last 20 years he has been a compulsive gambler. We have both been seeking help to understand and control this situation. I have no idea why, after so many years, he started this behavior. It has cost us several thousands of dollars and most of my retirement fund. I wonder what I did to deserve this. Sometimes I just feel alone and ready to jump off the cliff!”

If Janet could change her husband’s ways she would. But she can’t. So where is God in all of this?

Why is the longing for control so very powerful in a woman’s life? I believe the answer lies in how we were made…or rather, what we’ve made of ourselves.

Chalk it Up to the Curse

In Genesis 1:26-28 we’re told that God created man and woman in His own likeness. We were made in His image, with His characteristics. That means we were created with the ability to administrate, oversee, manage. Eve, the first woman, was commanded to rule creation alongside her husband. But after Eve decided she wanted more than was given her, her punishment consisted of being cursed with an unquenchable desire to control.

When God punished Eve for her disobedience, He not only increased the pain she would experience in bearing children, but He put her in the position of “desiring” her husband’s authority. God said, in Genesis 3:16, “…Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.” Eve’s resulting “desire” for her husband wouldn’t be a sexual desire. Nor would it be an emotional longing for his love and attention. The word “desire” in verse 16 refers to an unhealthy desire that could bring about destructive results. When God told Eve that she would desire her husband, He was saying that she would covet his control, seek the position of authority that he was given. Her desire, or drive, would be to have the authority in the relationship. And that desire to control – that blinding obsession to get out from under male authority and have things our way – has been a source of frustration and edginess for women ever since.

How natural it is for us, then, to want to administrate – to the point that we are the ones in charge. Naturally, we want our home, job, finances, relationships, and so on to be under control, working harmoniously, bringing us joy. We want that so much that it drives us to the edge when aspects of our life seem out of control. Now that we are living in a sin-stained world, life this side of heaven will never be completely under control, and working harmoniously. Therefore, our desire to create and manage and administrate (God’s likeness in us) is distorted. It results in our wanting to be “god” in our own little worlds.

God’s Ability to Governlife-control-lrg

A look at Scripture reminds us that God is the One who is in control of:

God doesn’t want us to try to control the situations that are clearly in His realm and responsibility. That’s where He wants us to trust in His character and His Word and leave the reins to Him. However, He does expect us to exert self-discipline over certain matters that are clearly within our ability to control.

Controlling Ourselves – Not Others

So often we hand to God the things we don’t want to have to take responsibility for – our weight, our spending, our lack of discipline in certain areas, our “personality.” And ironically, we hold onto the bigger things we are powerless to change – another person’s heart, the timing of finding a spouse or having a baby, the weather, a flight schedule. So what are the areas we really can control? The list is short. In fact there is only one thing on the list: Ourselves. We can control our own behavior, actions and reactions.

How many times do we find ourselves saying things like:

  • I can’t control my temper.
  • I’m very emotional; I can’t help it.
  • I’ve always struggled with that. It’s not likely to change.
  • I’ve been (insert addictive habit here) for 20 years. I’ve tried to stop and I can’t.
  • I’m (insert your nationality here) and we’re just that way. It’s in our blood.

Those are excuses in light of God’s Word, which holds us accountable for our actions. In God’s Word, He tells us to control:

In short, you and I, through the power of Christ, can control our own behavior, but not circumstances that are thrust upon us. We can control our own thoughts, moods and actions, but not the thoughts, moods and actions of others.

If your failed attempts to control life have you on the edge, find your spacious place by resting in the Only One who can control all that you cannot. And pretty soon your desire will not be for the control, but for the One who is ultimately in control.

  • October 30, 2014
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