Category Archives: Advice

A Message of Hope From the Manger

The farmhouse is only half decorated.  We put up a lot of twinkle lights: on the fireplace mantel, sprawled across the buffet, outside on the front porch, and on the Christmas tree, but that’s the bulk of my decorating. Twinkling lights everywhere kind of make up for the lack of other decorations, in my mind. (Also a fire crackling in the fireplace. And hot cocoa in pretty mugs. That’s perfect decorating, right there.)

Oh, and I also got a wreath from Trader Joe’s and put it on the smokehouse outside (which everyone thinks is an outhouse building, when they first drive into the farm.) While we were at Trader Joe’s, the cashier saw my daughter and I in deliberation over a new brand of cookies. I wasn’t sure I wanted to get them.

He opened the canister and  said, “Go ahead, try them out first.” The two senior ladies checking out behind me heard the cashier’s words and came over to peek at the cookies. I motioned them to join in and we had an impromptu tea party, right then and there, courtesy of Trader Joe’s. Honestly, the generosity and cheerfulness of the place was so heart warming. My daughter and I walked out of there, wheeling our full cart, and singing “Joy to the World, the Lord has Come” at the top of our voice.

I so love Christmas. But I’m already eagerly anticipating New Year’s Day, the day of fresh beginnings and new resolutions.

It’s actually because of what we celebrate on Christmas Day, that I do look forward to what comes next. It’s not just the birth of the Savior, but His overcoming life He lived- and lives through us today- that we celebrate. And emulate.

And here’s His trajectory:

From the humble manger—> to influencing the whole wide world.

So don’t despise the day of small beginnings, Zachary 4:10 tells us. You can add to that,  Don’t despise the day of:

  • humble beginnings
  • insignificant beginnings
  • troubled beginnings

Do you know the opposite of the word despise? It’s

Those are all the words we need to apply to our humble beginning, our shaky start we made to any dream we felt called to. And it’s never too late to get back in the saddle of any dream we had set aside, out of discouragement, and start moving forward with it again.

If we don’t despise Jesus’ birth in the lowly manger (but instead we respect and cherish that scene), then we shouldn’t despise ourselves or our own humble, meager beginning…of anything.

That start of your dream? That shaky beginning you made when you went back to school? That relationship you wanted to build on the solid ground of integrity and love? Don’t despise it. Don’t disparage yourself or hang your head down in shame. Don’t kick yourself, or let anyone else kick you, if you’re down or not on track– because you’re not out of the running, friend. It’s not too late.

It’s time to accept your past, cherish that dream you have, that calling to help and give back, that desire to love again. And respect yourself, your humble beginning; and respect the process that is at work.

We go from strength to strength, Scripture tells us. From the manger, then out to impact a whole wide world.

I’ve got a big dream– with a humble, seemingly insignificant beginning. And you do too.

Pick that broken dream back up and get on with what you know you want your life to be about.  Forget how much you stumbled about in the beginning, how you missed connections or lost your way.

Move forward with God leading you, from the place of the manger scene, and out to the whole wide world.

Advertisements

If You’re Hurting, This Message is For You

A couple days ago I was at the Dr’s office with my daughter and sitting in the crowded waiting room, waiting for the doctor to see her. She’s had a rough time getting over what we first thought was just a cold– and it morphed into a 4 week round of sickness that really had her beat down. There was a lot of coughing and sniffling and phones ringing going on in that waiting room.

And then my phone rang.

A young woman asked for me by my name, saying she was looking for some counseling. I had a hard time hearing her, and I couldn’t quite get her name nor the name of the person who she said referred her to me. I told her I would love to talk with her further but that I was at the doctor’s office and could she text me her name and phone number so I could call her back later, after the appointment?

She said she would do that. But I never received a text from her that day.

When I looked into my call history to see if I could find her number and call her, I found it was a private, unlisted number. There was no way for me to contact her now. There was no way for me to call the person who had referred her because due to the noisy room and the poor reception, I couldn’t quite get the name of who she said had referred her to me.

So a woman reached out to me for help. And I cannot reach her. And that thought breaks my heart. But more importantly, I wonder how broken her heart is and if she is okay?

My husband and I have a ministry where we do a type of crisis counseling for marriages at the breaking point. Many times the couples have already tried formal counseling with a trained marriage therapist, or they sought counseling at their church, and they’re still at the end of their rope. They’re at a crossroads and need help at that very point –or their marriage might not make it.

I’ve also met with women on a one-to-one basis to encourage and coach them through any troubling life issue that they’re having trouble dealing with. Together we dig into the truth of God’s Word, the principles of healthy living and having a sound mind, and we prayerfully unite to make a breakthrough of sorts; or at least to initiate the beginning of a breakthrough– so that she at least walks out of our time together without that foreboding sense of I Can’t make it through this! hanging over her.

But I couldn’t do this with that woman. I couldn’t even offer an encouraging word in that busy noisy setting I was in, other than “I will call you right back!”

I don’t know what exactly this woman was calling me about. But I do know that she tried to ask for help. And that tells me that she’s possibly already on track– because she initiated a call; she reached out.

I want to tell her and every one of you who is hurting– Don’t stop! Don’t stop seeking the compassionate help that everyone deserves when their situation is critical, when their load in life is unbearably heavy. Don’t stop asking for someone to meet with you. Look for a capable, kind person with the resources and background experience that you need for the situation you’re in. Don’t be afraid to say what you’re feeling! Please call someone for help. And if you can’t reach them, call again.

One of the hardest things about going through a crisis or facing a troubling situation where you feel you’re not equipped, is the accompanying loneliness or isolation that you might be experiencing. You have a major problem, when you’ve got a major problem–but add to that a sense of being alone in the journey, or cut off from fellowship, or if you mistakenly felt rejected by God, and you now have an unbearable burden.

We weren’t meant to face challenges and fight battles as a Super Solo Survivor.  We are capable people but we are human– we need to grieve, mourn our losses,  and be real about the pain we feel. Hiding our trauma or our anxiety keeps us bound up in that. It’s time to get real about what we face, what we cannot deal with on our own. It doesn’t mean we are weak or an inferior Christian– it means we feel, we ache, we hurt, and we heal.

This has been a rough year for me, emotionally, with complex problems in some surprising relationships that have worn me out, worn me down a little. But I’ve also had certain precious relationships grow in richness and love and comfort. There’s been hugs and prayerful support and sometimes that compassionate listening ear that lets you just pour it all out. We need to pour it out. Don’t let the pain build up inside, my friend.

Most of all, keep asking God to show up in your messy distressing scene– He is  able to make Himself at home in the midst of your crisis, and permeate that whole yucky scene with His fragrant aroma of peace. Powerful peace in the midst of it all, peace in spite of it all. Ask Him to surprise you with His miraculous comfort, His surprising connections that lead to friendship and true fellowship, His unlimited resources for all of your needs.

To the girl who called for help, I’m praying for you.

And to the girl who hasn’t yet made that call, this might just be that nudge that you need, that sign that you asked for, to let you know– you don’t have to journey alone.

Post Mountain Top Pep Talk on FEAR & ANXIETY

If you’ve recently made a breakthrough in your life, but now you’re struggling with fear or anxiety, I’ve got a pep talk for you that will cause you to stand up straight and march on!

I’ve recently spoken at 2 Women’s Retreats here in the Northeast and I can tell you that the women in this region are still strong, still kicking, and that we don’t go down without a fight. And that even if we go down, we come back up …because

NOTHING CAN KEEP YOU DOWN!

Sometimes after you’ve heard an invigorating talk and you’re ready to implement some new strategies in your life or determined to break an unhealthy pattern in your life, you get all fired up…only to get cooled down by criticism or naysayers, problems that balloon into obstacles, or just that old enemy of your soul who doesn’t want to see you break FREE.

So here is your Post Mountain Top Pep Talk, for any who need shoring up; for any who experienced a recent revelation and now things are a bit murky and gray:

  • You are not going back into a state of fear or anxiety. You’re done with that gripping attack on your mind, that lie that you are at risk, at a disadvantage, or that you are no match for the problems or challenges you face. That kind of feeling of panic comes from forgetting that not only is God for you, but He Will COME THROUGH FOR YOU EVERY TIME. Just remember, the way God comes through is never the way we thought He would. He’ll use a variety of interesting circumstances and people to reach out to us and pull us up to a place where we can stand on solid ground. When a scary situation occurs and your initial reaction is complete fear, remind yourself that God won’t drop you, and God won’t leave you. Remind yourself that the biggest battle is to keep your trust in HIM alone, so that your mind won’t become a playground for Anxiety and Panic to run about freely.
  • You’ve got a Sound Mind. The soundest of all minds respects God, experiences and knows His love day by day, trusts fully in Him, and can respond to Him in love- not out of fear or dread.  A sound Mind is clear, settled, and at rest. It’s at rest because it is set on God’s unlimited power and on the truth of God’s pure motives towards you– He wants you to be at peace. So accept the peace. Embrace it. Because what you dwell on is going to become more real to you!
  • When you go through the Valley of Disaster, just remember you are not going to live there permanently. You are just traveling THROUGH it.  And that you are going through it with God at your side. And He’s out in front. And He’s behind you as well. You’re covered. He’s like a Seal Team x 7. What’s more, He can work all things together for good, and can transform your trouble into a time of Hope. And Hope is not a light feathery thing– it’s an anchor for your soul!! 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that the alpha team of Faith, Hope and Love outlast anything.
  • Lastly, if you’re going to have an expectation of anything, which is a type of faith, have an expectation that GOOD is ahead. Have godly convictions that line up with God’s Word. Jer 29:11 says He has good plans for us. So we should learn to expect good from God and not dread what’s ahead! Dreading things is looking forward but only “seeing” bad things coming down the road. When you dread the future, you are anticipating and expecting negative things and literally experiencing the fear of them happening– before they’ve happened. Proverbs 11:23 tells us that the expectation or the hope of the righteous is only good! Dreading is a type of reverse Faith. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that we should have our Faith (confident assurance) in God and have the certainty that what we are hoping for is waiting for us. Is God’s good plan waiting for you– or is it a life of misery and hopelessness waiting for you? 

Let me shout out the answer to that last question: Nothing but God’s good plan is waiting for you. His peace, his path of abundant resources and abundant grace, are in His hands and those hands are stretched out to you today.

He’s saying, “I’m a Big God. I’m bigger than your fears. My heart is bigger than the heart of those who want to bring you down. My plan for your life is bigger than the plan you would have for your life. And my plan is for your GOOD. So, yes, I’m a Big God, a capable God, a powerful God. But I’m a Loving God too. Merciful and Compassionate and Strong and Wise. I’m telling you, you’re safe, with Me.”

As the song goes, He’s the God on the mountain, and the God in any valley you might walk through. I’ve found Him to be completely trustworthy. And because of that, I’m finding myself….Fearless and FREE.

Come join me on this journey.

All The Single Ladies (& Single Men): You Don’t Have To Pretend!

Singlehood can be a time of self-discovery and adventure, but it can also be a time of aching loneliness and discouragement. Watching loving couples around you bask in their marital happiness, decorate their first Christmas tree together, have children and post all their glorious togetherness all over social media can be tough to take in.

It can be emotionally draining being single while yearning for that lasting connection where you are now someone’s better half. Your hopes and fears are all out there with every date you go on. Loved ones see you go into and out of relationships that did not last. And while well-intentioned married friends assure you that marriage has its challenges and lonely days too, you’d give anything to have those kind of two-become-one challenges.

So, all you single people, hear me when I say this: you don’t have to pretend to love this stage. As empowering as it is to travel solo, pamper yourself and learn to love your single self, singlehood is still often a painful, challenging season in life. When others don’t understand your loneliness and need for encouragement, there is One who does. Here is how God will journey with you through singlehood.

The Practical Pain Of Being Single

There are painful moments and scenes in singlehood: the plus-one wedding invitation you receive in a time where there is no plus-one in your life, the holiday dinners around the family table when everyone is paired up and you’re sitting next to the turkey, the baby christenings you attend where you ache to be starting a family of your own.

During these painful experiences, you don’t need to pretend there is no hurt or longing involved. The psalmist expressed all his pain and longing to God when people failed him or couldn’t understand his situation: “Pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8). You can pour out your heart to him as well and rely on God to not make light of your pain. He will see you through singlehood, in all its frustrations and challenges.

Your Need For Effective Encouragement

Singles are often told to learn to love themselves or even “date themselves”. But don’t forget the power of learning to comfort yourself as well (and I don’t mean hot fudge sundaes in bed or drinking binges). Real comfort comes when you can give yourself the comforting pep talk that others may have failed to give or did not know how to express.

King David would comfort and encourage himself with these words: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God”(Ps 42:11).  It’s one of the most powerful antidotes to loneliness and despair.

As an added measure of comfort, try surrounding yourself with the sounds of praise music in whatever style you appreciate most, whether it’s gospel, contemporary praise or classical hymns. These healing sounds of praise to God will ignite something in your soul, encouraging you onward. You’ll realize that you can praise Him in your singleness, and that there will be plenty to praise God for in the days ahead.

The Need For Forgiveness (For Others And Yourself)

Singlehood can be a season of learning to forgive. So often, people offer ill-timed advice and hurtful comments over your single status. Whether insensitively delivered or accusingly given, you’ll need to learn to forgive others over and over again when they don’t understand the challenges of singlehood that you’re facing.

……Read more at Christian Mingle Believe !! and leave your comments:

How are you getting through Singlehood?!

More Than Just Friends: Advice For Those Daring To Date

The two of you laugh at the same corny jokes. He brings you pink frosted donuts on Fridays because he knows your weakness for them. You’ve gone shopping with him to help him pick out a killer suit for his new interview. In fact, you’ve even given each other dating advice or a shoulder to cry on when past dates didn’t go so well.

You may have been friends for years, or recent acquaintances from your time together at church or at work. But now the question comes up: should we dare to date? Can we go from being friends to being in a relationship?

Daring to date someone that you’ve previously had a platonic relationship with is a tricky thing. There are some risks involved once you attempt to be more than friends, but it might just be that the Proverb was right: “There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.”

Here are three areas to evaluate in deciding if you should dare to date each other.

Does Your Friendship Contain Any Chemistry?

It isn’t necessary to feel overwhelming, instant attraction for someone in order to eventually fall in love with them. Sometimes, chemistry grows as the friendship grows, and suddenly there is a hint of the possibility of romance. It might just be that when he smiles, you now notice his eye crinkles. Or when she laughs, you suddenly hear the musical undertones.

If you’re now noticing this friend with a newfound appreciation and a bit of a flutter in your heart, it could be that your friendship is more than platonic. The question is, is this happening for him or her as well? It’s time to converse about this in a way that is subtle and gracious.

Has Emotional Intimacy Developed Between You Two?

Do you find yourself wanting to share more and more of yourself with this friend? It may not even be a conscious decision to open up more, but more of an ease that grows as you two text and talk openly about your lives. Feelings can ignite on one side or between the two of you.

Many friendships between men and women get complicated in this area. The challenge is discerning whether this emotional intimacy is reflective of a romantic connection that both of you are feeling. Often, one person can feel like this emotional connection means something lasting is happening, but the other person can simply just be a very extroverted and open person when it comes to sharing their feelings. So, don’t rush to conclusions yet.

It may be time to have a conversation about what feelings are being felt and what direction you both would like the friendship to go in. It also should include a type of “out” if one of you isn’t feeling the desire to become more than friends. And yes, that can be awkward. But it’s far more painful to spend months or years hoping that the other is secretly feeling more, and then later find out that you two were always going to be “just friends.”

How Would The Transition From Friendship To Dating Work?

True friendship involves honesty and a candidness where the two people can tell each other the truth of where they’re at, even if it includes fear, hesitation or vulnerability. Be sure to talk about what changes you should expect if you decide to start dating.

….
Read more at Christian Mingle Believe

Wedding Dreams and Disasters- WATCH OUR LATEST VIDEO!!

What does your wedding say about you?? It’s one of the most momentous days in your life: your wedding. Everyone wants their wedding day to be perfect. But let’s be real: the truth is, your wedding day will be as perfect and flawless as you are. Sorry for the plain truth. But don’t lost hope. All those perfect and not-so-perfect moments rolled together can create a beautiful lasting memory of a very real day when a very real couple, with real imperfections and REAL LOVE, came together and said “I Do” to Love, To lasting Commitment, to the journey of a lifetime!

Whether you’ve already said “I Do” or you’re hoping for that special day to come, join in on the fun in our latest video as Abby shares her wedding fears and I share some funny stories of disastrous wedding moments. Because even with the not-so-perfect moments, this day is about way more than perfection. It’s about your incredible future together!

Here’s to Weddings, the Do’s and the Don’ts and the “Please, Oh NO!”s

 

 

 

The Holy “No”: Setting Yourself Free From the Fear of Saying No!

It’s natural that we look forward to the big “yes” moments in our lives, like saying yes to a wedding proposal or a great job offer. The day we say yes to God and allow Him to be the Lord of our lives is a significant turning point.

On the other hand, we generally don’t enjoy having to say no to people.

We often struggle in declining an invitation to an event or denying someone’s request for help because we don’t want to appear harsh or unloving.

We obviously can’t say yes to every request that comes our way without overextending ourselves. But learning to say no to people doesn’t have to be a negative, stressful experience.

Open Doors

Every one of us is a steward of our time; the question is, how good of a steward are we? Stewardship involves the ability to manage our time, and that involves learning to saying no. This is especially important when we are working long hours, busy at home with children, newly married and trying to get time with our spouse, or dating and talking to people online. In these and other situations, saying no can be quite challenging.

But saying no to something doesn’t necessarily mean we are closing a door; it may just mean that we are indirectly saying a resounding yes to something else, like yes to time with our family or periods of much needed rest. It also means you’re saying yes to allowing others to come into the picture who may more adequately help the person in need.

Learning How To Say No

If you struggle to turn down all those invitations or requests for help, it’s time to practice saying no. Here’s how:

  1. Begin graciously. You can still show empathy for someone’s needs while declining to be involved. Your tone of voice can reveal kindness even when you have to deny someone what they are asking for. “I’m so sorry that you’re experiencing that, but I won’t be able to assist you at this time.”
  2. …..                                                                                                                                            (Read the rest of my article at Believe )