Ask This Mom - Where do I fit?Leslie
As I was bustling down the hallway, on a busy Sunday morning, she strolled by me. The young woman who had been on my mind for the last week was right in front of me. Calling her by name, I asked if she was interested in meeting with me. Without a moment’s hesitation she agreed to come to my office later in the week.
On Wednesday morning, she sat on the other side of my office, twisting a napkin in her hands. Nervous ,but also she seemed excited to update me on her life. She talked about the older people, people my age, in our congregation who encouraged her on a regular basis. This had made our church her home.
Staring at her lap, she then said, “but I don’t feel our church makes a space for other people my age.”
Together we investigated some possible solutions to her dilemma. How can we make our church a welcome place for your generation, Gen Z, who wrestles with anxiety and aspirations?
Gen Z is coming of age in a time of uncertainty. They are a highly talented group of young adults who recognize they possess little control over much of what happens in the world.
That must feel frustrating, but our generations can find the balance together.
Part of life’s journey is to draw you closer to where you belong. The church should be a safe place for you to explore your ideas and share your feelings. A place where correction draws you closer to God; not stifles your spiritual curiosity. You want to belong to God’s people, but how do you find the place for you?
Here are some strategies that might work for you.
- Like the young woman in my office, look for a place that sees you. Ask your friends for places that they feel welcomed, heard, and supported.
- Do you know someone who lives the Gospel in their day-to-day life? Find out where they attend and follow them there.
- I know it is difficult but seek out an older person you admire to mentor you. This is going against your generation’s norm, but you can do it. I’m giving you permission to ask.
To you who are the older generations, are you making a space for young people?
This quote from Fuller Youth Institute caught my attention:
“I’m tired of the church answering questions I’m not asking.” – anonymous Gen Zer
To answer the right questions, we need to know this generation. Not just understanding statistics but face to face relationships that edify both of us. They want to know you, but they are waiting for you to make the first move. It all starts with a hello, remembering their name, and inviting them in.
One young woman said it this way, “I want a safe place where I can ask the hard questions.”
If we are answering the wrong questions, we will lose our relevancy. Honor the Gospel and make a space for them to continue to deepen their discipleship in Jesus Christ.
A ministry can be built that is a ministry run by young people for young people. Partnering with older mentors, it will become a place where they can investigate the beauty of the Gospel and passionately serve the people around them.
This will be healthy and productive for both generations.
Balance Part 3:March into ThanksgivingLeslie
March is a messy month in my home state. Breezes blow with the promise of spring, but they still have a bit of bite to them. The melting frostline prepares the soil but the transition creates mushy, muddy ground. The hope of spring dances on the edge of the world around me but we can’t quite grasp it.
As we grapple with this change of seasons, it may be tempting to grumble and complain, but Scripture warns us against it. Philippians 2:14 (NIV) “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky I want to embrace it like a kid, and gleefully make mudpies instead of frowning at the gloom.
In January we examined Five Habits to Bring Balance to Your Life. This month we look at habit number two: gratitude. Thanksgiving happens all year long, not just in November. Ephesians 5:20 instructs us to live by “giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
What does a thankful heart look like on a normal or mundane day? How do we live the abundant life when we have to clean the bathroom or pay the bills? This of course is not a new idea. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 reminds us “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Some days it is easier to be thankful than others. It is one thing to clean a bathroom as part of your routine, it is quite another when you are disinfecting after an illness. Yet, Scripture reminds us we are to be thankful in all circumstances.
A simple action we can implement is to start a gratitude journal. If you don’t like journaling, try tacking sticky notes in a place you will see them. Jot down both the simple and profound things that bring you a sense of gratitude. Find a way to let God know you see Him, and you will be reminded His goodness as well. What am I thankful for everyday?
- I’m alive.
- I know Jesus.
- Jesus loves me.
- Jesus is teaching me.
- He doesn’t leave me.
- His mercies are new every morning.
What can you add to that list? Gratitude leads us to our source of life, both our physically and spiritually. It shifts our focus from the provision to the provider.
Taking it one step further, look at the areas of your life that cause anxiety. Take a moment to write out a worry and then turn it into a gratitude statement.
For example: How am I going to make my budget work this week? Thank you, Lord, you help me find items on sale.
I asked these questions in January:
In your current daily routine, what could produce gratitude? Hunt for all the goodness present, you may be surprised at how much you find.
Life may not be as you wished it would be, but what can you find to appreciate in each day?
I’d love to hear your answers.
Ask This Mom: How do I return to my faith?Leslie
I’m starting to hear this question a lot. Interlaced with this desire comes a great deal of pain and loneliness. Here is the common litany of statements I’ve gathered.
I still love Jesus.
I’m exhausted by all I’ve been through in recent years.
I’ve lost hope due to all the chaos in this world.
I don’t trust the church.
My friends have turned their back on God and encourage me to do the same.
I believe God is real, but I don’t know how to find my way back to Him.
Looking at our young adult generations, Gen Z and Millennials, they both struggle in this area but look for fulfillment in different ways. Young millennials, now in their mid to late twenties, desire authentic, meaningful connections. They want to impact their world positively and powerfully for the better. In contrast, Gen Z desires financial stability and security. They are passionate about normalizing mental health. Both struggle with loneliness, isolation, and anxiety.
If this description fits you, I’m here to invite you in. You are welcome here.
- I ask your forgiveness for any way the church has let you down. Many of you see us as hypocrites and at least for me you are correct. I make mistakes, missing opportunities to react and love like Jesus. So please forgive me.
- This world is full of disappointment, and it is not the source of hope. Evil has encroached in all sorts of horrifying ways and it makes us feel powerless. But our hope is not in the world, it is in Jesus. Even if your hope has been whittled to the tiniest fragment, nurture it.
- You are not alone. I pray you can find a mentor to walk you through this journey back to God but if not in person, know you can lean on me. I’m extending the invitation; I hope you receive it that way. Reach out in email or on social media. This is not just a hobby for me, I am all in and ready to partner with you. I know of other women who feel the same. We need to find ways to bridge the disconnect and build safe relationships.
- Pray Mark 9:24b “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” as often as it comes to mind. It is beautiful to me that the Holy Spirit inspired Mark to write this down for us. It is okay to doubt but you don’t have to stay there.
- Find people that are like-minded. Spend time with authentic people who allow you to explore this relationship. Take time to develop safe relationships that will allow you to grow.
- When you are ready, return to church. We miss you.
No matter what know this: YOU ARE LOVED. God’s love is unconditional, extended to you with an ever-present invitation.
Balance Part 2: Feed MyselfLeslie
The American mindset cripples us. Although living in the USA is a privilege, the breakneck speed at which we live is dangerous. Striving for the American Dream drives us and that is not fun. There is always something on our to-do lists. Our days off become crammed with appointments, errands, and home upkeep. We wear ourselves out trying to do it all. This – whatever this is – is distracting us from God. We already know we aren’t what we do yet what we do seems to propel us through life. In empty homes, that feeling of abandonment cannot be filled by a full calendar.
Life is a balancing act. Each morning I check my calendar, and my mind clutters with all I need to do. It never seems to end; I can’t possibly take time to rest or recreate. During the smallest break, pressure pushes in. Groceries, laundry, work, appointments, relationships, oh and ministry the list continues to crowd in eating up my time. If I sit down, I will be behind. Sigh, God will understand, He will wait, maybe tomorrow I will have time, but tomorrow plays out like today.
If your life is anything like mine, it can be frenetic. We go, go, go, running from one activity to the next, leaving us little chance to catch our breath. Of course, there are times when we can’t help it. The question is do we allow this fast-paced world to crowd out our times of rest? Not only recreational rest but Sabbath rest. Ah, just writing the word brings peace to the deepest part of me but also angst because it is so hard to take the time. But that’s exactly what we need to do – capture the time to replenish our souls.
I have the hardest time sitting still to have “quiet time”. My quiet time is often not silent at all. Wrestling with the “right way” to sit with Jesus wastes a great deal of my time. However, finding ways to still my over active mind so that I can fully engage with my Creator is a necessary part of my spiritual walk. I want to know God, so I must slow down and spend time with Him.
Let’s look at our calendar and schedule small daily times to restore our souls.
Where can we say no?
What is nonnegotiable?
Where can we invite God in order to spend time with Him all day long?
Does this practice need to shift from a task to relationship building with God?
Reevaluate our time with God. What needs adjusting?
Now let’s look at our weekly schedule. Do you have a Sabbath day? Not a follow the rules day but a day to replenish our soul. Doesn’t that sound inviting? Ask God what that should look like for you.
Heavenly Father, I’m in awe of who you are and your creative power. I ask that you teach me to rest and recreate in you. Replenish in me what is lost. Revitalize me for your purposes. In Jesus Name, Amen
Ask This Mom: How do I navigate differences in life opinions with my parents?Leslie
How do I navigate differences in life opinions with my parents?
This question comes up often with a mixed bag of emotions. Some are sad and others are angry, but the underlying motivator is the chasm they now feel with their parents. As we move into adulthood, we start to see flaws or perceived flaws in the people we love, as we are all imperfect. Here are steps to build stronger relationships.
Looking for common ground helps this process. Before spending time with your family ask yourself these questions: How have I changed in my faith? How have my parents changed? Where do we have common ground?
Work through the following steps:
- Pray before you go. Ask for wisdom and peace.
- Jesus commands us to love, even love our enemies. (Luke 6:27-28) How can you show your parents love without compromising your beliefs?
- Be your authentic self without antagonizing your parents. Avoid controversial subjects but also respectfully stay true to yourself. Ask them if you can agree to disagree and move on. Remember you don’t have to prove yourself right or prove them wrong. Trust the Holy Spirit to direct their steps.
- Listen to them, recognize they are passionate about the world around them. Try to patiently allow them to express themselves. Being heard is powerful. James 1:19 Reminds us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Listening does not necessarily mean you agree.
- If you feel the need to challenge something they say, do so by asking questions. This is the way of the Rabbi, Jesus asked questions all the time. Watch your tone as you ask, leave sarcasm out of your conversation.
Why is this important to you?
Where did you learn this?
Why do you think that is true.
You might be surprised by what you learn as you respectfully listen. You certainly will see where their thoughts diverge from yours, but you may also see beauty and wisdom in there as well.
- Reassure your parents that you do love them no matter what they say or do. Just between you and me, you may not like them but you don’t have to communicate that to them. Scripture tells us to honor our parents, you can do this even when you disagree through love and respect.
We are complex, emotional beings, and establishing an adult relationship with your parents may be difficult. Assuming the center of your lives revolve around Jesus, use this as your unifier. Opinions are based on views or judgements, sometimes the facts get skewed as we work through them. As we grow, we work to gain knowledge, understanding grows from the application of the knowledge, and finally we apply it with wisdom. No matter how your parents respond, live this life exploring the richness of faith.
Five Habits to Bring Balance to Your Life.Leslie
Balance. It’s a simple concept to understand but difficult to achieve. We see it, but often get thrown off by unexpected circumstances, leading us to wobble, figuratively flailing our arms in the air, in hopes to right ourselves before we fall.
The holidays seem to produce two different scenarios for my readers. Two women, similar in age, but different demands. One caring for aging parents and adult children who still require her help; the other her parents have passed on, and her children are living busy lives with little time for her.
“I don’t want to disappoint anyone or put pressure on them.”
This seems to be the mantra of my generation. Repeated by women warn weary by caring for loved ones, it nags them as they navigate through their day. While others pine for the days when their children needed them.
“I set boundaries but when they are questioned, I feel guilty.”
“They put up boundaries for me, but it is ok to cross them now and again. Right?”
We want firm boundaries, but we see the need for grace on these limitations. Often it is a balancing act whose pressure may cause us to teeter and fall.
As we start the new year, what can we put in place that will bring balance to this new territory? Let’s develop a plan that fits our own person, with needs, desires, and individual paths. Here are five ideas to get you started.
1. Feed myself
Self-care, often thought of as a passing buzzword, is a Biblical principle. Building an intimate relationship with God is the cornerstone of this principle. Caring for our spiritual life requires us to care for our physical and emotional self as well. Look at this beautiful promise from Jesus in Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
Start with the following questions, take the time to write down your answer, you may be surprised at what you discover:
Jesus, what do you want me to know today?
What do I need today?
What does time for me look like?
Three simple questions that may take a day, a week, or even months to answer. When our focus rests on others we may miss our own needs. Develop a pattern of listening to the Holy Spirit and your own thoughts.
There are so many other ways to tend our spiritual selves, this is the start to becoming more aware of ourselves. This is not easy, which is why following Christ is a lifelong pursuit.
In your current daily routine, what could produce gratitude? Life may not be as you wished it would be, but what do you appreciate in each day? Thanksgiving changes our hearts and minds, turning our self-talk to the goodness and faithfulness of God. Paul reminds us of this in Ephesians 5:20 as he instructs us to live by “giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Make thankfulness a habit.
Do this over and over and over again.
Forgiveness does not excuse the actions of others; it releases the judgement and leaves the justice to God. I know it is not easy, but forgiveness is not a feeling, it is a decision. You choose it and it brings freedom. Luke 6:37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven;”
4. Let them fail.
We do not need to fix our family members’ poor decisions or actions. When anyone comes to you with distress or concerns, ask a simple question:
“Are you venting or asking for advice?”
Many times, our loved ones simply need a sounding board, a place to process their concerns. Even when giving advice, it is up to them to choose to follow it. We fret over a situation that doesn’t belong to us, pray over it, let it go and let them figure it out. Psalm 37:24 reminds us “Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.”
5. Lay down expectations.
Just because we’ve done life a certain way doesn’t mean we have to continue to do it that way. Especially when dealing with other people and our traditions together, it simply is not possible. There is nothing wrong with expressing your desires for shared life events but maybe it is time for new traditions that don’t always include them or look different.
Often, without thinking about it, we develop ideas of how life should be. James warns us of this in James 4:14 “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”
Live in the moment.
No matter where you find yourself in the process of balancing all life has thrown your way, know you are not alone. God goes before, with and after you plus you have a community of women here who understand the struggle of balance. Many of these thoughts came from discussions with dragonfly women after answering question; “What are you struggling with the most right now?”
I’d love to hear the step that most resonates with you. Send me an email or pop over to my social media and let me know how this brings balance to your life.
Mary wasn't aloneLeslie
Mary had great faith but she was just a kid. Maybe as a teenager her naivety protected her from full understanding of what she would endure.
Luke 1:48-49 (NLT) “For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.”
She believed the angel. Then God provided evidence to continue to build her faith.
Mary was highly favored. Luke 1: 28 (NLT) “Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
Gabriel spoke these words over Mary before it all began. Yet, look at her life from a historical point of view. Mary was the only one who knew Jesus from conception all the way to Pentecost. Mary was at His birth, childhood, and first miracle. She witnessed His ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and was present in the upper room when the Holy Spirit empowered His followers. Reread that. Can you fathom the honor of her position? She sacrificed much but she witnessed the greatest events in history.
Not only was she visited by an angel, God prepared others to support her too. Older and wiser people walked along side her as she stepped into the position of mother of Jesus.It is another example of the importance of intergenerational relationships that empower each of us to live out our part of God's story.
Joseph – Her husband-to-be knew exactly what was happening. He loved God and loved her through it. (Matthew 1:20-24)
Elizabeth – Her cousin was empowered by the Holy Spirit to know the child Mary was carrying before Mary spoke a word. (Luke 1:41) Elizabeth, pregnant before Mary, it is believed that Mary stayed with her as little John came into the world. Her visit equipped her in her own motherhood journey.
Simeon – The Holy Spirit guided him to the temple to meet Mary, Joseph, and Jesus as they came to present the baby to the Lord. He spoke words that confirmed Jesus was the Messiah. (Luke 2:25-35)
Anna – This prophet recognized Jesus immediately. She praised God and was filled with joy when she saw the family in the temple. (Luke 2:36-40)
Who in your life is there to support you and who are you called to support?
Mary remembered God’s promises and provision. Luke 2:19 (NLT) “but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” When times became confusing, she remembered God’s promise. This boy, her son, was the Messiah. God’s promised deliverer. His life purpose would come to pass.
She faced hopeless and helpless situations according to the world’s standards, but God saw it differently. She trusted God, although an ordinary woman, God did extraordinary things through her.
Victor in Christ, faithful to belong, noble in character and ready now to follow His lead we will go forward into a new year.
Ask This Mom: What is Truth?Leslie
Perplexed by the choice in front of her, she hesitantly expressed her concern. The din of the coffee shop almost drowned out her voice, and the cup she wrapped her hands around grew cold. We weren’t there just for the coffee that day, her face expressed the confusion she felt.
Repeated by today’s younger generation, this famous quote from Pontius Pilate feels hauntingly relevant. “What is truth?” With echoes of “false news” ringing in their ears, how can they measure God’s truth.
The Apostle John gave us a simple answer test the spirit.
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1
Confusion over truth is not new. John addressed this issue after the Gnostics introduced confusion about Jesus’ identity. The Gnostics claimed Jesus, a mere man, received God when God descended on Him at His baptism and left Him before Jesus suffered on the cross. This prompted John to encourage his readers to test the spirit.
John knew that Jesus, the Son of God, was God from conception on. This is an intricate part of our faith and one we stand on as truth. With acceptance of Jesus as our savior we receive Holy Spirit, also known as the Spirit of Truth.
The Spirit of Truth radiates out of us. It empowers us to live in this world, preventing us from to be pulled into legalism or grace without boundaries. None of us get this one hundred percent right every time. Just look at the history of the church. In hindsight we can see the errors. We need to look at each situation with humility.
Our job is to point others to Jesus, not fix their flaws. We need to recognize we don’t always get it right ourselves. I know I am flawed and can’t possibly be right in everything and neither can you. We need grace for each other, so much grace.
Our goal is to be self-aware, testing what we are learning. Walking along side others as they are doing the same, guiding them gently and humbly into the truth.
When we are listening to others who are seeking spiritual truth, we can ask these questions so they can see it through the lens of Jesus.
- Do they claim Jesus is God? Knowing their spiritual roots helps discern where the information is coming from. It doesn’t mean you can’t get good information from non-Christian sources; you just need to measure it accordingly.
- How would Jesus respond to them? We see countless interactions in Scripture of Jesus response because Jesus loved people. He offered gentle guidance to those caught in sin and firm rebuke to the religious leaders who did not recognize His authority.
- Do they reflect the character of Jesus? Do we see the fruit of the Holy Spirit in the people expressing this ideology? Does it fit with the Bible’s description of Jesus, the Word.
- Does it line up with loving God and loving people? This is a tough one, I think we get this wrong so much of the time. We either extend too much grace or we extend judgement. That road is narrow just as Jesus described. We need to tread prayerfully forward.
- Does it line up with Scripture? Does this information you are examining line up with the Bible. We must use Jesus’ Word, in His way, giving life.
If they are still uncertain after all these questions, then we err on the side of grace. As we walk with them through the outcomes. We ask Jesus to continue to teach us and prayerfully surrender each step to Him.
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“I believe; help my unbelief!” I breathed the end of Mark 9:24 once again as we faced one more challenging event. The knot in my chest compelled me to my knees. I wanted all the pain to go away but I needed to face it, feel it, and walk through it.
Faith births itself in funny ways, often through difficult or stressful situations. Whether we’ve known Jesus a short or long time, we recognize faith is not stagnate. Faith requires nourishment on a regular basis. This is true for all of us.
Faith is there but I want to trust Jesus more. I prayed this verse many times during our transition year to the empty nest. I knew the truth, but I didn’t feel the truth. This prayer continued to build the bridge between my head and my heart. It teaches me that I am not alone in times of doubt, and I don’t have to stay there. It shows me, like the father in Mark 9, I can ask for a gift of faith when I am feeling weak. God will answer that prayer.
Faith is based on our hope in the unseen (Hebrews 11:1). Asking God to help build that faith like the man in Mark 9 is not an act of a weak faith but of a hungry spirit. I want to look for God in each day:
Lord, help me see you.
Lord, help me hear you.
Lord, I know you are here.
Lord, help me feel you.
He will answer those prayers, often our mysterious God does it in ways that are unique to us. Daily reapplying the truth of our faith allows it to grow. As those reapplied truths seep into our heart, mind, and spirit it becomes evident in our life.
One More Step
We often concentrate too much on the dos and don’ts of Christianity, instead of the how and why of Christlikeness. Our foundation, built on Jesus Christ, steadies us in this transition time. It is not a time to just endure but a time to thrive in new and fun ways. As we move into a new phase may each of us not forget the truth of the Gospel and what it means to us. It is important that we know and live God’s truths
Peter takes this one step farther in 2 Peter 1. He encourages us to add not only faith but goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love. These are the truths that help us live a full life seeking after our new season with gusto. Oh, the joy that comes when we seek after these things in the power that only the Holy Spirit brings. A delight that brings freedom to live a fun life, full of laughter.
Fun people are life giving people.
Let’s choose to live full out, whole heartedly, and one hundred percent all in – which is not easy and why we need the reminders. May we project that truth through light heartedness and winsome ways that joyfully reflect our Creator.
Dear Father, thank you that we have access to your words and your ways. Help us to know the area we need to grow and nourish through reapply the truth. Help us to soften our hearts as we consume your words so we can become more like you. In Jesus Name Amen.
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Ask This Mom: What would you tell younger you?Leslie
Dear twenty-year-old me
Sometimes I look back over my life and I wonder “How did I get here?” Some of it is good choices, some God ordained and some maybe just dumb luck.
Delight in your naïve nature as you step into adulthood, it will serve you well. Your innocence – you rule follower you – has led to rejection. I know it hurts. God allowed it for your own protection. Soon you will meet someone who will threaten that innocence. You will learn so much from that relationship. The most important lesson is don’t settle. It is better to be alone than to be with just anyone. Trust me waiting for a good partner in life is worth it.
Fear is not your friend. It has been your constant companion but it doesn’t have to be. You know Jesus? He can drive out fear and His mighty love delivers comfort in the darkest of nights. It conquers this whispering fiend with one blow. Jesus’ death on the cross smashed fear and His resurrection replaced it with new life through His love. His perfect love drives out fear. (1 John 4:18) Honestly, fear will never leave you alone. Anxiety will always try to creep in. Just be on your guard and battle it. Through Jesus you have the tools. YOU WILL WIN. Jesus guarantees the victory.
Your true self is good enough. Woven together with gifts and flaws, work to impact the world around you, as each person is meant to do. Far from perfect, your goal is wholeness of mind, body, and spirit. Look around you, see where God is working and join Him.
Throughout your life some dreams will not come true. Yes, you will experience hardships, but you will also experience beauty beyond your imagination. I’m not going to tell you the details because it will probably freak you out. Just know your future is really, really good.
Learn to talk to God. Lean on Him when life is difficult and when it is good. You can trust Him. He really will do great things in your life. Not because you are special but because He is so good. He will be with you every step of the way. He will be there for you in loss and in love. He is faithful.
You will learn to be brave. It is the greatest victory you will participate in. Trust God to move mountains. Tell your friends, God will do it through them as well. He is the God of the impossible.
You are dearly loved, called to Him, and sent to do so much more than you can imagine. Believe in yourself, your whole self. Give the Holy Spirit room for His fruit to grow and erupt from your pours. Be kind, smile often, lend a helping hand, and know that gentleness breaks down walls. These are your strengths.
Knowledge may open a few doors, but integrity will allow you to stay in the room. Strive to be honest, honor others even when they don’t honor you. Quiet fortitude will break down barriers you thought were impenetrable.
I hope this helps. Life is rich and beautiful; embrace it flaws and all.
With much love,
Living in the TensionLeslie
The daunting task of writing a timeline of the previous year lay before me. Turning to look back at the deep grief did not invite me to this assignment. I wasn’t sure I wanted to record and in turn relive all those negative moments.
Curling up on my couch, I wrapped my self in my fluffy blanket, relishing in the comfort of its weight. A rich cup of black coffee grew cold on the table next to me, I ignored the inviting aroma, determined to face this chore. My chest tightened with anxiety as I did not want to go back to the dark days.
In my timeline, I recorded the “bad” events in grey and the rest popped on the page in the bright happy colors I prefer. I noticed moments of joy sprinkled among the pain. There lies the tension, life is not good or bad it is a combination of both.
I discovered I want to run from the pain in my life. In the push and pull of life, I’d rather stay on the fun side. I want to ignore the ugly, respond with a quick quip of “it’s all good”, and move on and up.
BUT it is not all good. Recognizing this brings healing to our hurting souls. Life is a tapestry of blessings and difficulties, woven together to re-present our story. The combination of the “good” and the “bad” defines us.
King David captured this in Psalm 30:5b “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (NLT) Reading this again today, I recognized the beauty of the cyclical nature of life this represents. Our life is a long series of days and nights, but also the reoccurring pattern of weeping and joy. As much as we are to live joyfully, we need time for lament as well.
Hidden within the definition of tension is the promise this joy and lament cycle brings to us. Tension, the state of being stretched tight by an outside force, such as mental and emotional strain, causes us to stretch. As we stretch, we expand our understanding of what it means to be human. Without struggle I lack empathy, without pain I lack growth, without lament I lack release, and without joy I lack gratitude.
During my darkest days, I witnessed my daughter’s joy as she found her wedding dress. Although, I purposed to be in the moment, I couldn’t fully feel the joy I hoped to share with her. As I reviewed my timeline, I returned to the memory of that moment with her. Envisioning her once again in her elegant gown, her face shining with joy as she realized she found the one she wanted. Reflecting on it again, tears of joy streamed down my face as I anticipated seeing her on her wedding day. This time I fully felt the beauty of this once in-a-lifetime moment, radiating out in the darkness that surrounded it.
I encourage you to take a moment today to honestly reflect on your feelings. Lament the bad and celebrate good, allowing the tension between them to strengthen you.
Ask This Mom – Why are some Christians so divisive?Leslie
I opened the conversation as usual, “What would you like to discuss?”
Suddenly animated, the young woman across from me, hit the table with her fist and exclaimed “why are some people at church so angry all the time?”
“What do you mean?”
“You can’t disagree about anything without getting a lecture back.”
“What is your reaction to that?”
“I’ve stopped talking to them and I may even stop going to church to avoid it.”
Sadly, I’m hearing this question over and over.
I’ve tried to look at this topic from all sides, remembering that the end goal of our journey here is to build the Kingdom of God. Our society has developed an either/or culture. In general, it plays out as either you are with me, or you are against me.
With the pandemic we became more isolated, siloed with like minded people. We sought out information that we agreed with and interacted with only those sources, especially on social media. Once we reunited with others, many of us were set in a cultural truth we believed. In addition if you disagreed with me you were simply wrong.
To many those who disagreed were perceived as a threat to their way of life. This was true on both sides of each debate. So much so that their “either/or” became paramount in their mind and needed to be protected.
We became so entrenched in the “either/or” we have forgotten how to live in the AND. What does that mean? You are welcome at my church AND can disagree with me. Jesus is the center of our unity. Yes, the fruit of our lives reflects our relationship with Him. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit pours out of us with His fruit of love, joy, peace, patients, self-control, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and goodness.
As young people inundated with information, you are continually making choices of right and wrong. Discussing and debating issues allows us to develop our ideas of the truth but it also needs to be in a safe environment.
We each need to answer Jesus’ question of Mark 8:29 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.” This is the foundation of our faith. However, even if you don’t agree with Peter, as I do, you can still be my friend if you accept me for who I am. A believer of Jesus and a minister of the faith.
To my older friends, on current events and cultural issues, I ask these questions:
What do you value?
What causes do you care about?
Where do you want to grow?
How does that line up with Jesus’ teachings?
I follow up with their belief statements with:
Where did you hear that?
Why do you believe that?
In the process of examining our own answers to these questions we develop the ability to think for ourselves. This practice of critical thinking prevents us from the sway of the next social media influencer that comes along. The process of dialoguing develops relationships that grow with grace. It allows the participants to grow in understanding with unconditional love. It invites in, instead of pushing out.
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Take One Brave StepLeslie
I like change but also, I like things to stay the same. I get bored in the monotony of the same activities, day in and day out, but there is also comfort in the familiar. Transitioning into new seasons can reveal an uneasiness as we approach the unknown.
Now it is your chance, what fears are you facing today? From the silly to the serious, write them down. We’re friends now, so I can trust you with a deep-down secret. Have I mentioned I loathe slugs? The only thing worse than the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz would be flying slugs. I mean can you imagine? I shudder as I write these words, but really, I can spend my whole life ignoring this fear unless it keeps me from the activities I love. This fear does not keep me from gardening or hiking in the woods. Fears like that, although humorous, are not the ones we are addressing.
Checking items off our bucket list takes a little step of courage. Adventurous fun means taking a brave step that helps us feel alive. Recently, my husband and I took a trip to the Picture Rocks National Lakeshore along the lower coast of Lake Superior. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go.
Our reservations for a sea kayak tour of the coast were postponed twice due to high surf. This didn’t calm my apprehension. I wasn’t sure to pray for cancellation or calm waters.
After the guides gave a detailed safety lesson, in which they detailed EVERY POSSIBLE THING THAT COULD GO WRONG, we boarded the boat for our excursion. However, they did not mention flying slugs. Wide eyed, I donned my splash skirt and life vest waiting for our turn to board our tandem sea kayaks.
Once on the lake, it took me a bit to get used to the wobble when Dave adjusted his position. My trust grew with each paddle stroke as we found the rhythm of working together. The wonders of this uniquely beautiful rock formation loomed before us. Close enough to touch, we were awed by the colors rippling through the cliffs. The beauty and exhilaration of Lake Superior touched a deep part of my soul. A small brave step turned into a trip of a lifetime.
I didn’t have to face that fear but I’m glad I did. However, there are fears we each need to address. My ongoing struggle rests in the roots of people pleasing. Implanted in me as a child, I must keep a watchful eye out for it as I move in the direction Jesus sends me. If I am not on guard, one negative comment can send me reeling. Not the best attribute for someone who speaks publicly. Therefore, my step of bravery is saying “yes” to situations that bring others attention to me. My goal is to redirect that focus onto Jesus, disregarding irrelevant criticism.
What keeps you from conquering your fears? Do you possess the gifts and talents required for that adventure? Are you brave enough to invest in yourself to gain the knowledge you need to fulfill that desire? Now that is what I call fun!
Pretend we are sitting across a table from one another. It is a safe conversation, what would you share that you’ve never spoken before?
Our courage fortifies us to move forward into the full life Jesus promised. Fixing our eyes on Jesus, we remember to be strong IN the Lord, (Ephesians 6:10). Yes, that allusive abundant life belongs to each of us. We just need to know how to embrace it in every stage of life.
Father thank you that you impart courage to us when we need it. We lay our fears at your feet, declaring they will not hinder us anymore. We stand in the waiting for your instructions. Holy Spirit nudge us in the direction You want us to go. We trust you to guide us and to strengthen us as we move forward. In Jesus Name Amen
If you need to go deeper into this subject, I highly recommend Annie F. Downs books Let’s All Be Brave and 100 Days of Brave. They will change your life if you struggle with courage.
Ask This Mom – Is it ok to leave the church I grew up in?Leslie
On a steamy July evening, we sat on the porch reflecting on her faith journey. She had spent the last ten weeks away from home for the first time. At twenty-one, she tasted independent living, although she entered it with anxiety and she’s now leaving with a newfound confidence.
“I’m thinking of looking for a new church home, is that ok?”
Certainly, that is ok.
The question to answer is why?
This was the church she grew up in, her family still attends there. She, however, no longer felt like part of that community.
You may relate with her concern but feel conflicted over this move. Especially if you experienced a healthy church life as a child, you may struggle with feeling disloyal. Your loyalty lies with Jesus first and your church family second. Pray and ask Him to show you whether you need to stay or go.
The church or Ekklesia, is the gathering of people who share in their belief of Jesus Christ. This group of people are meant to be family, sharing in worship, serving one another, and building the Kingdom of God. It is to be a place where the participants learn and grow to be more like Jesus.
Every church is flawed with imperfections of one kind or another. This is part of the human condition, so if you are leaving to find the perfect church, you aren’t going to find it. But leaving your childhood church, to see what else is out there, may help your faith move to the next level. As young adults, especially Gen Zers, you are looking for autonomy, for a place in which you will be treated as an adult.
Here are questions to ask yourself as you explore new congregations:
- Can you authentically serve in your current church?
- Does this church draw you closer to Jesus? Do you reflect Jesus to others because of attending there?
- Are you building community or see the potential to build community – especially an intergenerational community?
- Are you recognized as an adult, ready to commit to this community?
We are to avoid cherry picking, taking what we need, to meet our own needs. We need the love and support of other people to continue to pursue Jesus. True, as a young adult, you are going through a lot of changes, but you are also setting habits that will last a lifetime. As it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, we are to “encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” We each need a place to learn to live vulnerably in community.