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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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,
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.
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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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.
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.
As summer wains, transition looms on the horizon. Back to school season empties our nests once again, opening the gates to a surge of emotions we may be unprepared for.
Believe it or not, life does not end when our children reach adulthood.
Some days, it feels that way. Our feelings are a part of what makes us human; I am not a robot. Emotions define us as a species, and they are an amazing gift. When life is good, happiness fills every moment. But when it is not, it can be hard to overcome these unwanted feelings. Emotions reflect how we feel, but they aren’t always anchored in reality. They can conflict with one another, but that doesn't mean they can’t or shouldn’t both exist at the same time.
For example: I am happy that my children are succeeding, AND I am sad that they are far away. I’m thrilled they are happy, AND I still miss them.
But the real question is how do we deal with our reactions as we age and enter this new season?
Symptoms of empty nest syndrome include sadness, depression, loss of purpose, and loneliness. It's not a clinical diagnosis. But those are common traits among empty nesters in this transition. It gives us a reason—but not an excuse—to continue living this way. I felt it deeper than I thought I would. My heart goes out to you as you negotiate these feelings.
I’m so glad this is only a temporary time for each of us. Here is a strategy I am finding helpful as I move through this season myself.
Read the following Scripture, meditate on the gift given to us in the verse. It is powerful. Let it empower you to move one step closer toward the woman God sees in you.
Proverbs 31:21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. (NIV)
This verse depicts the emotional battle won by our Proverbs 31 friend. Fearless, she knows her loved ones are protected against the dangers of this world. The stark contrast between the white snow and the scarlet clothing reminds us to thrive not just survive. Certainly, we can see this for our physical needs, but I believe it also represents our emotional and spiritual needs as well.
Scarlet cloth represented luxury, abundantly providing for all in her family. Jesus also wore a scarlet robe on the way to the cross. He paid the full price for all our needs including our emotions. Our goal is to take all our emotions and place them at the feet of Jesus. He reminds us that His burden is light. He is calling us, the weary, to Him. He is always to help us into the abundant life in which we will flourish.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that even in emotional transitional seasons, you can make us new. In Ephesians 4:23-24 it says, “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” Yes, let Your Holy Spirit reawaken us to our designated design. Invigorate us to a fresh new life. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN.
She staired into her steaming cup of tea, tension creased her forehead. A recent college graduate, she haltingly expressed her concern.
“I love my mom but…”
“But she’s driving me crazy. She is constantly texting, calling, or dropping by. I feel guilty saying this, but she is so clingy!”
The words rushed out; a mix of emotions washed over her face. This wasn’t the first young person to share this complaint, so let’s dive in why is she so clingy?
Launching children into adulthood is a bittersweet event for most parents. If unprepared the parent can get lost in navigating the new landscape. As you mature into your new life of responsibility and independence, mom may not know how to respond.
Dear young friend, like you, your mom is in transition from one phase of life to the next. Her role until now, has been to get you to adulthood. From the day of your birth, her responsibility was to raise you to be an independent adult. This is a bittersweet time for your mom.
True confession, I’ve been tempted to be the clingy mom. I’ve said manipulative, guilt induced things which I later apologized for. Not be most stellar moment. I didn’t expect their launch into adulthood would leave me feeling discarded and old.
The negative emotions surprised me—I had higher expectations of myself. What should have been an exuberant time of my husband and I planning and pursuing our previously set-aside dreams became a dissatisfying lull I learned the Mayo Clinic identifies as Empty Nest Syndrome.
Which means the dynamic is prevalent enough to warrant a name. But since it’s not a clinical diagnosis, there’s not an exact or easy cure.
Your mom is excited for the new life you’ve found. She misses you, but she’s also happy for them. You worked hard to achieve all your accomplishments. Living on the edge of new adventures we call adulthood you are ready to go and she’s wondering what happened!
Remember your mom is more than your mom, she’s a person. She may be experiencing emotions she’s never felt before. As you traverse this new territory, respectfully address your concerns. Think of ways you can support her autonomy without threatening your own independence.
Some moms need time to adjust, and others may never change but they will always be your parent. Scripture reminds us to honor our mother and father, my prayer is you will develop a stronger relationship with your mom that lets you easily honor her.
I love the children’s book The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. Originally published in 1930, its message still speaks to us today. Small in stature, I identify with Little Blue Engine. Her determination moved her over the mountain. This age-old story, undergird our own journey by reminding us that our attitude matter. I keep a copy of this book on my desk to remind me of this important truth in furthering my own dreams.
Reflected in Biblical heroes like David, we see the greater advantage of God in our lives. We can because God is. David declared the enormity of God to a giant standing before him (David and Goliath 1 Samuel 17). David defeated Goliath through his trust in God. Living our true selves, reliant on God, glorifies God to all who are in our lives.
I still believe I can do whatever I set my mind to do. I’m not going to go out and run a marathon. I could however, if I trained. Many women my age accomplish this goal, but I don’t want to do that. However, it is a great metaphor for life at this age. It may take longer to do some things but if we set our mind to it, we can. For most of us we may have less energy, but we’ve grown in knowledge, wisdom and understanding.
Now is the time to tap into that knowledge and wisdom Jesus provides for us. Look at the benefit of living a Christ filled life stated in 1 Corinthians 1:30 “God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.” Jesus is the source of all wisdom; we need to listen to the part of our spirit aligned with the Holy Spirit.
Knowledge comes from learning God’s will for our lives. The abbreviated version of this is that He wants us to live as His child. That plays out differently for each of us but it is the cornerstone of the knowledge of understanding our identity. Where it becomes more difficult is discerning when to apply that knowledge in each situation with wisdom.
Paul wrote this for us and it is my prayer for you:
“So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.” Colossians 1:9-12 (NLT)
How we apply this understanding takes time a practice. You can learn more by studying Paul's words in Colossians 1. In our mid-month challenge video we will explore this further, sign up here so you don'e miss out.
Is it okay that I question things I’ve been taught about my faith?
The short answer is yes.
Does that surprise you? I think we get confused between theology and faith; a tension between the two brings moments of confusion causing us to seek clarity.
Theology is defined as the study of God and religion. Theo means God and ology means study of, it is a pretty straightforward understanding of the word. As believers we seek knowledge to better understand who God is and how to build a relationship with Him. That knowledge, appropriately applied, develops our wisdom as to how to properly live what we know.
Scripture is clear that we are to seek after wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2-3 assures us that the knowledge and wisdom is in Jesus, we just have to look for it. “2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; 3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Some of theinformation presented to us can be misunderstood or misrepresented. This is why we test and search out the truth.
Faith, although related, is based on belief in God, spiritual comprehension instead of proof. As it says in Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith, pistis in the Greek, means a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is God.
Theology is knowledge based while faith is belief based. When we question theology, we are not to throw away faith. On the contrary, when we investigate, we are simply answering the why we believe to grow our faith.
As imperfect beings, we recognize we don’t know it all and we continue to seek wisdom and knowledge through our relationship with Jesus Christ. This builds a better understanding of who He is and who we are to become. Find a trusted friend and investigate these questions together. Accurately applying Scripture, while seeking Jesus, will help you sort out what He has for you.
Ask this Mom is a monthly post that investigates the questions that matter to you.
On a cool summer morning, hinting at the approaching fall, we gathered. Each of us recognized this was a special moment, identifying it as a time worth celebrating. No speeches or toasts were given, just plenty of stories and laughter shared. We celebrated the intimacy of our family bond nurtured over a lifetime of experiences.
It started as a getaway weekend to my sister’s summer home. A quiet place on a river, a perfect escape destination from the stress of life. Within a few days of our departure, we discovered two of my other sisters were camping nearby. Texts flew back and forth as we realized our fifth sister also planned to be in the area. Expectations turned to excitement as we saw an impromptu party become a reality. For the first time all five sisters, with their five husbands, gathered without our children.
An extraordinary moment to treasure, the day remains a cherished snapshot in my mind. A simple backyard barbeque full of love and laughter ensued. Admiring the circle of family and friends, I quietly thanked God not just for them but for the legacy of my mom and dad. Their purposeful pursuit of family identity and unity permeated our time together. Essence of each of them peppered our conversation.
My parents raised five independent women during a tumultuous time in our history. However, their gifts to us remain timeless, a beautiful testimony to those who followed. Although far from perfect, they invited us into an adulthood centered on Jesus and His church with the freedom to choose our own path. Here are four intentional steps you can take, to form a similar legacy.
1. Make encouragement part of your daily lives.
No matter the age, recognizing both the gifts and struggles of the individual emboldens them to move forward in the path God set out for them. Encourage the good choices and coach them through the failures, reminding them that both develop us into our God designed selves.
2. Declare your family identity. I’m not sure when my dad started calling us “the good guys”, but it was a continual title used throughout my life. This is how my parents saw us and this is how we behaved. He set an expectation, through this positive declaration, of our character. When others urged us to step outside our family beliefs, that identity curbed the temptation.
Find a simple phrase that fits your family to undergird your identity. Make it positive and empowering.
3. Make unconditional love the expectation of your household. We were not measured by our achievements but loved because we were theirs. So much of our society rates our worth on what we do. However, a grace filled home counters that pressure, making it a safe place for the whole family.
Unconditional love extended into our poor choices as well. Living out the consequences of those choices impacted each of us as we grew and learned to navigate this world. No matter our choices, home remained a safe place.
4. Ask for wisdom before you act.
Even with all this in place, not all our choices lined up with the beliefs of our parents. Measuring the moment to determine their response took not only grace but wisdom. My sister moving to New York City challenged my parent’s peace, but it proved to be the correct choice.
Taking a moment to examine our own motivations before we comment or correct, helps direct a positive outcome. Measure our words and remember sometimes it is best to say nothing at all.
5. Daily choose gratitude. Living on a salesman’s wages with five daughters held challenges beyond our understanding. Each night at supper, we declared God is good and God is great. Thanking God for what we had permeated our home. Comparisons to friend’s material possessions were quickly squelched.
Thankfulness, demonstrated daily, trickles down to our children. Make a point to invite your children into sharing their gratitude.
Intertwined within our celebration, and our lives now, dwells the promise of Jeremiah 31:13 “Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.” Building a lasting impact in your family through subtle daily choices will ensure joyful family gatherings even after you are gone.
It’s Good for You
How does celebrating shift our emotional response to day-to-day life? Celebration causes a physiological response in our body, lifting our emotions in the process. Acts of joy release dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters essential for brain health. In their presence we feel happiness. This same response comes with exercise, acts of service, and petting animals. However, our goal is more than a biochemical response, we want it to be an act of worship. A lovely cycle that invigorates us to move forward in life.
According to healthline.com, Celebrating is good for your brain, circulatory system and autonomic nervous system. As pleasure is stimulated in the brain our blood vessels dilate delivering more oxygen to our body. The ANS controls our fight or flight response, joy suppresses stress responses lowering blood pressure and breathing rate delivering an overall calm to the body. Fun is good for you! Now there is something to celebrate!
This physiological response is recognized in Scripture. Elizabeth’s baby John, leapt inside her when he heard Mary’s voice. His joy ignited Elizabeth’s, which in turn encouraged Mary.(Luke 1:39-45) David danced through the streets, emulate the dancing but don’t do it scantily clad.(2 Samuel 6:12-16) No, I’m not a prude, I just don’t want you to get arrested. Even the apostle Paul reminded us to rejoice (Philippians 4:4) and to celebrate with sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:8)
Pick one joyful activity you can do right away, by yourself. What needs to be done to cross that item off your wish list? Now is the time to live it out. Make plans to do that one thing this month.
Second, pick something that includes your spouse or a friend. Work to find a mutual interest and make it an adventure. Keep in mind I’m using the word adventure loosely. Find something that you both are excited about that is out of the ordinary. Celebrate time together.
Third, pick something that will take some planning. What do you need to implement it? How do you need to proceed for it to come to fruition? It brings as much joy to a person to plan out a fun trip or activity as it does to do it, even if you don’t do it! Go for it, set a date, start saving, do what it takes to get this from an idea to action.
Here are some of my ideas:
- I’m going to make something from my Pinterest boards. You know the pins put in place when there wasn’t time to do them? Now is the time. Keep in mind the process is as important as the product. Enjoy the creative part of it, not just completing a project on a to-do list.
- My husband and I do Sunday adventures. We hike in local parks, go to farmers markets or a museum. These adventures include discovering new places and trying new activities. The actual event isn’t as important as getting out and enjoying time together.
- We are planning a trip to Alaska or the Pacific Northwest. It won’t be possible for a while, but the planning is part of the fun.
How you choose to chase joy depends on your individual personality. Whether simple or splendid, the point is to do it. God’s goodness is not dependent on our circumstances. The purpose is not to eliminate sadness in our life, it is an important aspect of our humanity. Reveling in the good in our life lifts our spirits so that we don’t ruminate on what we’ve lost but recognize the joyous gains. Take time this month to seek joy and celebrate the good around you.