19 Years and Counting

Mike_Angela_19thAnniversaryLast year my wife wrote a post about the 18 things we have learned in our 18 years of being married. It was a cute concept, and I think Angela covered everything. So when she asked me to write something for this year, I started to sweat. I couldn’t ever think of 19 things I’ve learned about anything. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t write a blog article called, “19 Things I Haven’t Learned and Consequently Can’t List Here: Unabridged Version.”

So instead, I’m going to write about one thing I’ve learned.

  1. Angela is more amazing than I thought.

As far as I am concerned, the highest compliment that can be paid from one person to another is this: You know everything that is wrong with me (and that’s way more than 19, I don’t mind telling you), and you love me anyway.

That’s what Angela has done for me. She just…loves. It’s such a show of what it is to love like Jesus does, and I realize now that without it I would wither away.

And it’s not just me that feels this radiating warmth. People just feel comfortable and free with her. When we were buying my car earlier this year, the salesman found himself pouring out his heart to us about his life—past and present. (I say “us” but I was more of a spectator). “I don’t know why I’m telling you this,” he kept saying. “I’m so sorry.” She just looked at him and patted his hand and told him it was OK, that obviously he needed to talk about it, and we were happy to listen.

This happens all the time. Angela jokes about it, saying that she must have a “TELL ME ALL ABOUT YOUR LIFE” tattoo on her forehead. But the truth is that she makes people feel comfortable; she listens and engages and empathizes without being patronizing or condescending.

She’s a woman on a mission. Literally. She decided that she wanted to get licensed as a minister, so she studied and applied and interviewed and got it. There wasn’t any doubt in her mind that she wanted to do it, and so she just…did it. That may not sound all that impressive, but then you didn’t watch it go from idea to reality like I did. It is such a great example for our kids to see, how wanting something means having to work for it.

And then there is Indonesia. A visiting missionary floated the idea to Angela to fly out to Indonesia and speak for a large women’s conference. “Would you be OK with it if I want to do it?” she asked.

“Sure thing,” I told her. Because, honestly, I thought it was purely hypothetical. Not that I’m not OK with it, of course. It’s just I wasn’t prepared for such decisive action. I am by nature an investigator. I like to circle around a decision and examine it, play out alternate scenarios and contingencies, try to predict pitfalls. It usually paralyzes me into indecision. Angela just knew it was an exciting opportunity, and struck while the iron was hot.

So, again, she set about getting it done. She sold personal belongings—some of which were hard to part with. But for her it was the sacrifice that needed to be made because this trip was important to her. She wants to be an instrument of God to change others’ lives. That is her ultimate calling, and her actions truly bear this out.

To Angela:

I love you so much for who you are. I love how you bring balance to our lives. I love how your passion for others has driven you to action, and often to sacrifice. I love how you love others—including our family. I love how you’ve opened your heart to do new things, and that you have been willing to be uncomfortable to do them. Thank you for loving me for these 19 years!

If Only Parenting Was Like Math

IIf Only Parenting Were Like Mathf only parenting was like math.  You don’t even have to like math to understand where I’m going with this…

1+1=2 every day

2 x 8=16 every day

If 4x=12 then x=3 every day

But parenting isn’t like math.  In fact, there are no formulas when it comes to raising children. The techniques that worked beautifully on Monday seem to crash and burn on Tuesday.  The methods you used with your firstborn child only make things worse with your second or third.  Each individual child is God’s matchless creation—completely irreplaceable and definitely not a carbon copy of you or anyone else.

That couldn’t have been clearer to us when Emily was born.  She laughed from deep within her belly earlier than any baby I had ever seen.  She also had an iron will.  At the age of 2 you could tell her not to go into the kitchen and she would put the edge of her toes onto the kitchen floor and stare you down.  This caught me by surprise after parenting Benjamin who would stay put on a blanket in the middle of the room for hours on end, because it was the rules.

Perhaps parenting isn’t like math to pull us away from the belief that everything must be black and white, that temptation to elevate our opinions as gospel because surely our way is the right way.  While this would be nice for our self-esteem, this isn’t nice for our character development or our ability to persevere when things don’t go as planned, and parenting rarely goes as planned.  That’s why I am so glad that I can depend upon God and His guidance while raising my children.  Aren’t you?

In this stage of parenting I find myself looking less at my opinions (as fabulous as they may be!) and more at God’s word.  Although I have always taught my children scriptures, I’m finding that they need an even greater understanding of whole passages or entire books.  Emily and I are taking on the challenge of memorizing the book of Philippians.  We’ve spent a month taking 15 minutes individually each day to read the book in its entirety out loud.  If we miss a day we just begin again the next day.

Emily’s first comment was that she is really beginning to understand what the whole book is about.  Now we’re writing the book on notecards so we can begin to memorize.  I’m sure we won’t be perfect but we are starting this practice of intentionally “hiding God’s word in our hearts” (Psalm 119:11).  It is truly by God’s word and the power of the Holy Spirit that we are changed from the inside out.

Each one of our children will face difficult choices throughout their lives.  During the teenage years these choices can often have serious consequences that will affect them for years to come.  If parenting were like math I would tell you that by memorizing scripture they will automatically sail through the teen years with no trouble, but let’s be honest—memorizing scripture is one major tool that we can offer our children.  My prayer is that through this process they will be drawn into a vibrant and intensely personal relationship with God.  If they don’t have this close connection with Jesus the motive to make good choices can be muddled at best.

What have you found to be the greatest tools in your parenting tool box?  How are you learning to let go of the idea of formulaic parenting?

Special Note: If you want to be intentional about building stronger relationships with your family and with God buy my new book How to Love Your Crazy Family  for just 4.99! Click here to purchase today!


An Unhurried Life

An Unhurried Life Do you know anyone who lives an unhurried life? It’s a rarity for American culture.  We not only value a job well-done, but a job done with expediency.  Faster is better.  Busyness is praised.  There are few people who live unhurried lives.  When we see someone who breaks with culture and slows this frantic pace we can be quick to assume that they are lazy or unmotivated.  But could it be possible that living unhurried is actually a spiritual discipline?

I am privileged to know one such person.  Jennifer is my lifelong friend.  It is always a pleasure to spend time together.  Her face, her movements and even her body says, “I am with you—I have nowhere else to be.”  I would love to say that I give her this beautiful gift in return, but I am often moving through life at too fast a pace.  Her presence reminds me to stop and just be.  There is something so healing about this unhurried life.

I just spent several days helping Jennifer and her parents with some household projects.  It’s a time in our lives when we have the opportunity to give back to our parents, a time to give to them, in a small measure, what they have spent a lifetime giving us.  We sorted, we cleaned and we organized.  But true to her nature Jennifer would say, “Time for a break, let’s have something cool to drink.  Let’s chat a bit.”  So we would stop.  And during the rest we would rejuvenate our bodies and our minds.  We would talk and laugh and sometimes just sit.

Over those four days we looked through pictures from our childhood.  We listened to old records and told stories.  I asked Barbara (Jennifer’s mother) about the artwork throughout the house.  “Where did you get that one?  Why do you love it?”  We read inscriptions in books—beautiful thoughts from Barbara to Mike.  I’m still emotional over one of them!  We looked at stories written in grade school and bent over double laughing at pictures of Jennifer and me.  I’m pretty sure we started selfies with the Polaroid camera!

Then something amazing happened.  While recalling our history I found my present.  My love for art, history, stories and music all birthed from our shared experiences.  My love for writing can be traced back to this couple who were journalists and had shared their writing with me from the time I was a young girl.

I would have missed all of this living a hurried life.  I would have missed remembering.  I would have missed their faces, their expressions and their touch.

David reminds us of this…

Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.  Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.

We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it. And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.” Psalm 39:4-7 (NLT)

Our busy, hurried lives compete with a beautiful connection with God and with one another, and I’ve decided it’s not worth it.  If my hope is in God then there is no need to hurry.

What are you missing living a hurried life? What choices will you make today to slow down?


Enough is Enough!

Enough is EnoughEnough is enough!  We’ve all made this declaration when we’re at the end of our rope and feeling discouraged. But maybe this thought has been popping up a little more often than you’d care to admit.

“I have had enough, Lord.” (1 Kings 19:4 NLT)  This is what the prophet Elijah said to God.

Joanna Weaver writes, “Having just won a mighty victory over the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18), Elijah had been flying high. But when Jezebel took out a contract on Elijah’s life, the wicked queen’s haughty words brought the mighty prophet back to earth with a thud. Less than a day after holy fire fell from heaven—proving once and for all that God was God—Elijah was running for his life.”

Can you relate?  We see God intervene in a powerful way—a healing, a salvation, providing financially—and then BAM! Seemingly out of nowhere we are discouraged.  We certainly aren’t alone; Elijah experienced this as well.  If I saw fire fall from heaven I would never be discouraged again, we tell ourselves.  But I wonder if that’s really true.

Remember my post about the little tree in my back yard?  Even though it grows slowly, it is perfect for a nest of sparrows hidden deep within its bushy branches.  A reader told me that this tree is an upright juniper, in the same family as the juniper tree that Elijah sat under as he prayed this prayer…

“I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life…” (1 Kings 19:4 NLT)

As I read through the story, I noticed a few things that happened with Elijah that can also happen with you and me when we feel like enough is enough.

He felt afraid.

He ran.

He isolated himself.

He felt despair.

He wallowed in self-pity.

Sound familiar?  I thought so.  But thank God that isn’t the end of the story (I encourage you to read 1 Kings 18-19 to get the full picture).  An angel of the Lord comes and touches him and tells him to eat so that he can gain strength for his journey.  Elijah makes his way to Mt. Horeb, and it is at this point in the story that we find one of the most comforting scriptures in the entire Bible:

“After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.” (1 Kings 19:11-12 NLT)

One would expect that God would be tired of Elijah—his lack of faith, his self-pity, and his fear.  But no, we see a God who cares for both his physical and spiritual needs; a God whose goal is to reveal Himself to Elijah and ultimately give him guidance for his life.

This is the same God that you and I serve today.  He is with you in your discouragement.  And He hasn’t given up on you.  So lay down your fear, your isolation, your despair and your self-pity and listen for His gentle whisper.

When have you felt like enough is enough?  What comfort do you find in knowing that Elijah, a prophet, went through these difficult times as well?


Are You Feeling Trapped?

Are You Feeling TrappedAre you feeling trapped?  Hemmed in?  Constrained?  We usually view these feelings as negative and limiting but what if the, situation actually enabled you to identify what’s important to you, what you’re passionate about and even your purpose?  What if this sense of being stuck and ensnared turned into clarity, clearness and simplicity?  What if this situation is just the catalyst you need to pursue your God-given calling?  I believe it can.

Change in Perspective

When we are forced to slow down and get out of the fast lane we have the opportunity to change perspective.  Moving so quickly through life devalues the relationships which should be the most important to us.  We allow the “tyranny of the urgent”  to rob us of our time and attention.  When we find ourselves in a situation where we feel constrained or trapped, we can use this time to evaluate our lives.  We can stop long enough to gain some much needed perspective.

Rest vs. Restlessness

I recently spoke about rest vs. restlessness.  Learning to rest seems almost counterintuitive.  We struggle with resting physically, spiritually, emotionally and even on a deeper level within our souls.  But all of us will come to a point where we can no longer function without rest.  We require it.

Isaiah 26:3 says, “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.” (NASB)

In the Hebrew “steadfast” is the word is Camak meaning, to lean, lay, rest, support, put, uphold, lean upon.

Apparently steadfast doesn’t mean running at break-neck speed.  It doesn’t mean being dependable and never ceasing in your labor.  Steadfast is leaning into God, resting in Him, being supported by Him.  And that is when we find peace.  Rest and trust are beautiful linked together to bring peace to our lives.


Are you feeling trapped by a job, your finances, or even life circumstances that seem insurmountable?  I challenge you to allow these limitations to bring clarity and help you zero in on your purpose and calling.  I have a friend who found herself seemingly trapped by financial and relational struggles.  She felt hemmed in and frustrated by her situation but she continued to seek clarity.  It wasn’t simple but she has found a career that answers both struggles with a beautiful symmetry.  We can trust that God is with us in every situation.

Trust in God at all times, my people. Tell him all your troubles, for he is our refuge. (Psalm 62:8 GNT)

Are you feeling trapped?  How can you begin to find a new perspective, rest and clarity?

Is it wrong to return a gift?

is it wrong to return a giftAfter taking piano lessons for two and half years my daughter Emily is growing weary of the discipline and asked me if she could quit.  Her real love and passion is dance, but she has always been interested in piano until now.  Please hear me when I say I am not one to demand that my children be involved in everything.  But piano, in my mind, is kind of a non-negotiable.  Knowing the far-reaching benefits of playing a musical instrument, I haven’t had the heart to let her to quit. (Check out this great article on 18 Benefits of Playing a Musical Instrument)

Trying to remain calm and even-tempered I reasoned with her saying, “Emily, I’m giving you a gift.  This isn’t for me, but for your own benefit and enjoyment throughout your lifetime. It’s truly a gift.”

Without missing a beat she said, “Can I return it?”

At that point we were reduced to hysterical laughter and we never finished the conversation.  (And no I haven’t let her quit.)

Once again, Emily has inspired me to laugh and to think.  In my last post I challenged you to start using your strengths for the benefit of those around you.  Sometimes that feels like a tall order.  We are out of practice because we haven’t taken the time to develop those strengths, those gifts that God has given us. Or perhaps we have spent a little too much time wishing that we had the gifts of those around us.  We wish we could return our gifts, like Emily quipped, and replace them with ones that seem more desirable.  Max Lucado cautions us against this way of thinking:

“Da Vinci painted one Mona Lisa.  Beethoven composed one Fifth Symphony.   And God made one version of you.  He custom designed you for a one-of-a-kind assignment.”

One version of you.  If you passionately believed this truth what would it mean?  Would you see yourself differently?  Would you a have a vibrant faith and believe that God intends to reflect His light through your life?  Would you repent more readily and love more freely?  Would the ordinary become extraordinary with the perspective of God’s grace living in and through you?

I pray that all those things will be true—for you and for me as we choose to believe that…

We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)

What gifts have you wanted to return?  How can you begin to see them as valuable?

Want to love your family with purpose and passion without expecting every day to be perfect?  Buy my new book How to Love Your Crazy Family today for just 4.99! Click here.



StrengthWe have 27 trees (yes, I counted) on our property including numerous maples, flowering cherry, flowering pear, birch, dogwood and various evergreens.  One little evergreen has always been a favorite of mine.  I love its strength, its shape and its unique blue tone.  It is, however, my husband’s least favorite tree.  The dog loves to dig behind it and it grows at a painfully slow rate.  But this week we discovered a tiny sparrow’s nest nestled deep within the branches.  Two tiny hatchlings poked their little open beaks up at us, and we noticed a third egg still waiting to hatch.

All of the sudden this seemingly insignificant tree seemed to be more important than our towering birch or the flowering cherry.

“Don’t disturb it.”

“Don’t walk too closely.”

“Watch the dog.”

“Listen to the mama bird chirping her little warning.”

We were enthralled by it.  We tiptoed around it and took pictures.  We watched the mama bird look for worms.

treeThe strength of this tree is in its sheltering branches and its low, unassuming height.  When the winds whistled and summer rains poured the baby birds were none the worse for wear.  The mama had a flawless view from all the other taller trees from which to watch over her little treasures.  This tree was perfect for the job.

Have you ever felt like maybe your strengths and talents were going unnoticed by others, or maybe even overlooked by God?  Perhaps everyone around you seems to be living in their sweet spot and shining like a star.  You might be thinking, I’d love to serve God like that!  Meanwhile, you wait and wonder when you will get the opportunity to live your dreams and do what you were created to do.

Often, we are stuck viewing ourselves like this little evergreen tree, looking around at all the other trees showing off their large branches and reveling in their flowering glory.  But you and I are no more victims of circumstance than is my favorite tree.  We have the powerful choice to grow and develop and use our skills right where we are planted.

So, what are you waiting for?  It’s time to use your strengths—for your family, for your friends, for the divine appointments throughout your day.  God is simply waiting for you to say yes.

So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord.  Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will.  Then you will receive all that he has promised. (Hebrews 10:35-36 NLT)

How can you begin to live your strengths and make each day extraordinary?

Special note:  If you’re looking for some great resources for living your strengths check out:  Strength Finders 2.0 by Tom Rath and The Cure for the Common Life by Max Lucado

Grace and Peace

graceandpeaceThis morning as I read my Bible I came to Philippians1:2 “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (NIV)

I usually skim over the opening verses at the beginning of a book—don’t you?  But for some reason today was different; I felt like Paul was saying it personally to me.  Grace and peace to you, Angela.  Honestly, I need that.  We all do.  Maybe that’s why Paul put that exact phrase or one close to it in 13 books of the New Testament:  He knew that we would need the  grace and peace that comes directly from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ—not just some feel good kind of grace and peace—but the real deal!

Grace in the Greek is the word charis meaning: that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech, good will, loving-kindness, favor of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues…

That is the kind of grace I need when I’m at the end of myself.

That is the kind of grace I need when I’m hurt, when I’m wronged, when I’m disappointment, when I’m discouraged.

That is the kind of grace I need period.

This is why I love the word of God.  His word reveals my need for Jesus to change my heart, my mind and my soul.  What about you?  Do you need His grace today?  His grace is enough for the unanswered questions and for the weariness of heart.  His grace is more than enough for whatever you’re facing.

Maybe you need peace?

Peace in the Greek is the word eirene meaning: a state of national tranquility, exemption from the rage and havoc of war, peace between individuals, (i.e. harmony, concord), security, safety, prosperity, felicity, (because peace and harmony make and keep things safe and prosperous), of the Messiah’s peace, the way that leads to peace (salvation) of Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot…

This peace is more than quiet—it’s a stillness of the soul.

A contented peace for today and confident peace for eternity.

God’s peace that leaves no room for fear.

This is Paul’s prayer for you and me today.  There is no grace and peace apart from our Heavenly Father.  He is the giver of all gifts—the author of life.  And He invites you to receive these gifts today!

What burdens are you carrying?  How can God’s grace and peace meet the needs in your life?

For Our Son Ben

BenRecognitionSpecial Note from Angela:  Today’s post is written by my husband for our son Ben.

Sometimes I call him Boo, but not often, not any more.  He’s so big now—too big for a nickname like that, although he usually takes it in stride and will either act like it’s no big deal (which it probably isn’t) or ignores you altogether.  I taught him both of those defense tactics.  I wish he would employ them more often, especially with his sister who is an ace at pushing his buttons.  (I taught her that, too.)

As I said, he’s so big now.  Not big, big…  Just…big…  His voice is big.  So are his shoes.

So are his dreams.

When Angela was pregnant with him we refused to allow the ultrasound technician to tell his the gender.  We wanted to be surprised in the delivery room, as if seeing a human actually coming out of another human wasn’t surprise enough.  We arrived armed with names—Benjamin Joseph or…  I forget, actually.  Sarah?  Abigail?  I know the middle name was Jane, so half points for me there.

On that day, in that delivery room amidst the chaos and the noise—my greatest duty began.

Sons are different to fathers than are daughters.  Not better, just different.  We usually can’t say that for fear of the P.C. Police kicking down our doors and dragging us away to force us to watch The Notebook.  A son is a small version of ourselves.  For men, it’s like being able to teach ourselves everything we’ve learned—to travel back in time and impart some of the wisdom that has been gleaned over the years, or to warn about the pitfalls and obstacles we have encountered.

Yes, I can impart some of those things to my daughter, too.  But some of them are specific to being a man—to being a father or a husband.  Some of them I learned from my dad, some from others, some on my own.

A father who does not to some degree try to live vicariously through his son is a fool.  I’ve made some great choices in my life—choices which presented me with opportunities or which provided their own reward.  I’ve made mistakes, too.  Lots of them.  If I were to tell you, your head would probably burst into flames.  I remember most of them.  I think about them from time to time.  At least for the big ones, I ache to somehow reach back through time and space and undo them.

My son would take this time to remind me of the butterfly effect.  Of course, I can’t change them.  They are part of the path which led me here, to this time and place—where those mistakes sometimes haunt me into wishing I could go back and…


So instead, I have this boy—so like and so unlike me.  I understand him in so many ways, and he mystifies me in so many more.  My responsibility, my duty, is to guide him so that he can someday hopefully guide a son of his own.  It’s a daunting task—it feels overwhelming sometimes.  I often wonder if I am doing it right, if I am giving him the best chance at being successful.  I think about him, about who he is and who he is becoming.

He is a dreamer.  I mentioned that already.  He’s always looking forward.  Sometimes, he looks so far forward that I have to give him a gentle shake and remind him of the ground he has to cover to get there, that it needs attention, too.

He is an investigator, especially if something piques his interest.  He has questions, and he wants answers.  Sometimes the questions are nonsensical.  “What if birds flew backwards?”  He asked me that while we were walking the dog one day.  Just out of the blue.  He saw a bird, watched it fly, then began to disassemble the whole thing in his head and examine the parts and question why.  My reaction was a mixture of confusion and amusement, but I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought a lot about it since then.

He is a peacemaker.  If he doesn’t like someone, he doesn’t waste his time trying to rally others to his opinion.  He just makes the best of it.  To be honest, I can’t think of a truly unkind thing that he has ever said about anyone.  He always looks for the explanation for someone’s behavior—like a true investigator, he wants context.  So he reserves judgment and moves on.

He is bright.  I don’t just mean smart, although he is that, too.  I mean he is bright—he shines and casts that light on the things around him.  He always looks to bear others up.  He acknowledges the bad in a situation, but dwells on the good.  Sometimes he has to make an effort to do this, but that’s his nature:  Find the positive and light it up for others to see.

DSC_3970He is dedicated.  He likes playing baseball, which is a great relief to me.  I love baseball.  I love baseball because it so accurately mirrors life—the ups and downs, ebb and flow, success and frustration.  The game takes a level of dedication that you don’t find anywhere else.  Athleticism is only a small part of the equation; nobody just walks on the field one day never having held a bat or thrown a ball and becomes an instant success, no matter how fast or strong they may be.  And nobody is ever perfect—everyone always has some area where they can work to improve.  Nobody gets a hit every time they are up, or strikes out every batter they face.  How you deal with the failures will dictate how successful you become.  That is a microcosm of life itself—the constant struggle to find success is just a long string of learning from our failures.  The real key is to never give up.  Ben understands his own mortality, that success is never guaranteed.  But he is not afraid to try, and if it doesn’t work out he’ll try again.  Then, when he succeeds, he looks back on the effort and takes pride in the work it took.

He is honest.  He’s made some mistakes of his own already, but he owns them.  He is learning the difference between giving a reason and giving an excuse:  A reason provides context and gives insight into how to correct the mistake; an excuse shifts the blame to something or someone else.  This, I think, is the most important life skill I can pass on to him.

He is funny.  Sometimes, he is funny to himself, and he’s ok with that.  His laugh is infectious, and more often than not I’m more amused by his laughter than by whatever it is he is laughing at.  Luckily he and I share a sense of humor.

He is confident and secure.  He doesn’t feel any pressure to change to meet someone else’s expectation of him.  He has his own opinions, and he lets others have theirs because he’s not threatened by them.

Now he’s moving past 8th grade and into high school, and so my anxiety level will rise accordingly, I’m sure.  But I think I’m doing it right, if we’re going by who he is now.

I do know that my pride in him is boundless, that my faith in him is endless, and that my love for him is ceaseless.



Battling Discouragement

battling discouragementIt was a phone call I knew I needed to make, but a conversation I didn’t look forward to having.  As my friend and I were talking I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.  I choose to focus on the truth of God’s faithfulness and the hope we have in Jesus, but as I went through the rest of my day I started feeling increasingly sad and very discouraged.

Lord, are things ever going to change?

I want to believe the best about people but I’m beginning to lose faith!

I’ve done all I can do…

By the end of the day I felt physically sick.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines discouraged: to make (someone) less determined, hopeful, or confident, to deprive of courage or confidence, dishearten.

You’ve probably felt it before:  You feel so discouraged that you have lost your hope, your courage and your confidence.  Maybe you’re feeling discouraged right now—with your job, your marriage, your family, your church, your health or even yourself.  These overwhelming waves of hopelessness can deprive you of a clear perspective about God, about people and even about the truth of your circumstances.  The bottom line is that discouragement distorts.

Discouragement distorts in the following ways…

Through False Beliefs:  Before we are even aware of it we begin to exchange the truth for a lie.  Truth:  We have hope in a God who answers prayer.  Lie:  My life is hopeless.

Through Faltering Faith:  We begin to question our formerly rock solid trust and confidence in God.  We wonder if we can keep hope and hold on.  “Discouragement can drain us of all hope, of all vision, of all our tomorrows and dreams.” Joanna Weaver

Through Isolation:  We start turning down invitations for coffee and slip out early at the end of church.  I’d rather not be a downer.  We tell ourselves—when really the very thing we need is a new perspective and a fresh look at our situation.  What we desperately crave is friendship, but discouragement has distorted this need and we isolate.

Through Hidden Sin:  When we hide it we perpetuate it, and the behavior only grows more entrenched.  Remember what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:13:  “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Overcoming discouragement is a choice each one of us makes as we get honest with ourselves and acknowledge that our feelings don’t have to control our destiny.  It’s praying honest prayers and asking God to reveal those false beliefs and replace them with the truth of His word.  It’s saying No! to isolation and Yes! to friendship.  It’s confessing our sins to God and one another—knowing that God is always faithful to free us and to give us everything we need to live the life He’s created us to live.  Today is the day to grab hold of courage again!

How does discouragement affect your life?  How can you start living a extraordinary life of courage today?