This Sunday at church, we enjoyed a casual, family-style service in which we expressed our gratitude by sharing our God Moments—stories about times when God has shown up to reveal His love or to see us through hard times. I cried like 18 times, because our God is so good. It was one of those wondrous times when you can actually feel your faith growing. We heard about…
-God sending strangers to encourage and strengthen a young, scared couple as they arrived at the hospital to witness the birth of their soon-to-be adopted child.
-The night before the first day of school, a nervous kindergartener and her even-more-nervous mom ask God to help the girl find a friend before the mom drops the child off the next day. The next morning, they walk up to the school hand in hand, join the back of the registration line, and are immediately greeted by the girl standing in front of them. She spins around, flashes a grin, and says, “Hi! I’m Sophia! Can I be your friend?”
-A ten-year-old girl announcing, “I am going to be a missionary in Africa one day.” She feels it in her heart like a promise from God. But years pass. She has no idea how she could ever end up ministering in Africa—she’s from the Midwest and she’s not in the full-time ministry—but the promise and dream never leave her. And then in her fifties, God opens up a dream job…in Africa. She and her husband spend years there strengthening a small church.
-And this one—this from a faith-filled 11-year-old boy who had us all in a puddle on the floor: When he was three, he asked God for a dad because his own father had abandoned their family. He also asked for a brother and a sister. Within two years, God gave him all three.
Then I encourage you to watch for more God Moments. They happen every day, if we’ll only keep our eyes and hearts open enough to notice. To rejoice. To savor. And then, like the leper who came back to Jesus, let us come back again and again to thank and to praise.
Want to give God glory by sharing a God Moment in the comments? How has He shown up to reveal His love for you? I’d love to hear!
Photo courtesy of Unsplash. Photo credit TJ Holowaychuk.
My husband, Mr. Dreamer, loves this time of year with its resolutions and new beginnings; I, Mrs. Over-analytic and Fearful, find the whole new-year-new-you thing kind of exhausting. Scary. Overwhelming. We have a running joke in our marriage: Kevin likes to live in the future; I can’t get out of the past—so somewhere, between the two of us, we find a way to live in the present.
Every January, we get pummeled by the same message: Look ahead! Dream big! Pray brave! But sometimes it’s hard to look ahead. Tiring to dream big. Scary to pray brave.
And that’s where remembering comes in. Remembering what God has already done: love already shown, gifts already given, prayers already answered. Sometimes we become so consumed with the future, so eager to move on to the Next Big Thing, that we forget to celebrate what God has already done. The astounding miracles we have already witnessed. The crazy prayers that have already been answered. The progress we have already made—imperfect progress, sure; incomplete progress, yes; but still—progress! Forward motion! Growth!
The other night we had a fun talk as a family. We intended to make a list of family prayers for the new year, but then we went off on a tangent. Kevin and I started telling the kids our favorite stories about times when God has answered crazy prayers for us—prayers that once felt impossible. We talked about everything from our miracle Christmas baby story after years of infertility (a story the kids have already heard ten thousand times and will hear ten thousand more because it’s the greatest God story of our lives); to the time when, after decades of unbelief, Kevin’s beloved relative turned to God, thanks to a run-in with a falling oak tree; to the “smaller” stories, like a time when we were working like crazy but still couldn’t pay our bills, and Kevin and I both secretly and independently begged God to mail us money—and when we went to the mailbox there was a check for the exact amount we needed!
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Reliving these stories, the miracles big and small, was a powerful reminder for me and Kevin, a reminder that we have already seen God perform staggering, “HOW DID HE DO THAT?!” deeds many times; a reminder that even when the road ahead feels scary, our problems overwhelming and impossible, we already have so many reasons for great faith. . . It made me—me! faithless, scaredy-cat me!—get excited about daring to write down big prayers for the new year. It made me faithful that the powerful God who has done great things in the past can—and will—do great things once more—in His own time, in His own way. It made me confident that God hears us even when His answers come more slowly—or in different form—than we had imagined. And it reminded me just how loved—how deeply, personally loved—we are by our heavenly Father. Best of all, as we recounted these stories, we watched faith light in our kids’ eyes. I could see their faith blooming even as we spoke. They laughed, they grew wide-eyed, they stood in awe of God.
As you ponder your hopes and prayers and needs for the new year, I hope you’ll first take an hour to sit down and remember. To remember all the prayers God has already answered, all the miracles you have already seen. To celebrate and thank Him once more for gifts already given. To bask in His love, which He has proven time and again. If you have children, sit them down and tell them your God stories in the spirit of Exodus 13:14: “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.'”
When all that is done, then you’ll be ready to start dreaming for the future, drawing hope and faith and confidence from what God has already done for you.
As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long— though I know not how to relate them all. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone. Psalm 71:14–16
First, before we get to the good stuff (a giveaway of a SIGNED BOOK from one of my favorite writers!)…a quick life update. It’s been quiet around here. Like, graveyard quiet. But I promise I haven’t died—and neither has Lizzy Life! I just had to put myself on total writing and family lockdown from June till October in order to finish my new book (!), When God Says “Go”: Rising to Challenge and Change Without Losing Your Confidence, Your Courage, or Your Cool. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this book’s message. It releases July 31, 2018, so you’ll hear more about it in the coming months. But bottom line, I had to choose between blogging and family life, and I chose family life. I couldn’t write a book, blog, and be the wife and mother my family needs all at the same time (Wonder Woman only exists in the movies, right?! And I never see her doing laundry…), so there you have it. But I missed all of you, and to celebrate being back, I’m giving away a signed book! Woohoo!
Right after I turned in When God Says “Go” to my publisher, I had the great joy of speaking at a Women’s Day in West Palm Beach. We laughed, we cried, we ate…is there any more to life?! It was a bonding, joyful time of connection and growth, and I loved being with that vibrant group of ladies. (I even introduced myself in Spanish, which nearly gave me a heart attack from terror—but they forgave my grammar mistakes, and it was fun! I’m trying to push my fearful self to be a little more brave every day…) Here’s a slideshow of the day (that adorable blond lady in the first picture is my mom, Geri!):
And PS, speaking of speaking…I am booked up for travel this winter and spring (except for events in my home state of NC), but I still have some speaking dates available for fall 2018. If your church is looking to host a women’s event, I’d love to come spend time with your church! Find more information about topics here. You can also email me at elizabeth at lizzylife dot com.
Have you ever spoken with someone who was skeptical about God, the Bible, and Christianity? You wanted to share with them, but when you searched your brain for brilliant and convincing reasons for faith, you came up short? Your friend mentioned some questions, you opened your mouth, and all you could come up with was, “Uhhhhh, yeah, I don’t know about that, but I like Jesus”? So then you ended up slinking away, frustrated with yourself that although you love God and your faith makes sense to you, you don’t know how to share that faith.
Last year, I had the honor of editing Answering Skeptics by Dr. Douglas Jacoby, and now I am thrilled to introduce you to this amazing resource—and to give you an opportunity to win a free copy signed by the author! Woot!
Not only will this book prepare you to answer faith-related questions of all kinds, it will also bolster and refresh your own faith. It will even provide answers to some of the faith questions that may have lingered in the back of your mind, questions like:
Does science contradict the Bible?
Can a Christian believe in evolution?
Has the Bible been changed?
If God is good, why does he allow evil and suffering?
What is the difference between agnosticism and atheism? How do I reach out to agnostics and atheists?
How can I connect with people of other faiths—Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and more?
Douglas Jacoby is a master apologist and teacher. He uses his decades of experience teaching and ministering to people all over the world to educate and equip us as we share Christ in our own neighborhoods. Answering Skeptics is a quick, engaging read. Concise chapters offer understandable explanations and practical tips for communicating clearly with our friends. This book is an accessible resource for Christians who want to strengthen their own faith and better equip themselves to share with critics, doubters, and seekers. I can’t recommend it enough! You can buy your copy here.
And I’ve got a signed copy to give away!
You can enter the raffle here. It ends November 3. Good luck!
I have lived most of my Christian life with a constant voice in the back of my head saying, “But what if it’s not true?” These days, the voice is mostly just a whisper (some days I don’t hear it at all); at other times, it’s been a full-on shout.
The voice started in high school, in Mr. Gus’s class, where we explored the great thinkers of the Enlightenment. Mr. Gus dared us to answer hard questions, to prove why we believed what we believed. His questions made me stop and think, “Why do I believe these things? Is this really my faith, or have I blindly adopted my parents’ faith?”
I came home asking questions—lots of them. I am forever thankful for my parents’ wisdom. They didn’t freak out: “How dare you doubt God and the Bible?!” They didn’t panic: “Oh, no! Our daughter is falling away from God!” They didn’t blow me off: “Huh. Those are hard questions. Good luck figuring things out.” They didn’t write me off: “You’re just going through a weird teenage phase—it will go away in a week or two.”
They took me seriously, and let me dive deep. They didn’t offer quick, shallow answers. My dad, who has wrestled with a number of faith questions himself, said, “I understand why you have those questions—I’ve had them too! So let’s study them out together.” He gave me books to read, and gave me freedom to ask all my questions. We worked through them one by one, step by step. There was no pressure, no guilt, and no rush. I went back and forth on some of these questions for months—some for years—and Mom and Dad were always there to listen, to discuss, to reason, and to point me to helpful resources. And it’s not like I grew up and stopped asking questions—I still ask a ton of questions, but now I know enough about the Bible and apologetics that I know where to turn when questions crop up.
Here are a few conclusions I’ve come to over the years—maybe they will encourage you if you find faith difficult:
1.It’s okay to have questions about faith—in fact, questions are good. Doubt means you are thinking. Doubt means you don’t just blindly accept everything you hear from the pulpit or from popular Christian culture. God encourages us to love him “with all [our] minds” (Mark 12:30)—he doesn’t want us to check our brains at the door when we become Christians! Thinking and study are an integral part of our faith. Doubt only becomes a problem if we don’t take the time to address it—if we are lazy and unwilling to put the time in to read and study and seek answers.
2.I’m not the first person to have this question. Whatever question I am asking, some other Christian has asked it before me. Which means: 1) I’m not weird or sinful for having this question, and 2) I can find helpful writings (and podcasts and videos) on this topic. Chances are, great Christian thinkers and apologists have already produced a wealth of material on this exact question, and somewhere in their words, I can find the help I need. (My go-to person for faith questions is my longtime friend Dr. Douglas Jacoby, whose website is a vast resource for Christians with questions.)
4. We don’t have to accept the easy answer. Some questions about God and the Bible do not have quick, easy answers. Warfare in the Bible? Senseless suffering? Predestination? These are hard, complex topics. Simple blanket statements like “Just have faith” or “Just trust God” won’t do it for questions like these.
I need more than pat answers to keep my faith healthy: I need Scriptures. Logic. Honest analysis of the contradictions and difficulties. And you know what? God designed me this way! He made me to think. To question. To explore. He doesn’t expect me to settle for easy answers to hard questions. If you’re like me, and you’re a thinker, a questioner, a wonder-er, that’s not a bad thing. Let’s embrace who we are, and take joy in the journey of working out our faith.
5.It’s okay to live with some questions and uncertainty. I have come to realize that some of our faith-related questions may never be completely resolved. The big questions are resolved: Do I believe in God? YES. Was Jesus really the Son of God, and did he die for sins and resurrect from the dead? YES. Can I trust God with my life? YES. (But even in those questions, doubt can occasionally resurface, and we have to go back and remind ourselves: This is what I believe, and why.)
But some other questions—about tough topics like suffering, or predestination, or how God’s will works in daily life—are up for debate. God hasn’t explained every nuance of who he is and how he works—if he tried, the Bible would be a gazillion pages long (plus, our brains might explode). We can keep thinking, keep reading, keep debating and discussing, but we might have to settle for “This is the best answer I can come up with for now. And I reserve the right to change my thinking on it over time.”
6.Faith is an adventure. I used to feel guilty when a new doubt or question cropped up; now I see those moments as opportunities to study and grow. Questions are a chance to dig in to Scripture and some new books, and to have some deep conversations with trusted thinker-friends. Doubts are an opportunity to be honest with God about what we’re working through, and to ask him to point us in the right direction.
Let’s take comfort and joy from Jesus’ words to Thomas, our fellow doubter, because they are written about you and me (how cool is that?!): “Because you [Thomas] have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:28).
Okay, your turn: What faith questions do you have? Do you view doubt as a weakness, or an opportunity for growth and exploration? If your kids have questions about God, how do you plan to handle them?
Nope, that’s not a typo in the title. It’s the ETV (Elizabeth Thompson Version) of 2 Peter 1:3: “His divine power has given you everything you need for life lice and godliness.” (Hey—I think my translation still suits the spirit of the scripture.)
I’ll take another liberty, this time with Clement Clarke Moore’s famous poem:
‘Twas three days before Christmas, and all through my house, not a creature was stirring, except for a louse…
Yep. This Christmas, we got visited by more than just elves and Santa Claus.
It was December 22, 6:00 am. The night before, I had nearly killed myself to finish an intense editing job—I’d worked long hours for weeks on end, scrambling to finish with a few days to spare so I could shut down and spend time with my family for Christmas.
So there I was, the morning of December 22, finally free, and happy, happy, happy. For thirty-eight minutes, everything was perfect. I woke up before the rest of the family, smiling to myself in a dark and sleepy house. I brewed coffee, switched on peaceful music and the Christmas tree lights, and settled down on the couch with a mug and my Bible. Christmas had finally begun, and I was going to start it off right: alone with God.
A few minutes later, my daughter stumbled out, bleary-eyed and tousle-haired, and snuggled up beside me with her head in my lap. Happy, happy, happy, I sat there and prayed over her and stroked her hair.
And that’s when I saw it: a louse, scurrying across her head.
Within an hour, the whole house was awake and Kevin and I had kicked into Save-This-Christmas Mode. We called and made an appointment with the “Lice Lady” who had saved our vacation the last time the lice fairy paid our family a visit, when we were on vacation. Who cared if her office was a ninety-minute drive away? Christmas had to be saved. (I hereby pause this essay for a random proclamation: If your kid gets lice, hire a Lice Lady. Hock a family heirloom to pay for it if you have to. It will be the best money you have ever spent, except maybe for your epidural. Lice Ladies know what they are doing, and will help you get rid of evil bugs waaaaaaay faster than you could on your own. They will also help you retain your sanity, your spouse, and your salvation. Okay. Back to our story.)
So we stuck a shower cap on the Infected One, cancelled our big Star Wars plans with friends, loaded up the four Crazies in the minivan, packed enough snacks to survive a four-month covered wagon journey across the Oregon Trail, blasted Frank Sinatra Christmas carols, and trundled down the road to the Lice Lady. When we got there, our poor almost-three-year-old squealed with glee: “We going ice skating!” We had to break her heart and re-enunciate: “We are going to the LICE LADY, not ice skating. Instead of ice skating, you get to sit in a chair and let someone comb your hair looking for bugs! Woohoo!”
And so began the Great Christmas De-Lousing.
The first appointment was just the beginning. The afternoon at the Lice Lady’s office was followed by several days of laundry and hours of follow-up nit-picking, even as family members gradually filled our house for the holiday. (Paranoid family members, I might add, who were terrified—rightfully so, I’m not judging—of hugging us.)
But you know what’s great?
I didn’t lose it. I didn’t cry one self-pitying tear. Not even when my dryer decided not to help me dry the 4,000 loads of laundry I needed to do when we got home. I didn’t lose my temper, or snap at my husband or kids. I didn’t flip out, not even behind closed doors. I just rolled with it. I even laughed about it. I’m kind of gawking at the computer screen even as I type these words, because this is not normal for me.
I am beginning to accept that life is messy. Things do not go according to plan, pretty much ever. If we wait for our whole life to be perfect to be happy, we will be waiting forever. We will grit our teeth through a series of disappointments, and only find peace and joy when we make it to heaven. That’s not how God wants us to live.
The secret to a joyful life is appreciating what we have, when we have it, for as long as it lasts. Not placing rules or restrictions on our happiness—rules like: “I can’t be happy until…” or “I won’t be happy unless…”
Nope. That’s not how joy works. That’s just a recipe for disappointment, frustration, and unhappiness.
As 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 puts it, “Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I’ve come to accept that there will always be something wrong with our life. Something we wish was better, or different, or…whatever.
There was a day—two years and nine months’ worth of days, actually—when I couldn’t get pregnant, and I would have gladly given my right arm to have a house filled with lice-infested children. I never want to forget those lonely days.
If we can learn to roll with the unexpected, to adapt on the fly, to appreciate what we have even though there are things we lack, to “laugh at the days to come” instead of fearing them (Proverbs 31:25)—better yet, to laugh at the days that are, even when they go so completely wrong…then we can do more than just survive life. We can enjoy it. We can thank God for it. We can be a person we’re proud of being, in all kinds of circumstances.
So if I have a new year’s resolution this year, it’s this: To keep on rolling with the punches. To stop waiting for perfection. To stop expecting smooth sailing. To accept, embrace, and even laugh at the mayhem of the unexpected. To be happy now—no asterisks, addendums, or alterations.
And to braid my daughters’ hair, and spray it with mint spray, every day from now until eternity.
Happy new year, y’all. Here’s to the madness.
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