It was a joy to have an old friend of mine, Naomi DeBord Bivins, on the podcast! Naomi and I met quite a few years ago, and for a time she led a Mom’s life group that I was a part of. I always enjoy talking with Naomi. She is full of wisdom and insight, and I was excited to hear what the Lord is teaching her lately.
Naomi is a wife, mother of three, and co-founder and pastor of The Foundation Church in Wilkesboro, NC, where she serves with her husband, Andy. Naomi has a passion for studying and teaching the Word of God. She also has a gift for inviting others into community.
During our conversation, we chat about her experience of leading a church through a pandemic and what community in Christ looks like in the midst of social distancing. We also talk about a recent article that Naomi wrote for Christianity Today: When A Christian Admits to Opioid Addiction, and she shares how the Lord has changed her thoughts and heart about addiction and recovery. Currently, her church is studying Revelation, and Naomi discusses what the Lord is teaching her about how to “overcome.”
You will definitely come away from this conversation inspired and encouraged! If you enjoy this episode, please share it with a friend. If something from this podcast resonates with you, I’d love to hear about it. Comment under today’s show notes, or join the conversation on PRN’s Facebook page.
May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus.
Pause, Renew, Next!
*During our conversation, a TedTalk about addiction was mentioned. You can find that TedTalk here.
If you’ve been a reader of my blog very long, you may have noticed by now that I tend to write frequently about animals and nature. It seems that I reflect best while observing my natural surroundings. It’s unsurprising then, that today’s blog post starts out with a story about birds.
A birdfeeder hangs off the corner of my back deck. My favorite chair in our living room is parked right next to a window where I have the best view of this feeder. One of my favorite things about summer is sitting in this chair during the sunrise hour, watching the hummingbirds cheerfully visit their feeder. In the winter, I am less consistent in my bird feeding, but I have an old bird feeder that I sometimes hang in the same spot on my back deck. A couple of weeks ago, while sitting in my chair and observing all of the birds in the backyard, I decided that I would start using my winter birdfeeder again. It has been a dreary year, and inviting colorful birds to feed outside the window seemed like the perfect addition to my own soul-care routine this winter.
So, I pulled out our old birdfeeder, bought some birdseed, and filled it up. We were almost immediately visited by tufted titmice and chickadees. A few cardinals and bluebirds have also started frequenting the feeder. As I saw these beautiful and cheerful little birds flitting about outside, I felt pleased with myself.
A few days ago, I went out on the back deck and found, to my dismay, a dead chickadee, lying on its back, frozen and lifeless. I was first shocked, then surprised, then deflated. It seems that on a sunny day, the little bird ran into the glass of our sunroom, killing itself on impact.
Suddenly, my enthusiasm for my new birdfeeder waned. I found myself questioning whether I had done the right thing by putting a birdfeeder in that location. I mean, I had only wanted to watch the birds. My intentions had been good. I certainly hadn’t meant to lure a little chickadee to its death.
So, yeah, that’s a downer.
Well, granted, it could have happened to anybody. I mean, maybe in the grand scheme of things, it was that chickadee’s time to go. Still, as I thought about it, this scenario felt similar to other disappointments I’ve been experiencing in life.
Often, I go about new ideas with great enthusiasm and good intentions, and very often those endeavors tend to cause more difficulty, disappointment, or strife than I was anticipating. My intentions are good, but the end result is far different than my expectations.
Take, for instance, my great idea this fall to order Misfit Market boxes and introduce my family to new produce and exotic meals. I was genuinely excited about trying new foods and new recipes. I jumped into it with excitement. My children, however, did not share in my enthusiasm. They generously shared their every opinion on the subject with me, and their opinions were rarely gracious. They’re not thankful that I went out of my way to make new foods for them. Their responses are more like, “Yuck, Mom! Why do you keep trying to make meals with these vegetables? Stop getting those Misfit Market boxes!”
I started a podcast with enthusiasm and found myself loving almost every step of the process: from holding encouraging conversations, to editing, to publishing. I really loved almost all of it. Podcasting takes a lot of work, but most of the time it feels totally worth the time and effort. However, over the past year, my listenership has gone down dramatically. The same amount of work and effort is going into the episodes, but due to a pandemic people have less commute time and more virtual learning or work-from-home-time and are less apt to listen to podcasts. My efforts are worthwhile, but the end result is sometimes disappointing.
I could give you a lot of examples, but suffice it to say that I seem to jump headlong into work projects, craft projects, creative ideas, or new parenting strategies, only to find that there’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. When that happens, I find myself disappointed or disillusioned, which then leads to questioning myself.
So, yes, this blog post is about the death of a chickadee, but it’s really about what to do with disappointment. What do we do when we try really hard and have good intentions but reality doesn’t match up to our expectations?
Well, I’ll tell you what I’m trying to do. I’m reminding myself that I’m not the problem. When things go badly, it’s easy to turn our stinking thinking on ourselves, and begin the blame game.
If only I had been better prepared, it might have turned out differently.
It must be something I’ve done wrong.
Maybe if I was like so-and-so, my kids would be better behaved.
I wonder what people must think of me?
Because this didn’t work out, I must be a failure.
Our negative thoughts may differ depending on the situation and our normal internal dialogue, but the result is the same. We can take natural disappointment and turn it into shame by blaming ourselves.
Instead of believing these negative thoughts when they pop in, I’m trying to be realistic about the situations and grieve my disappointment instead. Goodness, I didn’t plot a chickadee murder. My intentions were good. It’s sad that a bird died, and I can feel sad about it. And, I can leave it at that. I have permission to feel what I need to feel without turning the dialogue into what that must mean about me as a person.
So, my children don’t like new vegetables. It’s okay. It doesn’t mean I’m a bad cook. I’m still introducing them to new foods, and one day they’ll be thankful they had a mother who made them meals. In the meantime, I’m allowed to feel miffed and even angry occasionally that my hard work is unappreciated. And, it doesn’t mean anything about me personally.
So, my podcast isn’t skyrocketing. You know what? Most podcasts aren’t. A global pandemic happened, and that has nothing to do with the quality or content of my podcasts. I can feel disappointed, and I can remember the reasons why I’m producing a podcast to begin with. The purpose has little to do with the number of listeners, but I can still let myself feel disappointed. It’s human and it’s natural. Then, I will just keep on keeping on, recording the next conversation, editing the next episode.
I have permission to grieve, be disappointed, be angry, and be human, and I do not have to turn those feelings into stinking thinking about myself. You don’t either, friend.
So, as an encouragement to you and myself, Galatians 6 says to not grow weary in doing good, for we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Yesterday, as I did my Bible reading, a beautiful blue bird landed right outside the window… Like a sweet little gift from my Father: a reminder that beauty is there to be found. We may not reap the benefits of our good intentions right away, and sometimes we will be disappointed, but we can keep sowing anyway. There is still beauty to be found. So, I will remember that while I watch the little birds out my window.
Pause, Renew, Next: Take a minute to breathe deeply and reflect. In what ways have you experienced disappointment lately about the way something has turned out in your life. What have your thoughts been about that situation? Have you found yourself wrongfully blaming yourself for how it turned out? Give yourself permission this week to feel the emotions you need to feel about that situation. Where you find yourself focusing on negative thoughts associated with the situation, find ways to tell yourself the truth instead. If you want to, find Scripture passages that will help you speak truth to yourself.
May we give ourselves permission to be human and rely on the grace that God extends to us in our own weakness, and may we continue to do good.
I hope the Lord sends you a little bluebird this week too.
If you need a dose of inspiration and encouragement, today’s podcast episode is just the ticket. It was a joy to talk with fellow podcaster, Alexis Newlin, about some of the ways the Lord is teaching her about releasing fear and stepping out in faith. Bravery is a major theme in Alexis’ life and faith, and in this conversation you’ll be blessed to hear some of her story. We talk about her road-trip adventures, her journey of fighting cancer, and how she came to launch her own podcast.
Alexis is a recreation therapist, a writer, and the podcast host of The Brave Podcast. If you love learning about courage and faith, go check out her podcast! You can find out more about Alexis at her website, apeachincali.com, or her learn about her new adventures at braveoneministries.com.
If something from today’s podcast episode resonated with you, I’d love to hear about it. Comment under today’s show notes, or join the conversation on PRN’s Facebook page.
I am not a person who likes structure and routine. In fact, the more set a routine becomes, the more I find myself wanting to break it. So, you can imagine that the idea of a “devotion” or “quiet time” has been difficult for me. For years, I found myself reading the Bible at random times, as the whim struck, or quickly squeezing in a short devotional before bed. Participating in Bible studies has been a major help over the years, for both the community and the accountability of getting in the Word.
A year or two ago, I found a podcast called The Daily Audio Bible, which read through the Bible in a year. Listening to this podcast made it easier to get in the Word more frequently, because I could listen to it being read to me while I drove, cleaned, or cooked dinner. Still, I didn’t listen every day and often found myself missing sections of the reading as I was momentarily distracted.
So, I challenged myself last year to begin a two-year reading plan of the Bible. I figured giving myself two whole years was doable, even as a busy wife and Mom. I’ve never read the whole Bible chronologically before, and I wanted to become more disciplined in my reading time. Over the last year, I have made it a practice, almost every day, to get up before my children and read.
I am now more than a year into the practice, and have made it all the way into Jeremiah. Daily Bible reading has become one of my rhythms of soul-care. What then, after thirteen months, can I report about the changes in my own soul? Well, to be honest, it’s been really hard. I have found the last year of reading through the Old Testament to be, at times, difficult. Most of the time I don’t come away inspired for the day. God doesn’t always give me a personal word for my daily life or an encouraging tidbit to start my day. Sure, sometimes I come away with that kind of experience, but often it feels more like obedience than joy.
I began this practice, unbeknownst to me, at the beginning of a year that would bring in a pandemic, social distancing, and one of the hardest years of parenting I’ve ever experienced. I haven’t always felt “close to the Lord” this year, even while reading His Word. I want to be completely honest about this fact, before I go on to say that it has been completely worth it. Sometimes emotions don’t coincide with obedience, but there is a contentment and fulfillment that comes with being filled with God’s Word. I have gained a greater knowledge of the Scriptures. I am practicing perseverance and endurance, which is a huge step in my walk with Christ. Yes, I can say with full conviction, my decision to wake up early and read the Bible has been worth it.
As a family, we’re also beginning to make new soul-care rhythms. For years I’ve admired others who carved out time for family devotions and prayer. Over the years, my husband and I have not been consistent at doing this with our children. However, this year we have had A LOT of family together time, and much of it has not been positive. So, we decided to have a time each evening after dinner where we do a devotion reading, sing praise songs, and take time to pray together as a family.
Again, in my mind’s eye and with great expectations, I hoped this would be a time of family bonding, love, and answering sincere questions about God. On the contrary, our children fight about what song we’re going to sing, who’s sitting next to whom on the couch, and how long they have to pray. Usually they talk and sing over one another and fight with each other throughout our devotion time. My husband and I often finish our family devotions feeling more like we’ve run a marathon than like we have been sitting at the feet of Jesus. (Again, just being honest.)
I do want to be honest, because I think we’re led to believe that devotions should leave us feeling warm or fuzzy if we’ve done it correctly. Truthfully, creating rhythms and routines in our faith lives is less about the emotions and contentment it evokes and more about the cultivation of our souls. I don’t know about you, but my soul is wayward. I think I can say that my children’s souls are too. Creating a rhythm of prayer, worship, and Bible reading will not happen on accident: Not for us, and not for our children. I am cultivating this time with my children in faith, believing that even if I can’t yet see the results, their little souls are being planted with Scripture, truth, and goodness. I’m believing their lives will bear the fruit of it: that their minds are being transformed by it.
So, friends, I want to encourage you today. I hope you don’t come away from this feeling guilty for not reading the Bible more faithfully. If anything, I want you to come away from this hearing me say that cultivating rhythms of soul-care is hard work. It will feel difficult. You may not always have positive emotions at the end, but I want you to hear me say that it’s completely worth it. Push through and try. Find something that is doable for you in this season of your life: something you can commit to. If you miss a day, it’s okay. Just get back in the next day. Running the race of faith is hard work, but if we pace ourselves, finding our rhythm, we will finish strong.
Pause: Take a deep belly breath and slowly exhale. James 1:4 says, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” What does perseverance in faith mean to you?
Renew: When you think about rhythms of soul-care, what comes to your mind? Have you had rhythms and routines in your life that have helped cultivate your relationship with the Lord? How have you noticed these rhythms change in different seasons of your life?
Next: What kind of soul-care rhythm can you implement in your daily life? Think about ways that you could incorporate Bible reading, worship, or prayer into your life in a practical way. Then, over the next few weeks, begin to implement this new practice into your daily routine.
May we walk in rhythm with the Spirit, intentionally cultivating our faith walk.
For the month of January, I’m releasing short, soul-care episodes all about our relationships with our bodies. The last episode was about body acceptance and gratitude, and if you missed that episode, go back and check it out. Today, we’re going to continue our conversation about becoming friends with our bodies by discussing if and how we pay attention to what our bodies are telling us.
In today’s podcast episode, I referenced a great TedTalk about posture, body feedback, and power poses. I also referred back to two previous podcast interviews. If you want to hear those episodes, I’ll link to them here:
Taking care of, attuning to, and loving our bodies is an important part of soul-care. I hope that in today’s podcast episode you were encouraged with some new ideas about how you can become more intentional, even in small ways, of listening to and improving your relationship with your body.
The conversations in our home about race and difference sneak up on me, and I inevitably find myself unprepared. All the adoption trainings in the world can’t prepare one for the actual moment that the issue will arise. Transracial adoption is tricky that way. There I am, parenting like normal, when suddenly, out of seemingly nowhere, a question is asked or a comment is made that brings up what is always there right under the surface: difference, skin tone, and diversity. The conversation can be triggered in various ways. Sometimes it’s a book or TV show. Sometimes it’s an observation my son makes about his skin compared to his brothers. Sometimes it’s a birthday or adoption anniversary. This time, it was about Martin Luther King Day.
As I tucked my son into bed last night, he asked, “Do we have school tomorrow?” “No, tomorrow is a holiday, bud,” I responded.
Naturally, he wanted to know what holiday it was, so I explained that it was Martin Luther King Day. He didn’t know who Martin Luther King Jr. was, so I told him that he was a great man who worked for the rights of black people in our country.
“Like me,” he said knowingly. “Yes, honey, like you, but he lived a long time ago. Let’s look him up tomorrow and read about him together, would you like that?”
My son nodded, and settled down into bed to go to sleep.
I recounted the conversation to my husband later that evening, and he responded, “But it really wasn’t that long ago. Not really.”
No, it wasn’t. It really wasn’t.
Just a generation or two.
As an adoptive mother, I find myself raising an African American son and having conversations about things that I myself can’t really understand or fathom. Who really can? Martin Luther King Jr. had courage to lead and speak truths that needed to be heard at a pivotal time, yet how could I sum up the work he did to an innocent child?
My son is only five years old. There’s so much he does not yet know about the world. Still, the conversations about ethnic differences have already begun. It began before he had words. Many well-meaning people have told me that he may not even notice the differences. He may feel so loved he will just navigate his childhood as if he’d been birthed into our family. However, early on, he did notice differences. By the age of three, he was asking questions and making comments about having brown skin when his brothers have white skin. This, after all, is a normal part of development: making sense of ourselves and the world around us.
As race and privilege have arisen as major topics in the nation’s conversation over the past year, my son has remained mostly oblivious, too young to watch the news. Still, I know, one day he will understand. Over time, difficult conversations will be had. I won’t always be able to shield him from the hurt, pain, and prejudice he may experience.
I am humbled by the responsibility that I have been given to raise this precious boy. With God’s help, I will navigate this conversation, and all that are to come. I will teach my children what heroism looks like: standing up for justice and righteousness, even when there is opposition. We will read and learn together about Martin Luther King Jr. and other heroes with brown skin who changed the world.
The truth is, I am not just opening the eyes of my son to see the world differently: he has opened my eyes. I have so much still to learn myself. I have seen a different reality since becoming his mother. Things that I had the privilege to not see before, now I cannot unsee. Things I could choose not to hear before, now I cannot unhear. I am an advocate. I am a protector. I am a mama bear, and with this role has come the humility and discomfort of a new sort of education. It’s easy to dismiss uncomfortable things until you have “skin in the game.” Now I do.
So, on this Martin Luther King Day, I want to stop and say thank you to those who have made themselves uncomfortable to advocate for those who have been marginalized and oppressed.
May we have the bravery to humble ourselves, listen, and learn. May we have the courage to do this, even if it makes us uncomfortable.
For the month of January, I’m doing something different on the podcast. Because January is typically the time of year when people are focusing on goals and resolutions, I thought I would devote my January episodes to talking about soul-care and body image. These will be short and sweet episodes, and I hope in these podcasts to walk through shifting our thoughts and perspectives about our bodies, towards focusing more on gratitude, groundedness, and connection with our bodies. These will not be how to, goal-oriented podcast episodes but rather meditative and reflective.
If something from today’s podcast episode resonated with you, please comment below or join the conversation on PRN’s Facebook page. If you know someone who would be encouraged by this episode, please share it with them.
Join me in two weeks as we continue our January conversation about soul-care and our bodies. May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus.
Something has been growing in my mind and soul, festering and spreading like black ink. It’s not a new thing: it’s been there for many years, but over the past year it’s been multiplying and growing. Left unchecked, this something has the power to destroy my faith and trust: in relationships, in authority, in Scripture, even in my walk with God. This ugly thing that’s been growing inside of me has a name: it’s skepticism.
skepticism: a skeptical attitude; doubt as to the truth of something
To be clear, I’m not talking about critical thinking. As Christians, I believe we should be wise and filter all information through the truth of God’s word, using discernment and clear judgment. No, skepticism carries a different connotation. It’s laced with cynicism, with distrust, and with judgment. These three characteristics can lead us down dark paths.
My skepticism started early last year when I learned that two of my favorite “internetainers”, Rhett and Link, had left the faith. They both “deconstructed” their faith and found there was nothing left. Hearing their stories made me feel sad and disappointed, especially as I realized how many people their story influenced. Over the course of the last year, I’ve watched many Christian influencers fall: either through sin or their own public renouncing of their faith.
Then came the pandemic. Social distancing, loneliness, and isolation led to many of us spending more time connecting online rather than face to face. Over the past few months three important issues have risen to the forefront of our collective consciousness: a global pandemic, racial injustice, and a major election. On all three fronts, I watched people I know and love argue online. Differences of opinions compounded through hurtful memes and unfiltered judgments about the “other.” All the while, most of these conversations that could have been resolved in person, were depersonalized as words on a screen.
I felt myself growing angry, bitter, and resentful. I grew judgmental of those who had different opinions than myself. I grew more and more frustrated as I watched many in authority add fuel to the fire rather than speaking words of peace to resolve conflict. On Facebook, unkind memes and conspiracy theories flew faster than facts could be checked. On Twitter, witty remarks spoke truth but with no mercy or kindness, only judgment. Even the podcasters I was listening to laced their words with skepticism as they talked about the issues.
I could keep adding to my list of what has caused my skepticism this year, but I think you get the general idea. I have grown disappointed in people that I have previously respected. Thankfully, the election is now over and many of the hurtful memes have abated. Still, the damage of words cannot be taken back.
As I began to judge people and their motives, I found myself becoming harder to the things of God as well. It’s hard to love God and not love people. To love, we must be open, not closed. We must be ready and willing to see the good in others and the good of God. We must be able to give and receive mercy, not judgment. We must be open to see the log in our own eyes, before we find the stick in another’s eye. I have found that when skepticism reigns in me, my heart is hard and unrepentant.
Why am I sharing this now? Well, because the Lord has been making me more and more aware of this pattern in my life, and I have the feeling I’m not alone. I’ve confessed it before Him, and I’m asking Him for a heart of flesh, rather than a heart of stone. In order to see His Kingdom at work and be part of what He’s doing, I’ve got to have my vision restored. Honestly, repentance may not be a one-time process. Change means creating new pathways in the brain and that takes time. However, that’s the beauty of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. He makes all things new.
Pause: Take a moment to still your body and your mind and meditate on the verse above.
Renew: What about you? Are there places in your mind and heart that skepticism has been growing? What are the effects of this in your thought life, your relationships, and your spiritual life?
Next: Along with me, I invite you to confess where judgment is trumping mercy and love. As you notice skepticism and judgment creeping into your thought life this week, confess it and ask that the Lord would give you faith, love, and a heart of flesh rather than a heart of stone.
As believers in a cynical world, may we be wise as serpents, but still innocent as doves.
Did you know that some of the great heroes of the faith struggled with depression? If you’ve ever had bouts of depression, you can know that you’re in good company with such people as Mother Teresa, Martin Luther, and Charles Spurgeon. Today’s podcast guest, Diana Gruver, has herself experienced depression and knows firsthand how it can affect one’s faith life. In her new book, Companions in the Darkness, she writes about seven great saints who struggled with depression and other mental health issues.
During our conversation, Diana shares about her own experiences and how she found a sense of solidarity in knowing that other people of faith have walked the journey of depression too. We talk about finding hope in the midst of pain and about seeking delight in the midst of a difficult year. We also chat about music, soul-care, and her time living abroad.
If you enjoyed this conversation and want to know more about Diana’s work and writing, you can visit her website: dianagruver.com. If something from this podcast episode resonated with you, I’d love to hear about it. Write a comment below, or join the conversation on PRN’s Facebook page.
We can all use some good news these days, so I was pleased and grateful to have one of my favorite people on the podcast, Cynthia Simpson, who, as an Enneagram 7, is chock full of fun and joy. Cynthia was my first guest ever on the podcast, and I invited her back to share a praise report about what the Lord has done in the life of her son, Nolan. If you missed the first part of her story, you can hear it in Episode 3, Pressing In During Hard Seasons.
We also chat about what we’re finding fun this Christmas season, favorite Christmas traditions, and how Cynthia is practicing soul-care in her day-to-day life as a mother of 3 boys. This is a fun and uplifting episode, and you are going to come away from listening with a smile on your face.
Merry Christmas everyone, and may you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus!