A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

Month: August 2017

The Safe Place Series: Becoming a Friend Who Can Help, #1

safe place emotionallyIt was after lunch. We stood on the curb before we walked out to our respective cars. She’d divulged some hard stuff, stuff that could easily be embarrassing outside of the little table we’d shared inside. I was about to step off the sidewalk—and then I thought what it might feel like to be her.

I think I said something really astounding, like, Hey. Thanks. For just, y’know, sharing hard stuff. That is always a gift to me. (My husband taught me that part. He says it’s always a holy gift when someone shares their heart with you.) I know you could be tempted to feel kind of naked after all this. But thanks for just trusting me to keep stuff like that safe. I’m going to be praying with you.

She looked me in the eye and said, “I hope I’m that place for you when you need it.”

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Shame–and Your Marriage: On the Fear that Keeps Us Hiding (and Clawing Your Way Out)

shame in your marriage The power of shame continues to make my mind fizz. (Yours might, too: This post on shame in parenting has drawn more readers than any other post on this site, bar none.)

But now all those thoughts are bubbling over what shame might look like in a marriage; in our most intimate concentric circle of community. See, I know shame—this idea that I’m not worthy of connecting with someone—immediately leads me to cover up.

Take the typical fight with a spouse. First reaction is not typically, You’re so right. I’m snippy, and I have a profound case of PMS. It’s more along the lines of blame-shifting (Well, if you’d stop overreacting like some kind of hypersensitive Pomeranian). Denying (I didn’t say you were arrogant! I said you were cocky). Hiding (If I don’t say anything, it will look a lot like peace and taking the higher road).

The Masquerade

Joking aside—this predilection to hiding means the manifestations of shame are endless. For me, it led to a profound insecurity (you can read how that affected our relationship); to people-pleasing ad nauseam, to the extent of a near eating disorder.

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12 Ways to Pray for Your Child’s Teachers (FREE printables!)

12 ways to pray text

It’s happening.
Tomorrow, I’m sending all four kids to school for the first time. Lunch box chaos, carpool lines, field trips extracurricular activities, homework, track and field day–these are all mine at the crack of dawn tomorrow. There’s some anxiety, some excitement. (And you should see the kids!)
In celebration of the new school year–and since many of you are new to this blog –I’m reposting these specific prayers for these individuals who powerfully influence our kids, families, and communities day after day. 
DOWNLOAD HERE FREE here as a pdf–great for small groups, personal use, parent prayer groups, or this format for church bulletin inserts. I’m hoping it’s a great way to kick off loving on the teachers in our lives and cheering them on throughout the year. Please share if you find this useful!   -Janel

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Freebie Fridays: FREE Printable 28-day Self- or Small-Group Discipleship Guide in Basic English (Great for New English Speakers or Adult Literacy!)

I’m tickled pink about today’s freebie. And I’d love your help in passing it on, pinning it, or sharing it with people who might use it.

After teaching refugees for three years, I had a wish list. I wanted a free, printable discipleship guide that could take students through basic concepts of Christianity. I wanted it to be useful for a single person or in small groups. I wanted discussion questions and verses to memorize. But as much as I love to play with words in my own writing–I needed something without complex idioms or words that would discourage or confuse an early English speaker.

So imagine my delight when I finally got to pass this out as a parting gift to my students…alongside their first Bible in English.There was some ululating involved! (I may have participated, despite my rather rudimentary skills in this area.) And here it is for you: a FREE printable 28-day self- (preferably with a disciple or mentor) or small-group discipleship guide in basic English. discipleship guide title page

Please, pass it on to cross-cultural workers, adult literacy instructors, teachers of ESL/TOEFL/TOESL/English as a second language, or anyone else who might use it in their own creative ways. (I’ve also passed it out alongside films like the JESUS film or the Gospel of John.)

My vision for this is for it to be as universal as possible. Because of this, I consider it a “living document”–one I can alter to accommodate as many groups as possible. That’s where you come in. I’m still dreaming up new topics I’d like to include, and changing the language to be more understandable. Though I’ve taught ESL in a couple of other contexts, my experience is limited to a few people groups. I don’t know, for example, how it may be received in Asia, with Buddhist or Hindu audiences exploring Christianity. If you’ve got ideas on how to improve this or make it more palatable for certain people groups, please comment below.

And thank you for spreading the message of true freedom everywhere.

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Guest post: Where’s the Holy Spirit When My Marriage is Hard?

It was late, and she was crying now. Her marriage had been hard–hard for a long time.

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Ways to Keep Your Giving from Hurting, Part II

Missed the first post? Grab it here.

4. We are not the heroes. Give to organizations that empower and employ local workers, and who utilize the local economy.

Sending shoes or clothes or food, for example, to impoverished countries—in my experience–can simply be sending in what could be purchased there, without the Western manpower and shipping expenses. (My family and I still load Samaritan’s Purse shoeboxes at Christmastime; those are different to me.) Supporting local farmers and businesses helps those working hard in their own nations.

Organizations with local workers help in the constant interpretation of situations around them, so Westerners don’t make them worse. Employing local workers also tend to encourage Westerners to “work themselves out of a job” a bit. It presents authority figures from a culture’s own people, rather than encouraging a colonialist mentality. And it develops and cultivates vision in national workers who are so much more naturally equipped to help their own people. I love organizations working diligently to “entrust these things to faithful men” (2 Timothy 2:2).

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Ways to Help your Giving Keep from Hurting the Poor, Part I

The stories happened more often than I’d like to admit, and echoed a truth a friend had told me within my first few months of moving to Africa. “The longer I’m here, the more I realize just how hard it is to help without hurting.”

I’ve heard heartrending stories of boxes of early reading books collecting dust. Sewing machines gone into disrepair, sitting idle for years. Business owners possessing the equipment they need, but selling their goods for less than the goods cost, for lack of basic business training. Adoption funding such widespread corruption that an entire nation must close nearly entirely its adoption doors.

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Ideas for When You’re Spiritually Distracted

1. Acknowledge and explore it.

Why am I distracted? Am I having basic needs met, like sleep, food, exercise, and white space in my day to think? (Consider grabbing a snack or some yummy lotion to spread on your feet to make this time feel more like “you time” rather than checking a “should-do” box. Moms with young kids welded to thy knees–more ideas on that here. If you’re in need of a few minutes to settle your mind, set a timer on your phone and let your thoughts wander aimlessly. It’s…actually healthy.) What’s appealing about the rabbit of my brain’s bunny trails? Is it a fantasy? Is it feeding a need that I wish I had met right now-like comfort, security, approval, or power? Is there anything in my circumstances making me hunger for this…or is it just my natural security blanket? Commit the “holes” you’re feeling to God, and meditate on verses that direct you toward His complete comfort, security, acceptance, and power.

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When God Isn’t Who You Thought He Was: On Spiritual Bewilderment and Anger

Perhaps one of the most unsettling aspects of this year of upheaval for my family has been my own understanding of who God is. It actually took me awhile to churn out this post for you, because, well, “I’m angry with God” should ideally have some kind of resolution at the end, right? I’ve learned people get unsettled when you tell them you’re feeling spiritually jaded or rattled.

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Here in the Waiting

Last week I was remarkably privileged to spend three days with global women from around the world. I love the work of Thrive, a ministry which works diligently to provide a respite from the very real demands of cross-cultural work. Personally, you know a bit of the discombobulated state in which I left for the retreat.

It was in the meal line when I was laughing with a young 20-something who’d just left her home in Sweden after years serving there. As I reached for the fresh berries (berries! I missed those in Uganda. I may have taken an inappropriate amount, maybe four times), I was getting her name, her country of service, her tenure. “And you’re back now?” I asked.

Her: “Yup. Um, transition stinks.”

Me: “Yes. Yes, it does.”

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