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Bad Apples

That escalated quickly.”

Did it really though? I’m not sure quickly is the right word for this sentence. Perhaps finally is a better way to describe the events of the last week.

I say finally because hate, anger, fear, and violence are not new. The struggle for minorities but especially black Americans is not new. It’s never gone away and has been brewing in our nation for years, occasionally rearing it’s head before the outrage quietly subsides again.

We shouldn’t be surprised this happened. We should be embarrassed.

We should be embarrassed we allowed our fellow man to be treated this poorly. We should be ashamed of how we have labeled every officer as racist. We should be outraged that conversation in cooler hands are being ignored. We should be heart broken that people with bad intentions are taking attention off fixing a problem through their riots and looting.

This isn’t a cut-and-dry matter. There are more honest, loving, frustrated, good protesters marching for equal treatment for everyone then there are destructive looters.

There are more honest, kind, helpful, brave, good police officers then there are bad, racist, hateful ones.

Bad Apples

My grandma used to always say “one bed apple ruins the bunch” and I don’t think I have ever agreed with that statement more than I have in the last week. Instead of blacks against cops and citizens against government, we should be fighting this battle as love versus hate. All sides need to come together to a dress and weed out the hateful members of their groups.

We are letting the bad apples from all sides cloud the space for conversation and change. The bad apples are polarizing our sides and creating division. The bad apples are working together to stop our progress and hurt all sides.

The Bad Apples Need to Go.

Anti-racist people need to call out those who are causing destruction in violence during what should be peaceful protests. Nothing can be positively changed coming from a place of violence.

Bad cops need to go. Their brothers in blue need to stop protecting them with their code of silence. That’s where the real change starts.

You know how much I love Uncle Sol and all the great advice he left us in the book of Proverbs. So, Like so many other times, I turned to him this week and I found great advice in chapter 6 verses 16 through 19″

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devices wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers”

His words, not mine, but exactly what we should be focusing on now. Speaking the truth and doing it peacefully. Calling out those doing evil and addressing these problems with love. Not getting sucked into destruction and arguments or covering up to protect those we love who may be doing things we hate.

No one should protect anyone who is spreading discord among the people.

Do Better.

I’m praying for black America and for blue America. I’m praying for the good apples to resist the bad and keep the bunch good. We’re better than this America. We have to be.

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I can breathe. They cannot. – Hate has no place here.

I CAN breathe. 

I can have my breath taken away by a breathtaking view while the warm sun breathes down my neck as I wait for a celebratory bottle of wine to breathe next to me before I breathe a sigh of relief as it all breathes new life into me. 

I can do all the sayings. 

I can do all the breathing things. 

I can breathe freely. 

A basic bodily function necessary for giving life, continues to be a struggle for others. All because they’re trying to breathe while having dark skin. 

They have to hold their breath walking through neighborhoods where others might feel they don’t belong. 

They whisper reminders to themselves under their breath to be calm and be cool during a simple traffic stop over a burned out blinker. 

They do not breathe a word when confronted for no reason, attempting to diffuse the situation and quietly move on with their day. 

They keep breathing their last breath under the heavy knees and bullets of people who hate for no reason.

They may not have breath anymore, but their names and stories should be reminders of why we need to use our breath to demand changes. 

Use your breath to SAY THEIR NAMES:

They can’t breathe. Many more like them can’t breathe. Even more will not be able to breathe some day if we don’t use our breathe and voices to stop the spread of hate. 

Maurice Stallard. Vickie Jones. Timothy Caughman. Clementa C Pinckney. Cynthia Hurd. Susie Jackson. Ethel Lance. Depayne Middleton-Doctor. Tywanza Sanders. Daniel Simmons. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Myra Thompson. Philando Castile. Alton Sterling. Walter Scott. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Laquan McDonald. Marlon Lewis. Kajuan Raye. Ritchie Harbison. Christopher Sowell. Alfred Olango. Terrence Sterling. Terence Crutcher. Levonia Riggins. Alfred Toe. Kendrick Brown. Fred Barlow. Joyce Quaweay. Dalvin Hollins. Clarence Howard. Antwon Shumpert. Ollie Brooks. Jessica Williams. Willie Tillman. Kevin Hicks. Terrill Thomas. Peter Gaines. Marco Loud. Randy Nelson. Freddie Gray. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. Atatiana Jefferson. Yassin Mohamed. Sandra Bland. Sean Reed. Rayshard Scales. George Floyd. 

Share their names. Pass along their stories. Never forget their names. 

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When You Can’t Choose Joy – SheProclaims.com

Choose joy. 

You’ve seen it plastered around the world and on your screens. I know I have. It’s a novel idea. An idea which aims to empower us and make us happy. Everyone wants to be in control of their life and feelings. They want to be happy and love their life. We would all love to choose joy, but it isn’t as easy as the quotes want us to believe. 

I Can’t Choose Just One Feeling

Life is full of complex emotions. They very rarely come to us in an orderly single-file fashion. Instead, situations we face are filled with conflicting and smooshed-up emotions. We feel happy, sad, and mad but we also feel emotions like nervcited (nervously exicted) and angity (angry pity). We experience glarrow (glad sorrow), desohope (hope in a desolate place), charenity (serenity in chaos), and thousands of other nameless compound feelings I haven’t made up names for yet. 

Shoving them all aside so we can simply choose joy robs us of the tapestry of the human experience. Also, it’s impossible for many people, myself included.

Is joy all that great if we don’t have moments of despair as contrast in our life? I am not sure we actually enjoy joy if we don’t know what the opposite feels like. Does joy alone help us to process great loss in a healthy manner? Can joy single handedly cure depression and mend broken hearts? If choosing joy, and only joy, were really possible I suppose it could do all those things in a very monotone manner. 

Of course, if you’re someone who struggles with finding happiness, failing to choose joy as easily as everyone else feels like just one more failure in your life. The exact opposite of what the sentiment means. I’m like that. I can try so hard to choose to be filled with joy and gratefulness and all the good feels in spite of difficult circumstances but it doesn’t actually change things. Then I am sure I am doing it wrong. Which leads me further into my shame and depression. Which then leads to me eating way too much ice cream and needing new pants. The absolute opposite of joy.

Stop Choosing, Start Looking

Instead of “choosing” joy, let’s start looking for joy. Just a tiny little bit each day.  

Looking implies we may not find it easily or right away. I’m still looking for a set of car keys I lost when we moved back in 2014. I haven’t found them yet, but I might. I look for hair ties at least four times per day. It shouldn’t be as hard as it is since I own 4.7 billion of them but I always have to hunt for them. I always find one eventually. Looking is so much better than choosing. It’s less pressure. 

In theory, you should see one joy per day. I really think that is generally an achievable thing. We had a terrible night last weekend filled with nightmares for our daughter and little sleep for me. At the end of the night, we saw a sunrise so bright and colorful it filled the whole sky out our window. It was full or purple, our favorite color. I could not choose joy in that moment as a tired, overworked, worried mom but I found a moment to smile about. 

Some days I find a huge joy or multiple joys. A cozy fire and happy family on Christmas. Everything at Disney World which makes my heart want to explode with joy. My favorite meal surrounded by my favorite people. Spending a whole day reading a book. Warm baths, good beer, long naps, salon day, game nights, owls, my people, my kids and zillions of little things. 

Some days, I find very few. Some days joy is celebrating the end of a very difficult day. Making it through something you thought would destroy you can be a strange joy but it still counts. 

Choosing Joy is Hard

I cannot choose joy and it is ok. I am ok. You are ok. We are doing our best to get through the strange journey of life. We may be on top of the world one day then lost in our lowest lows the next but we are doing our best. You are doing your best. Choosing joy is not a fair expectation for everyday living. 

Just remember to look for joy each day. 

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Domestic Violence during CoronaVirus: a letter to the victims – SheProclaims.com

To the Women and Children being abused, 

I hope today is a good day for you. As good as the days can get right now. Your fear and worry are working overtime right now, understandably so. I hope fear and worry are all you have to endure today. 

I’ve been where you are, sort of. In the care of someone you are dreadfully afraid of. Trying to live in a home where you do not feel safe. You read every situation deeply, like a detective looking for a clue, gauging the situation while trying to make the world around him as pleasing as possible. Not pleasing for you, of course. It will probably be more difficult for you, but at least he will not be mad. Then you can drift through the day on pins and needles hoping the peace will last a little bit longer this time. 

I got so good at predicting and preventing problems. I went out of my way to make sure things were clean, nearly sterile, to avoid complaints. I set aside any of my own preferences and learned how to smile, shrug, and cheerfully go with the flow. It didn’t really matter, I felt so empty and dead inside. It always felt like I was watching a movie about my life, not actually living it. I know you know that feeling all too well. 

The irony of “stay safe, stay home” is not lost on you. It is not lost on me either. You’ve been on my mind since all of this began. Home is the least safe place for you, especially now, and you are stuck there for the time being. My heart has been hurting for you. The normal safe places of school, work, friends houses, the park, and church are closed right now. You are now stuck in a home with the one person you should not be near. The person who causes you heartache, pain, fear, and damage you aren’t even aware of yet. Damage you won’t find inside you for decades, if ever. There is nothing safe about staying at home for you. 

Is it your fault? Not in the least. Nothing you do ever deserves the reactions you are receiving. Nothing. Deep down, someone else’s fierce anger and self-hatred is overtaking them. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. They see your goodness and hate themselves for lacking that quality. It is a them problem which unfortunately becomes a you problem out of misdirection. They cannot see how to fix themselves, so instead they take it out on you. A good person, in a bad situation. 

People will say you should leave. You’d like to, wouldn’t you? That’s the dream. Getting away from that person, never going back, and moving on to a better life. It’s so much harder than just saying “leave”. It costs money to leave. You need time to plan. You need a minute alone to make a phone call to ask for a ride. You need a place to go. I know there are million resources out there, I’m so grateful for them all, but I also know how hard it is for you to get access. 

If you’re on the bank account, you are monitored too closely to stash anything away. You have no time to plan because you are living in uncertainty between rages. You can’t Google for help or make a phone call, it’s all monitored. Even if it wasn’t, if you are out of sight for too long red flags will fly, the anger will spill forth, and your day will end up much worse than if you hadn’t even tried. Besides, there’s also a chance few people will believe your story. They will think you are overreacting or struggle to correlate the person they know with the one you are telling them about. Right now, you don’t have the energy to convince people. You barely have the energy to get through the day. 

So that’s what you are doing now. Using your energy to get through the day. You’re doing your best to fly under the radar, keep the peace, and stay as safe as possible at home. I cannot imagine. While people are protesting their access to garden centers and hair salons, you are trapped in a prison of fear. Riding out a pandemic with someone much scarier than the virus. 

Please know I see you. Others see you. You matter and you do not deserve the situation you are in. Your options are really limited right now, I know. My heart is completely breaking for you with every passing day of isolation you get through. I am praying for you. I am here to listen if it is safe for you. When you can leave, I will be your number one supporter. The day will come even though it seems so far away right now. 

Your goodness will shine through. Hold tight to it in the dark moments. Remember who you are and fight to get back to that person as soon as this is over. The world knows you are hurting, we know you need us, we know you will need us. We will be ready and waiting for you as soon as you can get out. 

Until then, we love you. We’re sorry. We’re praying for you. 

A survivor. 

++++++++++

Domestic violence is a serious issue in our world under normal circumstances. Along with all of the “new normals” we now face, a major increase in abuse is happening and growing throughout the world. A 20% increase is expected over the coming months worldwide – including in your community. 

If you need help and can access it safely please reach out to a friend, community group, or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. You can quietly and discreetly CHAT with them at https://www.thehotline.org/help/

Research in your community where you can donate time, money, supplies, or resources to help victims of abuse now or when they can finally leave. Purchases from the She Proclaims Shop also help support these charities – you can learn more at www.sheproclaims.com/shop

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Who Will You Be When This is All Over? – SheProclaims.com

Who will you be when this is all over? This question got lodged in my head somehow this week. Here in Michigan, we are “sheltering in place” for three weeks. It sounds like a long time and feels even longer, but in the grand scheme of life it isn’t. It’s only three weeks (for now…who knows what’s next). 

Caterpillars spend 5 to 21 days inside their chrysalises turning into beautiful butterflies. Three weeks for even the slowest of caterpillars to go from fancy worm to magical butterfly. If they can do that, we certainly can learn a few things in the coming weeks. The question “who will you be when this is all over” deserves a little extra thought. 

The way I see it, we have two choices. We can come out exactly how we went in – which I guess would be a caterpillar fail – or we can turn inward and see new things about ourselves. We can make a few changes and learn a few new things to make us better than we were before. Enhanced versions of ourselves. 

A Change of Plans

If life had gone to plan this Spring, we would be ferrying one child to ballet, theater class, and softball while the other needed rides to vocal coaching and extra choir rehearsals. Matt and I would still be working a lot of hours because we should be getting ready to load up the family truckster to head to Disney World next week. We should be packing and planning while living our busy, chaotic, beautiful life. 

Instead, I am working from home with the kids running around. Matt’s role, classified as essential right now, requires him to still go to work every day. Aside from that, we’re here. We’re reading more books, playing more games, watching more tv, and going for more hikes than usual. We’re disappointed in the things we’re missing out on but it is what it is at this point. We are cozied up in our home for the next three weeks. 

Our home has become our chrysalis. We can ride it out and stay the same or choose to be better. [Spoiler alert: I’m choosing to be better. Pretty sure you saw that coming.] 

Be Bitter or Be Better

I could be mad the store didn’t have the Cheez-Its I like (we’re all a little hooked on the white cheddar Grooves) but I choose to see how lucky I am for everything they did have. Things of actual sustenance.

Being upset with the hoarders and complaining about them openly is understandable but I choose to use my energy instead to help those in my community who need things right now instead.

I could point fingers and debate the politics of this situation with the rest of the world but I’m going to be really honest right now: I don’t care. Does it really matter who’s fault it is it started or what party someone with an idea belongs to? I don’t care about any of those stupid details everyone keeps screaming about all day long. Mistakes were made and are being made, I think we can all agree on that, I am focused on doing my part not to spread anything and loving on the people around me right now. Honestly, that’s what really matters. Everyone should be looking out for each other, taking the steps to prevent spreading it, and reminding each other we’re all in this together. No one is alone. 

I also want to learn the ukulele, finish a few books I’m reading, memorize Psalm 23, clean out this house, do some painting, clean the yard, and take a lot of naps.  

Who will you be when this is all over?

When I come out of my chrysalis, I want to keep giving. I want to keep giving food and medicine to people in need. I am spreading love and friendship to people feeling sad and alone. I’m giving more time to my friends and family. I will do one less chore per day so I can color one more picture with my daughter. Staying up just a little later so I can play one game with my son will be a priority. I want to sit on the sofa next to my husband instead of lounging in my favorite chair when we talk at night. 

I want to be a happier, more living, more peaceful person when I come out. Leaning into my life and my people like never before will be my new normal. I’m going to be a butterfly. 

Who will YOU be when this is all over?

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Playdoh & Patience

“And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.” 

Isaiah 64:8

I love this verse. It is something both hopeful and reminiscent to me. Something I can relate to easily. I remember the playdoh of my childhood. The smell, the squishy feelings, and the fun tools seemed to give life to unlimited possibilities of what I could create. I would recreate my favorite foods (I make a mean playdoh pepperoni pizza) or the required craft of little girls of the 1980’s: a rainbow. I always tried so hard get the color rows the same width for equal uniform bands in my sculptures. 

Sometimes it worked out, sometimes not. And that is the beauty of playdoh: you can make something beautiful over and over again, fixing the mistakes, and it never stops allowing you to change its shape. 

When I finished something, I’d leave it be for awhile. Enjoying its brightness, proud of my creation, and sometimes use it in some fantastic story play. Eventually, it would be time dismantle my creations – whether it be that I was tired of them, needed to “fix” something, or it was time to clean up for the day. I’d take the pieces apart, trying to keep the colors separated, and squish them into their containers for another day. The creations were no longer there but the PlayDoh was ready for next time. For the possibilities and great ideas I’d bring to it next. 

I didn’t hate the PlayDoh. I didn’t hate my creations. I didn’t pack it up because I thought what I made was terrible and I couldn’t stand to look at it. Quite the contrary. I squished it all down because I saw how I could make it better. Or because the day’s plan called for it to lose its shape into the containers for awhile before I could bring new life to it with my next fantastic plan. 

As I’ve grown, those feelings have come back when I read Isaiah 64. We are more than clay to God. We are His precious creations that He is so fond of. He formed you tenderly with His own hands and loves to look at proudly. You are valued, treasured, loved, wanted, and important. And, like any child or potter with their clay, sometimes even God needs to make changes to His creations for whatever part of life we’re entering into next. 

He needs to break us down sometimes to build us back up into something better. Any potter will tell you, sometimes you have to bring your creations back down to nothing and start over. To help it be better. To improve your design. To make sure it’s ready for the purpose you have in mind for it. What looks like and feels like destruction is actually the start of something great. 

It’s hard to see it in the moment. When you look around and see your life slowly being torn down. The clay of your being slowly caving in on itself until all that is left is a mound of shapeless you. Without a solid base, strong form, clear design, or obvious purpose. These moments often come with little to no warning, leaving you scrambling to understand why. Wondering what area of you needed the improvement and what you can do to help things along.

I know these feelings all too well. I am there with you. Lying on the potter’s wheel and feeling it slowly spin. Just enough that my form is staying a cohesive lump and not merely falling flat, but not fast enough that I feel any changes or growth.

It’s hard to be in this place. I liked how I was before this. After many years of struggles and insecurities, I was finally reaching a point in life where things were mostly happy, stable, and satisfying. Of course I wished I could drop 20 pounds or win the lotto and work a little less, but if someone had asked me how my life was going the answer would have been: wonderfully. 

Clearly, I was wrong. There were areas in my life and in my soul that needed attention. They needed more work and some reforming, so like a skilled potter, God has taken me back down to the wheel. All of me is still here, in this shapeless lump. He’s starting to rebuild me with some improvements that are hard right now but will be so wonderful when they’re done.

I thought I was comfortable in my skin. Perhaps I was to an extent or more than I used to be, but the last six months have made it clear to me that there was room for improvement. The moment I came face to face with someone that was thinner than me, prettier than me, and living a life I wanted – I fell apart. I stopped eating. I stopped functioning at all. Everything I thought I had gotten past from years of previous hurts from multiple people was still there. I hadn’t moved on from anything, just ignored it and kept going with life. 

That’s the thing about potters and God: no matter how much their creation seems finished they can see the areas that need some work, even if the rest of us can’t. They know how to fix it, how to slowly build it back up, form it, and give it new life. I couldn’t see the flaw buried deep inside myself, but God knew. He knew it was holding me back from being a strong and complete as He wants me to be. 

The hard part is being patient while He does His work. Letting go of control or preconceived ideas of how God should fix us or our situation. I am beyond guilty of feeling that He is taking too long or not doing things right. And by right, of course, I mean how I want them done. I am not sure when I started to think that I knew all the answers and I know how my life should go, but I know I’m not the only one who thinks these things.

You probably do too. This impatience is just one more flaw He’s working on at the pottery wheel with me. Shaping me and holding me in place until I can start to fully let go and trust in his process. He can’t finish making all the improvements to me until I can calm down and let Him make a solid foundation. One only He knows how to make. 

That’s really hard for me. I’m a doer and a fixer and a very impatient person. This is trying all of my patience and then some. I see those who have hurt me living comfortably and seemingly without pain while I struggle to get through the day. 

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil.” – Psalm 37:7-8

But of course, God knows what He is doing. He knows the plans for me and how He will make them happen. My job isn’t to tell him how to do this. My job is to give and take with each loving knead He makes in me. To grow, shift, and change as things around me do; all under His watchful eye. 

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Mirror Mantras

Update Feb 10, 2020: a lot of people are asking me about positive thoughts and mirror work. Here’s a piece dear to my heart!

I live with anxiety and depression.

I used to hate thinking or saying that out loud. Its not like its something that I’m proud of, but its part of me. I also live with red hair, lots of freckles, and about 20 extra pounds I wish I could lose. Its all just a part of what makes me, me.

It took me a long time to get to a somewhat comfortable place with that. I think its hard for a lot of people to talk about because its been kept in the dark so long. We’re all just supposed to be “ok” (whatever that means) when lots of us just aren’t. But just because you’re not meeting someone else’s definition of “ok”, it doesn’t mean you’re failing at life. Which is exactly how I have felt in the past.

I would tell myself that people who make more money, take more trips, do more work, or have more things are more valuable to society and successful in the world than me. The same went for anyone taller, thinner, tanner, sportier, or with less wrinkles than me. They had clearly figured out some easy way to have everything while I felt I was barely treading water.

I was literally telling myself every day that I was the problem. I wasn’t good enough. I was my own worst critic and enemy. Some days I still am. The nagging, negative words in my head became how I saw myself, no matter how many people tried to tell me otherwise.

This was a major argument I had with my therapist. She would tell me, “just change how you talk to yourself. say nice things.” Uh, yeah, if it was that easy I wouldn’t have been paying her out the nose to try and help me get there. We debated this for weeks, with me leaving her office in tears and frustrated at times. I could not “just do it”. So I decided to really start looking for HOW I could try to do it.

Then, something I had rolled my eyes at (and that you may be rolling your eyes at right now) fell into my lap in all my searching: mantras.

When I first thought of mantras, all I thought of were hippies and bald monks reciting uplifting words while meditating in the woods somewhere (no disrespect to hippies, bald monks, or woods intended). Or, someone staring at themselves in the mirror saying it over and over to get pumped up for the day. It felt too weird and forced for me. Fake even. I mean, I’m pretty good at telling when someone is lying to my face – especially when its me. Faking it to “trick myself” into believing the words wouldn’t cut it.

So instead of saying them in the mirror, I took a dry erase marker and wrote my mantra across the bathroom mirror. I didn’t have to say it or recite. I just had to see while I was brushing my teeth, doing my hair, applying make up, taking a shower, or just using the bathroom. And instead of telling myself how great I already was, I decided to talk to myself like I would to a friend. Build me up slowly and support me. On the mirror.

Are your eyes rolling yet?

I started with a very simple one to start: “You’re doing your best and that’s enough.” I knew I couldn’t fix all of this overnight, but trying was at least a good start. And at that moment, about all I could do. That was up on the mirror for a few weeks. Until I got comfortable with seeing words up there. Then, they started to sink in. I felt calmer and a little kinder to myself – even though I still had a long way to go.

Over the last 12 months I’ve rotated through quite a few “pep talk mantras”. I change them when I feel I need to, to suit where I am in life, and they range from quotes to thoughts to Bible verses or notes from other books I’ve read. There are no rules.Here are a few examples I’ve used or love that you can try:

  • You are enough.

  • Its ok to not be ok.

  • Keep going.

  • Live in the Upside Down (a reference to the piece by Lysa TerKeurst in her book Its Not Supposed to be This Way)

  • You are loved

  • You are clothed in strength and dignity (a twist on Proverbs 31:25)

  • All good things take time

  • “Its been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will” (Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables)

Have you ever tried a mantra? Got one to share? I’m working on a running list and would love YOUR input. Need a mantra? For a specific place? Share that too. Together, we can all build back up.

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Thanksgiving Thoughts

I had no idea 2 years ago when I started diving deep into my Bible journaling and studying what the next 18 months had in store for me. Marriage struggles (we’re good now), financial problems (also good), parenting challenges (still doing our best), depression dive (I’m in my comeback!), deaths close to us, sickness around us, and struggles for people we love. I have been through hard times before but 2018 and 2019 may have been the hardest years on my heart to date.

I came across many verses which continue to help me when I struggle and I am still finding new ones all the time. Even new meanings in old ones as I read them again. However, in 2017 I found two in Colossians and Thessalonians which speak to my heart so strongly here in 2019 that I wanted to share them with you. Both are really great books to read this time of the year, in my opinion;  full of beauty, hope, thankfulness, and truth. A little like me. 

Colossians 3:15 “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace and always be thankful.”

I look around the world, my state, my town, my office, my church, my family and I can find people I agree with fully. People who stand for what I do and stand up to what I do also. I love those people. They are easy to get along with, to be thankful for, and to work closely with. They fill my heart. 

I can also find plenty of people in each of these places I do not agree with at all. I find their stances to be unfair to many, hurtful, based in exclusion, omission, and rejection. Hearing them talk makes me want to cry for the world and apologize to my children. Sometimes, I actually do. I struggle to work with them and be thankful for their work in the world. They break my heart. 

There are also many people who walk the fine line between filling and breaking my heart. These are the people I love so dearly and support in so many ways, yet cannot understand how their heart sees the world’s issues how they are. I am roughly 50-75% thankful for these people at a glance, depending on if they are doing what I like or not in a given moment. They confuse my heart. 

Colossians 3:15 was an epic wake up call for me (also, if you really want to think about the body of Christ idea, check out this sermon from my church recently!). We are all different. We are not all the same parts, which can lead to some issues, but need to live in peace. We need to be thankful for the people around us. I do not agree on many things with a friend who spends a lot of time volunteering at a veteran’s hospital. He’s doing good, even all of his work isn’t what I want. People I wish would open their eyes to causes around the world volunteer at their churches to help the hungry. I’m thankful for that. 

We don’t have to agree to be thankful for one another. 

Thessalonians 5:18 “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 

How hard is this one? I stared at this one for a long time when I first came upon it. It’s hard to be grateful in hard times. I think its only human to see the bad at face value. It’s easy to get lost in the sadness, hopelessness, and darkness surrounding hard times. If you’re anything like me, the easy path is the preferred one whenever possible. Life is hard enough without volunteering yourself for more, right?

In this case, that couldn’t be more wrong. Being down, brings you down further. Letting the sadness get too far, lets the depression sneak in and take over. Losing sight of the goodness and being thankful makes life a long, miserable sentence. Even in the hard times, there is something good in each day. 

Every night for as long as I can remember, I ask my daughter at bedtime “What was something kind someone did for you? And what is something kid you did for someone?”. Some nights she’s got more than one answer for each question queued up for me. Some nights she bursts into tears and we need to talk a bit to come up with two answers together. Some days are better than others. 

The point of this verse and the point I’m trying to make to her is this: there is something good in every day. Sometimes we have to look harder than others, but it’s there. Find it. Don’t let the hard times or sad times win. 

There are so many more, I could go on, but go find them for yourself. This year? I’m thankful for you, for healing, for my family, my friends, my job, my health, my cat, and all the hard things I have been able to overcome. I’m ready for whatever is next.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Dear Teenage Son – I don’t know it all but I do know some.

Dear teenage son,

I am ridiculously excited to have a front row seat for the big, bold life you are creating and to be your guide for this part of your life. So excited, it’s freaking me out a little bit about how quickly you’re getting the hang of things on your own. You need me less these days. Which makes me proud and sad all at once. I still want to protect you and I can’t believe how big you’ve already grown; but don’t think for a minute you know everything. You’re not grown yet (even when you are, you still won’t know everything – trust me on that too).

You’re not the only one feeling a flurry of conflicting confusing feelings in your teenage years. They suck for you, I get that, middle school is literally the worst – anyone who claims otherwise as an adult has clearly blocked it all out. It’s really hard for the parents too, though. So hear me out and cut me some slack. I know I’m old and I don’t understand (just like grandma was old and didn’t understand me) but I really do know a thing a thing or two about where you are.

Let’s be honest: I really liked being your number one person when you were little. I was like a fabulous superhero mom. I still want to tell you the direction you should go, then swoop in to save you from any trouble I see. I want to warn you about friends or situations which could lead to heartbreak. I want to save you from the hard things but I know I can’t. As good as it might make me (or you) feel in the moment – it wouldn’t do either of us any good.

I know these things because I learned by living. I need to give you that chance too. Even if it sucks for us both. That doesn’t mean you’re on your own. Not all all. I saw the perfect saying the other day about it: There are three places you will always find me: in front of you guiding the way, behind you cheering you on, or by your side. I can’t think of a better way to put it.

I’m trying to lead the way for you. I want to show you right from wrong, that’s totally a requirement of this mom gig. I also want to show you its ok to stumble or make a mistake – just say you’re sorry and learn from it.

I want to show you that pure love exists. No matter where you go or what you do (even if I don’t agree), I will love you. The people willing to tell you the truth, even when it hurts, but still love you fully are the kind of people you need to cling to. Those are your people. I will always be that kind of person. 

I will always be behind you. I may not agree with all you do in life, but I am cheering for you. I hope it always turns out for the best. When everyone else walks away, even if I think we’re both crazy, I’ll back you up. I’ll cheer you on. I’ll be in your corner. I have seen you do amazing things, I know what you are capable of. If you’re all in, so am I. Tell me what you need me to do.  

And on those days when you are lost and don’t know what to do – I will be beside you. I may be just as scared and lost as you, but I will never leave you on your own. I make no promises I will know what to say to make you feel better (yeah, that’s right, I might be speechless). I may have no idea or suggestion to help with the situation, but I will not budge. Even if all I can do is listen, hug, and hold your hand – I will be there. Forever.

I will also hold you accountable for your actions or words. I will stand by consequences from other adults when you’ve goofed up with them. You will not always like what I have to say. There will be lectures, groundings, apologies, and arguments along the way. You’ll roll your eyes and hate me for an evening, but I am as ready as I’ll ever be for that. I love you more than life itself but that doesn’t mean this is the cakewalk portion of life (spoiler alert: I’m almost 40 and I’ve yet to find the cakewalk part; I’ll let you know if I do). I don’t plan on raising assholes and we’re bound to have the occasional growing pains getting there. I still love you though.

This is new territory for us both. I’m trying not to screw it all up but we already butt heads from time to time. I’m sure that will go on for years to come. I have never done this before as a parent, only as a kid. It’s a little confusing on this end of the spectrum too. I am doing my best, so cut me some slack if I get a little crazy trying to help, guide, or protect you.

It’s hard being your age and that’s coming from me (I have seen some shit, man). Navigating friends, teachers, parents, and all the other things in your life is crazy hard. I remember. I am doing my best to help you navigate and be by your side. Sometimes, it’s scary.  Then I remember this line from a book you and I shared long ago “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” 

Its like Dr. Seuss knew you were coming and wrote a cheer just for you. Or he knew how much I’d love you and wrote a reminder for me. Either way, he was right. You’re doing an amazing job and going in an exciting direction. You’re a good kid, becoming a good man. I am eternally grateful to be along for the ride – even on the days I have to control to get you back on track. 

I love you always, Mom

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This is important: learn to step out of your comfort zone.

It can be scary to step out of your comfort zone. I like volunteering at my kids’ schools. I wish I loved it, but the idea of having a weekly commitment makes me itchy and takes the joy out of it for me. I’ve done the weekly commitments but sporadic volunteering is by far my strength. That is what I like. Specifically, the book fair. I like the book fair because I love books. And shopping. This combines the two for a good cause! Plus, I can score some great deals on Christmas gifts. It’s literally the perfect gig for me.

A few weeks back, was the fall book fair. I’m sure you’ve seen a similar set up before. Large metal bookshelf carts form a large horseshoe in the center of the school library. Brightly colored tables display books for every age. It’s a visual reminder to me of my children sitting on my lap with plump board books, now curled onto the sofa with chapter books I’m not a part of. Some books have memories and some I wish I had a child small enough to buy it for.

That night, I stood near a table of posters and books, watching families weave through the maze of shelves. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed an older man with a young boy walk into the library. Grandparents and grand kids aren’t an unusual sight at these events, but something about these two caught my attention. 

Most kids jog into the book fair. Or at the very least power walk. This boy walked in slowly, almost unsure if he should even be there. He paused next to the first metal cart, briefly inspecting the chocolate calculators no child can resist touching, before his eyes fell on a table full of his favorite books. 

Silently, he approached the table and began flipping through the pages of each book. I wasn’t the only one who took notice and soon his grandpa was by his side asking him questions about the books. I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation:

“Do you like these books? Have you read them”

“My teacher has them. She lets me read hers. I read this one, but she doesn’t have all the other ones.”

“You can read them though? The words make sense and you like the stories?”

“Yeah, I like them a lot.”

“We should get you one. Everyone should have a book to read. Which one do you need next?”

“Are you sure? How much are these?” the boy held up the book and the man looked around the table for a price sign.

“I don’t know. I don’t see a sign and I don’t really know how books work,” he took the book from the boy, flipping through the pages and spinning it in his hands trying to spot a price to no avail. 

“Its ok grandpa, I can get it at the library,” he reached for the book to place it back on the table, but his grandpa pulled in back.

“No. This is important. I might not know how this works but I know its important, we’re finding someone to help.”

It took all my self-restraint not to buy every book on the table for the boy. When grandpa and I made eye contact, I stepped in to tell them the price of the book they were holding. He asked if I could show him and his grandson “how books work”. I gave them a quick crash course on where to find book prices, what the book is about, and what number it is if it’s part of a series. Things I take for granted that my children and I know, were totally new info for the two standing before me. They paid for the book and left. I returned to where I was watching the book browsers but I couldn’t quite shake the older man’s words. 

“This is important. I might not know how this works but I know its important. We’ll find someone to help.”

They could have said nothing and walked away. The grandpa could have been so ashamed about his lack of book knowledge he directed his grandson back out into the hallway. He could have just thrown the book on the counter and prayed the cost wasn’t going to be something out of his budget when it was rung up. Instead, he admitted he was not an expert, did not shy away from asking for help, and made sure they got what they needed before heading out that evening. Not only did he step out of his comfort zone – he bravely long jumped himself into the unknown.

That’s kind of how I feel about my journey in life and wherever this is going. I do not know it all. I am actively still in the middle of figuring things out. The only thing I am really sure of is how important it is to share, even if I need help along the way. I am not an expert on many things. I hold no fancy degrees in psychology, social work, Christian studies, writing, the Bible, marketing, or depression. I can still know those things are important. Instead of hiding away, I can find the help I need to get the outcome I want and share what I learn with anyone else in need. 

I think that’s something a lot of people allow to hold them back. I am totally guilty of it. I see people doing or achieving things I want to, then I quickly assess my progress toward those goals. If I am not on par with them or at least catching up, I immediately believe I am not as good as them. The idea of working through those feelings or getting help doesn’t cross my mind. You’ve either got “it” or you don’t, right? I know I’m not the only one carrying these ridiculously high standards with me.  

I wonder how many amazing things I have missed out on because I didn’t feel I was an expert at it soon enough. How many things have we all missed out on which could have helped improve our lives or the lives of others? Why do we let doubt and fear take the wheel so often? Why do we act like we can only do the things we already know? When you step out of your comfort zone, you take back control. 

If a man in his 70s can wander into an elementary school library and admit to his grandson, then a woman he never met before, he doesn’t know how books work – we can chase after our dreams. If he can stand there, surrounded by Captain Underpants, Dogman, and Baby Shark books while he learns where to find information on a book sleeve without an ounce of embarrassment – we can ask questions and allow others to guide us too. You just need to step out of your comfort zone.

If you don’t know how, but know its important – do it. Do it scared, unsure, shaky, and uncertain – but do it.