Posted in Christian, God, happiness, longreads, Uncategorized

Seeking peace

“They should shun evil and do good; seek peace and chase after it.” — 1 Peter 3:11

     I have discovered that there are two kinds of passengers in the world: the ones who find joy in the ride and the ones who cannot wait to be there. When he was little, my son fell into the latter category. He could ride like a champ but got bored easily, which led to thousands of hours of “I Spy” between the front and back seats of my car. 

    Until one hot sticky afternoon when we were leaving a parade. I was exhausted from searching for a parking spot, lugging all our spectator gear to the route, and packing it all back after hours under the blazing summer sun to drag it back to the car with a three year old in tow. Out of snacks and trapped in miles of traffic moving at a snail’s pace I did not have a round of “I Spy” in me when the request came in from the backseat. 

    In a moment of desperation, I had a genius mom moment that still lives in infamy in our family. On that hot day I invented what would become “The Yellow Car Game”. I knew there were plenty of cars for him to look at in the traffic, he would be focused on searching them all, but I didn’t see a yellow car anywhere. It was the perfect challenge to keep him busy and rest my mind for a few minutes.  He only found one yellow car that day and it took him 30 minutes – because they aren’t that prevalent.

Stop for a minute and think, When was the last time you saw a yellow car? 

    This immediately replaced “I Spy” as out go-to car game. It was hard at first, until we really started looking closely at the world around us. We had to survey parking lots we passed, drive-thru lines, and car lots to find them. We couldn’t just wait for one to pass us on the highway like so many other colors. We had to seek these out. 

    Eventually, a ten minute trip across town could uncover two or three yellow cars. We could find upwards of ten to fifteen in the span of a day of errands (never the same car twice is the rule). Either everyone suddenly started to buy yellow cars or they had been there all along but we just hadn’t seen them because we weren’t looking for them. I’m going with the second option. 

If you seek it, you will find it.

    Peter would have been good at the yellow car game. Peter knew the importance of seeking things and shared that in his letter to God’s people scattered throughout the world. Times are hard, people are struggling, many are suffering, but Peter reminds them they can still find peace if they seek and chase it. 

Obviously, all of their sufferings won’t be cleared away in a matter of days just for looking for peace but it is a clear reminder that even within hard times goodness is present. It may require difficult searching, like moving stuff in the front of the fridge to see what’s in the back, but it is not impossible. It needs to be actively sought or created but the choice to be a good person, search for peace, and strive for it is always available. 

For those receiving Peter’s words years ago, it likely referred to living good lives in whatever land they found themselves in. They should find ways to live harmoniously wherever they were and actively live as good citizens. Avoiding evil deeds, seeking peaceful living, and making it their goal is what God wanted from them (it applies to us too…).

For us, these words have far more power and application than we likely realize. 

Shunning evil in life is obvious, but there are many mini-evils we face every day that do not always strike us as such in the moment. How many times are we faced with opportunities to spread gossip, judge others’ actions, tarnish a reputation, speak harshly, flip the bird in traffic, or many other things in a day? 

When we slip up and do these things, and we will slip up – we are only human, we diminish the peace around us. We create hurt feelings, anger, conflict, and spread discontent around us. 

If we change our mindset to look for the good in people and situations, we will find it. When we are faced with frustration and respond with healthy conversation, we will uncover more peace. Small steps in our every day can lead us to more happiness and peace by just adjusting our focus.

Gossip stops with you.

Accept others as they are, not as you want them to be.

Meet anger with conversation.

Smile and wave instead of rant and rave. 

Be patient, life isn’t a timed contest.

Find peace everyday. 

The harder you look, the more you will find. 

And keep an eye out for yellow cars. You’ll see them far more often than you expect. Remember those finds when goodness and peace seem out of reach, they’re out there too. 

Happy searching. 

Posted in happiness, kids, longreads, love, moms, motherhood, parenting, Uncategorized

My Son Calls Someone Else Mom…and I love it!

My son’s father and I divorced when he was 1. 

He got his step mom when he was 2. 

He started calling her mom when he was 3. 

People used to ask me how I could stand for my child calling another woman mom. Actually, some still do. 

When we got a divorce, I knew this meant I would be away from my child. There would be days he would wake up and go to sleep without seeing my face and that fact shattered my heart. That was not the idea of motherhood I signed up for nor was it the kind of childhood I had imagined for him from before I even knew of his existence. 

When he first started calling someone else mom, it stung. It stung deep. I was worried I would be replaced or he would end up confused. I hated the idea that someone else could possibly be equal to me in his eyes; I just wanted to be the greatest human he’d ever met (let’s be real, I still do). 

It wasn’t until he was 4 and we could have an actual conversation about titles, right around when he wanted to call his step-dad “dad”, that it all made sense.

He hadn’t been calling her mom because he had no faith in me, he had been calling her mom because it felt normal. When he was there and the other kids said it, he could too. He could blend in and not feel weird; he just wanted to have a “normal” life. He also found comfort in her. He knew she wasn’t me, I was his favorite, but having a mom when he was away from me made it better for him.

He told me about games she played, parks they went to, and things they did. He smiled and giggled sharing funny stories that had made him happy. He said she was nice and she loved him. He said he loved her too – if that was ok with me. 

In that moment, the clouds parted and I understood how lucky I was to have her in my son’s life. She wasn’t there to replace me, she was there to love him when I couldn’t. Though we had never really met, we were silent teammates in the loving of this boy. Two women, on opposite ends of the spectrum, loving and guiding a small boy. He was the one I gave birth to, the one she signed up for, and he loved us both. 

I realized how lucky I was that he called her mom. He wanted to call her mom. That meant he felt her warmth and love wrapping him up when I could not. He knew she would make sure he had breakfast and make dinners he liked. She would play games, go to the park, and be silly with him during his time away from me. I may not have seen him every day, but he laid his head down every night knowing a woman who would keep him safe and loved him was just down the hallway. Always. No matter which house he was at.

So, no. I had no problem with my son calling another woman mom. Fourteen years after he first met her, she is no longer his step mom on paper, but she is still his mom. She loves him, she has seen his ups and downs, helped him when he was sick, and is still in his corner to this day. I have no doubt she will be there for him forever, either. I’m not hurt at all he calls her mom, in fact, I’m grateful he does. Kids need all the love they can get.

He found a soul that loved him purely and forever, which is what motherhood is really all about. It has nothing to do with a bloodline or what a piece of paper says. Motherhood is about love, dedication, tough love, and hopeless optimism for a child’s life. It comes from moms, but sometimes from other people our children are blessed to come across in life. It’s a gift to know your child is loved like you love them when you are not around. 

I’ll never be replaced, neither will you, but knowing your child is loved brings a peace unlike any other. 

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone. The moms, step moms, bonus mom, grandmas, aunts, cousins, best friends, teachers, neighbors, and anyone else who steps up to lovingly guide a child through the complexities of life. When they’re scared, lonely, and can’t be by their mom – you are a gift from God. 

Thank you to everyone who is part of my kids’ mom tribes – especially Ben’s other mom. 

Posted in Christian, longreads

Covid-19 Questions

Covid-19 questions still rattle around in my mind.

I thought as we approached a year since our lock downs, things might be better, but I think that was too optimistic of me because I got Covid-19, in February of 2021. I was really excited that our house, with two essential workers and two kids attending in-person school, might make it to the vaccine finish line without bringing the vile germ into our house. That’ll teach me to count my eggs before they’ve hatched, right? 

I went through every symptom with textbook precision, right down the list. Congestion, fatigue, trouble breathing, fever, body aches, loss of taste and smell all came on like clockwork. Thankfully, twenty-five days after my runny nose began, the worst of it seems to be fading away finally. The loss of smell and taste are still with me, along with lots of aches, fatigue, and Covid-19 questions. 

This is kicking my butt – and I’m an otherwise healthy person.

By now I am sure you know someone directly who has had it. If not, I will be that person for you. As I have been sitting in my house – first in isolation, now in quarantine with my family – I am struggling more than ever with people choosing to ignore precautions for their own convenience. It’s not a great testament to you defending your rights, it’s a selfish assault on everyone else’s. 

Mask up for everyone.

Also, if you didn’t wear a mask and were around me, you owe me a casserole. If you’re going to make people sick, at least do the decent thing and drop off a meal. That is just Midwest living 101, for crying out loud.

When did we become such a fractured world? When did everyone start putting the preferences of “me” in front of the basic needs of “we”. Illness aside, I think this is the saddest commentary on the state of the world I have seen in a long time. We have finally fallen to a disgusting level where people are willing to pass an illness, allow others to suffer, and some to die because they are annoyed by a mask or canceled vacation plans. Instead of asking Covid-19 questions and listening to the facts, many people still refuse to love their neighbor and put a piece of fabric on. It’s disgusting behavior.

Sheep and Goats

Instead of debating who is acting like a sheep and who is the G.O.A.T in our nation, we need to step back and remember we will be asked about actions one day. When we are separated like sheep and goats as Matthew 25:31-46 tells us. It’s worth refreshing your memory if it’s been awhile. Those who stay with our shepherd and care for the flock, will be rewarded. Those who were too stubborn will have to answer some very difficult questions.

Will you be a sheep or goat?

Laugh at my mask wearing and rule following but my answer will be that I did all I could to protect all of the people. I put “we” ahead of “me”. When the world around me didn’t do the same, I pulled back from being around my own family to further protect the “we” from what was ravaging me. As much as it hurt to not touch or hug my family, to hear them laughing while I laid in bed sick – it was nothing compared to what I would have felt if they got sick. The same goes for everyone around me. 

Who are you living for?

It’s easier to ignore the needs of the world around you than it is to make sacrifices to help others. There is less planning and reworking of life when you live that way. But, are you really living a better life if you’re accomplishing it at the expense of others? If you are, I don’t think that could actually be called a “better life”.

He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ – Matthew 25:45, NIV

Jesus doesn’t only want us living for ourselves or the “important” people in the world. Our thoughts need to go to the least of the people. The ones who are at risk, in need, or have no direct impact on our lives. The ones that a simple mask and spacing out in public can help the most. If you’re not living for everyone, you’re not living for Him. When they ask me the Covid-19 questions, I’ll be able to say I did what I could for everyone. I did my best to protect family, friends, strangers, and everyone in between. I protected the least of us.

Posted in Depression, happiness, longreads, motherhood, selfcare

Melting Piles – How to Tackle Your To Do List

I live in Michigan, right along the shore of Lake Michigan. We are quite accustomed to winters when streets, sidewalks, and every possible open space become filled with inches, or feet, of snow. After every snowy winter storm we do what we can to live and work around this pristine annoyance: we shovel, push, and throw it into massive piles. We shovel it as far out of our way as possible then get on with life and the rest of our to do list. 

Eventually, the storms subside and give us room to breathe. The sun comes out a bit to help melt, or at least compress, some of what was left behind. We do what we can to cut the big piles back more and return to our daily lives while we wait for warmer weather to eventually cut us some slack. We wait for warmer days to handle the small piles in a few sunny days with temps over freezing

However, the large piles still loom well into the Spring. 

Until the machinery comes out, loaders and dump trucks, to scoop up the piles and take them off to a remote area of town. They can melt at their own pace without continuing to be a visual danger to drivers or threaten to flood our neighborhoods along with all the other snow slowly disappearing into the ground. 

Today I realized, as I watched the scoop and dump ballet play out near a behemoth cul-de-sac pile this week,  I couldn’t help but think about how we apply a lot of our snow dealing theory to our problems and to do lists in life. We push things to the side, let small problems disappear on their own, and create messy behemoths we must deal with at a later date. Ever catch yourself doing this exact thing? I do (all the freaking time…).

When problems fall into our lives, we handle what we can and group together what we cannot in that moment – we have to keep going on in life after all. When things slow down, we can start working on our problem piles to make them less intrusive to our daily life. And finally, one day when things are finally sunny, we can scoop what is left and deal with them properly. I know we do not have literal piles but our to do lists can feel just as daunting.

We don’t have to deal with everything or fix everything all at once. We don’t need to deal with everything in real time. But if we don’t deal with it eventually, the piles become unmanageable. It’s ok to handle what we have to, then what we can, before finally dealing with the bigger stuff when we have the time and mindset to do so; but we need to be careful not to put it off for too long. 

We don’t have an army of loaders and dump trucks to bail us out. 

Putting off hard conversations and real self-assessment is easier and more comfortable that willingly wading through awkward, messy, hurtful situations. I get that. But unlike the snow, the problems won’t melt away on their own. We have to take thing apart bit-by-bit on our own or risk being buried alive. 

We have to push aside the fear and believe we can do the hard things. 

The voice in your head telling you that you can’t are lying. The one telling you to push them off and ignore them are wrong. The one convincing you that you don’t have the tools, time, patience, or energy is just fear trying to hold you back from the life you deserve (and let’s be honest – the one you want). 

Nothing gets better and growth can’t happen without doing big things. They might be scary or feel overwhelming at first but that’s how you know it’s important. I don’t care if you’re trying to move a 10 foot tall snow hill or apologize to someone after saying some hurtful things – it’s hard and needs to be done. The sooner you start, the sooner the overwhelming pile starts to disappear. 

How do you handle your pile? One scoop at a time. 

I fix problems for a living and the best advice I can give is: make a plan. Which is easier than it sounds. Grab a piece of paper for this quick crash course:

  • Look at your pile and list everything out
  • Take a deep breath, quit rolling your eyes at me, I know the list is long but stick with me.
  • Prioritize the items into three groups:
    1. Urgent (like you’ll be homeless, hungry, in jail, or dead if you don’t deal with it soon 
    2. Soon (things you need to do soon like oil change, schedule bill pays, or make a dr. appt). 
    3. Upcoming (things needing attention with no firm end dates like dropping of Goodwill donations or cleaning out the crumbs from your floor mats). 

How long will each list be? That all depends on how long you’ve been pushing your pile aside. From here, I do one urgent per day (or more if time permits!) until it’s done, then move onto the soon pile. Eventually, the major pressing things are handled. It’s not as fast as a loader and a dump truck, but lifts a weight just as heavy.

The upcoming pile? Well that ones not so bad. You can sprinkle it in along with other things or just do it when you’re done. OR, you can look at it and see if there is anyone else who can do any of it or help you out. Does your spouse drive past Goodwill on the way to work? They can drop off the bags. Your kids are likely capable of vacuuming their own messes out of your backseat (or at least picking up the wrappers). Get them to work and maybe, JUST maybe…they’ll think twice before messing it up again.

Who am I kidding – they will not. but it’s off your list now, so you’re welcome.

The point is, nothing in life is too much – it just may be too much for one time. Even the most overwhelming and defeating mountains of problems or anxieties can be dealt with. It all comes down to never giving up, never giving into fear, and never doubting yourself. Whether it takes one month or twelve to dig out, making progress is all that counts.

Posted in Christian, Depression, God, longreads, love

Love the World, Love yourself

“Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time” ~ Marion Wright Edelman

Love the World, love yourself. I think that’s what Marion is alluding to above. There is no denying this year its been hard. This winter is dragging on, isn’t it? Last year we were all together and doing great things with our people; but now we’re all kind of on our own. It’s so funny to think how much can change in the span of a year – for good or for bad. 

I don’t need to map out the bad for you right now; you already know exactly what that looks like. We’re all doing our best to get through that part of life right now. If yours is going anything like mine, the house is somehow messier than ever even though you are home more than ever and you regularly lose track of the last time you actually washed your hair (can I get an amen for dry shampoo, podcasts, and zoom calls!?).

Life looks different

We can’t do everything we did before, it’s just not safe and possible right now, but who says we can’t reinvent some parts of it? Who says we still can’t do good in the world? Seriously, I have no idea who says we can’t – but I know we can completely prove them wrong. I’ve been doing it. So can you. 

Love Your World

If you’re crafty and want to spread some love to kids who are living with illnesses – check out what the folks at Cards for Hospitalized Kids and Cards for Seniors are doing. You can spread some cheer without leaving your home. 

Want to bring it more local? Contact local nursing homes, schools, veterans groups, and hospitals for info on how to reach out to people in need of a smile. Local schools, churches, and community agencies all have people who need a lift in their spirits as much as they need help with other needs. 

You can make cards, send donations, order pizzas for schools, or become pen pals with someone so quickly and easily. Your loneliness and theirs can create something beautiful from this mess! 

We can still send love

Dream Big

Really looking to make a difference? Here is one simple action, go online and simply ask your people: Does anyone need help with anything right now?

The responses will amaze you. Someone you know is worried about food right now and someone else isn’t sure who to call for help with their car. Someone you know may need shoes in the size you were planning to drop at the Goodwill store. Maybe that extra bike in the garage is all it would take to make life good for a kid in your circle. You won’t know if you don’t ask. 

We think good deeds need to be huge, grand gestures or donations – but they really do not. The small things, the ones that often mean the most to people’s hearts, are easily overlooked and go unmet. Small deeds matter. You are beyond capable of being the person who makes someone else smile without making a huge donation or contributing a lot of time. 

How do I know? I’ve gratefully and humbly watched it unfold in front of me over the last 11 months in a Facebook group I started with a friend. We were sad for the world and community as we started seeing people suffer. We do not have deep pockets or loads to share ourselves – but we have big hearts and lots of passion. People share needs, we help connect them to help. It’s that simple. 

Love the world, love yourself

Yes, I miss my church family. I miss my friends from yoga class and work also. I miss the moms from the softball team. I miss my women’s retreat friends, my travel friends, and my conference friends I haven’t been able to see. The void in my life almost physically hurts. 

But, by finding new ways to reach out – I’ve formed new friendships and strengthened others. I’m not as alone as I thought and neither are you. You just need to speak up. 

Tell people you miss them. Tell people you want to help. Share your thoughts, expertise, suggestions, and that extra box of macaroni you know you do not need with them! The empty places will be filled differently, but they will be filled. You will see that no amount of social distancing or quarantining can ever stop love. The human spirit is simply too strong for that, even though some days it does feel insurmountable. 

You may not think your impact is large, but you are exactly the right person to make a difference to someone today. 

The Greatest is Love

“Faith, hope and love are some good things he gave us – but the greatest is love.”

– Alan Jackson and 1 Corinthians 13.

We focus on so many things in life: normal day-to-day chores, holidays, work, and adapting to our new normal that it’s easy to forget the greatest and most basic thing we have in life: love. 2020 made that all clearer than ever, but in 2021 we know what we’re up against and we’re ready for the challenge. 

Love the world, love yourself. 

Posted in Christian, Depression, longreads, love, selfcare, Uncategorized

You don’t need a Valentine. Love yourself.

There are many definitions of love but my favorite is the verb form:

love : verb

 \ˈləv \

1: to hold dear : cherish

Living the verb life

I love (hold dear…cherish…) this form because it is limitless. The verb love isn’t tied to other people, places, or things. It can apply to anyone or anything which makes it the perfect form of love as we enter February. This love applies to us all. 

February can be a real downer month for some when they’re facing it alone. We all know alone has many different definitions too, so use which one applies to you. Whether now or in the past, we have all been alone on this day and it can be the worst. Like a flashing neon sign over your head announcing to the world “I am not wanted, worthy, cared for, or cherished by anyone!” every time another bouquet of flowers passes you by on its way to someone who has been chosen by another. 

I’ve been there. Many times. I used to believe I couldn’t celebrate this month, certainly not Valentine’s Day, without someone else in my life. There is some outdated idea that we can only be loved romantically and when others deem us worthy. I get it, Cupid is the love goddess’ kid and St. Valentine is the Saint of Lovers so that’s where it started.

But St. Valentine is also the Saint of epileptics and beekeepers, so if he can diversify, so can we.

We need to start every Valentine’s Day (and every day for that matter) by remembering love isn’t just gifted to us by other people, we have the power to gift it to ourselves too. In fact, we should gift it to ourselves because if we can’t love ourselves, how can we ever expect someone else to? If we don’t cherish our own greatness, it’s hard to find someone truly worthy of our love. 

Quit chasing love.

I know. Easier said than done. I am well aware. I have spent plenty of time over my lifetime chasing after people I hoped would see me as worthy of their attention. Maybe then they’d decide I was worthy of the love my heart cherished so badly. I could name many things about them I loved and was dying to hear them love just one thing about me in return. My happiness literally hung on their answers, which were generally not what I was looking for. 

I based my self love on their approval which completely removed the “self” part from the equation. It took me years to see the insanity I was putting myself through, trying the same things over and over while expecting different results. Each year, I was disappointed but not surprised. I just assumed love wasn’t for me. It took me a few more years to see that was a complete crock of shit. 

We don’t need love from any outside person to be loved. We are loved already and wonderfully made (see Psalm 139:14 for more on that). The sooner we start believing that, the happier our lives will be. Maybe with someone special, maybe without but there will be love. Lots of it. 

Instead of waiting for outside sources to “gift” us some other definition of love – we need to live a love verb life with ourselves. We need to hold dear and cherish ourselves. In this day in age, waiting around for some White Knight to show up and bestow affection on us is not only outdated but completely unrealistic. 

Learn to love yourself

This month: it’s time to love yourself. No, this isn’t selfish (unless you start treating others like crap to love yourself, then we need to talk). We will not hate our flesh but love and care for it like Jesus does (Ephesians 5:29, generously paraphrased). Everyone will be loved in their own way with just a few little tweaks to life. 

  1. Buy yourself some flowers. I’m not kidding. Go to the store and go as big or small as you want but get some flowers in your space. It’s dark and wintery, they will make you smile. Bonus: you will get ones you definitely love.
  2. Treat yourself. Yes, it’s hard right now. Money is tight for some and many places are limited on availability. That can’t stop you from still treating yourself to a little something for being awesome. Grab yourself something off Amazon or order your favorite take out to enjoy with a good book. Cook your favorite meal, even if it’s a little more work than the Hot Pocket you were planning on. Take a nap and ignore your dishes one afternoon. Hike that trail you love. Do something that makes you happy, no excuses.
  3. Pamper yourself. Hugging yourself isn’t the same as hugging someone else, I fully agree. That doesn’t mean your body can’t still be loved too. Take a long bath or shower. Make a playlist of your most relaxing music and soak. Get a new lotion, a facemask, paint your nails, practice yoga, meditate – just do something that leaves your body feeling renewed and refreshed. 

You are love.

Treat yourself the way you want others to. Love yourself fully and show the world what you deserve. Don’t settle for less. You don’t need other people, cheesy stuffed animals, or chocolates to make it known you are loved. Wake up, roll out of bed in love with yourself and the rest will fall in place in due time. 

You do not have a timid spirit; yours is powerful, loved, and full of self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). Remember your power and love yourself fully.

Posted in Christian, God, happiness, longreads, Uncategorized

Faithful Resolutions are the Key to Success

Faithful resolutions are so much better than the others. The expectations for the year are realistic and basic. With the state of the world these days, I’m confident that was the right move heading into the New Year. While resolutions are hard to keep, we know looking for more happiness in our life is always a good undertaking. Some days will be more productive than others, but we’re making progress. Progress is more than enough. 

What about your faith this year? What are you doing to grow that? Faithful resolutions are my favorite. Unlike the crazy variables in our spastic world, our faith will never let us down. In fact, it’s the rock that we can firmly stand on amidst the chaos in the world and our life. Faith is life. 

All you really need to do in your faithful resolutions in 2021 is follow this lead from Jonathan Edwards:

Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will. 

I love it. Sure it sounds basic and simple, but at the end of the day pure faith and love are basic and simple too. The beauty of God is that he doesn’t track how many times you read your Bible or how many daily devotionals you complete in your lifetime. Yes, they bring His words closer to us but if we aren’t letting them sink in to become the core of us, I don’t think He cares how much studying we do. Our faithful resolutions require more action from us.

God Loves Faithful Resolutions

He wants people who love Him. People who know how to ask for forgiveness for mistakes and gracefully give forgiveness to those who wrong us. People who not only read or speak his words, but actively live them out. Love each other, help each other, and worship Him.

Say your prayers. Use the canned ones if needed, but speak to God honestly and openly from your heart. Tell him your mistakes, worries, and fears. If you cannot be raw and vulnerable with Him, who can you? Ask him for his help and mean it. Sit in the stillness and keep your heart open as you move through your day. He’s there, you just need to let Him help. 

Resolving to be more faithful doesn’t require anything flashy or special to achieve. It doesn’t require perfection or daily tasks to be checked off. There is no required purchase or equipment and no mandatory meeting to attend. This resolution is the easiest and will change your life deeper than any other. 

Live like he wants. God loves justice, love, and helping others. Speak up for those who cannot and be there for them in their struggles – even while you’re dealing with your own. The best way to grow your personal faith is to look beyond yourself. Doing His work and living his words is worth more than being able to recite verses. 

Don’t Stop Believing

Finally, even when the world around us seems to be losing its faith everywhere we look – hold strong to yours. It’s easy to love God when life is full of rainbows and sunshine. Loving God during dark and stormy times is where faith grows. Keep walking with God, even if no one else is, and goodness will be restored around you. 

“Forget the former things;

    do not dwell on the past.

 See, I am doing a new thing!

    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

 I am making a way in the wilderness

    and streams in the wasteland.”

~ Isaiah 43:18-19

This year, I’m not focusing on the mistakes or shortcomings I had in 2020 to make resolutions I likely won’t keep. No one should. Every day is a chance to start something new, to do good things, and to improve ourselves. Take them one day at a time and give yourself grace throughout the year. It’s ok if you miss a Monday, eat that brownie, or forget to do a week’s worth of reading. Life happens. 

Just stay focused on the good stuff. Wake up daily full of gratefulness for another chance at life and do good things. No matter how big or small they may be, do them in love. They’re the key to successful resolutions for a righteous life. 

Posted in Christian, Depression, happiness, longreads, love

Make Graceful Resolutions

We talked about skipping resolutions, but be honest – some of you still did it, didn’t you? I knew you would… so let’s be gracious in how we proceed here.

I hope you shall be in the 8% that keeps them (and is honest in their reporting to the people who track these sort of things). I also hope, whether you make resolutions or set smaller goals for the year that you remember to be kind to yourself. Give yourself grace. 

In years past, I’ve set goals to work out and eat healthy but I was never kind to myself. I took away everything I liked, signed myself up for things I don’t like doing, and internally scolded myself any time I stepped remotely close to messing things up. The moment I actually made a mistake in my goals, I declared myself a failure at my resolution and gave up completely. Sound familiar? I’m sure I’m not the only one. 

Why do we always focus on things we’re bad at in the New Year? We make a whole list of things we need to fix about ourselves without really stopping to look at all of the things that make us wonderful. Can a resolution or goal be to just keep being awesome instead of focusing solely on our flaws? 

This year, I challenge you to love you and be kind to you. You made it through last year, you made it through all the hard days, and you are still here. Celebrate those wins and build upon your goodness by growing your goodness and loving your imperfect self. I’m following this method for 2021:

  1. Take an inventory of what you’re really great at and do more of it. Be honest with yourself and don’t worry if others would agree – this is your list, not theirs. If you think you’re a great singer – who cares if you make it onto the voice? You love it, do more of it. If you are an amazing organizer, see if you can volunteer with a group or just help a friend get her crap together. Do more of what makes you amazing and launch that happiness into the world.
  1. Take an inventory of what you’d like to do and do more of it. You want to work exercise more? Then just do it a little longer than last year. If you do 1 minute or 1 hour more each day you’re doing it. Celebrate that win. You want to read more books? Get the Kindle app on your phone and stop scrolling Facebook in bed or on the toilet (don’t act like you don’t do that). If you read 1 more than last year, you did it! Whether you end 2021 with 1 book or 200 books read, you did better than 2020 and that’s a win. Do more of what your heart wants. 

3.    Smile. This one is easy. If you’re from the Midwest, we already do it. Make eye contact with people and smile. Smiling reduces your blood pressure, lowers your stress, and boosts your immune system. It literally makes you healthier with barely any effort (see more on its perks here https://www.henryford.com/blog/2017/10/health-benefits-smiling).

4. Live like Elsa. Just let it go. All of it. Quit yelling at people while you drive, fighting with strangers on the internet, and unfriending people with different political leanings than you. Just because someone says something you don’t agree with doesn’t mean you need to launch a verbal nuclear assault on them and their family. As my boy Thumper has been preaching since 1942: “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”. You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to. Move on. 

That’s it. Low effort, big results, and completely doable. Focus on one day at a time, don’t bash yourself if you have a slip up – just try again. If 2020 taught us anything it’s that “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13. 

Let’s do 2021 with love. For us, for others, and for the world.

Posted in Christian, happiness, longreads, selfcare, wtf

Happy New Year

Please note: this was written as a three part series and supposed to post before the events in Washington D.C. on Wednesday January 6, 2021. The sentiment is still the same, but 2021 has already proven to be surprising.

Be realistic in your expectations for the New Year

My world is filled with people excited to be over with 2020. I agree 2020 will likely go down as one of the most difficult years in most of our lives. However, 2021 is not a magical cure for all of our problems. 

Celebrating the new year and making big promises for the new year is nothing new. Over 4000 years ago, the Babylonians made promises to their gods at their new year celebration to improve themselves so they could win the gods’ favor on their crops. If they were successful in their resolutions, they would have good crops and if they were not the crops would fail. My family would be very hungry if our ability to eat rested in my ability to stick to a resolution for a year. 

The Romans did the same around 46 B.C. They made promises to the gods of how to improve themselves and believed those actions were directly tied to their quality of life. Keeping of the resolutions would make an easy year for them and breaking them would lead them to a falling out with the gods. Again, I’d be in big trouble if life rested on whether I could actually stop drinking Coca Cola for a year (spoiler: I’ve tried many times, I crack by March). 

Of course, if it’s good enough for the Romans – our Christian church wasn’t going to be left in the dark either. “Covenant Renewal Services” popped up for people to repent their sins from the previous year and to also make new promises with God as a renewal of His Covenant with us. It’s great to examine yourself and reflect on how you’re carrying yourself in the world, but I’m also really glad God doesn’t attach strings to His love for me. Resolutions for any reason are hard. 

At this point, they’re mostly a secular thing and most people don’t even do them. Only 40% of Americans say they make them with roughly 8% reporting they keep theirs (I have no proof but I’d bet a few of those people are fudging too). I don’t make them any year, but this year in particular I think it’s best to skip them and limit my 2021 expectations for many reasons 

I have been disappointed enough over the last 12 months. Some decisions were my own and many were not. I did NOT see a global pandemic of this magnitude happening in 2020. Maybe some people did, I’m not exactly always up in the news as much as I should be, but last year went off the rails more than I think most of could have predicted. We all want it fixed, but problems this deep didn’t start overnight nor will they disappear overnight. 

The dropping of a sparkly ball at the strike ball at midnight does not mean the pandemic is over. 

We don’t have a fairy godmother waving her wand to put things back to normal at midnight. We can celebrate hope for 2021 but still need to be realistic in our expectations. The vaccines are coming but it will still take months to get them out enough to make a dent in the virus. People are still struggling to stay afloat while we wait to safely reopen places. We have new leaders coming in to try and heal years of problems. No single person can change years and decades of problems immediately either. 

We need to approach 2021 with hope and determination, not the expectation it will be better simply because it’s not called 2020. We have real work to keep doing as we continue having hard conversations, taking precautions to keep us all safe, and helping people around us. We need to just keep going and adding any more to our heavy burden entering 2021 just seems self-destructive at this point. 

I’m welcoming 2021 into my life calmly. It’s a breath of fresh air, we are closer to moving past a virus and stepping back into life more freely. But we aren’t there yet. Not with the dropping of the ball, flipping of the calendar, or changing of the year. We still have work to do. 

Let’s go into 2021 hoping things get no worse and enjoy the process of rising together. Last year disappointed most of us, but this year could surprise us. 

Posted in Christian, Depression, kids, longreads, miscarriage, pregnancy loss

The Highest and Lowest Day

This post is part one of an October pregnancy loss series.

“We can’t find the heartbeats, but that’s not uncommon. We’ll do an ultrasound and get them that way. Plus the first look at your babies.”

I was just excited as the doctor when she offered me a first look at the two sweet babies growing in my womb. They’d seen two sacs early on and my blood work numbers were off the chart; they told me there were two babies weeks before. I was equal parts scared and excited. 

Turning the corner into the second trimester had felt like a giant weight was lifted off me. I’d seen friends lose babies before and knew getting to the second trimester was a major milestone. One not to be taken for granted and one I thanked God for every night. I did it. I was in the clear. My first major responsibility as a mom and I had nailed it. 

I went to my check up that day alone, an ultrasound before 18-20 weeks hadn’t crossed my mind! The books I was absorbing every night didn’t say anything about ultrasounds earlier and I was over the moon to think I could see my little babies sooner than I ever imagined. I knew they’d look like little dough ball people, but they’d be my little dough balls and that was all I cared about. 

The next 30 minutes are still a blur in my mind, more than 15 years later. The dim room, the crinkly table, my paper gown, and the cool gooey gel started me on my happy adventure. The stark silence, the slight squint of the eyes, moving the screen from my view, then the tech leaving to get my doctor ushered me into a journey of loss unlike any I had been on before. 

I heard words like empty, nothing, lost, and gone mixed in with medical words. They asked if I could call someone for a ride. If I needed to go to work. If there was anything they could to help me then. I think I shook my head. I know I cried and slowly pulled on the maternity pants I had already needed once I was alone in the cozy ultrasound room. I walked into the room pregnant and loving my babies, I would be walking out broken and alone. Finding the courage to open that door and leave my hopes for them behind was hard. 

I went to my car, I called my husband to tell him what happened then I called work. I did not have an ounce of tact or decorum left when I spoke to my boss. 

“My babies are dead. I am not coming back to work today, I am not coming in tomorrow. I do not want to talk about it ever. Please tell everyone so I do not have to talk about it. I will be back Monday. I do not want to talk about it.”

I hung up, I drove home, I crawled into bed, and I cried until every inch of my body ached just as badly as my empty womb and heart did. 

When the doctor “catches” a miscarriage before your body does, you’re left with a terrible choice. You can walk around and wait for your body to start the painful process of expelling your sweet baby or you can go to the doctor for a D&C procedure to remove everything and start healing your body. Make no mistake, it is the same painful awful procedure as an abortion but they call is something kinder when you’re at lowest. I’m not sure why they change the name. 

I chose the D&C. Early the next morning, without eating anything, I crawled out of bed and called the doctor’s office right at 8am like I’d been told to do. They gave me a long list of things to do and don’t do before my assigned time to report to the hospital for the procedure. I walked through the house in a zombie-like state gathering comfy clothes, maxi pads, and doing a few chores I likely wouldn’t have energy for later in the day. Then we headed to the hospital. 

I recall nothing of arriving or going into the room. I do recall waking up next to my doctor in the recovery room. Visitors were not allowed back there, but doctors were. She sat by side so I wouldn’t wake up alone and empty in a strange place. Her kind blue eyes and the warm laugh lines on her face were the first thing I saw.

Immediately, I broke into the biggest, ugliest, most incoherent tears of my life. She leaned in and held me and let me cry. Everything hurt. My body was sore and I could feel it bleeding. I was woozy and dizzy coming out of the anesthesia and feeling ready to puke from the meds in my system. Nothing felt good or pleasant in that moment. From the very bottom of my soul to every corner of my body I hurt. 

My doctor remembering I was a grieving mother in a lot of pain meant the world to me. Her kindness and love got me through the few hours of recovery before I headed home for a miserable weekend of recovery.

I thought I left the hard part of the trauma at the hospital but I was wrong.