I spent yesterday touring the campus of Central Michigan University with my son to help him decide on a college. We spe t our day meeting professors, seeing classes happening, and talking with students. I walked away feeling good about the idea of sending him off to college.
In the car, we talked about his favorite school though, Michigan State University. He knows that’s definitely a school he wants to go to. It’s his number one, always has been.
He has loved MSU his whole life. Probably because we have too. We have so many friends and family who have attended there. We know quite a few kids who go there now (they’re all safe).
We love MSU. We bleed green and white here (and maroon and gold, CMU is just as special!). Saturdays in the fall, you will find us cheering for our Spartans, sometimes from within the comfortable confines of Spartan Stadium.
We love Sparty. We love Zeke the Wonder dog. We love the Dairy Store, small animals day, and believe in the power of Izzo in March.
We have always felt safe at MSU. We felt embraced by the collective buzz of learning, doing, and comradery of good people working for a better future.
This shooting feels so much more personal. It feels violating. Enfuriating. Disgusting. And we weren’t even there – I cannot fathom what those directly impacted are going through.
More disgusting? The fact that this keeps happening. When is it enough? When do we finally push back and demand more from our leaders? Don’t we owe it to each other to start using our voices and votes to demand our leaders crawl out of the NRA’s pocket? It’s time to start doing what is right, instead of what pays best. Lives are literally on the line.
All I need to learn from Jesus, I learned from brown cafeteria trays.
They take me back to my grandma’s very crowded house, filled with our very large family, on Christmas Eve. The dining room and table were far from large enough for the crowd, but it was never a problem. When the table filled up, you grabbed a tray. No one was left out or forced to wait for room to enjoy the food and fellowship. Grab a tray, find a spot somewhere, and settle in for good food with a side of familiar conversation.
It was always so crowded, so loud, and so hot, but I didn’t care. My family was all together on Christmas Eve. We were having fun, getting presents, and taking a break from the world to bask in love. Short of a small, dirty, crowded manger many years before, I can’t think of a better place for a Christmas story to be lived.
My heart was taken back to those Christmas Eve meals the first time I walked into my son’s Sunday school class to see many tiny people scattered about the floor in a haphazard circle-oval-octagon sort of shape coloring pictures of the good shepherd. There was no table to be seen, just brown plastic cafeteria trays filled with crayons and colorfully marked papers.
“We backed up to make room for us all,” my son shared later, “It’s nice we don’t have a table to get in the way. We can make lots of room if more friends come.”
From His birth to His work as our shepherd, the reminder of His love and promise to care for all of us is so very clear. It doesn’t matter if you are in a crowded place, without table, young, or old – with Jesus there is always room for everyone. Grab a tray and find a spot for His love to shine in on you.
Luke 2:7 says “…they placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available.
Jesus’ story started with no room. No place for him. No one made a space for Him in their homes or the inn, but Jesus’ still found a spot. They squeezed in where they could fit, filled the space with love, and the news spread from this humble small spot. The Greatest story ever told began to unfold in the least likely of places. We hear a similar story when Jesus speaks about us in the story of the Good Shepherd later in his life.
John 10:16 “…I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.”
No room in the sheep pen? No problem! Get another. When that one is full? Get another. No one is turned away or forgotten with Jesus. He remembers all of us, scattered around the world. Like a crowded family celebration or preschool Sunday school room, there is always room for more. Grab a brown cafeteria tray, make a little room, and let everyone in. Jesus is for everyone. Jesus’ love is for us all.
I prayed three simple prayers: I wanted the wisdom and grace to talk to them without hurt feelings, leeriness, and past conflicts running the show. I wanted to see things from their point-of-view and I wanted to not just assume I was always right.
Some stay, some go
Within a few months, the first person walked away. Sometimes in life that happens. The second person unexpectedly started to meet me where I was in our conversations. We were able to approach past hurts and figure out a good path forward from a place of peace, love, forgiveness, and respect. We’re doing fine and piecing ourselves back together to this day.
The third was trickier. We’d met each other with distrust and overtly aggressive words for so long I wasn’t sure things could ever improve. However, two years ago things started to shift. Our conversations stopped becoming arguments. Even when we didn’t agree, attacks weren’t thrown out. Our last email exchange in the Spring of 2020 contained an apology, best wishes, and an optimistic plan for moving forward.
As the world shut down, life happened and we lost touch. There was no screaming fall out or Real Housewives worthy blow up, things just kind of stopped. Sometimes that happens in life. I meant every word when I wished him well and kept him in my prayers.
Sadly, he passed away last month. I was shocked. And I’m kind of mad. Just when things were finally getting to a good place, the rug was pulled out from underneath us. Nothing about this seems right or fair.
Pain is an unavoidable part of life. No matter your religious beliefs, practices, or non-beliefs we all deal with pain in our lives. Faith doesn’t promise a pain-free life (if you hear otherwise, run away – they’re lying).
Beauty from Pain
When we begin the painful process of picking up the shattered pieces of our broken hearts we have no choice but to try our best to put it back together. If you’ve ever broken something fragile, you know how difficult this is. In the end, even if you find every piece, things never fit back together the same.
We have two choices then. We can be ashamed of and hardened by the scars our hearts carry, or we can be proud of how we grew through hard times. There is beauty found in the scars of our broken hearts.
The Japanese practice of kintsugi is the best representation I’ve ever seen. This practice involves taking beautiful, but broken, items and putting them back together with shimmering gold among the cracks. The new-old piece resembles its former self, but with more beauty and value than before. It’s the best reminder I’ve ever seen of how pain can bring beauty into life.
It also reminds me of one of my favorite verses I lean on when the pain is too much, Psalm 34:18:
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
You’re Not Alone
Even in our pain, we are not alone. Even in our broken places there is love and beauty waiting for us. Gathering the pieces and putting them back together takes time, but in the end we will become who we are meant to be if we do the work.
Asking for God’s help in becoming who you are meant to be in times of pain or struggle is not always easy, but it is always worth it. I am grateful for the peace it brought to my life and the beauty I see now in the broken places.
This is part 2 of the October Pregnant and Infant Loss Series – please read Part 1 HERE if you haven’t already.
All I wanted to do when I got home was sleep. I blamed it on the leftover anesthesia still flowing through my body but truthfully, I was just trying to escape the reality of the day. I stayed in bed for nearly 24 hours until the following afternoon when I decided it was time to “get over it”.
“Everyone will think I am crazy,” I kept telling myself, “They weren’t real babies, right? I didn’t hold them, I didn’t name them, I didn’t even ask any questions about them so obviously I just need to move on from this mess.”
I was living on pain meds and still feeling a terrible ache as I fumbled through the day. I got my basic Saturday routine of cleaning and shopping done before falling back into my bed that evening. I thought once my body was only mine once again, things would go back to normal but I was wrong. Instead of feeling like my normal self in a bit of pain, the hollow aching left me feeling more empty than I’d ever been before.
I was sure people were going to think I was crazy for not getting over this faster.
The next evening, we had floor seats for a concert we’d been looking forward to for almost a year. We talked about skipping it, but I was determined to show the world (and myself) that I was not crazy. I was fine because “these things happen” and I couldn’t mope forever. I had planned to go to the concert with my babies in my belly, so I certainly wasn’t skipping it just because they were gone.
It was the worst concert of my life. I’m not sure if it is because of who I was with (we divorced 2 years later), the fact that the band’s new album sucked (it really did), or that I spent half the concert running to the restroom to change another soaked pad all night. I just remember sitting in my seat and looking around at the arena packed with thousands of people wondering to myself if they could tell the pain I was in. I wondered if anyone else in that arena was feeling the same way. Had anyone else there ever felt that way? The feeling didn’t subside until I crawled into bed and drifted to sleep that night.
When I went to work Monday morning there were flowers and a card on my desk. The moment I walked in and saw them, I turned on my heel and walked back out the door. I had said it was not to be talked about. Not acknowledged or implied or anything. I told them I’d be back Tuesday and I expected my desk cleaned and everyone else over this by then.
How could I move on if the people around me were insisting on dragging me back into it.
That’s the part no one tells you in the cheap pamphlet the doctor hands you when you lose a baby. For every person who tells you “these things happen” or “God works in mysterious ways” there are just as many people who want you to grieve and go through the emotions of losing someone you love.
Both sides surround you and you’re never sure which way to go. You will alternate between both camps as you sort out the mess of emotions and hormones that come with losing a baby. You will hate your body for failing you while gingerly caring for it as it slowly heals from the physical trauma. You will feel like you’re losing your mind and not doing it “right” when really, there is no single right way to deal with this pain. You only need to do what is right for you. Lean into the feelings when they overcome and keep living your normal life when they go. How you react does not change how deep your loss was.
My babies should be turning 16 in the next few weeks. Their due date was November 11, 2005. For anyone who thinks things like this go away over time, I think about them every year on that date, even though I know as twins they likely would have come sooner.
I think about how badly I wanted to hold them and hug them on November 11. How I had planned to cover them with kisses, breathe in their essence, and tell them they were loved as they took their first breaths. I hope they felt loved every second of their short lives with me. More than anything, I’m so grateful they had each other. Whether they knew what was happening, felt any discomfort, or worried for even a second about what was happening they were not alone.
They had each other then and they have each other now in heaven. Someday, I know I will hold them and I will remind them they were loved for every second of their lives – and mine. They were loved like only a mother can love.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Urgent (like you’ll be homeless, hungry, in jail, or dead if you don’t deal with it soon
Soon (things you need to do soon like oil change, schedule bill pays, or make a dr. appt).
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.
“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!?).
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!
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.
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.