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I’m running out of words to convey how tired I am of reading about hate-fueled violence.
My mind becomes mush as I try to comprehend how one person can hold so much hate and carry out out such a horrific act. I search to the deepest, darkest places in my mind, wondering if I could ever hate anyone that much, and I come up empty every time.
I look around at the people I love, could any one them be next? Could they be on either end of the next gun that makes us collectively pause for a moment? The next headline, the next crying emoticon over a shared news story… only to be forgetten when a TMZ darling does something we deem more deserving of our collective attention?
When I walk into new places, I make note of the exits. Not because I want to leave early but because when seconds matter I want to be prepared if I am the next target.
I prefer to sit on the aisle in theaters, fewer people to get through. I don’t like being near the entrance, I hope I’ll get more warning if something happens this way. Definitely not in the upper part, it’d be like a carnival game to the wrong person. I eyeball each person who enters, watching those who are too quiet, who stay too close to the edges, and find myself trying to see their eyes. Are they filled with rage? Hate? Adrenaline? Pain? Fear? Could I even identify these feelings in a stranger’s eyes if I wanted to?
What will it take for us to finally have enough and demand changes?
When we’re killed for wanting to worship? When we’re killed for wanting to learn? When we’re killed for wanting to shop?When we’re killed for wanting to listen to music? When we’re killed for wanting to dance?
It’s been a minute, hasn’t it? Apologies, but I have been hammering out the final details for my debut release (yay!). I don’t have the final release date yet, but stay tuned here and you’ll definitely be among the first to know.
What I can tell you is my book, Sunday School Dropout, is for anyone who has ever felt left behind by their Christian faith but loves Jesus’ teachings too much to stay away from Him. People, circumstances, religious teachings, and churches may let you down; but God and Jesus still keep space for you. Finding your very own personal relationship with them is completely possible – I know because I have been doing it.
I’m really excited to share my story and experiences with you, so stay tuned!
If you live with a child, or have spent any time with one, you have to admit this is pretty true. Kids see more, ask more questions, and seek more information about the world than adults do.
Just a few weeks back, my niece pointed to a small sapling peeking out of the ground. It was barely six inches tall and resembled Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree more than the old mighty trees around it. She pointed at it and asked me what it was. Honestly, if she hadn’t asked about it I probably wouldn’t have noticed it.
“That’s a baby tree. It’s just starting but it will grow tall like all these trees. They were this small a long time ago too.” I answered, sure that I nailed it.
“Oh. Then it gets big and can be a rainbow tree!”
My inflated sense of scientific pride deflated a bit. Clearly SOME of what I said made sense but I obviously hadn’t been clear enough. So I tried again.
“Kind of. It’ll get big and then it’ll be just like these trees by it.” I wisely touch a broad trunk nearby to reinforce that trees are trees, not rainbows. Miss Frizzle herself couldn’t have better at this point.
“And then a rainbow tree. I like the rainbow trees.” She looked slightly frustrated with my answer.
At this point, I was cold, my knees hurt from being crouched to her level that long, and I was lost. I sheepishly admitted I didn’t know what a rainbow tree was and asked for an explanation.
She sighed (in fairness, I probably had that coming) and came next to me, then pointed up at the colorful canopy of fall colors over our heads and in a tiny awe-filled whisper of a voice told me,
“I like it when the trees are rainbows.”
For the first time in my life, I looked at the leaves not as a sign of impending winter or of football season, but simply as the sparkling colors dancing over our heads.
Red, orange, yellow, and green leaves danced against the blue sky among shadows of indigo and violet. The trees really do become rainbows.
I couldn’t help but wonder what other things I am missing in life just because I don’t look closer or ask many questions.
In adulthood, I think it’s safe to say that we’re so worried about knowing everything that we often overlook the importance of asking questions. It’s ok not to know. It’s even better to seek knowledge from those around us and to question the world.
It’s true in all aspects of life, but it’s been feeling especially true to me in my faith. I read the Bible, hear the verses, and listen to sermons without stopping to ask about parts I don’t understand. I take what is presented to me without digging deeper.
I tend to forget what God told Jeremiah in Jeremiah 33:3, “call to me and I will answer you and tell you great unreachable things you do not know.” I know I’m not the only one.
God wants us to ask questions. To wrestle with His word. To seek more than what we see.
“It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.” Proverbs 25:5
Do you know the history of what was going on when the Bible was being written? Why do you worship how you do? Who decreed the changes? How do we decide what parts of the Bible to follow and what parts do not apply to us?
What can we do with this ancient text in our modern world to actually live like Christ?
I don’t have the answers. I may never. Maybe no one does. But no matter what, we need to keep asking questions, seeking information, and embracing the curiosity of children in our faith.
“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.
Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.
~ Proverbs 10:12 NIV
I like this verse for it’s straight forward, no nonsense point: if you’re doing things out of anger or with people who are full of hate, you know you’re in a bad place and likely going to have problems.
If you’re with loving people, doing things with love, you’re going to get through everything and it’ll be fine. All of that, I am down with and I thought that was it until I couldn’t sleep one night and kept thinking.
I also think it relates to how we live and respond to the people around us.
If someone has hurt you in the past, but you have forgiven them, then you should love them and move forward. You know that love is going to cover the past offenses. They’re covered up and they’re gone. But if you’re still holding on to anger and resentment and hate, that’s when you’re going to keep bringing that problem up. It’s like picking open a scab – it can be almost healed, then you rip it back open to all kinds of hurt. You aren’t healing or moving forward.
Is it ever possible to fully forgive and forget?
I have been hurt by people that I love and forgiven them. I can look back on the actual offenses, things I thought might actually kill me, and I feel no painful emotions. I don’t feel angry, sad or anything. It doesn’t launch me back to the raw state of being hurt . I can see it objectively like”yeah, that happened but I am ok now. We are ok now.” In those moments I pat myself on the back “yes! I got this!” I am loving them and forgiving them and I have nailed this and its great
But then, if I start to have a disagreement with them about something else, totally unrelated, and that old thing they did starts bubbling up in the back of my mind. Even though I claim and fully believe I have forgiven them and moved on – it still bounces around in my mind. Like there is still a shred of me that cannot forgive and forget (or even forgive).
It’s confusing. I wonder in those moments, because I’m not perfect, sometimes I even bring them back up. I do not want to, on any other rational moment of the day I would never, ever do it – but then there it comes spewing out of my mouth.
So have I actually forgiven?
Am I doing what I’m supposed to as far as loving if I’m still bringing it up because I don’t think I am doing things right, that way. And then, that got me thinking deeper: I totally believe it’s possible to forgive, because I do it. I’m sitting here right now and I can think of an argument with a loved one within the last two weeks when I brought up something that happened years ago. Most days it’s something that doesn’t bother me anymore.
I mean, it changed some things, but we’re good. We worked through it. And the same thing does with other people in less personal settings. There are people I am on committees and teams with that I’ve had some serious disagreements with. I’ve said things, they’ve said things – but when I think about them now, I’m completely neutral on those incidents.
I feel like I have forgiven, and I’m not holding it over their heads, but every time I have to go near them to have a conversation about something that could even possibly end up with us not agreeing or having to work through a problem, all those old thing bubble into the back of my mind like a small nagging voice.
I generally do a really good job of not saying that or bringing them up, because I know that doesn’t do any good. Sometimes I fail but when they bubble up mostly manage to keep myself from spewing it out – but it’s hard.
Like most people, I am in a few Facebook groups for my town that offer up things for sale and recommendations for businesses for people in our area. In the last week I have seen people asking for recommendations for a lawyer, a mechanic, and a cake baker among other things. I have no need for any of these but because I’m nosy curious, I look at the comments to see what people have to say. I’d like to say it’s because I want to know if there is anything new in my town, but really it’s likely because I believe the places I use are the best, like most people do, and I like to see if everyone else is on board with me.
How do you rate?
Today, someone posted a very specific request of “Has anyone used ABC mechanic and what was your experience?”(obviously, I’ve changed the shop name to protect the innocent). The responses were crazy. No one was on the fence about this place, there was a clear line in the sand – people either love or hate this place. People either had been going there for decades with fabulous results, or went once and their lives were never the same from the headaches this place caused them.
I’d dealt with them and had mixed results so I panicked and couldn’t pick a side so I just read without chiming in. Sometimes I went in and it was fine, other times I left frustrated. Honestly though, I think that can be said about a lot of places. They have good moments and bad moments – no one is perfect all the time. The debate roared on so I never did comment, but watching it happen got my mind going.
What if life worked like this and we all decided who we would interact with and how we would treat them based on the reviews or recommendations of others. What if people handed out ratings of 1-5 stars about all of us? Then, before other people would interact with us, they could go online to search or ask others for recommendations.
How would I rate?
“Hey, thinking about joining a book group with Danielle – does anyone have any experience with her?”
“Anyone ever sat next to Danielle at the Memorial Day parade? Pros and cons?”
“Looking for opinions on Danielle as a neighbor. Is it worth saying hello?”
I promise you there would be comments and they would likely be from two camps, just like ABC mechanic’s were. I figure it would likely be either people saying “she is an amazing person” or people saying “she is literally the worst.” While others would likely shrug and reply “who?” or “she’s alright. Could do better, could do worse” with a shrugging emoji for good measure.
Maybe the mechanic couldn’t get parts because of a supplier or maybe they really did miss tightening a bolt once that led to a major issue for someone. Maybe they also fixed someone’s car at cost when they couldn’t afford it and sponsor Little League teams. Judging off opinions that are only one extreme or the other is dangerous.
What if someone saw me litter once or heard me get short with a stranger in a moment of frustration? If they never saw me volunteer at a school or help feed the people in my town they wouldn’t know the whole me. Just like those who see me do good, may struggle with my mistakes. And it’s not just me – it’s everyone. We’re all a wonderful mixture of good and bad, success and failures, and ups and downs. The balance makes us human and should be the reminder we all need to give people a chance, form our own opinions, and be objective in our opinions of people.
Make up your own mind
Instead of tying people’s worth to the opinions of others, we need to try to find a way to go off our own experiences. I’ve been focusing on that the last few months and I’m finding myself happier with myself than I have been in awhile. I know I will never be enough for some people. I also know it’s personal, some people are never satisfied with what other people do. Everyone gets a three star rating in their world no matter what.
I am too much for some, not enough for others and that is perfect because I am not here to live for others – I’m here to live my life as who I am. Sometimes the results will be fantastic, other times disappointing, but always fully authentic. That’s what matters most when we deal with people (or places) in life. No single moment, no matter how good or how bad, defines us.
We’re all gloriously, simultaneously one and five star people – and that’s the best review ever.
Pandemic Parenting is definitely something I was not ready for. When I was pregnant with my first child, I read all the books and went to all the classes. I knew what to do in most situations I could expect to run into as a parent. Thanks to a wild streak and some bad luck he was born with, I even navigated through some things the books had missed. By the time my second came, I teased she’d have to try real hard to throw me for a loop. I was a pro.
But now, Pandemic Parenting has nearly broken me.
At first, I was rolling with it. We made forts, embraced wacky hair colors, and did every craft kit we had overlooked over the last decade. We set up desks for learning at home and got chores sorted out. I knew everyone being home would mean more messes and dishes than before – I wasn’t dealing with that on my own. It was fun organizing our new life and we were all leaning in to make something scary feel fully liveable. I was a pro, remember?
Nearly a year later, I am a shell of the mom I was before.
There used to be less screen times and more outside time, but those plans have both fallen to the wayside. They can facetime with their friends even when they cannot be near them right now and those interactions are more important to us right now.
We played more games and watched less tv, but we all just want to be distracted from the crazy world right now. The family that binges together will stay together. At least that’s what I’m telling me.
Now, I am keeping track of more than I could imagine
What days do I go into my office this week? What days will the kids be in school or online? Who has virtual therapy? When is the dance class zoom call and the guitar lesson zoom call. Is the laptop battery charging? When can we play the church YouTube video sermon? When is the last time everyone showered? Do we have toilet paper and sanitizer?
I’m struggling to keep up tracking online dr. appointments, requirements to go into the dentist, trying to support restaurants with take out, and keep my own career going – among hundreds of other things.
We’re all in this together.
I know, I’m not the only one struggling with this. We all are. Maybe we can all agree there isn’t one right or wrong way to get through this. Let’s be real: we’re all operating in a survival mode we’ve never known. Our mothers and grandmothers never knew anything like this. Our great grandmothers were likely kids or teens the last time. Let that sink in for a minute. If you thought you had nothing in common with your Great-great grandmother, think again.
If we keep doing things right, hopefully our daughters and granddaughters (and beyond) won’t need to tread into this realm of parenting. Their parenting might be better for all the weirdness we are going through now. Perhaps they’ll roll with changes easier and give themselves a little grace if they have an “off day” as a mom. I’m struggling to do that for myself now after a year of practice.
Best of all, maybe they’ll see we’re all doing our best. Every family has the same end goal but will go about reaching it in their own way. That doesn’t mean one way is right and another is wrong. In the end, all that matters is everyone is loved, happy, and cared for. Before the pandemic, I think we can all agree mom-shaming was a real thing. It still rears its head on my news feeds as people debate vaccines and masks. We should all be kicking back on a zoom happy hour to celebrate our little wins and cheer each other on throughout these weird days.
Maybe our kids will do better. Over time they may come to see how we shifted our lives and still came out on top. It’s possible we can do the same now and come out of this with more grace for everyone around us (including ourselves). We’ve done so many other hard things this year – what’s one more? Pandemic parenting can be the start of a wonderful shift in our world.
What’s in a letter? The best self-improvement books I’ve read are scattered all over my house with loads of letters before and after the author’s names. I love self-improvement books. Some are religious (Lysa TerKeurst), some research-based (Brene Brown), and some are just inspirational stories (Anne Lamont). The idea people can overcome ridiculous situations and still be good humans is amazing to me. Certainly, hearing how people have done it and gathering tips I can use in my life is inspirational.
I have never found one book with all the answers. Please, no one comment with The Bible either. Even that leaves me scratching my head and not fully sure how to handle some situations in life at times. Therefore, I don’t think there really is a one size fits all book, which is actually pretty awesome in my opinion. That means we’re all capable of doing great things in our own way. I really like that.
I was looking at the self improvement section at the bookstore recently and I noticed many books are written by people with many letters after their names. A few I see often include Ph.D, L.M.S.W., and M.D.. I know what they mean, these people worked really hard for those letters and I respect them. Besides, what’s in letter?
Other letters people should get
I also love how the aisle is also full of people with no letters after their names. They have a lot of info and wisdom to share also. As a result, I’d like to give them letters after their names too. Therefore, I started brainstorming a few:
B.T.S. – Been through Shit.
B.H.B – Been to Hell & Back
C.M.T.U – Can’t Make This Up
B.A.W – Bad Ass Woman
N.M.F.R. – Not My First Rodeo
P.O. – Prays Often
L.J. – Leaning on Jesus
M.L.B. – Momming like a Boss
F.Y.S. – Funny Yet Smart
Think I could add some to my byline? Danielle Peterson – B.T.S., B.H.B, L.J.
So what’s in a letter? What other letters can we bestow on people and what would yours says?