The Hard Days

This week we had a couple rough start mornings followed by a rough practice with my daughter’s team I coach where my own daughter kept interrupting when I was trying to keep the girl’s attention. Then I heard from my sitter that my younger daughter had a hard time listening.

We got home, had a family meeting, enacted some consequences and had a much better morning. Then this morning happened.

I had texted my husband last night while he was coaching my daughter’s soccer practice, to get some cash out at the ATM because my oldest needed some tomorrow for school (why oh why are there SO many events in the last 2 months of school?!) and we needed it for various other things coming up, like paying our sitter for the practices I coach to watch my other kids.

Anyway, said daughter who is not supposed to be on phones or devices at all this week was using his phone to practice her songs for her music field trip coming up. So he missed my text, didn’t get cash out and this morning I had to scramble to get it together.

Then I tried sending an email to the parents of the girls I coach and it wasn’t working from my phone, I tried using my computer and it died and the charger apparently no longer is working. I was thoroughly frustrated before 7 am.

My daughter started asking me random irrelevant questions as I’m trying to get everyone out the door and I got very short with her. Then I felt terrible about it.

From talking to other moms, I know for a fact that my experience is not unique to only me. We all have date like this and they tend to make us feel like complete failures.

The truth IS that raising kids today is so much different than it’s ever been before. Some of it, we put on ourselves, for sure, but some of it, is just that our culture is so different too. Technology makes it different. I could probably write a book (if I had the time, ha!) on just how different it is raising kids now than it was when I was a kid.

My point is this. If you are a parent that is trying to raise your kids counter-culturally, it’s going to be very difficult. It’s hard to be involved with your kids and take an active role parenting them. You’re going to slip up and you’re going to mess up. Ultimately though, being involved is what’s important.

I’ve been thinking about running lately and why I love it so much. It’s not always easy to put into words but I’m trying because these girls I coach, I really want to give them the gift of running.

There are days that I am excited to run. The sun is shining and the weather is perfect. Then there are days when the wind chill is -10 and it’s a blizzard. Or the rain is just pouring down and it’s not a warm rain. On these days, I can’t exactly say that it’s easy to get out there. But when I do, when I’m gritting through the elements or fighting off a virus or dealing with sore muscles, or…or…or, any time it’s not all flowers or rainbows, THOSE are the runs that empower me.

It’s not something you can experience in a video game. The feeling of your body, being pounded by the elements and getting through it, one step at a time. The confidence you feel afterwards is invigorating.

It’s the same with faith. It’s usually when we’re in the eye of the storm that our faith blossoms the most, not during times of plenty.

So parents, if you’re struggling and feeling defeated, take heart. Gritting through these difficult times is helping you grow. Putting in the hard work now, digging in, and showing your family that you’re in it, no matter what shows them the depth of your love for them. Keep failing and learning and picking yourself back up.

Are we going too far with our parenting experts?

I had joined a Facebook group that I will not name that originally recruited some of us parents from another Facebook group I was in for adult children of narcissists. I’ve shared in previous blog posts about my severed relationship with my dad, and as I was healing myself, some of these groups were really helpful to me as I learned how to set boundaries.

The parenting group was sort of a spin off to help parents who were raised by a narcissistic parent raise their own children in a healthy way.

One of the things that can happen when you’re raised by a narcissist, is that you can become a narcissist yourself, or, at the very least, have some narcissistic traits that are hard to overcome. Sometimes it’s because when people are triggered (and honestly who triggers you more than your own kids) they default to the behaviors that were done to them and the cycle of dysfunction continues.

As I look back into my early 20’s I can definitely see where I had some narcissistic traits. However, a different manifestation of being raised by narcissists is that you become a people pleaser. You learn to suppress your own feelings, wants and needs to keep the people around you happy. This was more of what I struggled with as I was coming to terms with the fact that I could no longer allow my dad to be a part of my life.

One of the things I realized I was doing, was feeling personally responsible for my kids and my husband’s feelings. If they had feelings that were negative, I felt like I had failed somehow and found myself caught in this cycle of trying to keep everyone in the family happy, all the time.

Some of the things that were extremely helpful to me in my breakthrough were reading the book Boundaries, and also Boundaries in parenting, and also my reading and understanding of Scripture in guiding me how to be a better wife and parent. I learned it’s not my job to make/keep my loved ones happy and comfortable at all times. In fact, I was really doing them all a disservice. It’s completely normal to experience the wide range of human emotions and I was effectively telling my kids it’s not ok to be sad, angry, frustrated, etc and that I couldn’t handle it when they were.

Well the Facebook parenting group that I left today was geared more towards the first type of parents, those who became narcissistic themselves. That’s all fine and good to help those people, but often these “licensed therapists” would just post out of context memes that sent confusing messages to parents and can’t be applied in all situations.

The example of the one that did it for me was that back talk by children is just their way of expressing their feelings and that we should never shame or discourage their sharing their thoughts and feelings with us. Lots of parents were commenting that it was a bit misleading and I agree and also voiced my own opinions about it.

First, there’s the definition of what back talk is and isn’t. I definitely wouldn’t define back talk as a child just expressing their feelings. Tone, and timing play a huge part in the behavior. To me, back talk is like this:

Child: Can you take me to the mall? I really want to go buy this thing.

Parent: Not today. I’ve got to get xx done and start dinner.

Child: (as soon as they hear the ‘no’ interrupts) FINE! You NEVER do anything I want!

It’s them expressing themselves, sure. And I agree that they should be allowed to express themselves and be heard, but the rude way they interrupt and start ripping into you is disrespectful. And it would be disrespectful if I did it to them. It would be disrespectful if I did it to my husband.

So I used an example that I made up, much like this one, where I said that I the parent would say, “Ok, but why the anger? That doesn’t feel good.”

So this therapist told me that by me saying “that doesn’t feel good” I’m making my child responsible for my feelings. I disagreed and she pointed me to a rule in the group that said you can’t argue with admins. Lol.

This is where I think they take it waaay too far. And why a lot of people don’t like “gentle parenting”.

For one thing, I didn’t say in the example, “you made me feel bad.” I specifically kept it more on the action. “The anger in your tone didn’t feel good.” It’s the truth. And if my husband had snapped at me in a similar way, I would be encouraged to tell him my feelings. It didn’t feel good when you yelled at me.” So why can’t we also express our own feelings to our kids? And further, why are therapists encouraging parents to be emotionally abused by their own children? Especially many parents who grew up the way I did, being a people pleaser who have a hard time setting and holding onto boundaries. We’re just supposed to let our children yell at us any time they don’t get their way because they have a right to express themselves?

It’s right to point out to our kids when they are rude. They are entitled to their feelings of frustration when being told no, and they certainly have a right to express their feelings to me when they don’t like a decision I’ve made. But it’s not ok to interrupt or yell at me that I never do anything they want. I’m the one that is supposed to teach them this. It is perfectly fine for me to point out that their response to me was inappropriate. And also to let them know that it doesn’t feel good to be on the receiving end.

This therapist was completely nit picking my response and this is what some of these parents have been conditioned to do. If you spend any time in any mom groups online you’ll see moms, emotionally worn out because their kids are out of control and they feel guilty about not responding to everything in the perfect way.

Are all my interactions with my kid’s perfect? No way, not even close! I’m sure if a therapist followed me around for 24 hours they could probably find a million things I could have done better. But there are also a whole lot of worse ways that parents can respond. A parent that is regulated and calm and asks their child, “why the anger. That didn’t feel good” is preferable to a parent who screams back at their child, “Don’t you dare back talk to me you ungrateful brat!” It’s important to remember that parents are imperfect people who also get tired, overwhelmed, frustrated, etc.

On a good day, I stay completely calm, don’t let my kids emotions or outbursts get to me and am able to respond in a way that strengthens our relationships while also teaching my kids what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Other days, I’m distracted by maybe some stressful news I’ve heard or I’m overwhelmed or overstimulated because my kids have all been cooped up together and have been arguing and screaming for the last couple hours and I’m simply out of patience and I snap at them. This is ok too because I still can strengthen the relationship by apologizing to them for the things I did wrong and being honest about my own shortcomings.

“You asked me a question and I heard the other two kids fighting and I was short with you. I’m sorry. That couldn’t have felt good. I want you to know that I love you and my short response was not because of you but because I was overwhelmed. Could we try that conversation again?”

Your child sees you as not perfect, and able to apologize and that you care enough about them to make it right. And you’re setting an example for how to apologize and take responsibility.

I’m not perfect and I’m never going to be, but most of the time, I think I’m getting things more right than wrong. I pray over my parenting and I’m always trying to learn more and do better, but I’m not going to feel bad about letting my kids know that something they did or said didn’t feel good. And I’m not going to stay in these toxic groups where disagreements with “the experts” is not allowed while they are allowed to pick apart everything that you say. Not helpful.

When tragedy breaks our hearts

I had stayed away from news and social media all day because we were busy getting ready for spring break. It wasn’t until I finally sat down at the end of the evening to quickly check something on Facebook until I saw some posts about Nashville.

When things like this happen I get very quiet within myself. It’s like I have no words, even in my own head. And I pray. And I feel so upset. Upset becomes a physical feeling.

I know that in the aftermath of this tragedy, there will be a whole lot of noise. Politicians will push their politics as the answer and people will get nasty with each other arguing their different views on who’s at fault and what the solution is.

It’s actually quite sickening how the evil that caused the tragedy in the first place, settles into our hearts and enjoys the division and hate it sows among us.

And people will blame God or say it’s evidence of no God, or one who allows such horrible things to happen. Even some true believers may find themselves shaken and asking why oh why this happens.

I don’t have all the answers to life’s big questions but I DO know why this happens. It happens because our world is so, so broken. It was NEVER supposed to be this way.

Back in the Garden, Adam and Eve had everything they wanted and were like children. God only warned them that if they ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would surely die.

Think about it. They were naked and unashamed and had no knowledge of good and evil in the Garden. It was safe there. They were as children, being cared for by a loving father.

Then the tempter lied to them and told them they surely would not die, but would be like God. This broke everything. But God still loved them. He made them leave the Garden, because He didn’t want them to live forever in such a cursed, and broken world, and He doesn’t want us to live here forever either.

This world is cursed with the most terrible evil, but it’s not where we live forever. He sent His own Son to die an excruciating death so that we may have everlasting life outside of this broken world.

Why though, would He allow such terrible things to happen to His children? I DON’T know why some people die and others do not. I know I’ve followed many children that have had or have cancer. Many of these families have incredibly strong faith. Some of these children are healed and the families give all glory to God for their healing and other children are healed in Heaven.

I’ve witnessed these families that have had to say goodbye have incredible faith that’s just astounding. Even some of these precious children often showcase incredible faith that many adults do not possess. I don’t know why some are healed and some are not. Nor do I know why Jesus chose Lazarus to bring back to life.

I do know that Jesus, cried out to His Father to take this cup from Him. Yet, Jesus was still obedient to the Father, and succeeded where Adam and Eve had failed, allowing all believers to live in peace with the Father for all of eternity.

I do believe these children are there now. Their families still go through incredible, incredible pain here. My heartbreak is with them. Why must they live the rest of their days here with this pain? I don’t know the answer to that. But I do believe they will see their child again. God says that every tear will be wiped away and I believe it. But they need people to surround them in love, not hate.

When terrible acts happen here, we don’t fight evil with more evil. We fight evil with love. What can we do to put more love into this world? We shouldn’t try to spear people with our words and our opinions. Because it is not flesh that we fight against.

When the noise gets loud over this tragedy around you, don’t add to the evil. When you hear people screaming about why God would allow such terrible things to happen, take them to the cross. Spread truth and life where death and lies live. Pray. Pray for mercy on our nation and our world.

There’s a true story that is not mine to share but someday I need to. It’s too long to put here but I hold that story up in my heart and bring it to mind in times like these. It reminds me that these children are safe. I believe that with my whole heart.

Love and pray for your enemies. When evil tries to knock you off your path, go right back to the cross. Hold Jesus’s sacrifice in your heart and remember Jesus’s words to the thief, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise.”

30 days to go

As I sit here, we’re only 30 days from March first!

January has been so different this year than usual in that we had a ton of snow over Christmas but then didn’t get any more to speak of until this past week.

I kind of thought that would make winter much easier, but around the 3rd week in January, I still felt some of the feelings I usually do around that time. Tiredness, irritability, impatience, insomnia, just kind of a foul mood in general, for no good reason.

So I don’t think it’s so much the snow that makes winter so challenging. I was thankful that I didn’t have to deal with the snow for running purposes and I found myself increasing my mileage and even doing some workouts because, with clear roads, there was no reason not to.

The thing that was really difficult was the lack of sunshine. The vast majority of the days were dark and cloudy and we would go 2 weeks without the sun even peaking out of the clouds for a few minutes. Without snow, the landscape took on a dark tone with bare trees and muddy grounds. On top of that, we had several days of rain.

Several minutes of the sun peaking through on one of my hikes with my son

I signed up for this 1,000 hours outside challenge for the year and I got the kids excited to try some new things like snow tubing and cross country and downhill skiing. We couldn’t do any of that.

We did get outside some and we had some great, muddy hikes and every time during the month that the sun did peek out, I fully enjoyed it.

Now that we have snow again, it’s really brightened the landscape. Even though it’s still not really sunny out, looking at the bright landscape almost mimics the sun and I think it helps our brains to tell the difference between day and night.

It makes running more challenging but I’ve decided to embrace it this winter. Usually, I’m trying to just “get through” my running in the winter. Keep the level of fitness I’m in and then push myself again in the spring. I decided if I’m going to live in Michigan, I shouldn’t just be trying to survive in the winter, I should be enjoying the difference it brings.

I’ve been watching a YouTube vlogger, Jonna Jinton at night lately. She lives in northern Sweden where it is winter half the year! In December they don’t get any daylight, just one hour of twilight each day. She talks about her struggles with embracing winter and she’s done many things to help herself really enjoy it. It’s inspired me to try to find ways to enjoy it too.

So when we had a fresh blanket of snow on the ground last week, I decided to do something different. Usually I’m trying to find clear roads to run on, but that comes with it’s own challenges. The roads that are clear, often have the most traffic and the shoulders don’t get cleared. So every time a car comes along I need to move onto the shoulder which is usually covered in snow and slush. Now with having my dog too, it’s just extra stressful to try to make sure there’s enough room for both of us to stay out of the way of cars.

So I took my dog to a park that has lots of cross country trails. I figured, why fight the snow. I knew my times would be slower, but I didn’t have to always be such a slave to my watch. To my delight, the paved trail they had been building in October was completed!

The paved trail cut through the woods. There was only a couple inches of snow on the ground and not many footprints so it was actually good traction. The woods looked beautiful covered with the bright white snow. The path meandered right next to a large black river. The contrast between the white of the snow and the darkness of the river and trees was just beautiful.

I didn’t even mind climbing up the long hill and the view from the top of the river was just breathtaking. The path now connected 3 parks and I was able to get my 6 miles in there.

I loved that experience so much that I decided to go back and run there for my long run on Saturday morning. We had a bit more snow and there had been quite a bit more foot traffic, so the footing was not as great as it was earlier in the week, but the stunning beauty of it made up for that.

The worst part of my run was actually on the busiest street as car after car drove by us and I struggled to find good footing on the shoulder.

I finished the run, and later took my girls out for a walk in the same woods I was in. The kids found even more interesting things to do like peel little bits of ice off of the wood dense and throw them into the River.

As we enter February, I’m expecting it to be cold and for there to be much more snow. I’m ok with that. Now we are excited to try to plan some of these winter activities. And of course, it’s always so nice to go back home into a warm house after being outdoors. Much like the contrast in the scenery of light snow on dark trees is calming, the contrast of warm and cold also brings comfort and appreciation for both. Sipping on a hot cup of coffee or tea as my fingers gradually warm up makes me feel happy to be alive.

Enjoy the beauty of this season to the fullest!

59 days

January 1, 2023, the start of a new year. Also, the start of the 59 hardest days of the year for me, typically.

I wouldn’t call it depression. That sounds so serious. It’s more just the winter blahs, or seasonal affective disorder or something like that. I don’t get depressed, but it’s usually the time of the year I just feel “off” or “down” for no particular reason. I mean, certainly life events during other times of the year can be harder, it’s just that usually during this time of year, I’ll feel this way, when nothing in particular is really wrong. Things could be going along just fine and I’ll catch myself just irritable or grumpy and lacking motivation.

Then I feel guilty for feeling that way. It’s a vicious cycle set on repeat from January to March. There’s many reasons I think this happens. I live in Michigan and winters can be particularly brutal. But it’s not necessarily the snow or the cold that makes it so tough. I think a lot of it has to do with the lack of sunshine. I have noticed a drastic improvement in my mood on days that are bitter cold but sunny. Besides just the lack of vitamin D in the wintertime, the sunlight is important for triggering hormones that control your sleep/wake cycles. It’s crucial to send your body signals in the daytime that it’s actually day time.

This year, I’ve got a plan to try to keep myself from falling into these winter blah’s, whatever you want to call it.

For one thing, I bought a “happy lamp”. It sounds so silly, but often, even after I’ve opened up all the blinds in our home, the sky is so grey that it doesn’t really light up the house. This lamp sends daylight signals to my brain in the morning that it’s daytime and can help with the sleepiness and low energy we often feel in the winter. I put it on my kitchen counter when I’m making breakfast or doing dishes, etc.

The next thing I’m doing is making it a priority to get outside when there is sunshine. If I see that golden sun outside, I try to get outside as soon as possible. Even if that’s just driving in a car.

Another thing I’m doing is trying to embrace winter. I’ve signed up for a challenge to get 1,000 hours of outside time this year and honestly, I don’t need it in the summer. We practically live outside in the summer. I do need accountability in the winter. The challenge will keep me motivated on hitting small monthly goals.

I’m also trying getting the family into new winter sports. We already love sledding but my kids are getting older now so we can try some more difficult things like skiing and ice skating, winter hikes, etc. I’m reading a new book, Microadventures, and I’m having fun trying to plan some of ours.

I’m also trying to enjoy winter running more. I’m usually always in the mindset to just “grit through” winter running, but I’m really trying hard to push myself to really enjoy it.

On Christmas Eve, it was a crazy snow storm. I knew I needed to do my long run and my very active dog needed to get some exercise too. With the wind chill it was -5 F. I didn’t even know if my dog should be out there! While many dog breeds are built for winter, he has no undercoat and has hardly any body fat to speak of. So, I put a sweater on him, put the mushers secret on the pads of his feet and tried wrapping a scarf around his ears and we drove to a church nearby that has heated pavement.

Rocky looked like a little old lady getting ready to go for our run

Even heated pavement couldn’t keep up with the heavy snow falling down. It wasn’t as bad as the other roads, but there was definitely a couple inches of snow cover that was semi slushy and a little slippery, but it was much better than the alternative. We ran, and it was torturous when I had to clean up his waste by stopping. The wind was whipping at my face and I zipped my running jacket all the way up to my chin.

When we turned, the cold blasted my face, giving me an instant headache. It took me more than 18 minutes to run 2 miles and then my dog Rocky went and stood by the truck, letting me know he’d had enough.

I took him home to get warmed up and I did the remaining 6 miles alone. I listened to a podcast, and then to some music. It wasn’t exactly what I would call enjoyable, but I got through it and was happy to be done and have done it.

Dealing with that kind of weather is not something I look forward to, but it also teaches me a bit about myself and what I’m capable of when I don’t give up. More than a few times, I thought about doing the last few miles on the treadmill but I stuck it out.

It teaches you something to go out against the elements like that and find there’s a limit to what you can do. On a great day, you may be able to easily run 2 minutes a mile faster, but you just can’t do it in these extremes. But you can endure and you can endure longer than you think. And a warm cup of coffee and hot shower are appreciated that much more afterwards.

I’ll try to write more about my winter adventures and hold myself accountable. Enjoy winter and please share your tips with me for defeating the winter blahs.

When you feel defeated

Sometimes, we hope and pray so hard for something good, and it seems like the answer is no. What do we do? How do we move forward when things feel so hopeless.

“For My ways are not your ways”

“Father, if there is any other way, please take this cup…Your will be done.”

I’ve been in this place before and it’s one of the more unpleasant places. You put in all the hard work, were best suited for that promotion and it didn’t happen. You trained so hard for that race and your workouts were all showing you should be more than able to hit that goal, but race day comes and you fail miserably. Why did I even bother?

I remember going through some of the secondary infertility we experienced and feeling so hopeful going into a month that everything was done “right” only to stare in anger at yet another negative pregnancy test.

Sometimes it’s even bigger than that. Sometimes it’s in regards to laws and policies that leave you feeling completely gutted.

In all these situations, it felt like you did what you were supposed to do, but didn’t get the results. It’s hard to not feel like it’s a judgement of you personally. It’s hard to not be angry. It’s hard to not feel hopeless or wonder why you should put yourself out there emotionally ever again.

Take heart. Jesus was preaching in a corrupt Roman Empire. And word spread quickly of His teachings and His healing and He even was said to be the long awaited Messiah prophesied. People were full of hope. Hope that He, like Moses would lead the people out of oppression.

When He rode a donkey, people waved palms, fulfilling yet another prophesy. Yet He was murdered. Not only that but He was mocked and humiliated. Stripped down naked. The people who truly believed He was the Messiah must have wondered why He didn’t free Himself from the cross and end it all there. Instead, He allowed it to occur.

Can you imagine what the believers must have been feeling? I can. I can feel it. They were hopeless. It would seem that the naysayers were right all along. They were made out to be fools and conspiracy theorists. But this wasn’t the end of the story.

Jesus rose on the third day. And on the day of Pentecost was the birth of Christianity. A fire that still burns brightly today. The Bible is still the bestselling book of all time.

It’s hard not to feel dismayed, hopeless, broken or even humiliated when we think we’ve been defeated. I urge you to remember that the story is not over. Sometimes God is working something even bigger and better in our moments that feel like defeat.

Don’t give in to feeling hopeless. Sing praises and be joyful even in your suffering. The enemy wants us feeling broken and defeated. But we have a strength that they can’t take away.

Encourage each other. Get back up and joyfully do the work. Pray. Love. Rejoice in your sorrows and let the flame within you shine all the brighter. Laugh when you are mocked. Don’t allow yourself to be humiliated. Be brave like Daniel going into the flaming furnace, saying “even if God doesn’t get me out of this, He is still God!”

If you want to change the world, go home and love your family. Love your community. Love your enemy.

The split road

I was out running with my dog this morning and suddenly he started acting strange. He’s always either running a bit in front of me or directly at my side. He’s never running behind me unless he’s taking a quick pee and then he sprints to catch up.

He was definitely trotting behind me. I called to him and yet he still kept back a bit. Puzzled, I started to look around. That’s when I saw it.

We were jogging down a long country road where you could see much more than a mile into the distance. Looking straight on you could see a cloudy sky, mostly heavy shades of vanilla. To the left, there was a wide open field and a mostly light sky and you could actually see the sun rays poking through the clouds. It looked beautiful and for some reason seeing rays of light poking through the clouds like that always makes me feel God’s presence.

The view to our right was another story. The sky was so dark it seemed nearly black. Heavy storm clouds were creating this ominous feeling. It was after looking at that sky that I noticed the strong wind.

I had checked the forecast before going out and there was a good chance of rain but I didn’t see any storms. It certainly looked like a storm and I figured it was scaring my dog.

I looked back to the left. Peaceful. Beautiful. Calm. I looked again to the right. Dark. Stormy. Frightening.

Suddenly I noticed I had picked up the pace. If I continued running forward, I’d eventually run away from that dark sky but it was going to take a while. What if a bad storm did come on suddenly when we were out here? I looked around. There were plenty of barns we could duck into.

I looked again at the rays of light poking through the clouds on my left and prayed quickly that He would keep us safe. I focused on that light and calm and I wasn’t afraid. When I looked at the dark sky and how much further I had to run, I felt more anxious.

I knew I needed to just trust and feel confident that things were under control. When I focused on the light, it was easier. When I focused on the dark, it was easy to let the fear creep in.

And isn’t this the way it is in life? When we focus on our fears, our doubts, our insecurities, the what if’s in life, that’s all we can see. How long till we out run the storm?

When we set our confidence on the light, we see all the safe places we can shelter if need be, but don’t focus on that too much. We keep going on, confident, and secure that our path is the right one and it’s going to get us where we need to be.

Eventually, it started raining and the wind started really blowing against us. I got my dog back to my side and encouraged him that it was ok. He seemed to do better knowing I was not afraid.

We made it back and there never ended up being any thunderstorms, just rain and wind.

But storms can happen any time so it’s best to be prepared for them. If they do catch you by surprise, know where to look to keep you safe and secure. Feel confident in the light.

My beautiful daughter

My oldest daughter entered this world screaming. It was such a relief hearing her cry for the very first time. It was a scary, emergency c-section after a tumultuous labor and I couldn’t see what was happening but I heard her cry. I knew she was ok.

Her first 12 weeks of life were spent doing a lot of screaming as well. If she wasn’t eating or sleeping (which she fought and fought), she was screaming. I felt like such a failure. All these other moms would post pictures of babies that were not screaming all the time. I took her to the doctor so many times looking for answers. I cut nearly everything joyful out of my diet but nothing ever seemed to help. So I’d wear her in a carrier and I’d walk around the house all the day long. I’d put on music or tv for a break up of the monotony, and often I’d cry right along with her.

As time went on, she grew out of the colic, but she always has been a strong willed child. Very sensitive.

Unfortunately, because she’s my oldest, I didn’t have the patience or skills that have developed over time and I fear I’ve made some of my worst parenting mistakes on her. But I’ve always loved her deeply and fiercely.

I remember her first cold and how I wouldn’t leave her side for 3 full days. I knew in my heart what it really meant to love someone. She taught me that. For the first time in my life, I felt closer to understanding the depth of God’s love for us.

As she grew, it became very apparent that she’s fierce. She’s fierce in passion, and in love and in her sense of justice and fairness, and in her emotions. When she feels something, she feels it deeply. There’s no hiding it. When she’s joyful, it’s a sight to behold and when she’s angry, she likewise has a hard time containing it.

It’s my job as her mom to help her to navigate these strong feelings in the real world and I’ve been working with her on it since she was a toddler.

I love that she has such a strong personality and that she isn’t afraid to speak out when something isn’t right. Yet she needs to learn how to handle things in the right way. We all can’t just act on our feelings all the time without some negative and very heartbreaking consequences.

I know first hand just how difficult she can be, so when a conflict arises with others, I talk it through with her. I listen to her side but then I try to get her to put herself into the other person’s shoes and see it from their perspective. Then I try asking her questions about what she thinks they were feeling or thinking. Oftentimes she is able to see some of her errors and we talk about how she can take responsibility for what she’s done, and apologize when necessary without being taken advantage of.

It’s a skill set that many adults haven’t even developed, so I don’t ever expect her to get things right even most of the time.

What I’m doing is helping her learn to empathize with people and then having her think through better ways to handle situations next time so that she’s not just allowing her emotions to rule over her. But she’s only 9, and these things take time.

She loves people fiercely and has a strong sense of loyalty and tends to expect the same from other friends, which sets herself up for hurt when people don’t act in the ways she expects them to. When a friend rejects her or starts spending time with another friend, it hurts her deeply. Sometimes she creates unwritten rules for her friends that they don’t know about or understand and it can push people away. This is something too I am working with her on. But I wish people saw how much she cares about them.

She knows all her friends likes and dislikes and she writes them little notes and cards that I find around the house that are so thoughtful and kind. “Just wanted you to know that I saw you being kind to —- the other day and I love that about you. I think you’re a very kind friend.” She absolutely looks for the good in everyone and let’s them know how much she cares about them.

When people hurt her, she’s quick to forgive and then she doesn’t bring it up again.

She can tell when someone is sad and is the kid that will go to them.

She’s also not afraid to stand up for others when she feels they are being treated unfairly. If you’re her friend, she’ll go to bat for you, no matter the social cost. That’s her kind of loyalty, and again, it’s what she expects from others, but she is often disappointed as many, many other children will not risk the social cost to stand up for her. But it won’t change her doing it for them.

I can give example after example of her going against the grain to stand up for what she believes in. I’ve been so proud, not only of her bravery, but also the way she goes about it. Not all the time. Sometimes she’s mean and goes too far. That’s what I have to help her with.

And sometimes she’s just wrong about things but has a hard time giving in. Again, I work with her in that.

I just wish everyone could see her heart. It’s not perfect and she’s made plenty of mistakes and will continue to do so but she has such a huge heart.

And she’ll learn not to let others opinions of her matter as much as they do now. Right now, my mama heart hurts for her and I just needed to write about the person that she is. The whole person. Her faults, her greatness, all of it. I need her to know she’s loved and accepted beyond anything she can imagine.

I’m always going to hold her accountable, but I’m always going to love her too. And I’m going to make sure she’s around people willing to see her faults and her greatness.

The Reckoning

So many of the scars that formed from wounds during the last few years are just starting to show.

There was a lot of hurt and a lot of anger that so many people experienced. So how do we move forward? How do we heal?

I know for me, there has been a level of stress I personally experienced unlike any other time of my life. I was hurt not just by many family and friends but also by trusted organizations and media, tech, the list just goes on and on. I couldn’t really talk about it either. Not to many family and friends or even on social media platforms.

It’s hard to even describe what that felt like. The world that I thought I lived in was not at all what it had seemed. I was being lied to, gaslight, bullied and silenced. It was terrifying to see it, and so odd to not have everyone else see it too. We were co-existing with those around us in two very different realities.

Take masks for example. I had been chastised and ridiculed for not wearing a cloth mask or forcing one on my children (including my 2 year old!). I had followed the science and listened to the experts from OSHA that explained that a cloth mask could not filter out the aerosolized Covid virus that was 16,000 times smaller than a human hair. Sure, if you cough or sneeze into a cloth mask, some of the wetness is not going to get through but within 15 minutes of being in a room without good ventilation with someone infected just breathing, it was of no use. Further, it gave people a false sense of protection.

This is widely accepted as common knowledge now, but for over a year this was lied about by trusted health sources. The absurdity of a group of kids playing soccer outdoors with their masks on and seeing “officials” at games walking around to parents sitting well over 6 feet apart OUTDOORS and telling them they had to pull their masks up or leave the games is something forever burned into my memory.

Yet none of these people or authorities have ever apologized or admitted they were wrong to bully us the way they did. We’re just supposed to move on. Like an abuser to their victim, “come on, it wasn’t that bad. Stop being hurt already. I can’t tolerate your pain.”

I could go on and on about the things I was ridiculed over that turned out I was right about, but the people that know already know, and those that still don’t can’t tolerate to hear it.

Yet we carry these bruises, these scars. We’ve been deeply wounded and it’s really hard to trust again. Not just the authorities that lied to us, but family and friends that deeply wounded us too, but can’t seem to bring themselves to see our wounds.

I was reading the Bible recently, as I do daily, and the story of Elijah the prophet was understood to me in a new way.

Here is this man of God that takes on great personal sacrifice to himself to tell others the truth. He’s hated for it. He’s literally hated. Especially by the corrupt king and queen who have all of the other prophets murdered because they can’t bear to hear the truth of what they said.

So God withholds the rain. There is a huge drought which causes a great famine. A famine so great, we are told of the widow woman who God chooses to care for Elijah, is about to use the last of her supplies to make a loaf of bread for her and her son and then they both will die of hunger.

God takes care of His prophet and this woman of course and they do not run out of food. Much later we jump to the great climactic scene where God shows His power to everyone.

While we can’t know of course exactly what Elijah was thinking or feeling in these moments, we have some clues. He wasn’t scared. This was it. This was the big show down between God and the wicked authorities and idol worshipers of the time. Elijah KNEW what God could do. He was confident. He was ready to show the world the truth and watch the wool be pulled off of their faces.

Elijah challenges king Ahab and his prophets of idol worship to see whose god is the one true God. He tells them to go gather sticks and prepare a sacrifice and call upon their god to light the fire.

There were 450 prophets of Baal, and Elijah was the only prophet for the one true God. He was in his moment. This was his God’s moment to shine and he watched and waited, knowing full well that their god was not able to light the fire. He watched and waited and mocked them to “call louder” to their god.

Eventually, he poured buckets of water (which remember was incredibly scarce!) onto his sacrifice. This is important because it’s showing just how confident he was. He KNOWS that truth is on his side and he’s making a grand show of it. Of course God’s fire is no match for the water poured over the wood and Elijah watches as the truth is shown to everyone that day.

Not only did God consume the sacrifice and the wood but also the stones and the soil and even the pool of water. The people saw the truth on full display and there was absolutely no denying it.

Elijah must have been thinking, “finally! Now there is NO WAY they can deny it, they saw with their own eyes the absolute power of God and there’s no way they can go back to worshiping Baal. He seizes the moment to capture the 450 false prophets of Baal and have them put to death. And the sky starts to storm…it’s finally going to rain!!

Elijah must have felt great. He must have thought that now that the eyes were opened, things would be different. The people of Israel will repent and turn their hearts back to the real God, including the authorities. That’s not what happens.

The wicked queen Jezebel, who had God’s prophets murdered digs her heels in deeper. She does not repent. She is faced with undeniable evidence of truth and she sends a message to Elijah that what happened to the 450 prophets of Baal will happen to him.

And Elijah runs and hides. This man, who was extremely confident in the scene before is now running away from it all. And haven’t we all felt like this?

We’ve known the truth. We’re confident in it and we’ve just been waiting for it to come to light to the masses (because truth does always come out in the end). We think that once it does, it will change things. In doing so we forget the stubbornness of the human heart and we set ourselves up to feel like Elijah. Frustrated. Defeated. Wondering why we even bother to keep up the fight.

Elijah prays to God to take him now. It’s enough, he basically says. I’ve felt that. I’ve felt so frustrated with this world and the people in it I’ve felt ready for the Second Coming. I’ve wanted to just get away from it all and just escape with my family and friends.

And we see so much of who God is in the gentle way He takes care of Elijah. He feeds him. He lets Elijah know that though he feels all alone, there are 7,000 believers among the nation of Israel. And I think Elijah needed to know that. All his work he’d done. He hadn’t failed. There were still 7,000 believers of God out there and God had more work for him to do. He refreshed Elijah with food and with a purpose. And He gave Elijah a protégé, a friend.

And when we think about it, God takes care of us in this way too. There have been many people in my life who have hurt me, but there have also been many people I’ve grown closer to that have helped me when I’ve felt the burden of knowing the truth was too heavy and too much.

And the story of Elijah is a preview of the story of Jesus. And in Jesus’s death, more hearts were turned and still today, more hearts continue to turn.

I found great encouragement in Elijah’s story today. We may feel like the task we are up against is too great and that we are not up to it. We forget we are not working alone and that God uses us in powerful ways to turn the hearts of those around us. We may never get that big show down moment. Yet, often it’s not in those big powerful moments that hearts are changed anyway, but rather in the diligent work we do day after day that convinces people of truth.

God showed Elijah in the wilderness His power by a wind so great that it tore the rocks, and then an earthquake and a fire. But Elijah knew the Lord’s presence was not in the wind, the earthquake or the fire. Then there was a gentle whisper. This was where Elijah felt God’s presence. bz

We may not ever feel righted for the wrongs we’ve experienced the last couple years. Surely though, God’s purpose is still being realized and I have to wonder how many people have come to have true faith in this crisis. It might seem like everyone’s hearts have gone in the opposite direction because that’s all of what we see and hear but God knows just how many of His true followers there are. And He sees our pain and our hurt and I believe has provided us the little community of truth tellers that we have.

May you read this and feel refreshed in your purpose. For our true purpose is to spread the gospel, and sometimes I need that reminder.

There’s something wrong with the world today

Like most people, I am absolutely gutted by the news that now 19 children and two teachers were killed at an elementary school last week.

It took time to process it and we’ll all still be processing it for a while. Acts this heinous, stir the core of our beings as we try to grapple with it being real.

I’m the couple days following, I noticed a general anxiety settle onto me that couldn’t be tied to anything in particular. Just an uneasiness. It saps my energy. I’m tired. Everyone is tired. It’s been two plus years of uneasiness. We’re screaming inside for normalcy. Normalcy like we had in 2019.

We were cleaning up dinner last night and my phone went off, a loud, blaring alarm that at first I thought was either the fire alarm or carbon monoxide alarm. I realized it was my phone and read that we were under a tornado warning and it said to take shelter immediately. Without missing a beat, all of us got to the basement with the dog and it just felt normal. It didn’t even trigger my adrenaline. I was oddly calm. Then again, after all the insanity of the last two years and the last couple days, a tornado doesn’t feel that scary when you’re in your home and all your loved ones are with you. We know what to do. We felt mostly protected. Our world as a whole used to feel that way too.

I don’t know all the details surrounding the school shooting. I do know that many people are feeling anxious and sad and that often turns to anger. It’s less scary when we can name our enemies and think we have all the answers to fight them. We can place all our negative emotions and feelings on this enemy and then we can do all in our power to defeat them and then we feel better. Anger, towards a particular foe is easier to feel than anxiety and grief.

So you will see people, politicians and those with a large platform getting angry and telling us what the simple solution is that will stop such an atrocity from ever occurring again. And they’ll tear into their political opponents and those that vote like they do and our already divided nation will divide into tribalism even further.

But I wish we could stop it. I wish we could take a beat to just process our collective grief before turning ugly towards one another yet again.

There’s something so broken in our country and I’ve never seen things as bad as they are today. It makes me yearn for the decades that I grew up in. No social media, I didn’t know any of my neighbors political beliefs.

Last weekend we had a block party on my street. It is something so simple, yet they are very rare today. People came over and chatted and politics just never came up. People talked to one another and shared food and the children all ran around playing and jumped in the giant bounce house. I couldn’t help but feel sentimental over it. After the last couple years it just felt so incredibly wonderful to get together with a bunch of people.

I don’t have the answers about why this horrible act occurred or how to prevent it but I do think it’s probably a complex problem that doesn’t have simple answers. I think if we just keep angrily shouting at each other instead of having respectful dialog, things will only get worse.

I hope in the days and weeks to come, you consider my words and try to process your feelings and fears instead of just latching onto political anger. I hope you spend more time talking to people in real life than arguing with people online or just posting hateful rhetoric to get a few likes from your echo chamber. If we want to change this world we have to stop what we’re doing!

I spent some time researching Woodstock the other night, of all random things. I looked at hundreds of photos of the event and they made me happy. There was so much unrest in 1969, yet our youth got together in a way that’s unimaginable today. I know there were dark parts of Woodstock too, but there was also pure joy and freedom. People looked happy and healthy. It’s hard to look at those pictures of a girl in a sports bra and shorts running through the mud with a smile on her face as a crowd smiled and cheered and imagine them now. Locked in their homes behind their computers and smart phones yelling at people online. What happened to them?!

We have got to get back to that spirit of peace and not war. Of love and acceptance. Of being able to talk to people that are different than us. Not just different in appearance but different in views. Even if we find their views “harmful”. Most people, regardless of their views want the same things and feel just as sad as we do when tragedy strikes. We should be want to unite in our collective grief right now instead of pointing fingers. We should be able to brainstorm solutions that everyone can agree on.

It’s a broken world and it’s always been that way and will always be that way. But it’s still beautiful and we can be part of the beauty or part of the brokenness.