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The immune system

This is part 2 of my writings on the shot for Covid. You can read the first part here.

To understand how the shot works, it’s necessary to understand the immune system. I am not a doctor, or an expert but all of the information I provide is from my own search for understanding and I encourage everyone to find this information yourself.

The immune system has two basic parts, the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system.

The innate immune system is best understood if you think of what happens if you step on a nail. There’s pain and redness and swelling that happens at the site of the injury. There are many things happening in the area, and all together it’s described as inflammation. This inflammation is protecting you from any number of bacteria or viruses that were on that nail when it broke through the skin. It is non specific, meaning, it doesn’t care if it’s virus or bacteria or what particular kind. It’s there to get to work on any foreign invaders that can do you harm.

The next part of the immune system is the adaptive immune system. This is the system responsible for creating specific antibodies to defend against specific invaders. It’s more complex than that of course, but I won’t go too far down that rabbit hole just yet. The innate and adaptive immune systems work together to keep you safe and healthy.

So to understand a virus like Covid, and how it attacks you, it’s important to understand a bit about these parts of the immune system.

The Covid virus is incredibly small. Only 120 nanometers. For reference, one strand of human hair is 75,000 nanometers. https://www.ocregister.com/2020/04/10/coronavirus-heres-how-small-the-enemy-is-and-how-it-attacks/

These viruses are so small they are aerosolized, which means you can inhale the virus just by breathing around someone who has been infected and is exhaling these particles.

So if you do happen to inhale these particles into your lungs, they have a spike protein we’ve all heard so much about that is able to bind to your cells via ACE2. This means the virus is able to enter any cells that have this receptor. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32418199/

Once the virus has gained entry into these cells it’s able to hijack our own cells and use the virus RNA to get our cells to produce copies that then leave the cell to go on and infect more cells and create more copies of itself so that eventually the new host is breathing out these viral particles too.

But it’s not as though your body just sits there and allows the virus to slowly take over. Your immune system is actually AMAZING. It’s so complex that there are still things we don’t fully understand about it.

Like when your cells get highjacked by the Covid virus, even then they are sending out SOS signals that your body picks up on and reacts to. Your innate immune system and adaptive immune system work together, like all forces of our National defense work together to fight a foreign invader. You have the Army, Navy, Air Force, National Guard and certain special forces, all with different goals and operations with ultimately the same goal of keeping you safe.

Amazingly, everyone has the ability to make antibodies to pretty much any virus. The way your cells can rearrange their proteins to make these specific antibodies is nothing short of amazing. It’s kind of like a lock and key. Your B cells are trying to attack Covid and trying different combinations to find just the right mix. Once they do find the right combination, there is a positive feedback loop that sends out signals telling your immune system “this is working!” And so those B cells start proliferating and producing more and more. Once your adaptive immune system gets going on this, it works with the innate immune system to neutralize the threat.

Even after the threat is neutralized you still have a lot of these specific antibody B cells floating around in your blood. If the same invader tries to attack again, your body is primed to neutralize it much more quickly, often before you even have symptoms.

Vaccines have worked based on how the immune system works. People figured out that milkmaids who encountered cowpox, which caused blisters but was not very deadly, we’re not getting sick with smallpox, which was much more dangerous. Farmers were found to have purposely exposed their families to cowpox blisters and it was effective at keeping them from getting smallpox when outbreaks occurred in their communities.

This was effective because cowpox and smallpox viruses were so similar that the specific antibodies that cowpox produced were also effective at neutralizing small pox.

Eventually, many vaccines used either dead or weakened strains of the actual virus and found that with the right additives they could effectively produce an adaptive immune response without the host having to go through the risk of the actual sickness. And thus, in developed parts of the world, many of these illnesses that caused great injury and death have mostly been eradicated. But it hasn’t been exactly a perfect road. I won’t get too deep except to say that you should look up what happened with the polio vaccine sometime just for a bit of interesting knowledge. Oops. Yep, just like with anything in life, vaccines are not risk free.

Along with some of the best inventions, there has been great cost. Think about the invention of the car and how it forever transformed the way we move. Yet auto accidents remain one of the highest causes of death. Antibiotics, of which the discovery was by pure accident (another fun story to look up) have saved countless numbers of people from early death, yet they have also caused some death by giving rise to antibiotic resistant bacteria.

So when I talk about risks with shots for Covid, it doesn’t mean that I am against the shot. It means I believe in people making informed decisions taking the risks and benefits into account. That is not at all what is happening with these shots and as a result, people are no longer trusting in people and institutions that have had much of the public’s trust for years.

So why is this Covid shot different from other shots? I’ll get into that more next.

Health and research

I know, I know, you’re sick of hearing about Covid. Me too, yet we can’t seem to stop talking about it.

Is this going to be controversial? I don’t know. It seems like just about any topic could be these days. When we politicize every single aspect of life, that’s what’s going to happen.

I’m not into politics. I vote. I read. I have opinions on issues but for the most part, I keep those to myself and am able to listen openly to the views of others that differ from my own. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a politically divided home so I witnessed my parents having polar opposite political views, maybe it’s because I met so many different people over the years through running and I’ve allowed different viewpoints to open my mind (from CEOS and VPS of major companies to the grifters). But I also think as my spirituality has grown, I’ve seen the way that politics very much becomes an idol for some people.

So I come from the standpoint of someone who doesn’t want things to be so politicized and believes there is corruption (a great deal of it) in every level of our government, on all political sides. So hopefully, you understand I’m not pushing an agenda, or a political party or anything of that nature. In other words, I’ve tried to remove any bias. While it’s likely impossible to completely remove all bias, I certainly do my best to go with fact and truth, regardless of whether or not it fits in with my worldview.

Back in March of 2020, there were so many unknowns. By June of 2021 we have learned so much and are still learning.

There continues to be politicization of Covid and even the shot. I’m not going to say v a c because there’s a lot of censorship going on. Lately, the news media has been trying to further divide people by posting that it’s conservatives that are largely hesitant of getting the shot. Yet, I know in my own life this is simply not true. I know lifetime democrats who do not want it, and I also know lifetime republicans that happily got it.

I think what the government and media are failing to realize is that people are so much smarter than they give them credit for. Also, people today in the US have access to more information at their fingertips than ever before in history. Now, not all of that information is credible to be sure, but nevertheless, it’s out there.

So of course the best course of action for the government to take would be to take politics right out of it and give factual information, even if they think it might cause people to not get the shot. It’s honest, and that is how you build trust. It takes years and years to build trust, but its lost in a single moment of dishonesty.

We like to throw around labels and say that people are anti you know what. Is that helpful? Or is it a bullying tactic to shut down honest conversation?

For me personally, I’ve always blindly trusted in the shots and even always got the flu shot. There are a lot of people out there like me and I can tell you a lot of people are now questioning shots in general, because they feel the government has been dishonest with the public. But instead of humbly reassessing, the government and officials seem to be digging in.

What is my opinion on the shot? I think it’s amazing that we were able to get one available so quickly. Obviously, Covid was a huge threat to many people and since the shot became available, the death rate for Covid has completely plummeted. That’s a great thing! Additionally, the science on MRNA has very promising research going into it for very hard to treat cancers and diseases such as MS.

That said, every thing in life comes with risks. The shot is not free from these risks and normally there is a risk/benefit analysis that occurs before taking any drug into your body. That is simply not happening here and the message being sent is “get the shot or you’re selfish”, or “if you have questions you must be anti science and anti you know what, conspiracy theorist”, or the new one “All you Trumplicans are so uneducated, you aren’t even worth the air you breathe”.

These are bullying tactics and thus far they have not been helpful in moving the needle for those hesitant of the shot.

Could you imagine raising your children this way and then being surprised when they revolt? It’s disgusting.

Look, the shots have risks. They have short term risks and they have long term risks. All shots have risks.

We know that people who are over 65 have the greatest risk from Covid. We also know that people who are obese, have diabetes, heart disease, cancer, are smokers, or have inflammation type diseases are at greater risk from Covid. If people are going through and checking off those boxes, the risk of serious injury or death from the shot is probably lower than the risk of death or serious injury from Covid. It makes sense, that these are the people who would want to get the shot.

Then there’s people who are young and healthy and want the shot because they still don’t want to get Covid. They are aware of the risks of the shot and willing to take on that risk for the benefit of feeling more protected if they do encounter the virus.

Then there are people who are not really worried about Covid and would rather wait it out on the shot.

And then there’s children and people who have already had and recovered from Covid.

I know people in all of these groups. It’s complicated because there’s a lot of pressure and a lot of threatening and coercion going on. Even our own government agencies are putting information out there that is not true. People don’t know who to trust or where to go for information. We should never shame people for non credible sources. Not everyone knows how to find a good source, but that doesn’t mean they are stupid.

When a situation like Covid happens, and science is changing by the day, it’s important to know how to find a good source. Doctors and nurses that have been treating patients are a good source of information typically but in this highly politicized climate there’s a lot of censorship going on and also severe consequences for speaking outside the standard talking points.

I’ve found keeping up with current research is the best way to stay on top of the latest and greatest information but even that comes with some careful caveats. Medical journals such as the Lancet and Nature have been posting free research on Covid, which is great but much of it is prior to peer review. This is fine, but if someone doesn’t understand research really well, and the article has not been peer reviewed, it’s possible to miss some serious red flags.

I’ll give a non Covid example. I had a c-section delivery with my first child. When I was pregnant with my second I had a choice on whether or not I wanted to have a trial of labor or schedule a repeat c-section. Both had potential risks, so I poured myself into the research to help make my decision. The research supposedly showed that a repeat c-section is safer for the baby and more risky for the mom. That didn’t sit well with me so I went and found the actual study that this conclusion was based on and found that in the vaginal birth after c-section group, there were 2 infant deaths out of around 1,000 healthy births, and that was why they were making that claim. If you do the math, you know that is less than 1%. While any death of the baby is a tragedy, there was no additional information given surrounding those two deaths that could have helped understand what happened better. So I brought this information with me and had a very candid conversation with my doctor. She explained further to me that if she didn’t think I was a good candidate for a trial of labor, she would recommend against it. She also explained that this was why the hospital had strict protocols in place for what’s allowed during a trial of labor after c-section and what’s not. For instance, the hospital allows trial of labor because they have an OB on call at the hospital 24/7 and an anesthesiologist so if the worst happens, they are able to quickly perform an emergency c-section. I ended up having two successful VBACS! The research and science was good, but sometimes conclusions are poor.

So when reading studies, ask who is doing the study and why are they doing it? Also, the way the study happens is important. Are people aware of what they are getting and will that psychologically alter their thoughts and opinions? How did they select the participants? Are all groups represented? Many clinical trials historically have not included women because of our unique reproductive system that can skew results so unfortunately, women are often not represented. How many people were in the trial? Do the conclusions made match the results? In the c-section example, 2 out of 1,000 is a very small number to draw such conclusions from.

Real science always allows for questions and good debate. I’ll write more about what current research says and other ways to protect yourself from Covid.

A lesson on contentment

We are THAT house! My husband had spent hours just two weeks ago organizing our garage and I couldn’t even get through it today to pull out some of my son’s toys. Our house was so clean the moment we walked in from our camping trip! But it didn’t stay that way…all our dirty laundry, all the dishes, all the kid’s stuff quickly turned it back to “normal”, and some days it’s all too much and drives me batty. Some days, I just want so badly for everything to be nice and tidy and stay that way…but this is where we are.

We are also THAT house that has a constant stream of children of all ages. And I flat out love it. They are not inside watching tv or playing video games. They are running around outside playing hide and seek tag, or playing “baby world” in the garage, or Barbies, or catching toads, or jumping on trampolines or spying on older/younger siblings, or crafting or coloring or building forts inside someone’s house.

I absolutely love that my kids friends get excited to tell me something. They like being here. I like them being here. Our house may not be updated or have nice furniture and I may feel like I constantly clean the same messes, but I doubt my kids friends even care.

We have the kind of community in this neighborhood that I wouldn’t trade for the nicest house in Beverly Hills. My kids friends’s moms have become my friends and we raise each other up and help each other out. And when my daughter’s friend lost her grandpa this year that was raising her (so he was really like a father to her), we all tried to surround the family with support. When we found out a couple weeks ago it was his birthday and she invited us all over at 8 pm during the week to sing happy birthday to him and eat cake, we hurried over.

None of us live perfect lives or have perfect houses (or homes) but we have a lot of heart. I could spend all my time cleaning and organizing and shooing my kids and their friends away, but I choose to accept some of the chaos that goes along with having kids.

Another neighbor and I were talking this morning about the chaos of it all and the feeling of never being caught up. I admitted I have to remind myself this is only a season. She pointed out correctly it’s likely 10 years at least like this. Very true. So I had better learn to get content with it then, right?

I have a really long ways to go. I crave order to the chaos and it really is a stress to me when things feel so out of hand. So I’m learning a lesson in contentment. My kids are happy and we have great people surrounding us. What does it matter if these things get put on the back burner for a few years (or 10!). If I can learn to just be content, even when things are not as buttoned up as I want them to be, it will do a great deal for my happiness. When we’re not content in our own lives, we start to compare. We see what others have that we want and it drains us of our own happiness.

There’s so much joy in appreciating where you are now.

There’s a story in the New Testament of Martha and Mary and I didn’t like the story at first because it’s so relatable.

Jesus is traveling and Martha invites Him into her home with other guests. Her sister Mary is there and Martha runs around doing all the work while her sister sits there just listening to Jesus speak.

Any other moms out there planned a birthday party at your home and felt like Martha before with your husbands? You’re running around, cleaning the house, buying the groceries and preparing all the food! At the party, you’re noticing what chip bowl needs to be refilled and someone asks for something and then someone else spills something and you try to catch your husband’s eye to signal you need a hand and he’s just chatting away and totally oblivious to all that’s going on?

So I totally could relate to how Martha was feeling. She gets mad. And then she boldly even tells Jesus to tell her sister to help her!

Jesus says to Martha in response: “Martha, Martha,” and then He continues, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”—Luke 10:38-42

Wow! The first time I read it, it was actually quite shocking to me. Of course, now I understand and I see so many times my heart is like Martha instead of like Mary’s.

So I live each day trying to focus on the important things and be content enough with the less important things. There is ALWAYS work to be done. But these moments with your kids and family will not last forever.

Last night, my husband and oldest were at soccer practice and I had piles upon piles of folded laundry on top of the kitchen table from our camping trip. I could have moved it all off but I decided it would just be easier to take our dinner out to the back deck. This of course, was a disaster because my 21 month old and 5 year old took a few bites of food and then just wanted to play.

I sat up on the back deck, it was a gorgeous night. I watched my 5 year old helping her little brother up the ladder to the play set. He was pretty good on his own anyway but she took absolute care in making sure of it. They giggled and played and she helped him on the two person swing and I just sat there watching them. It was pretty cool seeing them play like that just the two of them and getting to see my middle take on the role of big sister. She owned it.

After I finished eating, I knew I should go clean up but I sat there watching the two of them instead. In that moment I felt like I chose right.

So, the house being tidy and organized and updated is not important. I choose being the house with love and warmth and chose time with family and people. And I’m doing my best to let the rest go.

Your voice matters

The weekend before last, my 8 year old had a soccer game. While we were there watching, something very strange was happening. There were two adults roaming the fields policing the mask policy.

This is not a post to discuss the merits of wearing a mask or whether or not you agree with the policy. The two individuals that were on the soccer field that day were going above and beyond any requirements. Here’s a run down of what happened.

My mom, who is someone I consider a mask wearing advocate if you will was sitting outside, more than 10 feet away from anyone else when we arrived and she was sipping her coffee. The lady approached her and reprimanded her for having her mask pulled down and told her she needed to pull it up in between sips.

My daughter, when she was sitting off the field during her rest period, outside and not near anyone and who had her mask pulled down to get some fresh air (she plays soccer with a mask on, which I am not a fan of but we comply) was reprimanded and told to pull her mask back up.

My husband (the coach) was wearing a black gator type mask (he’s running during the games up and down the field too) was handed a medical mask by the man and told her needed to wear that instead of the gator.

I had brought food and was snacking on our blanket, again, outside and seated no where near anyone else and was told I needed to keep my mask up in between bites and then the woman stood off and stared at me for a couple minutes to make sure I got the message.

Many other spectators were sitting spread far apart and were also harassed and one of the girls on my daughters team was distressed watching her grandpa argue loudly with the two Individuals before he was asked to leave.

The whole experience left a very bad taste in my mouth. Again, this is not about the merits of mask wearing to prevent the spread of Covid. For the most part, everyone at the game was complying with the rules. It felt like the two individuals were there to “get people”.

I used to work as an official for the state high school track meet. I remember clearly, the head official telling us all that we were not there to try to “get people out”. We were told to always give warnings to athletes and only disqualify someone when absolutely necessary to ensure fair play. It was supposed to be fun competition and if we did our jobs, most of the time no one knew we were there.

So I go back to the soccer game. Kids and parents are there trying to have fun and the two individuals turned it into something completely different.

My husband sent an email to the organization and apparently many other parents did too. Enough parents complained that they scheduled a virtual meeting about it that very week. My husband was very kind in his email. He just asked for clarification on what exactly the rules are and where they were coming from. He tried to find some of them that people were being harassed about on the soccer page and the health department page and couldn’t find them.

Other parents had these same questions and wanted to know what organization the two individuals represented. We are not involved in baseball or softball but some parents have kids that play baseball and softball too and pointed out the difference in enforcement at the ball fields.

The day after the meeting the soccer organization sent out an email admitting that it was not the county health department enforcing these rules but rather volunteers from within the organization that took it upon themselves to be the mask police under the guise of trying to not get soccer shut down by the health department. They told us they would no longer be roaming the fields, and indeed the next Saturday was a much better experience for all. They then requested that we all follow the rules because the county health department could show up at any time.

This is exactly what happens when people take it upon themselves to be the authority in righteousness. Churches have long been criticized for similar tactics. It’s like this with raising children too. If you try to be too authoritarian, you may win the particular battle but eventually your kids will resent you if your rules are harsh and serve no purpose. They will learn how to not get caught and take pleasure in defying you. However, if you take a more authoritative approach and let your children have as much freedom as possible while also keeping them safe and healthy they will feel respected and in turn have more respect towards you if they feel your rules were fair and that you weren’t just trying to control them. I try to even let my toddler have as much freedom as possible. If it’s not that big of a deal, I give him choices and save the things that are non negotiable for the times I have the authority.

People like to be treated with respect and allowed the maximum amount of freedom to make their own choices. My opinion is that these two individuals are particularly strong advocates of mask wearing and that people who do not want to wear masks in all situations really bother them. They feel they are carrying out some moral responsibility by policing people as though their lives depended upon wearing masks while seated more than 6 feet away from people while outdoors. They are not following the science and they further work to divide people by proving to those that are already against blanket mask mandates that they are more concerned with the morality of it than the science and health.

I think we all need to do our best to lower the temperature. We should speak up when something isn’t sitting right with us, like my husband and many parents did. It should always be done in a respectful way, and then I believe it really does make a difference.

Memory Lane

I went for a run tonight and I ended up running a route that took me back in time.

My house was built in 1991 but many of the houses in the older parts were built in the 80’s and there was something about them that was just calling me tonight. They are clearly older homes from a style long gone. The homes are much smaller, but the majority of them are very well kept and interesting to look at. The landscaping is often elaborate and there are very large trees throughout. It just gives the whole area more of a feel of being in nature.

The newer neighborhoods that I sometimes run through have much bigger houses and everything about them is “new”. I often find it kind of boring scenery with the houses all similar shades and decorated in the new “clean” style. It’s not that I don’t like these new homes, I actually do like them. It’s just that there’s something about this old style that tugs at my heartstrings and makes for a better run.

Maybe it’s because it reminds me of “simpler times.” Sure, I know the 80’s had plenty of its own issues, but looking back on it now, it sure seems better than what’s going on today.

We never had air conditioning when I was a kid. My kids don’t know how we all would grab sleeping bags and sleep in the basement on hot summer nights or how a heavy rain would bring out all the neighborhood kids to go dance. We spent most of our summers outside and the neighborhood kids were our best friends. Our homes weren’t big and beautiful but we didn’t really care. I can still hear the sound that our screen door made as it shut because we literally ran in and out of each other’s houses all day.

But there was something else missing back then too. I’m reminded of it as I pass a house with a sign proudly displaying the families ideology. In this side of the hood, it’s the first and only one I see. Over on our side, it’s more plentiful. I can’t remember a time from my childhood that people posted their ideologies in their front lawn. If I look back, I doubt we knew any of our neighbors political beliefs other than the signs in support of a person in the weeks leading up to an election. I definitely don’t recall my parents ever talking about our neighbors politics.

Today, in this world my children are growing up in, every aspect of life has been politicized. It’s not just outside people’s homes, it’s in their social media profile. It’s in the comment section of every local news story. It’s in the products you buy, it’s in the tv and movies you watch and even medicine has been politicized, and it’s just too much.

I had to wonder at all that’s changed in the last 30 years; the technology, the political divisiveness, the size of our homes. Has it made us happier? It doesn’t seem like it has. People seem angrier than I’ve ever seen in my life. Are our children happier? I’m trying as hard as I can to give my children the kind of childhood I had and I’m so thankful I live in a neighborhood where it’s a reality.

It was nice to take a jog down memory lane and think about the direction our country and the people of it have taken. Maybe it’s wishful thinking to hope our country gets sick of all this polarization and can get back to just respecting one another and leaving politics for the voting booth.

One of my favorite movies of all time, Forrest Gump was from the 90’s. If you watch it today, it’s the ultimate movie of the two “sides” coming together with the marriage of Forrest to Jenny. They were a surprisingly good couple because they balanced each other out. It’s something that seems impossible today. I myself have always been able to see other people’s ideas and beliefs that differ from my own in the light that they are good intentioned. Lately however, I’ve been having a harder time as it’s entrenched every aspect of our entire lives. My husband and I don’t even watch any tv any more. All our favorite shows have some political message or are just a reflection of what’s going on currently and I just feel like I need a break from it. We watched tv for entertainment and to escape reality, not be reminded of it 24/7.

I don’t know where things are headed but if people don’t really change their ways and keep dividing, I fear the great things about the generation I grew up in will be gone forever. I keep thinking “it doesn’t have to be like this”. For us, we will try to raise our children well in a mixed up world. We’ll try to allow them the innocence of their youth as much as we’re able. Childhood is short. I want ours to enjoy it.

A note on political shaming

I don’t know who will hear this message but I need to say it.

This is aimed at those who consider themselves Christians. I have seen too much hate and division and I’ve seen it coming from Christians and even from religious leaders and “Christian” publications.

As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man to kindling strife. ——Proverbs 26:21

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? —James 4:1

Hatred stirs up trouble, but love forgives all wrongs. —Proverbs 10:12

Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. —Proverbs 13:10

What is it that sets us apart from non believers? Is it the great works we do? Is it the way we carry ourselves, far above our less than holy brethren? Is it our excellent wisdom in who we vote for? Is it our ability to use Bible quotes to try to shame those who vote differently than we do? Is it to share articles that support our views and bash those that don’t? No.

What sets us apart is that we know Jesus died in our place. Jesus died because of YOUR sin and because of MY sin. This is what makes us Christian. Not the works or service we do. Not because we wear a mask or because we didn’t vote for this terrible person or with THAT particular issue.

So now that we’ve cleared that up, here are some other truths. The most loving thing we can do for others is get them to believe the gospel truth. That is how we care about their eternal soul.

Taking care of people in this life is nice too, but it is not near as important as taking care of their soul and we do that by sharing the gospel.

“By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

As Christians, our love for one another should be so extraordinary that those who don’t know the gospel will know that it can’t be from man alone and they will believe.
It’s not easy to love everyone. Sometimes it’s beyond what we are capable of doing. That’s where God comes in. That’s what should definitely set us apart. Love doesn’t mean not holding people accountable. People who commit crimes should be held accountable to their actions, this IS love. Love looks like giving them a fair trial and punishment that doesn’t strip away their dignity.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.— Corinthians 14:4-8

When we tear other people down over the way they vote or the reasons they vote, we are not loving them.

In 2020, these were the presidental options Christians had:
1.) Do not vote for a president because all choices are evil in some way or another
2.) Vote for Donald Trump
3.) Vote for Joe Bide 4.)Vote for a third party candidate or write in

That’s it. Those were your choices. Those were everyone’s choices. Can anyone tell me that among those choices there is one of them that brings the voter salvation and one that does not? There’s not. Because who you vote for and your reasons for that vote are not what saves you. With choices like the ones listed above, thank God for that!

Thank God that our salvation does not depend on any of the things we do except accepting Jesus as our personal Savior.

Now, if we want to bring others to salvation, shaming them for how they voted in the 2020 election for whatever reasons they made that choice doesn’t seem to be an effective way of going about it.

Sure, there are times that we as Christians are to correct our brothers and sisters in Christ from erring with Biblical truth. Since the 2020 election and the correct choice are missing from the Bible, I don’t really see how someone can legitimately point out to their brethren, what the wrong choice is. There is no perfect choice because we live in an imperfect world. Some may argue well this is the least evil choice, but that’s all personal opinion based on what is most important to your imperfect heart.

The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick, who can understand it? —Jeremiah 17:9

If we want to change people’s hearts for the better, why not allow the Holy Spirit to do that work in them? Again, the best way to do that is to let them hear the true gospel message.

We should be very careful as Christians that we are not slipping into the hearts of the religious elite that Jesus warned us about. Remember the prayer of the sinner?

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” —Luke 18:10-18

Once people have received the Holy Spirit, they will want to do good works. However, we need to be careful that we don’t feel righteous by the things we do or believe. Even good works when done for the wrong reasons will be counted against us. Remember the parable of the Prodigal Son?

In the parable, a father has two sons. The younger son demands his inheritance and leaves his home to pursue a life of wild pleasures. He spends every last dime on drinking and women and gambling. When he runs out of money he goes back to his father.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

The son who had worked diligently with his father all along was angry that his father would celebrate and throw a big feast for his brother when he had been there working and living rightly all along.

This is exactly what we do when we think we are justified by our good works and good causes against those who live differently than we do or even think or vote differently than we do. Our works are good but there’s no love in our heart or grace or mercy for those that we feel are less deserving.

The true believer extends grace to all sinners because they humbly know that they too are undeserving of grace, but that it was given to them anyway.

I know it’s not easy to love people who act in ways that are hateful towards us. Remember, loving someone does not mean we invite them into our lives and let them spew hate at us. We should have loving boundaries but it does mean treating them with kindness and dignity when they are not doing the same for us.

I’m fortunate enough to have some good women in my life that remind me of these Biblical truths when I want to bite back. Instead they remind me that I need to be praying for these people and they are so right.

So you may feel good in the moment slamming someone else’s political view on social media. You may feel righteous sharing that religious article that agrees with your viewpoint to try to show others they are wrong. But maybe the best thing you can do is pray for those that hate you and pray for your own heart as well. I ALWAYS think I’m right. So I’ve learned that I need to pray for wisdom to know when my heart is deceiving me and for the humility to admit it.

If anyone wants to know more about the true gospel of Christ, I would love to talk to you. If you are curious or maybe have had a really bad experience with “Christianity” you are not alone. There is much out there that’s fake or false. I am more than happy to help you find the truth. Hint: it’s in the Scriptures.

Much love to all of you, even to those with whom I disagree.

The beauty of depletion

Though I’m not exactly logging lots of miles these days, I can still remember very vividly the long miles of marathon training. There’s something that happens at the end of a 20-22 mile run that is downright beautiful.

Those last couple miles are hard work. You’re tired and likely running low on fuel. Your legs and lungs maybe burn as you push yourself to your absolute limit, knowing that it will all be over soon.

Once finished, you experience that complete and total depletion. You’ve left it all out on the road and now your body is completely empty. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say it’s sort of this wonderful feeling. It takes effort to walk around and stretch your aching muscles and that moment right before that first sip of water or first bite of food is sort of magical. It’s that emptiness and depletion and knowing you’re about to replenish, and that you’ll be better than you were before…

And the next time you run further, it’s because you gave all you could before. It’s this emptying and rebuilding stronger that makes it possible to get through 26.2 miles. You don’t decide to just run a marathon one day and go out and do it. You must go through the depletion and rebuilding, over and over again to get strong enough to run the whole thing.

This depletion has happened for me in other aspects of life too. I went through most of my life as some what of a watered down Christian. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. When I finally was ready, I took it all in. I had to go through that same depletion in order to really build back better. I had to give up everything I was and everything I was holding onto that was holding me back to let Jesus’s saving grace make me new. I can’t begin to explain how refreshing it is to feel completely wiped clean and start over without any baggage.

The last several years I’ve been going through this process. Tearing down so many of the walls I had built up because of my past and my misguided understanding of it. Healing takes time, and it involves the constant depletion and building back anew.

2020 was a different year for all of us and it’s interesting to see where it takes people. As we go into the new year, I’ve felt this depletion going on inside of me for some time. And, if I’m honest, it feels just as magical as it did after those long runs so many years ago. I feel like 2020 finally gave me the courage to get rid of so many of the things I had been holding onto for too long.

I took a couple of breaks from social media and learned a lot about both social media and about myself. I noticed how much I had been censoring myself because I didn’t want to offend anyone or for anyone to be upset with me because my opinions are not necessarily in agreement with theirs. But I’m done with that.

I’ve found in my little community people that love me exactly the way that I am and I enjoy it so much because I’m 100% myself. It’s so freeing.

So I’m planning on saying goodbye to the unnecessary guilt, the second guessing, the worrying if I’m liked enough by people that I maybe don’t even like myself. I’ll apologize for my mistakes and not wallow in guilt afterwards. I’ll spend time with people who accept me, all of me, for who I really am, and not some image I portray myself to be to appease them. I’ll speak the truth, even when it’s hard. I’ll be kind, even if people are not being kind to me, and even if I’m still telling an unpopular truth.

I’ll let myself be emptied of all the negativity and fear and humiliation and mockery. It doesn’t matter what the world thinks of me, it matters what God thinks of me and only He knows my true heart. I’ll allow myself to be replenished only with truth and light.

In 2021 it’s none of my business what anyone thinks of me. And I’m not going to worry about it. I encourage others to do the same. Let yourself completely be emptied of all the judgments and false guilt and responsibilities you’ve taken for other people’s lives and happiness and fill yourself back up with the things that will allow you to build up better in 2021.

This world has become a completely toxic place. Acknowledge that fact, and things will be easier. You can’t change it or fix it, but just knowing and accepting that it’s toxic will help you to not let it abuse you too. Stay away from the toxic things that want to suck you in and build the things that are light and truth. For me, that looks like God, family, friends, exercise, nature, knowledge and giving/volunteering.

Cheers to the new year!

Preparing our hearts

When I started maturing spiritually, initially, things in my life seemed to be getting much better. Relationships improve when you’re able to humble yourself and see your own faults and then able to truly love those around you. Then something unexpected happened.

Sometimes when we start growing spiritually and feel convicted of so many of the issues in our own hearts like pride, envy, and greed just to name a few, we also start to see with a new clarity these same struggles in others.

This is where another trap is set to ensnare us in pride and self righteousness. If we take the bait and allow ourselves to condemn others. Again though, if we are living in the Spirit ourselves, we should know this too is wrong. So what do we do when we see our loved ones getting caught up in sins that our eyes can plainly see but theirs cannot.

This was truly something I struggled with as my faith was growing. I didn’t want to be judgmental as I knew I too was guilty and in truth still struggle with those same sins. I started having this internal struggle in some relationships where I realized things were maybe not as they seemed.

What kind of things am I talking about? Well, pride is definitely a big one. It has been one areas I’ve felt convicted of maybe more so than any other. It is pride that causes us to resist loving correction and justify our own faulty thoughts and actions. Once I could see it in myself, I started to really see it in others. People that will not submit to Jesus or to anyone else, so convinced they are in the right.

I also see a lot of idolatry. No one I know is worshiping a golden calf but they definitely have their hearts set to the gains in this world more than they do for pleasing God. Vanity, wanting the approval of men and boasting are all things that have come to light in some of these relationships and I’ve struggled with how to deal with that.

The Bible tells us that we should first remove the log from our own eyes before removing the spec from our brothers so I believe we need to take a harsh look at ourselves first. If we feel convicted on these things and continue to strive to overcome our biggest struggles I think we have a right heart for wanting to help others.

The Bible also tells us that we should deal with these issues with the person directly and if they don’t listen, we should bring other witnesses. This is what’s hard. I truly can’t imagine pulling some of these people aside and saying “I really love you but I think your faith is severely lacking”. I really just can’t imagine that going well. Now if a friend were caught up in some truly horrible scheme that seems very different but I’m talking about these things that are so hidden from their hearts that I truly don’t think I or anyone else can convict them on. I know how it would have gone over had someone approached me years ago about these things. Not well. I would have justified my own faults all the more and thought them to be rather arrogant.

So what can we do in these relationships? Here’s what I think.

1.) Pray. Pray for these people you care about to have their eyes opened and to feel convicted of God. Pray hard and pray specifically for these things and leave it in God’s hands.

2.) Try to lead by example. This goes back to making sure the log is out of your own eye. If you are living a life that doesn’t worship these false gods it can be a motivator to those around you. You may not see it having an affect but remember that God holds the power to soften someone else’s heart and we never know in what way He May use us.

3.) Speak truth, not flattery. When we are around these people make sure we are staying in the light. If they start gossiping near you, walk away to send a message that you will not participate. With your tongue do not speak harsh words against someone else. Do not try to show off with your friends or boast. Be kind with your words without flattering just to be liked and accepted.

4.) If you find yourself tempted in these relationships to fall back into old patterns that are harmful you may need to make some difficult decisions about what relationships you can stay in and which ones you may need to move on from. You can still act lovingly to people and not allow them to harm you spiritually by setting good boundaries.

I hope this helps someone. It can be difficult growing spiritually while others in our life remain stuck but with the right heart we can love them and love God.

Finding truth

These are my thoughts. You may disagree with them. You are entitled to your opinion and I am entitled to mind. I will respect your views, please also respect mine.

As the contentious election draws nearer and nearer, I see so much negativity all around. People are suffering because it’s just a lot to handle. Families and churches are fighting. What for? Is it really worth it? I see Christians using Scripture to back up their opinions on both sides and it’s easy for people to feel lost and alone.

This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. Just let that sink in for a minute. It’s not.

I’m going to talk religion here for a bit. The number one thing we as Christians are supposed to do is LOVE! Love God with our whole hearts, and then to love our neighbors. Not love our neighbors that are good people. Love ALL our neighbors. I can almost here the objections piling in. Love our selfish neighbors? Umm, yep, now let me explain.

Loving someone doesn’t say becoming friends with them or breaking bread with them. It doesn’t even mean we have to try to persuade them to our views of things. Loving someone means treating them with dignity, as a human being created in God’s own image, even if we are arresting them or holding them accountable. So for example, I can abhor someone’s views and still love them by removing them from my life if need be, but not calling them names or talking about them behind their backs, etc.

We’re fighting about masks and about politics and people are making it about who is a better person and they are justifying their own unloving and degrading behavior towards others because they hold their positions to be morally superior!

But have some of you fellow Christians asked what Jesus would actually do if He were here on Earth today? I have. I’ve seen some people say Jesus would wear a mask and I honestly don’t see why? If a masks purpose is to protect others from the wearers germs, why would He need to wear one? He healed the sick, did not spread disease. And we know that He couldn’t GET sick from anyone else! Don’t think that means I’m anti-mask! Hold on a minute!

As Christians, I believe we should feel compelled to do everything we can to protect life and the sanctity of it. We are not Jesus and are not immune to catching or spreading the diseases of this world! So I believe in some situations it IS the right thing to wear a mask. But everyone has different ideas of what those situations are.

The issue has become so heavily politicized and I see so many Christians acting like Pharisees, putting on their masks when no one else is around them and posting pictures on social media just to show how good they are. They complain loudly on social media about those who don’t wear a mask and blame them solely for the spread. God sees their hearts.

I have a son who is too young to wear a mask (and good luck keeping it on him even if it was recommended, I can’t keep a hat on his head when it’s 40 degrees out). When we go indoors, my family physically distances from strangers to prevent the spread but that didn’t stop me from getting mask shamed by a woman who I never got within 12 feet of. And I’m not the only one this has happened to.

Suddenly, having children that 100% comply with the mask requirements is a sign of being a good parent. My girlfriend witnessed me carrying out my 4 year old literally kicking and screaming from a store on vacation because she just would not wear the required mask. I guess that makes me an abysmal failure as a mom because Karen’s two year old is trained to wear his perfectly.

Kids are kids. Sometimes they make us proud and other times they are embarrassing the heck out of us. There is also a full spectrum of children with conditions like ADHD or autism to sensory disorders for which complying with the mask mandate may just be impossible.

I also know medically fragile adults that are not supposed to wear a mask yet do because they don’t want to face all the hate.

We should all do our part to not contribute to the spread of Covid 19. Understand that this may look quite different for some people than it does for others. Be loving. Question your own heart and what’s really driving the bitterness beneath it.

The media is pitting us against each other. We have this 24/7 news cycle that is constantly telling us to hate. We don’t have to abide. We can again, question the feelings of our own hearts when we start getting angry at a group of people for whom our views differ. We can listen to the other side instead of talking so much.

My son cut his upper lip a few weeks ago and it looked really bad so I took him to the ER. He was SCREAMING the entire time we were there, and wouldn’t let me set him down so he was screaming right in my ear! As the doctor was trying to talk to me with his mask on while my toddler was screaming in my ear, I couldn’t get anything he was saying and I was pretty close to tears myself! When he left, I was in the room with the nurse and I was trying to listen to her and my son kept angrily pulling down my mask. I looked at the nurse as I kept trying to fix it and apologized and she smiled at me with kind eyes and said “don’t worry about it. I don’t care if you have your mask on right now, you are dealing with a lot!” And she saw me as a human and she saw me as a mom and this is why I love nurses.

Jesus ate with the most obscene of society and was hated for it. Because the religious elite at the time couldn’t stand His message that the content of their hearts was of more concern than the things they did. And a dirty sinner that knew he was a dirty sinner and needed saving received the bigger reward than the religious elite that did everything right but was arrogant and had hate in his heart.

What’s in your heart? Are you contributing to the hate and negativity in the culture or are you giving out love and grace? I know I need to be reminded constantly of what my priorities are which is why I have to value reading the Bible and hearing the Word over reading the news.

Fall is here, back to school?

“If you had asked me 20 years ago if I would ever homeschool my kids, I would have laughed.” I was telling my high school friends this just last week. Welcome to 2020 and all the other crazy things I never would have believed would happen this year as I stared it down December 31st of 1999 when everyone was freaking out about Y2K!

I have decided to homeschool my 2nd grader this year. It was by no means an easy decision. If you see the dark circles under my eyes, a lot of it is from lost sleep over this decision. That said, as we edged closer and closer to the start of school in some form, I’ve felt more and more confident that it’s the best for our family.

There are many reasons that in person school didn’t feel right to us this year. There were also a lot of reasons the online option didn’t appeal to us. Now that more information has been released, it’s even less appealing. To be clear, I’m not blaming teachers, administrators or schools in any way for their decisions. Family and friends of mine are teachers and I know some of what they have been going through lately too and wish everyone could understand the impossible situations they are facing.

I thought our teachers did a fantastic job this spring with no training and no time and many of them small children at home to take care of. Even with the fantastic job they did, the online format just did not work well for us. For one thing, we don’t have reliable, fast internet. It seemed with Tim working from home and using it too, we had daily issues.

Then there was the whole computer aspect. If Alex accidentally clicked something I would have to help her get back to wear she was.

Then there was just the fact that she hated watching videos. She’s a bright girl and I don’t say that to brag at all, rather to try to explain the depth of the frustrations she faced. She hated watching a 15 minute video lesson when she knew how to do it. I would catch her yelling at the screen.

We also don’t do a ton of screen time and it’s not an exaggeration when I say that I saw some very clear anger issues rising up that I believe were a direct result of all that screen time. For older kids, the online learning might be better, but for my very active 7 year old, it’s just not what she needs.

So I never thought I’d be homeschooling but here we are! Now let me talk about the positives. Maybe this can help another parent who is struggling with what to do. Maybe I can encourage someone that they can do it!

The first positive is that I live in a wonderful neighborhood with amazing neighbors, many of whom will be homeschooling for the first time too. Not everyone has that so I feel so very thankful. My kids will still be able to socialize during the day.

Next, I can work to her pace. In an online setting the teachers can’t tell who is following along and who is stuck. I can take extra time on the areas she is struggling with and also move more quickly in the areas in which she is excelling.

It’s not as much “work” as I thought. When you remove riding the bus, having the kids stop by their lockers, getting the class ready to learn, moving to and from recess and specials there is a lot of time spent on that that doesn’t happen at home. For second grade it’s about 1.5 hours a day of schoolwork. Not 6 hours. And there are so many parts we can make fun. So much learning happens in just living. And if you are very intentional about it, you can turn many every day activities into learning. My kids love exploring nature and I’ve been more conscious about the conversations we have.

Our set up will not be affected if the schools need to shut down again. We won’t be thrown into a new online program and trying to change our home dynamics completely again. I do anticipate this new adventure will be difficult at times. I don’t think it will be easy. That said, I don’t anticipate it to be more challenging than the spring was for our family.

Finally, my daughter’s and our family’s mental health is a huge consideration. While I noticed some times of stress in Alex during the online schooling in the spring, as a whole, she has been thriving. I say this with humble gratitude of the neighborhood community in which we live. If I was upset or stressed out about the state of our country, my kids didn’t know it. I’m not saying they don’t know there’s a pandemic going on, they do. It’s still affecting many aspects of our lives. However, I don’t believe it benefits them (or really any of us) to live in that constant cycle of stress.

Also, our family has the flexibility to travel as we wish without worrying about her being pulled out of school. We purchased a new camper this summer and there are plenty of great fall camping opportunities both near and far and sometimes when the stress of the world is getting to be too much, it’s been great to get away and unplug for a bit.

I’m getting more and more excited the closer we get to starting! I know there’s a lot of strong opinions about what parents should do. I want to stress to other parents that there is no right decision and there is no wrong decision. You have to do what works best for your family and not allow others to make you feel guilty for your choices. I know some people won’t like that my daughter is not going to the public school. Hopefully they will be happy to know I’m doing a partnership. What this means is that my daughter will count for the school to receive money from the state and in return the school pays for a couple of classes. We chose for Alex to take a ninja class once a week (this is entirely dependent on the facility being able to hold classes which has not happened yet) and then we chose a monthly box subscription. The subscription box is a nature kit and we just received the first one and it’s so cool!

I plan to write about and share some of our experiences, hopefully to encourage others! One of the things I’ve found is that the homeschooling community is amazing and the parents that have been doing it have been more than willing to help us first timers get started. They are so so nice and welcoming!

For those reading who are not making these difficult choices, my only request is just to be supportive of the people in your life that are making these decisions with their kids. Their choice may not be what you would do, but trust that they know their kids and family dynamics the best and that likely there is no perfect option. I do get emotional when I think about my daughter missing out on art and music and PE class. I think about not hearing her sing at Christmas, and how she was so brave to go out for and sing a solo last year. I think about the football games she went to and the various parties and events we went to. Then I remind myself that these things are likely not going to happen this year if she were going to school anyway. We are all doing the best we can with a very difficult situation. I’m hoping that we end up having lots of fun and enjoy some extra family bonding and make the sweetest lemonade from these sour lemons.

Lastly, I’m thankful. It’s worth saying again. The children and teachers very much need our love and support and prayers right now. Nearly 4 years ago when Tim and I were thinking of me leaving my career and staying home this was not a situation we ever thought we would encounter. I remember something my aunt said to me, “The Lord will provide”, which I clung to during those first couple really tough years. Additionally, when I look back at us purchasing our house 12 years ago, we just liked the house and yard and the fact it was in a court. I couldn’t have imagined then how our neighbors would become like family to us.

Parents, I wish you all the best this school year with whatever you chose!