Monthly Archives: March 2020

Clean Up



Every year when the weather people in the Dallas-Fort Worth area announce the first serious tornado watch of the season, I scurry to my walk -in closet because it is the innermost area in our home without windows.  I take my laptop with me, so I can watch the live weather updates.  And, then I start to clean my closet.  Every. Single. Year.

I pick the clothes up off the floor. I match my shoes and put them on a rack. Clothing tags, old receipts, and materials that have come in shipping boxes go in a trash bag.  I gather the remnants of wrapping paper, of both the Christmas and birthday variety. I replace the errant coat hangers on the rods.  I organize the various tote bags I’ve collected over the course of the last twelve months.

Once there was a tornado warning that went into effect right as the school day was ending.  I cleaned frantically even though I was home by myself.  The kids were at their various schools on lock down because they didn’t want parents of children on the roads.  Ben was driving home to beat the weather, but it was coming faster than expected.  He was virtually outrunning it as he traveled north.  On that day, I was anxious about the safety of my people, and the cleaning gave me an outlet for my nervous energy.

But most of the time, I have to clean so the family can manage to get in the closet with me.  The upside of having a large closet is that a lot of people can fit.  I’ve had our family of six plus the two large dogs crammed inside.  My parents had to go in there with us once.  The downside is that a lot of material stuff can fit in the closet as well – a lot of which ends up on the floor.  My organization-freak friends are hyperventilating as they read this confession.

I know that if I’d only taken a minute to put my things away each and every time, I could minimize the mess I always find myself in as bad weather approaches.  Instead of hurriedly throwing my shoes haphazardly in the closet or leaving the hangers in the floor when they fall, I could easily keep things neat and tidy and maintain order on a daily basis.  But I’ve never gotten in the habit of keeping my closet clean.

I wonder if sometimes we act the same way with God.  When we have a predicament in our lives, we tend to pray with increased fervor.  We plead for God’s help and rescue in dealing with serious troubles or facing difficult challenges.  And that is to be expected.  When things are not going right, we need to seek God’s help.  God wants us to come to him in crisis.

When we haven’t been in regular communication with God for a while prior to the anxiety producing difficulties though, most of us also experience a certain amount of guilt.  We feel sheepish in approaching God.  It’s as if he is a long distance relative instead of a well-known loved one.

Our relationship with God will grow and deepen when we spend time with God in prayer, study, service, and worship.  Investing time is necessary in order to have a healthy, intimate relationship with God.  Not so that he grants our wishes when we find ourselves in dire times, but so that we have a better understanding of his loving nature.  So that he is not a stranger when we call on him for comfort, calm, and peace.  By developing a pattern of interacting with God on a regular basis, we won’t hesitate to talk to him during the hard times.

If we make prayer a habit, then when a storm is looming, we won’t feel as though we must fix everything before we come to God.  God doesn’t need us to have neat and tidy lives before we talk to him. And if we talk to him consistently, we’ll have already revealed everything to him.

Approaching God can be easier in the hard times when we feel that God wants to take care of us, and we might even be able to encourage others to do the same.  To show them how God is a refuge when they need help.  When we maintain our relationship with God, we won’t unnecessarily scramble to clean up the messiness of our lives before we take shelter in his love.






We were on our spring break vacation and headed from one hotel to another for a meal via shuttle.  We walked through the hotel lobby, up an escalator, and then took an elevator.  As we moved through the parking garage, my seven-year old son Alex looked up at me and asked, “Who are we following?”  I pointed to the employee who knew the way from the hotel to the shuttle, but Alex’s question struck a chord with me.

As I write, the world is a crazy place with the Covid-19 virus forcing us to practice “social distancing,” a phrase most of us didn’t know a week ago. The kids are home and learning online instead of going to school.   Restaurants are closing their dining rooms along with the shuttering of movie theaters, hotels, and other businesses.  The unknowns make public and individual anxiety levels spike.  And the influx of information is rapid, overwhelming, and constantly changing. So, the question, “Who are we following?” is relevant today more than ever.  The question leads us to look at the underlying source of our information.  Is it reliable?  Is it from a trusted expert?  Or is it from a talking head who knows nothing about the truth but spouts misinformation anyway?

Since this crisis started, I’ve seen a lot of memes about how our ultimate trust should be in God.  And for me that is true, but even then the question remains who do we follow?  Where do we get our ideas about who God is and what he desires for the world?  I’ve heard descriptions of Jesus that don’t sound anything like the Jesus I know.  I think even Jesus would say, “Are they talking about me?”  I contend that everyone, and I mean everyone, interprets the Bible.  Where do they get their interpretations?  Are they to be trusted?  Simply saying, “we should read the Bible for ourselves,” isn’t enough by itself either.  There are contexts – historical, cultural, religious – that weigh on the narrative that we might not know on our own.  It’s complicated and challenging.  Sometimes, we might want to throw our hands up in frustration.

One of the greatest gifts my parents gave me was permission to ask questions.  We would gather around the dinner table and talk about politics, the latest news, the world in general, and they allowed me to question anything and everything.  And that freedom to ask questions extended to what we’d heard or learned at church.  We sat at the table during Sunday lunch and dissected the sermon or the Sunday school lesson. Not in an effort to be blasphemous, but to decide if we agreed or not.  I could say, “that doesn’t sound right to me,” and then my parents, brother, and I would discuss the subject.

Nothing was off limits.  I learned that not only was it okay to question, but it was expected and encouraged. I was never told I had to believe something just because a certain person or party or group said it was true, not even if that person was one of my parents.  I was taught to search for the source of the material and then make a well-informed decision.  I became more comfortable with uncertainty and with “I don’t know” as the answer to a question.  This willingness to dig deep and question things has served me well, at school, at work, and in deciding what I believe.

We need to be comfortable asking ourselves, who are we following?  And, why are we following them?  God doesn’t mind the questions.  In fact, I think he welcomes them.  God wants us to know who he truly is.  The first step – the willingness to ask questions – may be one of the most important things we can do for our beliefs and our faith.







IMG_7133I’m not a strong swimmer.  When I was young, we didn’t spend much time around water, so I was thirteen years old when I took swim lessons.  I was fine the first week of lessons.  Of course, we also spent the first week in the shallow end.  During the second week, we moved to the deep end of the pool and my panic set in.  I especially hated treading water.  I flailed around day after day unable to coordinate my movements.  I couldn’t maintain my balance and keep my head above water while treading.  My fear prevented me from hearing the instructor’s directions.  I couldn’t focus on learning the movements.  I was too scared.

Fast forward to today, my kids swim like fish in the pool and in the lake at camp.  The water is a source of joy and fun for them.  They’ve taken swim lessons from the time they were toddlers.  While we’ve taught them a healthy respect for the water, they are not frightened of it, like I admittedly still am at times.

A while back, I felt like I was attempting to tread water in life, and not doing it well just like when I was a kid.  In every situation, I assessed and analyzed and second-guessed myself.  Anxiety played through my mind and body as I anticipated potential scenarios.  Panic set in quickly and didn’t dissipate easily.  I was flailing again.

Then, one day, this thought came to me: “stop struggling.”  I felt a sense of calm come over me.  To me, stop struggling didn’t mean give up and allow the water to overcome me.  Instead, I realized that by constantly living in flight or fight mode, I couldn’t relax enough to tread properly.  I couldn’t focus on figuring out how to fix problems that had resolutions because I was always in conflict, even when a lot of it was self-imposed.  I couldn’t set aside issues that didn’t need instant attention because my thoughts were too erratic.

But if I stopped struggling, my mind would still.  My movements would become smoother and less chaotic.  I would accept or ask for help without resentment or guilt rather than dealing with everything on my own.  The fear and panic would subside for a while, and I would regain my balance.  Then, I would coordinate my mind and choices better so that I would regain my equilibrium.

I may not be able to tread well in the water, but now at least, the lesson is not lost on me.  When I am unable to hold my head above the waves of this journey of life due to my fear and anxiety, I remind myself to stop struggling and take a deep breath because only then can I start treading.




I have a heightened sense of smell.  I turn up my nose at only a whiff of a strong scent, good or bad.  Every time I became pregnant, my sense of smell became more acute. While pregnant with Jed, I visited the zoo with Riley, and after walking by the penguin house, I literally ran to the bathroom because of the smell-induced morning sickness.  I’m convinced my sense of smell never returned to normal levels after each baby was born.  And, I guess that’s good because no one told me that as a mom I’d need a nose that could detect anything out of the ordinary at the slightest hint.

Who knew I’d willingly lift a baby’s bottom to my nose to determine if the diaper was dirty?  I can’t count the times I’ve walked around the kitchen sniffing in an effort to find an offending odor.  There may be food in the sink that hasn’t made its way completely through the garbage disposal, a forgotten dish rag may have become wet and gross, the garbage may need to be taken out, or a left over in the refrigerator may have turned on us. But believe me, I will track down the source and eliminate it.  I’ve had to figure out exactly who needs the first shower after the kids come home from practices.  And, much to my dismay, I’ve picked up a pair of underwear near a basket of clean laundry and taken a sniff to determine if it was clean or not.  It was not.  I’ve even crawled around on the floor with my nose an inch from the carpet to locate the precise whereabouts of the dog’s or cat’s accident.

Let’s just say, I’ve stuck my nose in plenty of places it did not belong in the name of motherhood.  But the common factor in all of the experiences when I’ve smelled things I’d rather not, is an undercurrent of affection for the people I hold most dear.  It’s my job to take care of them.

When it comes to those outside of our immediate circles though, we’re often told that we shouldn’t stick our noses in other people’s business.  But I’ve started wondering if we use that advice as an excuse to avoid being involved in the lives of others.  “I don’t want to bug him,” I’ve told myself.  “I don’t want to upset her,” I’ve said.  So, I haven’t asked about the person’s health, family situation, or prolonged absence from church.  Worse yet, I might not talk to them at all because to speak without acknowledging the issues would be even more awkward.

But our reluctance to talk to others about their problems may lead to more suffering.  If no one checks in on them, they may become isolated and lonely or feel worthless because no one seems to care.  Instead of protecting them from discussing their problems, we protect ourselves from unease but end up acting selfishly.

When I was younger, my mother used to call me “Nosy Rosy” because I wanted to know everything about everything. She said I would be in another room and yell, “what?” if there was a bit of conversation I didn’t hear accurately while eavesdropping. Maybe the adage about sticking to our own business is partly because, at times, people have less than noble motivations. If our curiosity flows from a desire to spread the juicy information to others, then we should keep to ourselves.

But if we truly care about people, we must take a chance and enter into the difficult conversations.  Perhaps we preface the conversation by telling them if they don’t want to talk, that’s okay.  We need to let them know that our inquiry stems from our concern for their wellbeing. They can refuse to engage in conversation, but at least they will remember and appreciate that we asked in the first place.

The next time we say we don’t want to stick our noses into someone else’s business, let’s think about why.  If the answer is to avoid our own discomfort, then we should rethink our response.  Expressing our love and concern to other people is valuable to them and to us.  Let’s take a deep cleansing breath and get a little bit nosy.