Monthly Archives: May 2020

The Truth Hurts


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When I was in college, I was on the debate team.  We traveled to tournaments on several weekends each semester.  In preparation for one tournament, some of my teammates started dropping out.  I decided that I didn’t want to go if my friends weren’t going, so I went to my debate coach’s office to let him know I wouldn’t be going either.  Let’s just say, Coach Mike was not pleased with my attempt to get out of the tournament.  We went back and forth discussing my reasons for not wanting to go and his insistence that I meet by obligation anyway.  At some point, Coach Mike became aggravated and dropped the bomb on me.  He said, “you know, you’re not always that easy to work with.”

I began to sob, partly because it was harsh, and partly because it was true. In that one moment, something shifted in me.  I thought back to the times when I’d been cocky, ill-tempered, or treated others poorly. I spent a lot of time with my team, and my behavior was not always kind.  And I thought about other times and places and groups of people who had seen me act in less than stellar ways.  Right then, I knew I needed to be better and do better.

It’s been about 25 years since that conversation, but I can still clearly recall how I knew instantly that my life was changed.  The truth hurt – a lot – but it made me try to be a more thoughtful and attuned person going forward.

Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”  Sometimes, we feel changed in an instant; sometimes, we have a dawning realization that we’ve changed; sometimes, we see the changes only in hindsight.  Our reactions to the call for change can range from denial and defensiveness to gratitude and repentance.

Jesus spent his ministry calling for change.  He asked those with power and wealth to be more like servants in their leadership.  To serve those with less in order to meet their needs and help them, not just lord over them with arrogance.  He wanted the poor and downtrodden of society to understand that he loved them, plain and simple, no matter what their status was.

God still calls to us.  I have a feeling he might have some harsh, but true, words for us these days.  Jesus might echo Coach Mike’s words and expand on them: you’re not easy to work with, and you’re not behaving like I taught you.

We may claim to belong to him and act on his behalf, but do we spend time getting to know him by praying for guidance and reading his word as a whole (as opposed to cherry picking verses out of context for our own purposes)?  Frequently, the Jesus I know is not the one portrayed in culture. He is painted as punishing, intolerant, and mean, especially to those who are considered the least of us in society. Instead, I think he would call for more kindness, more understanding, more love.  He came to rescue everyone, not just the ones with light skin, money, and privilege.  How are we treating his people, keeping in mind that we are all his people?  Jesus didn’t participate in “us versus them” thinking.  In fact, he hung out with those considered outcasts.

God calls for us to revisit our attitudes and asks whether we are fulfilling our obligations to him.  If we are honest with ourselves, most of us know that we need to be better and do better to follow Jesus’ example.  The truth may hurt, but it can also set us free.  Free to be more like Jesus, so that we show compassion for those in need and give love to all.




Cooking Time



Lately, the show Little House on the Prairie runs on our TV in the background in the early afternoons.  There’s no way I could’ve made it back in the pioneer days for a number of reasons, one of which is the requirement that women had to cook constantly – every single meal from scratch.  After Little House finishes, though, a more modern show – The Gilmore Girls – comes on, and main character Lorelei orders take out, delivery, or eats out all of the time.  I’m much more in the Gilmore Girls vein, though I reassure myself that I’m not quite as bad as Lorelei because at least I can cook.

I can follow recipes and turn out a pretty good dinner.  But I’m not one of those people who can whip up a meal from my imagination and the items I can scrounge up from my pantry and fridge.  I know some people who love to cook.  It soothes them and makes them happy.  My own daughter feels compelled to bake when she’s had a bad day.  Not me – cooking usually increases my stress and anxiety.  I get nervous about getting it right, especially if I’m cooking for folks other than my family.  Maybe that’s why I don’t host dinner parties very often.

When I first became a stay-at-home mom, I cooked quite a bit.  But as the years rolled by, we had more kids for a grand total of four, and as they grew older, our schedules became busier.  To the point that we were not together for most of the nightly meals during the week.  We were always going in so many directions.  I convinced myself that it didn’t make sense to cook on most nights when we weren’t all together.  But now I know, I was lying to myself because lack of time was not actually the problem. During this time of Covid-19 social distancing, I’ve discovered something about myself: I don’t really like to cook.  I’ve had plenty of time to cook over the last few months, but I just don’t want to do it.

Lack of motivation, inspiration, and desire – not time – are the true culprits.   Also, some conflicted thoughts about what it means to be a wife and mom are in play.  Staying home with the kids after working for years was great and also hard.  When I first stopped working, I cooked more complex recipes almost every night.  This was probably guilt induced to some extent.  I felt the need to do something to “earn my keep” because I was no longer working.  Not that Ben ever said anything like that – it was just in my head.  It was not easy for me to work through the mental and emotional gymnastics of guilt, stereotypes, and what-ifs.  The act of cooking is a symbol of all these struggles for me.

And while this crazy time of crisis is not necessarily the best time to over-analyze life, I can’t help but wonder what else I’ve been lying about to myself. Now that I have more unscheduled time than ever in my adult life, I’ve realized time may not truly be the deciding factor in my decision making.  What else have I blamed on lack of time?  When life is busy, active, and moving at warp speed, I can easily say I don’t have time to establish an exercise routine or eat healthy lunches on the go.  When I don’t pray regularly or read my Bible, is that really because of lack of time?  I may not consciously use time as an excuse, but perhaps that’s the problem.  I don’t give my schedule the depth of thought it requires.  I feel as if time is pushing me around, but in actuality I am choosing how to spend my time.

We make decisions all day long.  We dedicate our time to ourselves, our families, work, school, our communities, and churches.  Or we don’t. Sometimes we fall into the trap of believing our behavior is only a result of time or lack thereof.  But if we take time off the table, if time is not the driving factor, then why do we make the decisions we do?  There may be other forces at work in our minds and hearts that drive us.  Are we happy with our time commitments or not?

Granted, all of our time is not our own, nor will it ever be, but taking time to investigate the motives behind or barriers to our actions is a wise investment of time.  Maybe if I admit that time is not always the reason for my actions, I can deal with the real aspects that determine why I do or don’t do certain things.  I can reevaluate and attempt to have my time better reflect who I want to be and what I want to do.

Now that I know my efforts to avoid cooking are not actually a result of a time crunch, but of a dislike of cooking instead, I can make peace with myself. It’s okay if I don’t like to cook. Of course, I’ll still cook sometimes. And my family can witness people who like to cook on the numerous cooking shows we watch together (go figure). Ultimately, the kids will be just fine even if every meal is not homemade.  Instead, they will have a less stressed mom who is more authentic and owns her likes and dislikes without making excuses time in and time out.





The Shouting



One of the results of the Covid-19 quarantine is that our family has many more meals together.  In normal times, we try to have as many family meals as possible, but it’s hard because we have so many activities scheduled.  On any given night, we might have dance class, karate, soccer or basketball practices.  Lately though, all six of us have been home constantly, and while each of us grabs breakfast individually upon waking up, we sit at the table for both lunches and dinners.  For the most part, it’s been a good change to have this extra family time at meals, but it’s not always idyllic.  In fact, mealtimes can be boisterous to say the least.

All four of the children have many, many things to say, and frequently, they feel the need to say those things at the exact same time.  And, in order to be heard, they raise their voices. They get loud.  They talk over each other, which makes the conversation grow even louder. Inevitably, Ben or I will tell them to quiet down.  Of course, in order for the children to hear us, we must talk loudly as well, only adding to the noise.

At times, I’ve noticed that someone will feel upset that no one listens to him or her.  The sadness in their eyes gives it away.  As parents, we will stop the conversation and allow the neglected child to talk.  But we aren’t perfect in granting each person equal time to speak.  On occasion, the discussion can turn ugly.  One child will try to silence another by barking, “shut up” or hurling some other insult.  This starts a back and forth exchange, in which Ben or I must intervene.  They compete for attention.  They clamor for recognition.  If they can get another person to listen, they feel affirmed.  If they don’t feel heard, they will talk louder and louder until they are almost shouting.

To me, our table feels like a microcosm of the world these days.  Many of us talk as loudly as possible, screaming over one another, not listening to each other, and then the insults roll off the tongue with ease.  We fight but feel unheard.  We worry about scarcity, so we forcefully demand our share.  We argue and insist on being right because to be wrong means we must admit failure or offer an apology.  And to say we’re sorry exposes us to too much vulnerability.  We desperately crave recognition because we want to feel worthy and loved.  The holes in our hearts and souls push us to shriek for attention and ignore the cries of others seeking the same.

Yet, God does not require us to shout others down or yell the loudest for him to hear us.  We don’t need to compete for God’s attention, although I don’t know how God does it. The scene from the movie Bruce Almighty comes to mind when millions of prayers inundate his email in record time.  I’ve watched people go about their travels in crowded airports and thought about how God could listen to every single one of us at that exact moment.  It’s baffling for our minds, but I believe that God listens to all of us at any given time.  When God taught us to pray, he didn’t say take a number and wait in line.  He didn’t tell us that only those with power or money or social significance could approach him in prayer.  We don’t have to “win” the argument before God will listen. We don’t need to scream.

I wonder what would happen if we believed God when he says he will listen to us.  Could we take a calming breath and rest in the assurance that God loves us and finds us worthy?  We wouldn’t have to beat all the people with our words or our fists to find value in God’s eyes.  One of my favorite passages in the Bible is when God tells Elijah to go out to the mountain and wait for God to approach.  First, there is a strong wind that shatters rock followed by an earthquake and then a fire, but God is not found in any of those powerful elements. Finally, there is a gentle whisper, and Elijah knows God is speaking.  I Kings 19:11-13.  If God can speak in a whisper, then maybe we can lower our voices with one another and approach God knowing he hears us when we speak.

God is the source of our value and worth.  If we can believe that God loves us and gives us his full attention, then maybe we can stop the shouting and better live in peace and harmony.






My sons love Fla-Vor-Ice popsicles – the ones that come in plastic wrappers in liquid form and must be frozen at home.  In order to keep them stocked in our freezer, I buy numerous small boxes of 16 at the grocery store and order large boxes of 100 from Amazon.  Given the time delay between placing the popsicles in the freezer and them being ready to eat, combined with the speed with which my boys eat them, we try to keep a lot of them both in the freezer and in the pantry.  The other day, seven-year-old Alex informed me that there were no popsicles ready to eat and asked me to put a box in the freezer.  I said, “can’t you do it?” intending for him to get one of the smaller boxes.  However, he only saw the larger box of 100.  He said, “It weighs too much.  You’re a mom.  It’s not heavy for you,” and went on his way.

His statement stopped me cold though because being a mom can be heavy, so very heavy.  The heavy nature of motherhood comes in many forms.  From the start, a mom’s body grows heavier during pregnancy and nursing.  Hopefully, the weight comes off, but there’s no guarantee. Not to mention how heavy those pumpkin seats are to carry once the baby gains a little weight.  Carrying a toddler on a hip or having kids climb on top of us all of the time is physically heavy.  And the exhaustion can be crushing.

But the heaviness does not stop there.  The amount of worry can be oppressive: are we financially secure; is my child safe; do they have good or questionable friends; do they have any friends at all; are they learning in school; are we properly helping with their specific needs; are they too busy; are they too idle; are they healthy; are they making sound decisions?  The list of concerns goes on and on and can be overwhelming.  I worry about whether they’ve been exposed to a variety of activities because I want to help them find their passions.  How do I foster their dreams and celebrate their spirited natures while teaching them the realities of the world that can be unfair and unjust?

Then there’s a personal piece of heaviness for moms.  We compare ourselves to other mothers who seem to have it all together from our point of view.  Personally, I’m serious by nature, so I envy moms who are more carefree and spontaneous. Look how fun they are when I’m not, I think.  And what about the career questions.  I’ve worked full-time, part-time, and stayed home with children.  I’ve felt guilt during each and every stage.  Anxiety, depression, and anger are real and can debilitate us.  Becoming content and authentic is harder than I thought it would be before I became a mom. Fear of failure in the realm of motherhood is intense.  I’ve grieved over two miscarriages, so I also feel for those who wish to be mothers who’ve never had the opportunity or who’ve experienced loss.

The heaviness of heart may be the most difficult to bear and seems to be only a heartbeat away in any given circumstance.  When our children hurt, we hurt.  Sometimes when they cry in pain (physical or emotional), we cry too.  We ache for them and pray for them.  The concerns may change as the child grows, but they do not vanish.  Being a mom is hard.  So is being a person who acts as a mom – the teachers and caregivers come to mind.

But for all the pain and worry, our hearts can also be heavy with positive emotions too.  The love for our children can make our hearts feel as though they will burst.  The sense of pride in our children swells in our chests. The relief that the kids are okay feels like a flood when we realize what could’ve been in certain situations.

The burden of motherhood is sweet and sour; fulfilling and draining; magical and ordinary.  But the feelings are real and honest and common.  We share the same emotions even though we loathe to share those emotions with one another.  Instead of feeling lonely or isolating ourselves, we should rest in the knowledge that all mothers feel a range of emotions – all normal, all understandable, all born out of the love we have for our children.  Motherhood can be heavy.  But we are moms, we can handle it.








When the Covid-19 guidelines changed and the medical experts recommended that people wear masks to stores, I complied because I am a rule follower.  I tied the fabric mask that my friend had graciously made for me around my face and entered the grocery store.  I quickly found that I didn’t like wearing a mask. Not because of the mask itself but because I’m not a medical professional or accustomed to wearing a face covering. First, I couldn’t tie the strings tight enough to keep the mask attached without accidentally tying my hair too. Then, my glasses immediately fogged up so that I couldn’t see, so I removed my glasses while I shopped.  I noticed that I couldn’t tell if other people with masks were smiling or frowning.  Nor could they tell the same about me.  The mask muffled my voice making it harder to exchange the usual pleasantries with the other shoppers or the cashier.  Most irritating, though, was the feeling that I couldn’t breathe.  Obviously, I could breathe, but I felt like I was suffocating. I was sweaty and uncomfortable. I couldn’t wait to get back to my van, so I could remove the mask.  I’ve better adapted to wearing masks in the last few weeks. My gratitude and admiration for those who wear them in their daily work have increased every time I put on one.

My recent mask experience reminded me of the masks we wear on a regular basis. Not the masks that we can see, but the ones that are invisible to the naked eye.  The masks of perfection, stability, fearlessness, apathy, coolness – all the ones we wear to protect ourselves from being seen, being vulnerable, being hurt. We put on our social masks so we can navigate the world or social media or the clique that excludes us.  The masks allow us to hide our real, authentic selves from others, separating and isolating us.

While the unseen masks sometimes protect us from emotional injuries, they also restrict us.  They obscure our sight so that we cannot see others or ourselves with clarity.  We cannot express ourselves with precision because they stifle us from sharing our true feelings.  We prevent people from viewing our actual lives by wearing the masks. They can’t know if we are happy, sad, angry, frustrated or depressed.  The masks we create to guard ourselves end up suffocating us so that we cannot breathe.  And, unfortunately, we cannot remove them easily.  In fact, we become so used to wearing them that we may forget we have them on at all.

We walk through life with our armored masks attempting to keep out the harsh world but may only choke out our own happiness.  We may even approach God wearing our masks because we don’t want him to know who we really are either.

In the Bible, a woman who suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years reached out and touched Jesus’ clothes while he moved through a large crowd.  She was healed, and then Jesus asked, “who touched me?” His disciples were baffled because so many people were pressing in all around them.  But Jesus insisted on knowing exactly who’d touched him.  The passage says, “When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed.  He said to her, “‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’” Luke 8:45-48 (NRSV).  She had hoped to stay hidden, but I imagine her pulling a veil from her face to reveal herself and confess her action.  Jesus did not want her to hide from him.  He wanted to know her and her story.

God doesn’t need or want for us to put on our invisible masks in our relationship with him.  We can be ourselves in our relationship with God.  We can carry his love and confidence in us wherever we go.  Our efforts to hide from him are futile anyway.  When we feel the urge to put on our shields in the presence of others, we can remember that God knows us fully and completely and loves us anyway.

I think God would want us to follow the safety suggestions and wear masks in public to protect ourselves from Covid-19 these days.  But God wants us to remove our invisible masks with him and with others so that we breathe freely and deeply again.