Monthly Archives: November 2020

Remember the Time When


When Ben and I got married twenty years ago, we bought ornaments for our Christmas tree.  Mostly, we purchased the generic ornament balls to fill the majority of the tree along with a few ornaments to commemorate the year 2000.  As we had children and they grew, we found ornaments that marked their yearly milestones.  Many ornaments display their interests over time: ballet shoes, a basketball, a soccer ball, a karate jacket.  Their grandparents and great-grandparents often provided ornaments for the kids as well.  We began a tradition of acquiring ornaments on our vacations.  Picking out the ornament became a fun part of every trip.  We have ornaments from Washington DC, Nashville, Disney World, and several beach vacations.  We no longer use the generic ornaments.  Instead, every ornament tells a story.     

Now, we have so many ornaments that we can’t put them all on one tree.  They spill over to another, smaller tree.   When we decorate the trees, we do it as a family.  It’s one task I insist we perform together.  Each child likes to put his or her ornaments on the tree and doesn’t want another child to mistakenly (or on purpose) take the wrong one.  We remember the time we had each experience and the people who gave us many of the ornaments.  We enjoy the togetherness that decorating brings.  

Reminiscing can be a valuable experience that provides continuity and ties us together.  “Remember the time when” is usually a wonderful way to start a conversation.  Although this year’s ornament, which has six faces covered in masks above the year 2020, along with a roll of toilet paper and a bottle of sanitizer, will remind us of both good and difficult memories. 

Looking back on the past can prompt us to look to the future as well.  We recall the moments we cherished and the people we love.  We embrace the positive emotions and want to repeat them.  We think about how we can create similar memories going forward.  

And with all of those recollections come feelings of gratitude.  Paul told the Philippians, “I thank my God every time I remember you.”  Philippians 1:3.  My friend Becky wrote this verse in a card she gave me years ago while we were in college.  When I read this verse or see the ornament she gave me the year I got married, I am thankful for her and the many other friends who have been there from the start or who have come alongside in the years since to become part of our family and community.  

When we look back on 2020 years from now, we will find people and things for which to be thankful, despite the tumult.  During this holiday season, let’s focus on the good parts of life and the happy memories even when we are apart from each other.  Our tangible reminders, like the ornaments on our trees, point us to those people, places, and experiences that we love.  God has given us much for which to be grateful.  Thanks be to God.   

God’s Rest in this Season


The kids and I are ready for a break.  Thanksgiving is on the horizon, so close we can almost taste it.  But before we can get there, the kids have tests and projects to do.  A big push prior to the week off for the holiday.  This Thanksgiving will differ from years past.  We won’t travel to visit relatives or go on vacation.  I will miss seeing my family, but I admit I relish the idea of a week of doing nothing.  I don’t want to wake up early or worry about homework.  We all need a good rest.  

The concept of rest is elusive at times.  Especially during the holiday season, we may anticipate time to relax and enjoy life, but often we encounter stress and busyness.  This year, the regular holiday stress is compounded because don’t know what we can do, and we feel exhausted from the events and crises of this year.  We enter into the season with a weariness that is (in the most used word of the year) “unprecedented.”

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matt. 11:28-30.  I’ve always liked that verse, but I’ve struggled to put into practice.  I find it difficult to seize upon that rest that God offers because I don’t feel at rest.  At least, I don’t feel rest in the traditional sense of “no stress relaxation with nothing to do and nowhere to be” that usually comes to my mind.  

One definition of rest is to “cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.”  A second definition of rest is to be “placed or supported so as to stay in a specified position.” (  I thought of an armrest or a footrest.  Or when I nursed my babies and propped them up on pillows so they would stay in one place. What if Jesus means that when we come to him weary and burdened, his rest will not provide an absence of stress, but that he will prop us up in our time of need.  God will support us when we feel overwhelmed. God will keep us standing when we want to falter.  God will arrange the metaphorical pillows to keep our crushed bodies in stable positions.  When our minds are overtaxed and we need to let the tears flow, God will hold us tight in his arms.   

Perhaps as we rush into the holidays, we can reflect on this image of God as our upholder.  We can rest on God and know that God’s got us even when we don’t necessarily feel peaceful or calm.  God loves us and will not leave us alone to fall when we are exhausted in body, mind, and spirit.   Let’s be thankful for God’s “gentle and humble” heart.  

To Make an Accurate Picture


We go through a lot of printer ink in our household.  The other day, I printed a document that was supposed to contain a couple of beige colored blocks but because the pink cartridge ran out of ink, the area came out a puke green color. Without the pink to blend with the blue and yellow cartridges, the effect was unintended and unattractive.  

I replaced the cartridge with a new, full pink cartridge.  But then, the printer did not automatically kick start itself again.  The machine began “printer maintenance” and said it should not be interrupted.  I felt annoyed with how long it took and began to push buttons, unplug, and reboot it.  And yet, it continued its maintenance.  After I complained about the length of time it took, my husband Ben said, “well, we all need maintenance.” How true.  

We’ve all heard the analogies akin to the empty ink well.  We need to refill our tanks with love in order to be healthy, emotionally and mentally.  We need regular self-care.  We know all of that intellectually, but it’s harder to put into practice.  We often feel selfish if we take too much time to care for ourselves.  Any type of relaxation or restoration, even just a nap, feels self-indulgent.  

One way we can fill ourselves is to focus on our relationship with God.  Sometimes we may think of our relationship with God as a series of obligations or duties.  God tells us to pray and participate in worship, so we may think it’s merely a requirement that we must satisfy.  But what if we thought of the time we spend on our relationship with God as a type of self-care?  God fills our minds, hearts, and souls when we concentrate on building our connection with God.       

When the pink cartridge was empty, I needed to refill the pink cartridge, but the printer needed to perform maintenance for the pink, yellow, and blue to blend together in order to produce an accurate picture.  Without one of the ink colors, the result was skewed.  Without maintenance, they couldn’t work together.   

If we do not fill and restore ourselves, we cannot continue to work well, physically, mentally, or emotionally.  But we forget that if we don’t fill ourselves up, those that we love will actually suffer too.  Without proper maintenance, the relationships and communities in which we engage will not be at their best.  So much of our well-being is connected to having healthy relationships.  We cannot help our families, our colleagues, our communities live into their promise if we refuse to care for ourselves.  Filling ourselves with God’s love and grace helps us properly maintain those relationships.  God shows us how to demonstrate his kindness, welcome, and inclusivity.  God helps us merge our individual selves into beautiful, colorful composites that work together and reflect God’s glory.  

We all need a reboot and maintenance every now and again.  Both on the individual level and the larger community level.  We must be filled individually and then fuse together to make a complete picture.  All with God’s help.       

Enough Mercy to Go Around?


I use the notes app on my phone to write down everything from grocery lists to the titles of the books I’ve read or want to read.  But the most important words I record are the ones that come out of my kids’ mouths.  For instance, just the other day, eight-year-old Alex told me about how a particular pair of shoes felt on his “foot fingers.”  He quickly corrected himself, “I meant toes.  I just couldn’t think of the word.”  I quickly jotted down his hilarious comment.  

Recently, I perused through the old notes and noticed one from four years ago.  Jed, age ten at the time, was reading a book to Alex, age three, and instead of reading the correct words on the page, “merry-go-round,” Jed said, “mercy-go-round.”  When I reread that note, it resonated with how I feel today in 2020.  Currently, our lives often resemble a merry-go-around, and we may lack enough mercy to go around.  

Merry-go-rounds may conjure happy images of decorative horses moving up and down as children hold on to the reins and laugh.  But there are also those old school, metal merry-go-rounds that still exist on some random playgrounds.  The kind that requires one kid to push or pull the device until it ends up spinning so fast another kid’s body launches off the equipment into the air and then slams into the ground.  That is, unless someone throws up from motion sickness. One year on our church’s women’s retreat, we found one of those merry-go-rounds and decided to give it a whirl.  We discovered that while we still enjoyed the ride, it scared us a lot more than we remembered.  

This year has often made us feel like we are hanging on for dear life to an old, rickety, metal merry-go-round while it spins at light speed.  With all of the social isolating, quarantining, zooming, staying home, canceled plans, social unrest, election madness, and the rest, it’s been one crazy, wild ride.  We’ve experienced extreme levels of anxiety, depression, uncertainty, fear, and toxicity.  And we’ve felt less kindness, understanding, and unity than we would’ve hoped for in the face of global crises.  

To give mercy is to show compassion or forbearance, especially to an offender or one subject to one’s power. (  Often, we don’t realize that anyone is subject to our power because that sounds formal, as though we hold an official position over someone else.  But we have more power than we think.  We have the ability to hurt people with our words and actions, which can do more damage than we might think possible. 

Or we can show mercy.  We have the power to be gracious and generous.  We can choose to love even when we don’t really feel like it.  We can hold back instead of saying exactly what we think when our words would be cruel or hurt another’s feelings.  We can act in a way that is inclusive and welcoming. 

Jesus said, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”  Luke 6:36.  We experience God’s mercy every day.  God loves us and shows grace to us when we make mistakes.  All of us carry more burdens today than usual.  We have endured more pain and angst than normal.  This time in history calls for us to demonstrate great amounts of mercy to one another.  We must choose to care and love each other.  Now more than ever, Jesus’ words echo with importance.  Be merciful.  Lord, help us to be merciful.