Monthly Archives: March 2021

Bounce Back


We traveled to New Orleans for spring break this year.  We hadn’t been on a family trip since the world shut down due to Covid after our last spring break.  I found there were some things I’d forgotten about family trips.  We have a tendency to become hangry, so we need to find food for our people before they get upset, which is made harder because one child is a picky eater.  We constantly have to tell one child to stop looking at the phone when we are walking, and we do a lot of walking on vacation.  Inevitably, one child will complain that the trip is completely centered around another child.  Then, that child will accuse the first child of ruining the trip for everyone.  Some other things I forgot about family trips are more positive.  The kids are really great at car rides – they are efficient and quick when we stop at gas stations or restaurants.  We have some really good and in-depth conversations because we don’t have all of the activities and distractions of home.  And I remembered that given the time and opportunity, we can all bounce back from a tough situation.   

We had reservations for the World War II museum on Friday morning and needed to be there at a certain time.  But we experienced a few snafus regarding breakfast.  I thought we could have breakfast at a café that turned out to be closed due to Covid.  Then, we had to backtrack and walk a lot farther to find something to eat.  When we arrived at the new breakfast place, it was not open yet.  Finally, we ate and headed back to the museum, but everyone was still cranky and hot and slightly irritated about rushing to arrive on time.  After a sibling teased eight-year-old Alex, he’d had it.  He was steaming mad and wanted to go back to the hotel.  But then, we arrived at the museum, and his siblings (after a stern talking to from us) started better including Alex as we toured the museum.  Alex got caught up in the story and enjoyed seeing the artifacts from the war.  He rebounded and enjoyed the rest of the day.  He just needed some time and space to make a comeback.  

God gives us the opportunity to make comebacks over and over.  Sometimes we make mistakes and at other times, we know the right thing to do but do the opposite anyway.  We disregard the needs or feelings of others and instead focus solely on ourselves. We are human, and we mess up again and again.  But God is in the business of redemption.  While we must still deal with the earthly consequences that result from our actions, God forgives us and guides us back to him every single time. 

We often feel unworthy and irrelevant, so we have difficulty believing, trusting, and accepting God’s unceasing grace.  But the Bible says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that’s what we are!” (1 John 3:1).  God loves us and extends the chance for recovery to us.  God always wants to restore us to him and to ourselves.  Thanks be to God.       

Hoping for Enlightenment


I slowly perused the local boutique looking for gifts for my daughter Riley’s seventeenth birthday.  My eyes settled on a sterling silver necklace with the word “hope” written in script.  I decided that this necklace would be a wonderful addition to her jewelry collection and a perfect wish from me to her. 

All of us have high hopes for our children even before they’re born.  We hope they’re healthy and happy.  As my kids have grown older, I’ve realized that I can’t control their happiness like I wish I could.  Perhaps that sounds obvious, but looking back, it seems I could contribute to their happiness more directly when they were little.  If they were hungry, I gave them a snack.  If they were tired, I rocked them to sleep.  If they were sad, I could act silly or distract them.  Unfortunately, I can’t guarantee my teenagers’ happiness, a difficult reality for me to  accept. 

I want so desperately to help them that I can fall into the trap of providing unsolicited and unwelcomed “suggestions.”  Riley seeks my advice on a regular basis, and I cherish those moments of connection.  But when I tell her what she “needs” to do or “should” do, she feels as though I am trying to control her.  While my motives are grounded in love, to her, it appears that I don’t trust that she can handle whatever circumstances come her way.  Instead of helping, I end up acting out of fear trying to protect her from pain or rejection.  My efforts to control what happens and how others act squeeze all the hope and possibility out of the situations.  And I teach my children to live in anxiety, instead of hope. 

So, I’ve found myself praying, a lot, in the face of uncertainty.  I express my hopes for my children and confess my desire to control everything.  I invite God into our lives and ask that we feel God’s presence.  But sometimes, I still don’t feel hopeful.  In Ephesians, Paul said, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…”  (Ephesians 1:18).  I’ve loved this verse for a long time for the beautiful imagery of God opening our hearts, minds, and spirits so that we will see and understand God’s mandate to hope.  

Instead of constantly telling my children what they “need” to do, I need to pray that my own heart will be enlightened.  Maybe then I will stop living in dread and release my stranglehold on hope.  I can better teach my children to have hope for their lives as they grow and mature.  And by truly embracing God’s call to live in hope, I can, hopefully, find greater peace with them and with myself.    

Perspective Big and Small


My seventeen-year-old daughter Riley was in her feelings one afternoon when she dramatically exclaimed that she and one of her friends were “having some challenges.”  My eight-year-old son Alex looked at me with concern because he knew how important this friend was to Riley.  “What happened?” he asked.  “They can’t see each other tonight after all,” I explained.  Alex seemed confused, and then he marched up the stairs after Riley.  When he came back, he said, “I told her that I’ve studied challenges in Black History Month, and this is not a challenge.”  I laughed because he’d put Riley in her place, and Riley actually agreed. 

We all need perspective sometimes.  This past year, the pandemic created so many hardships and difficulties.  And often, during the quarantines, isolation, canceled plans, and abandoned hopes, the anxiety, fear, and frustration in our family bubbled over.  Then, we would catch ourselves and remember that it could be so much worse.  So many people were suffering, and our issues paled in comparison.  We could buck up our spirits, at least temporarily, with reminders rooted in perspective.     

And yet, our pain was still real to us, and we could not ignore it.  The kids were learning online last spring, missing friends and their activities.  We tried to keep our family safe, minimize the disruptions, and keep moving forward.  Summer was better, but concerns mounted with Covid surges and going back to school in the fall.  My mental and emotional health suffered, and I had to seek more help than usual to stay balanced.  While much of the perspective we gained dealt with the larger picture and appreciating our place in it, some of the perspective we found was about the importance of the small, significant ways we interact with one another and our own individual wellbeing.     

Both the big and little things matter in life.  And God is in the midst of it all.  The Psalmist said, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” Psalm 139:7-8.  God is with us when we have a broader, more expansive view of our lives and the greater world, and God is with us when we are deep in the muck and cannot see an easy way to climb out.  God can show us that we are not as bad off as we think.  Alternatively, God can help us acknowledge that we are not doing well and need to change course.  

I hope the challenges of the past year will diminish and ultimately vanish as we go through this spring.  Even though we hope not to experience another year like this one, we will always face some sort of challenges in life.  Some bigger than others.  But we must remember that we can always depend on God no matter what, and in the end, that is what really matters.      

Stay Focused


In January, I was in the throes of writing a nonfiction Christian book proposal to submit to a writing program.  In the midst of the process, I ran out of pages in my prayer journal and decided I needed to buy a new one.  Not that I don’t have several journals just waiting in reserve for my use.  This time, though, I felt I needed a new one that somehow spoke to me, to keep me going, to help me stay on task.  Some people may not think a journal can do all of that, but a beautiful or even quirky journal can be a bit magical in my opinion.  So, when I visited my favorite boutique, I searched high and low for a meaningful journal.  I finally found the perfect one with “stay focused darling” written on the front in script.  The Dayna Lee Collection journal continued its inspiring message on the inside cover, “I look forward to holding any thoughts, dreams, goals, brilliant ideas, and amazing moments because you got this!”  I felt like I found the journal that would encourage me to keep pursuing my goal regarding the book proposal.  

I submitted my proposal, but in February, I found out my submission didn’t make it past the first round and also that my book idea that formed the basis of the proposal was lacking in many ways in the eyes of one of the editors.  I was disappointed and sad.  I’d thought I was doing what I was supposed to do, what God wanted me to do, and now I felt unmoored.  Was I supposed to keep working on the same book idea?  Was I supposed to go in a different direction?  Had I deluded myself throughout the entire process?  I was confused and frustrated.  

I found myself staring at the cover of my journal wondering if I’d picked incorrectly with respect to both the journal and the book idea.  “Stay focused darling” almost seemed like a taunt now.  Stay focused on what exactly?  I also asked God these questions as I wrote in the journal.  Slowly, it dawned on me that maybe the focus I needed to maintain was not on a particular writing project but rather on God.  I often read a framed scripture that we inherited from my husband Ben’s grandmother, which says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee.”  Isaiah 26:3 (KJV).  Another translation of the verse says, “People with their minds set on you, you keep completely whole, steady on their feet because they keep at it and don’t quit.”  Isaiah 26:3 (MSG).  

Honestly, I’ve not worked through all of my difficult emotions surrounding my writing yet and don’t know which way I will go with my project.  Perhaps the most important thing for me to remember though is to keep my mind on God.  If I continue to look to God for comfort and guidance, God will help me remain stable and balanced when confusion threatens to cloud my mind.  The same holds true for all of us.  God wants each of us to keep our thoughts on God.  I imagine God saying, “It’s going to be okay.  Keep your eyes on me and stay focused darling.”