Monthly Archives: June 2021

Been There, Done That


Several years ago, water was dripping on the outside of our house from the eaves onto the driveway.  I wasn’t sure if the situation was, in fact, problematic, and so, being a responsible homeowner, I ignored it.  But one day, a woman driving down the alley stopped and rolled down her window.  She said she’d had a similar situation at her house and that I needed to call a plumber soon to fix it before it became much worse.  I thanked her and then contacted the plumber.  I appreciated her willingness to help me out and the way in which she approached me.  When she told me that she’d been in the same boat at one time, she gained my attention and I listened.  She wasn’t merely doling out unsolicited advice about what I should do.  She was speaking from a shared experience. 

At church last Sunday, a friend and I had a long conversation about children.  She is ahead of me on the motherhood journey, which is good, because as it turned out, I needed to discuss the teenage years with someone who’d already been through this stage.  We talked about navigating the ups and downs of parenting independent minded children and how hard it is to strike the balance between guiding them and allowing them to chart their own course.  She agreed that parenting high school and college aged children could be difficult and conveyed some of her experiences.  I felt seen and heard when she assured me it was hard but survivable.  And because I know that her children are awesome adults, I felt a greater sense of confidence and hope.  I appreciated her willingness to be open and share her knowledge with me.  

Often, we pretend that life is perfect and portray an image that doesn’t reflect reality.  In so doing, we may become more isolated and feel that we are the only ones who’ve ever gone through the specific difficulties.  When we find others whom we trust that faced similar experiences, we help ourselves if we are vulnerable and ask them for advice.  Perhaps some of our reluctance to ask how another person made it through stems from our fear that they will scold us or tell us we are doing things wrong or that we are somehow less than because we need guidance.  But most of the time, we will find a common bond of understanding that only deepens when we ask for support from someone who has been through similar circumstances.  

The Apostle Paul wrote that we, as members of the body of Christ, should “encourage one another and build each other up.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11.  When we let our guards down, either in asking for help or sharing our history with others going through a tough time, we cultivate relationships that not only build one another up but build the kingdom of God on earth.  God wants us to live in community and in relationship with one another.  The time and effort we invest in each other is valuable and in keeping with God’s hopes for us.  

Sometimes we throw out the phrase “been there, done that” as almost a joke.  But maybe that’s exactly what someone else needs to hear so they don’t feel alone.  Let us encourage each other by sharing our stories because when we do, we help ourselves and others and serve God at the same time.     

Little Love Notes


Every year before my kids go to camp, I buy a small journal for each child and write a note for each day of camp.  In that way, they will have a message from me every day even if they don’t receive an email or card from me on that particular day.  I started this tradition when my oldest child went to camp for the first time, not contemplating the time when four of them would go together for three weeks.  The notes are short, but sweet.  I tell them I’m proud of their kind natures and their ability to make friends; I remind them of activities I enjoy doing with them; I tout their accomplishments from the prior year; I encourage them to have confidence and believe in themselves.  I knew my daughter Riley loved the notes and referred back to the journals on occasion.  I wasn’t sure my boys cared at all until eight-year-old Alex told me he liked reading his book and looking at the stickers I’d included for decoration.  Alex’s comment made me feel like my efforts to celebrate them were worth all the work to write the multitude of notes.  

Growing up in church, I heard a lot about God’s judgment.  I even recall imagery about God writing all of our transgressions in a book, waiting until we confessed our sins in order to wipe the slate clean (as if God would actually employ the human concept of record keeping in a book).  Despite our collective belief in Jesus, the focus pointed to retribution, not grace.  The concept that God only kept count of the bad things caused shame and anxiety for me considering my tendency to focus on the negative.  I learned to fear God’s wrath and punishment.  As a result, I struggled to view God as a loving parent when God was portrayed as a far-away entity who eagerly hoped to catch me doing or thinking something wrong. 

As I’ve grown older and my faith has matured, I’ve come to understand that God is love and grace and mercy.  And that while God wants us to do good and make moral choices, God is not gleefully lying in wait for us to screw up.  Instead, God hopes we show others love in response to the love God has for us.  If God had a book, I believe God’s notes to us would be uplifting and supportive, not a list of all the times we’ve messed up.  What would God’s love notes to us be?  Perhaps something like – “I was proud when you helped that stranger today” or “I enjoyed spending time with you when you prayed last night” or “Believe in yourself because I believe in you” or simply “Remember, I love you.”

God wants to have a relationship with us that is deep and strong and ever growing.  God’s love is the foundation of that relationship.  God will guide us back to Him when we do something wrong because God loves us, not because He wants to trap us.  Let us believe that God is constantly sending love notes to us so that we better believe in our own goodness and then, with confidence, share God’s love with others.     

Underestimating Ourselves


“When will Jed get his real uniform?” I asked my husband Ben.  My fifteen-year-old son Jed joined a newly formed basketball team, and they wore sports pennies over t-shirts for their games.  Pennies are flimsy mesh tank tops that coaches often use at practice to divide their players into two teams or a team may wear pennies during a game if both teams have the same color uniforms.  They are normally ill fitting and don’t stay on well during game play.  So, I was surprised when Ben said, “Actually, the boys have decided they like wearing the pennies. The other teams underestimate them when they show up in the pennies.”  

I found this strategy fascinating.  The other teams thought our boys could not play well because they weren’t dressed out in custom uniforms.  They assumed our team was thrown together haphazardly or spur of the moment.  We appeared like the underdogs as we came onto the court even though that was not necessarily the case.  And our team wanted to capitalize on that impression.  If the other team underestimated us, they might let their guard down.  Then, our guys could take advantage of that, seize the momentum, and gain an early lead.                         

We frequently underestimate ourselves and others.  A few years ago, I was quite content to teach the elementary Sunday School class when my oldest kids, Riley and Jed, gave me an ultimatum of sorts.  They would go to Sunday School without argument if I taught the youth class.  But Riley and Jed didn’t know that I was scared to teach the youth class.  I could handle the younger kids, which included our two youngest boys.  Tell a Bible story, lead them in a craft – I could do that.  I worried that I wouldn’t connect with the youth.  I feared they wouldn’t take me seriously or that I would be too serious for their tastes.  What if they challenged me with faith questions that I couldn’t answer?  All of my own issues with rejection as a teenager flared back up at the prospect of teaching teenagers every week.  Nevertheless, I decided to volunteer to teach the youth.  I ultimately concluded that it was better to teach imperfectly than for my kids to protest against Sunday School attendance.  Of course, the experience of teaching the youth far exceeded my limited expectations.  We learned about our love languages, poverty, and racial injustice to name a few subjects.  Looking back, I realize I’d underestimated myself, the teenage students, and God.  

People underestimated Jesus all of the time.  After Jesus called Philip to become one of his disciples, Philip told his friend Nathanael that Jesus was from Nazareth.  Nathanael replied, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”  John 1:46.  Jesus wasn’t rich.  He didn’t have clout in society or culture.  He demonstrated servant leadership instead of taking the role of master.  He didn’t attempt to raise an army or seize the reins of power.  Jesus spoke to and spent time with outcasts and those considered low class sinners.  He picked a group of humble day laborers as his disciples.  Jesus didn’t meet the expectations of those who thought the messiah would establish a literal kingdom on earth.  He disappointed his closest friends when he chose not to argue with the authorities who accused him of blasphemy.  He didn’t fight back and accepted an unjust punishment, which led him to the cross.  And yet, by focusing on love and mercy and grace, Jesus established a far reaching and long-lasting movement that still lives and breathes today.    

We’ve been rightly taught not to boast excessively about our accomplishments, but many of us take that lesson to heart and degrade ourselves instead.  We label ourselves as incapable or even worthless.  We don’t think God would ever call us to do anything on God’s behalf.  With our human view of things, we underestimate God’s ability to work in and through us to connect with others, create community, and share God’s love.  

God has always championed the underdog.  We can believe that God wants to use us to build the kingdom on earth.  We may underestimate ourselves and others, but God doesn’t underestimate us.  God never has and never will.  

Finding Our Own Path


My eight-year-old son Alex asked to push the cart during a recent trip to Target with me.  I had my reservations, but I agreed.  I kept guiding the cart, but he insisted he could handle it on his own.  I walked ahead when all of a sudden, he slammed the cart into me so that the metal undercarriage hit me hard directly on my ankle bone.  The pain shot through me and almost dropped me to my knees.  Obviously, it was an accident, and Alex immediately apologized.  “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.  I didn’t mean to.  I was just trying to catch up.”  For the record, I was only a couple of steps in front of him, but he’d nevertheless felt the need to speed up so that he could keep up. 

We do the same thing sometimes.  We fix our eyes on someone who appears to be ahead of us.  We believe they have a better career, a better family, a better financial situation, a better life.  And once we have them in sight, we rush headlong to try and model ourselves after them.  After a while, we may forget why we chose to chase after these particular people, if we even asked that question in the first place.  We fall into the comparison trap, and we never assess whether our true desires match those we’re trying to catch.  

While we pursue success like we observe others achieving, we may never reach a point where we feel we’ve won the imaginary race.  The people we’re running after probably have no idea that they are setting the pace that dictates our choices.  We don’t slam into them with our efforts.  Instead, when we barrel blindly ahead, we are the ones who usually end up bruised and broken.  We may keep going even when we feel empty and unfulfilled because we think it’s too late to change course.  We may be limping but still we continue to hurt ourselves by running after others.  

But God doesn’t want us to spend our lives chasing after the dreams or success of others.  The Bible references the imagery of running races several times.  In one of those instances, the Bible says, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”  Hebrews 12:1-2.  We need to train our focus on God and the path that we feel God wants for us to follow.  Not the route others think we should adopt; not the direction the culture recommends; not the one that others establish and we merely mimic.  If we fix our eyes on Jesus and pray for guidance, we can better determine the specific race marked for us and persevere in staying the course.  

God doesn’t want us to merely do what everyone else is doing.  God asks for us to seek Him and then chase the individual lives and dreams He helps us discover.  What a relief that we do not need to be like anyone else, but only who God calls us to be.