Monthly Archives: October 2021

Don’t Hesitate to Act


“Ms. Tina are you happy?” asked “G,” one of my son Alex’s friends, who was over for a playdate.  G is a very observant child, so I wondered if he was asking about my general level of happiness in life or if he’d picked up on the fact that I’d had an emotional day.  So, I answered with a simple, “yeah,” hoping to deflect his inquiry.  I knew I was busted when G asked, “Do you lie?”  Not wanting to lie in that instant, I said, “Sometimes.”  He asked, “Are you lying now?  You look sad.”  His intuition was spot on.  I smiled at him and said, “I’ve had a weird day.”  He nodded and looked at me with great care in his eyes.  I changed the subject then, not wanting to ruin the playdate.  G is only nine years old, but he trusted his instinct enough to ask when he felt something was not quite right with me.  And when the conversation was over, I felt seen and heard.   

We’ve probably all been there – we feel down or sad and to compound the problem, no one seems to even notice.  The isolation grows when we don’t think anyone cares.  If someone would just ask how we are really doing in a sincere manner, then we wouldn’t feel like our burdens are so heavy because we wouldn’t have to carry them alone.  

I’m sure we’ve also been on the other side of the equation though.  We realize that someone doesn’t seem like themselves from their countenance or tone of voice or the way they walk.  I’m sure most of the time we stop and check on the person who seems out of sorts. But I know that I for one don’t always act when I know I probably should.  I tell myself I don’t want to bother them or even worse, upset them further.  Maybe I think that someone else who is a closer friend to them should be the one to take the initiative.  Perhaps I decide I don’t have the physical or emotional energy to engage right then. At times, all those thoughts could be true, and at other times, they might just be excuses. 

Our initial reactions don’t have to be our final ones, however.  When I hesitate to approach someone who I think may be having a tough time, I need to ask myself if I have a good reason or just want to avoid my own potential discomfort.  Is there an authentic reason to sidestep the conversation or am I rationalizing my own behavior?  We are the hands and feet of God, and God asks us to demonstrate his love, not only when it is easy and enjoyable, but when it is hard and messy.  God doesn’t ask us to fix everyone’s problems because that’s not possible.  Sometimes, just the mere fact of noticing that someone seems off kilter can be the thing that helps them begin to feel better.  Sitting with another and simply listening may be all we can do in that moment – and that might be all they need.  Knowing that someone is thinking about and praying for them may provide a measure of comfort that they can hang on to.  

G made a difference to me that day. I hope I can return the favor to him in the future, but in the meantime, I’ll try to overcome my reluctance to approach others when I sense their sadness.  Let us all step up to show God’s love to those around us by not only noticing when they might need an encouraging word or a kind gesture but acting on that impulse as well.     

Breathe a Bit Easier

Photo by Izzy Salazar (2020)

On a recent college visit, my daughter Riley and I had the opportunity to see the juniors and seniors in the dance program perform. Riley plans to further her dance career after high school, so we enjoyed watching these talented young people move with precision and artistry.  When one of the dances ended, the dancers held their poses for several seconds after the music stopped.  The audience fell completely silent, and we could hear the dancers breathing loudly and rapidly, like they’d just run a race, which was essentially what they’d done. Even though I watch Riley and her friends dance a lot, sometimes I forget that dancers are athletes who exert considerable power and energy. I look at the beauty and grace of their dances and don’t always recognize their immense physical effort. Yet, in that moment when the dancers paused on stage and their breathing was heavy and strained, I realized we were all breathing the same air, but the ways in which we were breathing were very different. 

I’ve had this experience before. I have adult-onset asthma, so I know what it’s like to have difficulty breathing. While my condition is usually manageable, there have been times when I didn’t feel as though I could fill my lungs with air, and when you can’t breathe, you start to panic, which only makes it worse. Because of my history with asthma over the last twenty years, I don’t like it when people say “just breathe” to try and calm others. Sometimes, just breathing is not so simple. Sometimes, just breathing in and out is a challenge. I know that my experiences are not as bad as those whose asthma is not controlled or those who’ve suffered from Covid’s effects on their lungs.  We can breathe the same air but have very different experiences.   

Breathing is so basic that we usually take it for granted. Until we can’t breathe, and then we feel desperate. Most of us take the basics in life for granted: having enough to eat, enough money to buy the essentials, enough love and friendship to make life meaningful. But plenty of people lack easy access to the basics, and they aren’t necessarily a world away or that different from us. We can be in the same community, the same school or business, the same room and still have completely divergent experiences. Even when we appear to have similar lives on the outside, our inside lives, mentally and emotionally, can mean we don’t share the same feelings about the exact same events. And it may not help if we tell others to just do something differently, just get over it, or just don’t worry about it. 

God asks us to love one another many times throughout the Bible. Apostle Paul wrote, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love” (Romans 12:9-10). If we are to devote ourselves to each other in love, then we must make every effort to look outside of our own experiences to try and understand what others think or feel. We must understand that things that come easily to us, even the very basics, may present incredible challenges for others.    

When we notice someone struggling to breathe, literally or metaphorically, we need to act in accordance with God’s instructions. Instead of giving trite advice, let us love them in ways that help alleviate their crushing burdens. We can lighten the heavy load for others and help them breathe easier.   

Lessen the FOMO


The other day when Facebook and Instagram crashed, I found myself quite irritated that the services weren’t updating.  I didn’t know that the outage was global though.  I fiddled with the settings on my phone assuming my Wi-Fi or cell service were problematic as I tried to refresh the social media sites several times.  I was frustrated because I thought the problem was mine.  Finally, I looked on the internet to see if the outages were widespread and was relieved to know that they were.  It wasn’t an issue on my end after all.  I felt relieved to know that if I couldn’t get FB and IG to work, then other people and organizations couldn’t either.  I realized I’d had a fear of missing out (FOMO) on what was going on in the world, but I wasn’t missing anything.  We were all experiencing the same thing – no one could post, no one could share, no one could update.  

I don’t relish the fact that I had FOMO based on a few hours without social media.  Perhaps I need to assess the time and effort I dedicate to social media sites.  But more telling to me was that my first reaction was to assume the problem was mine alone. And that thought persisted for hours before I even considered that others, that the world, in fact, faced the same predicament.  I worried that the rest of the world was going on without me, and honestly, I felt left out. 

Isn’t that often the way we approach life?  We think others are having fun without us; that our friends are gathering without inviting us; that we are missing out on the good things in life that others have in abundance.  And sometimes our first thoughts are that there is something wrong with us. That missing out is our fault.  If I were prettier, skinnier, more popular, less annoying, more engaging, less introverted, had more money, a better job or fancier education, then I wouldn’t be left out.  I would be included – if only I could…fill in the blank. 

And yet, if we stop for a second and really think about it, others may experience similar emotions.  My FOMO may result from rejection in the past, so I worry I’ll be tossed aside again.  My friend’s FOMO may be rooted in feelings of inadequacy they learned as a child.  And if others exclude us on purpose, they are probably acting out of their own fears or insecurities. We fear missing out on different things for different reasons, but we probably all have FOMO about something, and we’ve all blamed ourselves. Instead of realizing that we may not actually be missing out in the first place and that it may not be because of anything we did or who we are, we continue to live in isolation and dread.  

God designed us to live in community together, and FOMO is real because we want to be in relationship with others.  But God doesn’t want us to berate ourselves or focus on our perceived inadequacies when we feel the twinge of FOMO creeping in.  We are God’s beloved children, and he wants us to believe that we are worthy and valuable.  If we can more readily accept that we are important in the eyes of God, we can then engage with others without dwelling in the fear of not being enough.          

The next time we experience FOMO, let’s remember that we belong to God, and that he loves us beyond measure.  Then, we can assess what’s happening in the situation and how we feel without picking ourselves apart and causing unnecessary damage to our hearts and minds.    

Don’t Minimize the Amazing

Photo credit: Sarah Beth Van Alstyne (

My daughter Riley is a senior in high school, and she asked her school counselor to write a recommendation for her college applications.  In our school district, when a student requests a recommendation, the parents must fill out a questionnaire about their student to help facilitate the process.  These questions included such gems, as “Describe the assets/characteristics that will set your child apart from thousands of college applicants.”  And, “What do you consider to be your child’s most outstanding personality trait?  Describe a situation in which this trait was evident.”  We also had to describe what made us most proud of our child with anecdotal evidence, our child’s role in our family, and the areas in which our child has shown the most growth in the past few years.  No pressure, parents, it’s just your child’s future on the line.

I avoided the questionnaire for about a week until Riley told me I had to get it done.  I wasn’t simply procrastinating though.  I was intimidated by the task before me.  How was I supposed to encapsulate my daughter’s personality?  I think she’s wonderful, amazing, and awesome, but I’m sure every other parent believes that about their child too.  I needed to detail the specifics that set her apart, but how could I choose from her outstanding qualities?  I love this girl and believe so strongly in all of her good and beautiful characteristics.  I finally put together answers for the form, but I felt agitated by the whole concept of reducing her wonderful being into small sound bites.

While I was troubled by the idea of capturing my daughter’s best traits in a few words, I think we do it all the time when it comes to God.  We try to make God as small and digestible as possible.  We say we worship an infinitely powerful God, but then we try to shrink God into our small boxes.  We ask God for simple rules, easy answers for complex problems.  We want God to fix it without asking what God wants us to do to help.  We fail to remember that God is the source of imagination, creativity, and inspiration.  God’s ability to love is greater than we can comprehend, but we often act as though God only loves and approves of the same people we do.   

In Ephesians, the writer prays for the church members and concludes by saying, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” (Ephesians 3:20).  Instead of assuming that God shares our limited human view, we can choose to believe that God is a willing and powerful participant in our lives and community.  

I didn’t enjoy minimizing the multi-faceted nature of my daughter.  I don’t want to do that to God either.  Instead of reducing God to trite, simplistic slogans, let’s choose to bask in the expansive wonder of our amazing God.