Monthly Archives: January 2022

A Place to Breathe


When my daughter Riley was a baby, she had a respiratory infection and required a nebulizer to provide the breathing treatments she needed. The nurse at our pediatrician’s office informed me that the company who provided the machine would ask for it back but that we’d already paid for it and therefore should keep it. That tip has proved invaluable for our family because we’ve used it repeatedly over the years, especially me with my asthma. 

Recently, my nine-year-old son Alex needed a breathing treatment, so I put the mask on his face with the strap around the back of his head and turned on the nebulizer so the steam and medicine could soothe him. I assumed everything would be fine, but I didn’t realize that Alex had never used the nebulizer until he called out, “Am I supposed to breathe?” Apparently, he’d spent the first few seconds holding his breath instead of breathing in as intended. “Yes, breathe,” I said. “It’s supposed to make breathing easier.”

Sometimes, I think we forget that God wants us to breathe easier in life and that he provides tools to help us, including church. The idea of church feels constricting to many. We may have had bad experiences in the past in which people in the church treated us poorly to put it mildly. When my mom was a little girl, she tried to go to a church with her cousin, but being uninformed and poor, they wore pants to the worship service. That was back in the day when one wore a pretty Sunday dress to church, and so they were turned away. 

Many have encountered this type of experience, but it’s compounded exponentially because they’ve been rejected not because of their clothes but because of who they are. The hurt and shame imposed by church can leave deep scars. No wonder some people think all churches are places with restrictive rules that only condemn – that make them feel like they have masks strapped to their faces that require them to hold their breath, not be themselves.   

Of course, not all churches are the same. Churches exist that are accepting, affirming, and open to all. And while those churches may take effort to find, they are worth the search. The church is supposed to be a place in which we can find support and care and most importantly, God’s love. The community of people that we find in church can surround us when we hurt, sit with us when we doubt, and uphold us when we falter. God intended for churches to help us breathe easier, not make life harder. 

When I first joined the Presbyterian Church (USA) twenty years ago, I asked my pastor Rev. Kelly Allen about a controversial issue in the world of religion and why my new denomination held such different views on this topic than the churches I’d attended previously. Kelly was a brilliant pastor, and I’m sure she explained how we needed to view this subject in terms of the context and history of scripture. In fact, I know we did a series of lessons on this topic at a later point in time. But on that day, she responded to my query with a simple statement about her approach to God and people that will always stay with me.  She said, “I choose to err on the side of grace.” If only we all viewed others through the lens of grace and welcome. To love people so that they feel God’s love.  

Let us not give up on church if we’ve become disillusioned. Instead, let us seek God and in so doing, pray to find a community that embodies God’s authentic love for all people. 

The Way We Were (and Probably Will Be Again)


As I put away the Christmas decorations this month, I picked up a box full of ornaments and shrieked because it looked like someone had drawn on my brand-new dining room floor in green marker. A second later I realized it was not marker but green string from some sort of tassel off a gift tag. But in that moment of panic, I was a young mother again, ready to go on the hunt for which little person had ruined my floor. While my four kids may aggravate me at times, at ages nine to eighteen now, they don’t write on the floors, walls, or themselves (all over her toddler body with sharpie) anymore. And although my alarm ended in a flash, I reverted to a previous version of myself while it lasted. 

But sometimes, I go back to a version of myself that I don’t wish to revisit. When one of my children faces potential pain or rejection, I feel not only the fear of a mother wanting to protect her child, but also the hurt of my younger self who struggled with those difficult emotions. Back in those days, I tried to push past the bad stuff as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, though, I can feel the heartache of that girl still. 

At times, I regress to my former ways when it comes to spiritual matters as well. If I encounter a situation that tests me, I don’t always turn to God in trust but in doubt. I question God’s purpose out of a place of heightened emotion and wonder if God is really for me, not against me. Later, when I realize that I’ve allowed my fear to get the better of me, I approach God again with regret for my lack of gratitude and faith. 

I take comfort that the disciples who knew Jesus personally seemed to fall back into their old ways regularly too. On one occasion, the disciples, many of whom were fishermen, were in a boat with Jesus when they were encountered a scary situation.  

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Mark 4:37-40.

The disciples’ fear and uncertainty emerged when they asked Jesus face-to-face, “Don’t you care if we drown?” They’d reverted to their doubtful selves in the midst of trouble. And while Jesus reminded them that they should have greater faith, he still acted to help the disciples. Jesus didn’t refuse to support and comfort them just because they challenged him. On the contrary, he calmed his people even when they fell into their old patterns.  

God won’t abandon us when we falter in our faith and slip into patterns of doubt and worry. In times of fear, we can rest assured that God loves us and will comfort and calm us until we become ourselves again. And then, God will help us grow even stronger and deeper in our relationship with him so that our belief is greater the next time.       

Rest for the Weary (That’s All of Us)


Recently, I wrote an essay about our need to rest and establish a “rest routine.” But I also admitted that I hadn’t figured out my own rest routine. In response to my post, my friend Lanna commented, “I think you have found your word for the year!” I’d actually been searching for a word for 2022 and hadn’t found quite the right one, but “rest” seemed obvious after Lanna pointed it out. With “rest” on my mind, I thought back to the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 when everything shut down and I discovered that I enjoyed coloring to occupy my mind during the many days and nights spent indoors. So, I went back to my stash of coloring books and markers and looked for something to work on. When I found a page, I thought “after I get some chores done, I’ll color.” And in that moment, I realized that subconsciously, I believed that I had to earn my rest.  

I assume I’m not alone in that belief even if we don’t acknowledge it. We think that we must do some sort of work before we deserve rest. We must be productive: finish one more step of the project, throw in another load of laundry, make that call or send that email. Whether we are at home or work, we come up with a long to-do list before we will rest. We think we must reach exhaustion before we give ourselves permission to slow down and do something restorative. If we aren’t being industrious, we think we are wasting time. We don’t give rest a chance.   

When I stopped working as a lawyer after our move to Texas fifteen years ago, I had an identity crisis of sorts. I wasn’t bringing home a paycheck anymore to quantify my worth. I started cooking more elaborate dinners for the first time in our family’s existence because I felt I had to prove my value as a homemaker. I wore business clothes to drop my kids off at daycare a few days a week because I didn’t want to be deemed lazy. I felt lost without the demands of work and didn’t know how to fill my days. I was staying home with two young children (with two more yet to be born), but I didn’t feel like I was earning my keep, much less earning time for rest, although I was extremely tired. I couldn’t square the previous version of my life and its constant and frantic (but not very satisfying) pace with the new iteration which was slower and not easily measurable in terms of worldly success.   

In a familiar passage, 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). Jesus didn’t say, come to me only after you’ve completed all your tasks and a long day’s work. He said, “are you weary and burdened?” Check and check for almost everyone I know. We are tired, stressed, and troubled as a people and as individuals. Yet, we just keep pushing ourselves to do more, be more, try more.  God wants us to turn to him and away from all the craziness of our success-oriented culture. Our world that drives us to the brink of exhaustion in the name of productivity is not the kingdom on earth that God promotes. Rest is necessary and important in God’s version of the ideal. 

Why do we resist rest so adamantly? Are we afraid of being quiet and introspective? Of what we might learn about ourselves if we stop pursuing the world’s definition of success? Or have we merely succumbed to the theory that we must earn rest because otherwise we don’t deserve it? Whatever the reason, if we take time to examine our refusal to rest often, we can change. God tells us to come to him so that he can freely give us rest, just as he gives his grace and boundless love. Let us rest and accept all God longs to give us.    

A Rest Routine


My daughter Riley is the best airplane sleeper I’ve ever known. The second after she buckles her seatbelt, she puts on her eye mask and is out. She will be thirty minutes into her nap before we even leave the gate. Takeoff doesn’t rattle her. She prefers a window seat so that she can lean her head against the wall, but at some point during the flight, she usually pulls the tray down and puts her head on it for a while. Her routine works for her like clockwork – she rests up on the way out of town for the adventure to come and sleeps on the way home to recover from the journey. Riley has established a routine that works well for her.  

Putting routines into practice is the goal of most new year’s resolutions. Eat better, exercise regularly, stick to a budget: almost any new habit requires small steps on a daily basis to make them routine. Creating a routine for rest is not usually the subject of resolutions though. Yes, we talk about going to bed at the same time each night and avoiding screen time before bed, but we often treat rest as a necessary evil or simply a means to an end. We think we need good sleep so we can be more productive or take on more tasks. 

I don’t know exactly what a rest routine would look like yet because I haven’t developed one myself. But I think I need a self-care plan that includes a pattern of rest that goes beyond a good night’s sleep. After this last holiday break, I was depleted physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Instead of realizing that I needed rest, though, I spiraled, overanalyzed, and tried to figure out what was wrong with me. If I had a rest routine, then maybe I wouldn’t be as susceptible to becoming so drained and would also notice that rest was necessary before I got so down in the dumps. Rest will not solve every one of life’s troubles by any means, but maybe it’s the first step.

As we reenter our normal routines at the start of this year, and I recognize the need for some sort of rest routine, the 23rd Psalm keeps replaying in my mind. David wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul (Psalm 23:1-3). The first action that David attributes to God is that “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” When I thought of this verse in light of my fatigue this week, I heard it differently than in the past. It’s as if God must force David to rest. He doesn’t say that the Lord lets him take a break or allows him time to nap or lollygag in the meadow, but that the Lord compels him to rest. David wasn’t so great at taking time to rest as God intended either.  

At the start of one of my favorite books, “Eat, Pray, Love,” Elizabeth Gilbert writes about praying for guidance for the next steps in her life on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night. She begged for help, crying, asking God, “Please tell me what to do,” when she felt as though a divine voice told her, “Go back to bed, Liz” (15-16). In that moment, God didn’t give her an elaborate step by step plan but commanded her to simply rest. 

Perhaps we can learn to develop a rest routine because God wants to refresh our souls, and the path to that restoration comes, at least in part, from the rest he longs to give us. When we feel like we have nothing left to give anyone, let us remember that God desires for us to take time to truly rest so that we may regain our footing and find the strength to follow him.