Monthly Archives: July 2022

Pray Anyway


My favorite nurse is leaving my doctor’s office to attend medical school. I’m happy for him but sad too. He has always been so upbeat and supportive of my family, and he responds to calls and questions quickly and thoroughly. I visit their office on a regular basis to manage my asthma, so I’ve followed his journey to med school for a while now. I’m going to miss him. After we saw him last week and I hugged him goodbye, I thought: I’ll pray for him. And then I questioned myself, who am I to pray for him? I only know him professionally, not personally. To me, it felt like that moment you see an acquaintance out and about, and you think you should say hello, but then you don’t know if they’ll even remember you. And you must decide whether to approach the person and risk embarrassment or stay silent and avoid the encounter. Maybe I was overstepping my place to pray for him. 

I realized that I don’t question praying for those whom I know well, and I don’t think twice about praying for nameless, often faceless people, like those caught up in disasters or war. But when I didn’t know how I fit into the life of someone that I knew, but didn’t know well, I felt timid. Then, almost immediately, I felt God tell me I was being ridiculous. Why would I ever hold back a prayer? Especially if my reticence stemmed from my own insecurities. First of all, I hadn’t even told my nurse friend of my plan to pray for him, so I couldn’t actually feel embarrassed. And, it’s not like we can only offer a set number of prayers to God a week. God asks us to pray without ceasing, not to limit our prayers. I realized I filtered my prayers through an arbitrary and unnecessary thought process.

Instead of trusting God that my prayers were valid no matter my significance in another’s life, I let fear stand in the way. Praying for others allows us to support and encourage them. We ask God to comfort or care for them. That they will feel God’s presence in difficulty or in everyday circumstances. By choosing not to pray because of my misguided concerns, I was being stingy with prayer. My initial impulse was to speak words of concern for another, but my reluctance meant I did the exact opposite – I ended up caring about myself more than them. I didn’t want to feel unworthy, so I almost decided to shut down instead. As if God would ever say, why in the world is she praying for that person when she doesn’t even know them that well? God is love and welcomes every word we speak in love on another’s behalf. 

I believe that when people cross our minds, we offer a sufficient prayer when we simply say “God, be with them.” And then maybe if we can, reach out, send the text, make the call, to tell them we’re thinking about them. But if we can’t because we don’t know them that well, let’s pray for them anyway.  

“Help me here, Sis”


We were sitting around my parents’ kitchen table catching up with my nieces on a recent visit. My daughter Riley asked the seven-year-old where she liked to eat when she was on vacation at the beach in Florida. She listed a couple of places then turned to her older sister and with perfect comedic timing and a pinch of sass said, “help me here, Sis.” My oldest niece smiled and provided the names of additional restaurants. Riley and I glanced at each other as we held back our laughter. This girl has spirit and spunk and none of us want to squelch that. 

But as I thought more about our conversation, I realized what my niece had accomplished with her adorable little quip. In one fell swoop, she’d invited another person to participate in the conversation and asked for help at the exact same time. She’d done it in such a casual and comfortable manner, though, I almost missed the significance of her statement.

Most of us don’t ask for help so easily. Instead, we worry that people will think less of us if we ask for help. We often berate ourselves for our inability to handle all of life’s circumstances on our own. We fear people’s judgment. We want to hide our troubles to avoid potential shame. We may even decide to suffer in silence because we feel weak at the prospect of reaching out to another and anxious about being vulnerable in front of others. But we need to normalize asking for help. To make it a more common occurrence because who doesn’t need some help on a regular basis? 

I saw a friend at Target the other day, and she shared some difficult information about challenges facing her family. We talked for a while about the range of emotions that she and children might experience. And at the end of the conversation, I said what many of us often do: “let me know if you need anything.” Most of the time, when presented with that statement, we say we will call if we need something but know we won’t. This time, my friend said, “that dinner we talked about having might be good.” We’d previously discussed having dinner sometime in the future but didn’t have solid plans. In that moment, though, she achieved the same thing my niece had. She invited me to help and gave me a concrete opportunity to do so. The more I thought about her response, the more I admired her for it. She’d shown vulnerability in what she’d shared then offered me a way to be present with her.

Maybe that is one path to normalize asking for and receiving help. When someone asks us what we need, we actually tell them. Even if no one can fix things for us, they can probably go for a cup of coffee. People want to help us when we are in need. Let’s learn to ask for help in specific ways. And in turn, we can show them that the next time they need help, it’s okay to ask because we’ll be there for them too.  

Small Moments of Joy


Lately, I’ve found that my writing has fallen under the influence of the heaviness of the world. Even though I’ve chosen not to follow the 24-hour news cycle for the most part, I cannot avoid feeling as though the world is messy and a bit heartbreaking right now. Instead of dwelling on the harsh realities of our current collective lives today though, I’m going to share a scene of pure joy I witnessed recently. 

I was at the pool with my youngest son Alex. He’d been jumping off the diving board, so that’s where my attention was focused when I saw a little boy about three-years-old ready to take his turn jumping into the water where his father waited in the deep end. As expected, he was dressed in the uniform of young children: long sleeve swim shirt, swim trunks, and a floatie contraption that covered the top part of his chest in addition to both arms. But completely unexpected was his approach to the jump. He strutted out to the end of the board pumping his arms and keeping time to the music blaring overhead. 

I was completely caught off guard and totally mesmerized at the same time. Would he do it again when he had another turn? Yes, in fact, he did it every time. I started laughing and the woman in the row of lounge chairs behind me laughed too. I finally pulled out my phone to video this kid, knowing I couldn’t share it because I didn’t know this boy or his family, but just to have it because he was a perfect example of happiness. In that particular take, he danced out to “This is How We Do It,” which fit perfectly with his exuberance.

Now, I know this little guy didn’t have any worries in the world. He’s living his best life. His main concerns probably revolve around snacks, playtime, and naps. But even still, I couldn’t help but admire the way he lived in the moment and enjoyed himself in the process. He didn’t care that we were watching him. In fact, he was so into the experience he had no idea he was garnering the crowd’s attention. 

I’m self-aware enough to understand that I’m not going to start suddenly living with the happy abandon of that little boy. I’m serious by nature, and it’s hard for me to throw off my inhibitions. You’re never going to catch me dancing down the diving board (literally or metaphorically) – and I doubt I would’ve as a child either. But here was my take-away that day: I need to look for the joy around me. No matter how that joy manifests itself. 

It’s easy to get stuck in the mire of life, so we actively need to watch for any small moments of joy. We can celebrate those people and occurrences that make us smile. Instead of quickly dismissing the small joys so we can get back to the business of life, let’s relish them in order to buoy us as we journey through the weighty world. At the end of the video of the little boy, I can hear myself laughing. I need to do more of that. We all do. 

I’m Fine (Or Not)?


My eighteen-year-old daughter Riley was out of town when she called to check in with me and sweetly asked, “How are you, Mom?” I replied, “I’m fine.” Without missing a beat, she said, “are you good-fine or bad-fine?” On that day, I was neutral-fine, but Riley was right about the word “fine” because it can express a wide gamut of emotion. A few days later, my husband Ben and I were having a slight disagreement when I said, “it’s fine!” Seeing my face and hearing my tone he responded, “it’s not fine.” Obviously, I’d used the term in the passive aggressive manner. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for me to become fine as we resolved the issue. But the range between good-fine and bad-fine is wide and can also include the “I don’t want to talk about it-fine.” Sometimes the emotion is too great to discuss or we’re just tired of dwelling on hard circumstances. Lately, I’ve felt like I’m trending toward “fake-fine” or “not fine at all actually” because the state of the world feels so heavy to me right now. And with that, hope starts to wane as well. 

In Psalm 27, David appears to experience the spectrum of emotions associated with “fine.”  At the beginning of the chapter, David states that the Lord is “my light and my salvation,” and “the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” He proclaims that God would protect him from his enemies who sought to devour him. Then, David seems concerned because he asks the Lord to keep him close “in the house of the Lord” so that the Lord can continue to protect him. But David descends into doubt a few verses later. He begs the Lord to “hear my voice when I call”; “do not turn your servant away”; “do not reject me or forsake me”; “do not turn me over to the desire of my foes.” Maybe David wanted to convince himself that everything was fine when he started writing but finally broke down and told God the truth – he wasn’t really fine. He feared the people who might harm him and that God wouldn’t be there for him when the world spun out of control. 

David’s honesty is one of the hallmarks of his writing. He knows he needs God, but he is not always certain that God will help. I think we’ve all experienced those feelings. Like David, we may try to tell ourselves that we’re fine, but sometimes we experience those brutal moments when we wonder if God is listening, unsure if we are all alone in our hopelessness. We see our lives or our world in a tailspin, and we question God’s presence or plan. David shows us that our feelings of despair are normal and common to everyone. 

In the last two verses, though, David reaches down deep to find hope. He says, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” It’s hard to hang onto hope. It’s hard to wait. It’s hard to see God’s goodness when things look bleak. But we can follow David’s example of honesty with God and declare our expectation that God will show up – sooner, rather than later, in our current lives, in today’s world. That we cling to the belief that God’s goodness still exists.

God also expects us to be part of that demonstration of goodness. Waiting does not mean we passively sit on our hands and do nothing. We need not ignore the wrongs and injustices we witness. We may have to work to dismantle systems that harm and oppress. We can speak out and tell others that God’s ways bring peace and love, not hate and violence. We can act in concert with God to bring about God’s goodness. We can help make things better than they are now even as we wait for more change.

We may not feel fine with how things are right now. But let us hang onto hope that God still works in the world today and remain confident that we can play an active part in bringing about God’s goodness.  

Sometimes, All I Think About is You


Throughout the spring and early summer, a song stalked me. The song that followed me was “Heat Waves” by Glass Animals. The song came on the radio when I was driving, not once a day, but multiple times a day whenever I got in the car. Every. Single. Time. My sons noticed the phenomenon and would say, “there’s your song” when it started playing the first line, “Sometimes, all I think about is you.” It became so repetitive I started to wonder if I needed to learn something from the song. Was it trying to tell me something?

The other day, I felt overwhelmed with worry about three of my four kids. They were still at camp, and one of them wasn’t feeling well physically, one was traveling back to camp from Colorado on a long bus trip, and one had heard some information, that if true, would be very disappointing, hurtful even. Thankfully, one child was all good. I found myself spiraling with anxiety. I just wanted my babies to be safe, healthy, and happy, and I couldn’t talk to or hug them. Not knowing how they were handling their situations was excruciating. 

I was in a drive-thru line when the song came on for the second time that day. The song is about a relationship that is not going to survive and the pain that both people are suffering. The singer realizes they can’t make each other happy, but he laments his inability to do so. In one line, he says, “I just wonder what you’re dreaming of / When you sleep and smile so comfortable / I just wish that I could give you that / That look that’s perfectly un-sad.” While the song is about a romance, I can’t help but relate to it as a parent because I desperately wish I had the power to make my kids “perfectly un-sad.” Not just on the day in question, but all the time. Every. Single. Time.

I wish I could deflect all pain and rejection from their lives. But as they get older, I know I have little to no control over their daily lives, and I hate that. I despise that helpless feeling. I can give them advice that they might accept or not; I can pray for them; I can encourage them to get rest, hydrate, and avoid stress, but I can’t make them do a whole lot. And I can’t make the people with whom they interact do anything. Even though these observations make sense intellectually, I struggle to accept them emotionally. My heart hurts when my kids hurt or face struggle. My brain becomes distracted and preoccupied. I struggle until I know they are safe or feel better, physically, mentally, or emotionally.

I don’t have a cure for the challenges of parenthood. No one does. To love our kids is to care deeply about their lives and wish we could protect them from all hardship. But I guess all we can do is stay available for our kids – to absorb some of the hurt, to hold them when they cry, to let them know we are on their team always and forever even when we cannot be together in person. And to make sure they know we think of them constantly. Kind of like the song that plays over and over when I’m in my car – we can be there in the background when they need us even though we may experience pain along with them. Every. Single. Time.