Monthly Archives: April 2023

A Simple Prayer


My ten-year-old son Alex and I waited for the show to start. The whole family had traveled to see my daughter Riley dance in her end-of-the-year college recital. She was cast in three pieces, including a solo, which was a huge honor for a freshman. I confessed to Alex that I was nervous for her because it was such a big deal. He told me he was nervous too and that he’d said a prayer. Loving that he’d said a prayer for his sister, I told him that I too had said a prayer. Then Alex said, “I prayed that Riley kicks ass.” I nodded and tried not to laugh. “Good prayer,” I said. After Riley completed her solo, dancing beautifully, Alex held up his hands in the dark for a double high five. Now we could breathe easier and enjoy the last fun and upbeat number of Riley’s dances.

I realize some people might be taken aback by Alex’s prayer – keep in mind he is the youngest of four siblings – but I thought his prayer was awesome. He felt comfortable enough in his relationship to God to just say what he was thinking and feeling. He wanted his sister to do well and be strong and confident. He didn’t edit himself or try to make his prayer sound pretty or ostentatious. Simple and direct, that’s what he expressed. He invited God into the situation and asked for help for another. In doing so, he also calmed himself because he was sharing his anxiety with God. 

As adults, sometimes we get tripped up making prayer complicated because we believe it should be time-consuming and high-minded. We fail to pray because we think we don’t know how to pray. We choose not to pray because we are mad at God about our circumstances and think we shouldn’t express those feelings. We don’t think God is willing or able to be involved in our lives in the present, so we don’t bother. 

I have a friend who is going through some tough stuff right now. She said she thinks her mother is upset with God. I totally got that because as a mama bear myself, I’d rather go through the fire than watch one of my children suffer. And I know that will continue far into their adulthood, just like her mom. My response to her: God can handle it – all of it. The seeking, the pleading, the rage, the desperation. God is present even when we choose to ignore him. Even when we are so tied in knots, and we cannot express ourselves at all. It’s okay to pray in short bursts, through tears, or in screams. We don’t need to censor our emotions. Honesty is important in relationships and that’s no less true in our relationship with God. The old adage “give it all to God” is true in my opinion – give it ALL to God, every single thought, word, emotion. Period.

My friend has a long road ahead of her. We’ve already started praying, and we will continue to do so. But I think I might just adopt Alex’s prayer for her too. Irreverent – perhaps – but she and I have that kind of relationship. And I know God understands what I mean when I pray, “God please help her kick ass.”    

Turn the Lights On


We have a complicated relationship with the lighting in our home. There always seems to be a light fixture that doesn’t work somewhere. I think if we called the electrician out to fix a light every time one broke, they would constantly be at our house. So, our strategy is to wait until we cannot stand it anymore and then call someone to come help. My husband Ben reached that breaking point recently after our garage light and the lights in both of our closets had been out for months. The electrician came, changed out the old fixtures, and voila, we had light. But I found myself going into the garage and still walking in the dark to the refrigerator where we keep our sodas. Instead of turning on the light, I automatically fell into the habit of fumbling my way to the fridge. The new light made the old patterns obsolete. But I was so accustomed to being in darkness, I didn’t take advantage of the new opportunity to light the path in front of me. 

Sometimes, I do this to myself in life as well. I’ll make progress on a problem or situation that’s been bothering me, but instead of embracing the relief from anxiety, I continue to worry and obsess. I wander around in the darkness because it’s comfortable and familiar. It’s easy to fall back into the way things have been instead of fully plunging into the way things could be. Or my brain starts looking for another source of concern to replace the old darkness.

Recently, I read a book titled, “Relationship OCD” by Sheva Rajaee, MFT. She noted that anxiety does not just go away after we begin implementing recommended strategies that help us deal with anxiety. When we’ve become better at handling our regular sources of anxiety, “anxiety is left to search and scan, looking for something, anything at all, to rile them up, no matter how redundant or ridiculous it may be.” She named this the “lighthouse effect” for the “searching and endless seeking beneath the stories our anxiety tells us.” 

When “lighthousing,” the brain spins and when it does not locate a familiar source of anxiety, we might have the “urge to attach a story, any story to the feeling of anxiety and the threat it produces.” It sounds backwards, and maybe it is, but the author stated as we become more conscious of this phenomenon, “you’ll begin to notice that not all anxiety has a reason to be there; not every feeling means there is an actual threat.” She also explained that as you learn to cope with anxiety, “you don’t need to demolish your lighthouse; you only need to recognize when its frantic searching captures your attention or tries on some new, shiny piece of content, and then gently disengage.” 

When I feel my chest tighten – my body’s signal that anxiety is on the rise – I revert to old stories or find new sources to explain the anxiety I’m feeling. Instead of a lighthouse, for me, it’s like I’m out in the dark garage with a flashlight looking for the next subject to analyze and fixate on in order to explain my anxiety. Through therapy and medication and this latest book, I continue to make efforts to detach from my anxiety. Instead of staying in the dark garage where anxiety can grow and thrive, I can try my hardest to turn on the lights and live a little easier. 

“You Go, Girl!”


I was watching my favorite morning show when a woman came on to discuss useful products that the viewer could get for discounted prices. The skinny, well dressed, tan woman then said, “I’m a mother of four, and every Sunday, I cook all day for the week ahead.” And I said, “oh, shut up.” Out loud and to myself because I was the only one home. I thought something like, well, I’m a mom of four and go to church every Sunday, lead youth group every other week, and also take a nap when I can. The disdain I felt for this woman I didn’t know was rapid and intense. The level of dislike I felt kind of startled me. 

But then I realized I’d encountered a similar issue recently. My husband Ben was an early follower of Iowa point guard Caitlin Clark. He’s watched her for three years now, not like the new fans she found in the recent NCAA Women’s March Madness. I, on the other hand, have not really been a fan of Clark’s. Intellectually, I know Ben loves great basketball, and he admires her skills.  It’s not like she’s a supermodel posting bikini pics on TikTok. She’s just really talented and brings intensity and passion to the game.

 During the NCAA tournament, though, I realized I was jealous. Jealous of a 21-year-old young woman in another state who can play basketball. Jealous of the tv lady because she seemed so organized with her family and career. And then I felt guilty. I pride myself on being a supporter of women. I’m supposed to champion women’s successes, especially when they break into male dominated fields. My 17-year-old son Jed even suggested that women’s sports are not as popular because women don’t want to watch women play. He might be right. Because it’s hard to watch and cheer when you feel that spark of jealousy flare. 

I can support all women in theory, but in reality, I struggle with it. I have all sorts of signs and quotes that I’ve collected extolling the virtues of women’s empowerment. “Her success doesn’t lessen yours.” “Women support women.” I talk a good game but my follow through is less than perfect. 

I’ve tried to teach my children that we can’t necessarily control our initial thoughts about a situation, but we can manage and improve our reactions after the first one passes. So, I need to work on what I do after my jealousy shows up. Instead of feeding the jealous thoughts, I can step back and remember that my goal is to encourage women, not tear them down. And thankfully, I have a husband and sons who will call me out when I’m not being kind to other women. Feminism is alive and well at my home. I just need a reminder sometimes. 

The Unworthy


Easter kind of snuck up on me this year. I didn’t have Easter baskets ready or a plan for our Easter meal. I had a dress but realized I needed a pedicure. All first world problems I know and trivial in the grand scheme of things. Not really in keeping with the true spirit of Easter – cue the same lament that Christmas usually brings. But the pedicure got me thinking about Jesus choosing to wash the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper. 

As a reminder, Jesus gathered with his twelve disciples for the Passover meal. By this point in the narrative, Jesus knew that the authorities were seeking to silence him and that his death was the most likely result. Later that night, he would be arrested, tried, and sentenced to death. Before the meal though, he filled a basin with water and got on his knees to wash and dry his friends’ feet, a task usually reserved for the slaves of the household because people’s feet were filthy from the dust and lack of foot coverings. In so doing, he demonstrated once and for all servant leadership. When Jesus attempted to wash Peter’s feet, Peter refused saying the Lord would never wash his feet. Jesus replied, “If I don’t wash you, you can’t be part of what I’m doing.”  

Peter, never one for nuance, responded, “Not only my feet, then. Wash my hands! Wash my head!”

Jesus said, “If you’ve had a bath in the morning, you only need your feet washed now and you’re clean from head to toe. My concern, you understand, is holiness, not hygiene…” Jesus continued, “So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do.” (John 13:1- 17 (MSG)).

Peter argued with Jesus about washing his feet because Jesus was his Lord, and he didn’t want Jesus stooping to such a low position. Peter didn’t feel worthy. And he wasn’t. Peter didn’t deserve to have Jesus wash his feet, none of the disciples did. But I wonder if part of Peter’s protest was rooted in his experience with Jesus. If Jesus performed an act, he was probably going to turn around and tell his followers to do the same. He’d previously commissioned the twelve to preach and heal people. Maybe Peter was thinking “not again.”

Because if Jesus took the position of a servant that meant Peter would have to act as a servant to others who didn’t deserve it. Jesus commanded servant leadership for Peter and for us too. And that is not what we usually want to do. We can be judgmental in determining who we believe does or does not deserve our help or mercy. We pick and choose. But I’m confident Jesus was telling us that the choice is not ours to make. 

It’s easy to skip straight from Palm Sunday’s celebration when Jesus entered Jerusalem to Easter morning when Jesus was resurrected. We don’t like to linger in the tragedy of Holy Week or Jesus’ gruesome execution by the authorities. But when we spend time with Jesus and his followers in the days leading up to the crucifixion, we see that one of Jesus’ last acts was serving those who were unworthy. We are unworthy as well, just like Peter. We don’t deserve the grace Jesus freely gives to us. But Jesus showed us how to love by serving others, deserving or not. Jesus wants us to extend grace to others because he extended his grace to us first. When we find ourselves sitting in judgment of others, may we remember Jesus on his knees with our dirty feet in his hands.