Thursday, November 19

Making Sense of 2020: Reflections on Learning Deeper Levels of Trust in God

Hello Again. 

I felt like I needed to say that seeing as it’s been 125 days since the last time I posted here. 

It is 2020 after all, a year when 125 days may have felt like an eternity or the blink of an eye depending on what has happened within them for you. 

Many of you have lost jobs, had to close businesses, are currently either home-schooling for the first time or managing a chaotic distance-learning schedule. Most of us are living quite differently than we’ve ever had to live before—wearing masks in public, hand sanitizing at every turn, trying to figure out church, ministry and business schedules in the context and confines of new and often changing state regulations. As I write this we were just told that all schools in our county are going remote on Monday, so my own girls will be coming back home to do school again. 

Add to all of this the landscape of a tumultuous election that still feels confusing, conflicting and unsettled. 

On one hand I remember the “normalcy” of life in January and February like it was yesterday.  On the other hand, when I think about the roller coaster ride that this year has been, with school closing and wondering if it would re-open, trying to discern which school option would be best for the fall, navigating summer vacation with cancelled camps and travel plans, planning birthday parties with sensitivities towards COVID and discerning what was “right” or “wrong”—when I think about all of that, it feels like this one year has been the length of 5 years, with a gazillion decisions, questions, confusions and uncertainties all packed into it.

Our year as a family has been full of plenty of love, joy and laughter, but it has also held a lot of unexpected surprises and challenges—things we could not have anticipated in January, when people were glibly chiding that this was going to be the “year of 2020 vision”—the time to go after goals and clarify intentions and vision for our lives. 

Honestly, that sounded fantastic way back then—this idea of renewing my vision, and really focusing in on some short and long term goals. As a family we were having discussions about moving to a new house, perhaps even to a new state. I was just starting to re-invest in my writing goals given that all three girls were now settled in school—after 12 years of committing to being home with the girls I had some more flexibility in my schedule and I was excited to see what God might have in store. 


Photo by Denise Karis on Unsplash
I had bought a new planner, and joined Flourish Writers for their yearlong writing academy. With the Flourish Writer tools in hand I was practicing setting 90-day goals and had a book I was going to finish by the end of this year. A book I had been thinking about writing for many, many years—2020 vision baby! This was going to be the year to write it! 

And then…

 The surprise of schools closing in March, turned into perpetual home schooling in April, May and June, which was all kind of fun at first.

We were thrilled to trade in the rush-rush of typical school mornings for leisurely breakfasts and schoolwork done in pajamas. We bought a new family computer so that everyone would have the appropriate work space for online assignments and zoom calls. We traveled by car to visit friends in Charlotte, N.C. on the whim of our own schedule, taking our work with us (fleeing the snow that was still falling in Buffalo in May!). 

When school was over, we made the most of unstructured summer days, like an unintentional throwback to summers of long ago that were filled with bike rides, roller skating, swimming in friend’s pools, long walks and bonfires in the backyard. I was honestly content with the slower pace of life for a time—I think many of us were—this forced nudge towards not needing to run around all the time…it seems that in some ways it was good for our souls. 

And it was. We did puzzles we wouldn’t have done, cooked meals we wouldn’t have cooked—Scott bought a smoker and has been smoking all manner of meat with all sorts of rubs and spices and sauces that he may not have had the time to focus on if he wasn’t working from home. 

I count all of those things as gifts…blessings…from this crazy year of 2020. 

But the year also handed us some unexpected challenges—this fall, October in particular, was an especially difficult month. I won’t get into all of the details here, but my grandmother passed away, which in and of itself was not unexpected—she was 91 and her health and been declining for some time, but her passing led to some difficult family dynamics that needed to be sorted through. 

Then, Scott found out that his company was being bought out and that his entire sales team (close to 100 guys across the country) will be laid off at the end of the year. 

In the middle of it all my health took a major chaotic turn in August—a situation that I’m just slowly healing from and coming out of now. The short story is that after a relatively slow withdrawal from a teeny tiny dose of an anti-depressant (such a small dose that every doctor I’ve talked to has said it couldn’t have even been effective) my body went into a total tailspin. 

I have filled an entire sheet of notebook paper with the symptoms I’ve experienced over the last three months: everything from frightening heart palpitations, to shortness of breath and nausea, muscle cramps, daily brain fog and spaciness that made it almost impossible to drive or leave the house at times (imagine how you might feel if you took 4 Sudafed), hypersensitivity to lights and noise, insomnia, internal shaking, fatigue, hypersensitivity to caffeine and supplements (I had to give up coffee!!!! Bah!), muscle weakness, itchy skin, tingles up and down my neck, and just generally ill feelings that kept me in bed. I had 4 EKG’s, 1 echocardiogram, close to a dozen doctor’s appointments, and 1 trip to the ER (and several more drives to the ER where I decided not to go in at the last minute) and dozens of blood tests done all to determine that there was nothing physically wrong with my body that was at least medically obvious. 

Yet, despite all of the "normal" test results, my sensitivity and fatigue were so bad that I was unable to watch movies with my kiddos for a time (because of the light and noise), had to leave several family gatherings early, couldn’t tolerate going to church on Sundays (again, the lights and the noise), and could hardly run errands, make meals, or do laundry on many days. 

I don’t say any of this for sympathy—honestly, I’d rather just keep it quiet and move on like everything has been completely fine. But, the reality is that it wasn’t fine for a few months and in that space of not fine so many of our friends and family members stopped up to offer support and prayed for me in ways I’ve never needed prayer before. At one point, when a friend from church asked what I needed, my heart, body and soul had just one answer—prayer. Prayer for wisdom, for healing, and for answers. 

I just want to say that I have felt those prayers profoundly, and have been incredibly grateful for everyone who has been praying for me. Those prayers and your heartfelt words of encouragement have been another gift of 2020 that I wouldn’t have experienced if not for the struggle and hardship that they came out of. 

I am thankful for the night my small group gathered around me in my friend Sarah’s living room to pray. The texts that came from friends and family to tell me that people were praying throughout the day. The morning that my friend Jodi invited me over to her house and we prayed prayers out loud from the book The Power of a Praying Woman—prayers over my body, mind and spirit. For the nights when I was in bed before Aubrey and she came in to pray over me, and the mornings when Scott called all the girls together to pray for me before they left for school. 

I will also never forget the prayer walks I took on days I felt strong enough to walk through our neighborhood—the same route I had been running for years and years, but suddenly didn’t have the strength to run (and many days I couldn't even walk half an hour without being out of breath or feeling weak). In retrospect I believe God allowed me to be slowed down, from running to slow walking- literally- to help me to see things I hadn't seen before. In that space of walking I listened to sermons and worship music and sometimes just praised God for the beauty that surrounded me in the glorious landscape that I was so used to running right by. 

Every prayer was a blessing and I believe they were essential to the amount of improvement I’m finally feeling. I'm still having some odd symptoms and some days are tougher than others, but our bodies are resilient and God is healing mine bit by bit. 

Here's the funny thing,  last December and into early January, when I was praying about a word for the year—a word to help guide and direct my thoughts and prayers, a word to help set my intentions and directions for 2020…the word I felt in my spirit over and over was…Renew. 

I was praying for renewal in my body and soul this year. Even though I wasn’t struggling with acute health issues at the time, I was feeling a general sense of fatigue. A weariness. A sense that I didn’t have the energy, physically or emotionally that I once had, or that I longed for in order to vibrantly take care of my family and pursue whatever else God has in store for me. I longed for God to renew that strength and vitality in my body and soul and I was ready to do whatever it took for that to happen. 

I’m not fully sure how I expected “renewal” to come about, but my expectations might have included hot cups of tea, long walks in the woods, quiet prayer times, baths, reading books and poetry I had been longing to read, spending more time with friends—you know, those nice self-care sorts of things that us moms can tend to not prioritize in our lives. 

That’s not exactly how the story has unfolded…

And yet…I believe, in that still small part of my soul where God speaks to me, that He is somehow bringing renewal through this upheaval. That through a set of circumstances I could not have expected, and through physical issues I would not have signed up for, that He is restoring and renewing me from the inside out. 

I plan to write more about my experience in upcoming blog posts—I have come to realize (through some online resources and Facebook groups) that there are thousands of people across the country struggling with the side effects and severe withdrawal symptoms of psychiatric medications. It is literally a silent epidemic that no one is talking about. 

I also plan to write more about the anxiety issues that prompted me to try the medication in the first place, and what I am learning about managing and dealing with the root causes of that anxiety. I’ve been silent about these things for a long time—I suppose because I was managing life for the most part and I didn’t want to make other people uncomfortable by talking about it. But, the reality is, millions of people across the country are suffering and struggling from varying levels of anxiety and depression and not talking about it doesn’t help anyone to move towards deeper places of freedom. So, I promise I’ll tell you my stories. 

In the meantime, I would encourage you to keep taking one step and one day at a time—if 2020 has taught me one thing it is that God provides for our needs, but that we need to rely on Him on a daily basis. Personally, I  thought I knew that already—that I was living in a way of trusting God fully in each and every day-- and then 2020 happened. A year when everything truly seemed to change DAILY: school, jobs, health, family dynamics—a year where there were strings of weeks when I had to learn to not even have expectations, but to fully surrender all circumstances, expected and unexpected to God, as things kept changing and unfolding. 

It's how we're supposed to be living all the time, right? But we (I) can tend to get into comfortable rhythms and routines and in that comfort we don't always rely on God the way we should. 

So if I had to pick just one thing that 2020 has taught me it’s that I need to FULLY SURRENDER EVERYTHING on a daily basis—in all of the ways that I am aware of and then pray that God reveals the many other ways that I’m so often not aware of. 

How about you? What has 2020 taught you? What have been the biggest gifts and most difficult challenges? What gifts have you discovered in the midst of your challenges? 

Apple Picking in October

Leave a comment below or on my Facebook page- I’d love to hear from you and other people would love to hear what you’ve learned as well. 

I promise to start writing here again and to share some honest life stories in the months to come. 


Friday, July 24

A Life on Pause, Full Speed Ahead


These are strange times, aren’t they friends? 
It's times like these that I'm grateful I left most of my Type A, need-to-get-things-done attitude at the door years ago when things like major diaper blowouts would happen on a regular basis just about the time we were all ready to leave for church, or a family gathering, or even just to the grocery store,  and next thing I knew my outfit smelled like poop, the baby’s outfit was covered in poop and we were all late. Again. 
And, guess what?  There wasn’t a thing we could do about it. 
Kind of like there's not much we can do about the state of the world right now, and all of the chaos and uncertainty unfolding. 
We all had plans for our year, but metaphorically speaking there was a major blowout on the way out the door and there isn’t much we can do  about it except embrace what is, continue taking one day at a time, and trust that God is in control (and we most certainly are not!).  
We’re late for some things this year (figuratively and metaphorically), had to let go of others, and are still not sure what each day is going to look like or how the news might change at any given moment.
Which is why I titled this post "A Life on Pause, Full Speed Ahead", because that is what life has felt like for the last 4 months-- so many things have been cancelled, paused and temporarily suspended and yet, especially for us moms, we are still busy and moving through very full days of housekeeping, meal-making, child-rearing and memory building. 
If I'm honest, the ambiguity of it all is hard for me some days-- especially the uncertainty of what school will look like come September.  
This will be the 9th year I’ve had children in school (our girls are going into 8th,  6th and  2nd grade this year) and the first time I honestly have no idea what that is going to look like. 
Should we homeschool all 3 of them? We've asked this question a lot. Not out of fear, but out of logical concern for what our options and the school environment will look like come September. 
Should we send two of them back to their smaller private Christian school, which we LOVE, but are anxious to commit to (in terms of paying tuition) when everyone could very well be sent home again this fall for an undetermined amount of time and I will essentially be homeschooling anyways? 
Do I want to send Aubrey (my youngest) into a public school setting where the desks are spaced apart, limited movement is allowed in the hallways, no one is allowed on the playground or the cafeteria, masks may be required, and gym and music classes are not going to feel "normal" because kids must be spaced 12 feet apart? 
I know that our amazing teachers will do their best given the circumstances, but lets be honest, this isn't ideal for anyone. 
It makes me sad, honestly.  The loss of innocence. The loss of familiarity. The loss of carefree childhood experiences where kids smear paint around construction paper grouped together at a table in an art room without masks on their face. 
But, I'm learning that I can't stay there long...in the space of discouragement about the current environment. As a mom, I have to pull up my proverbial bootstraps and keep on walkin'. I need to get my butt into my prayer chair in the morning and pray big prayers with full expectation that God will continue to offer wisdom. 
That's what we do when big parts of life are on pause, but our very full parenting days are still moving full speed ahead. When we need to make decisions about the Fall that impact our children’s education and well being, even while life feels like a multiple choice test where the best choices have been deleted.  We learn to live more fully, as our faith deepens.  

"Don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today." Matthew 6:34

God gives us manna for each day. He offers daily bread. He tells us not to spin and worry, because just like the sparrow or the grass in the field, our needs will be accounted for. 
Lately I'm laughing at the irony that for all of the “be-in-the-moment” messages surrounding us, most of us struggle to be in the moment and take things one day at a time-- at least I do. 

This space of uncertainty that we are living in has certainly forced me to learn how to live in the moment, to live one day at at time, at a far deeper level than ever before. It's been a hard lesson.  Harder than I would have thought because I would have told you, pre-pandemic, that I was already living this way. That I was trusting God, and did have faith, and that I was doing my best to be in the daily moments. 
God always takes us deeper, doesn't He? 
With school, and many other things right now, I'm learning what it really means to trust God daily. What it means to surrender my anxiety and questions to Him. To walk in faith, confident that He is working all things out. 
If I'm honest, there are times this all feels like we’re on a family road trip driving with the car packed to the gills--we're stopping for bathroom breaks, eating lots of snacks, singing loud songs and driving each other all a little crazy—yet when the girls ask, “Are we there yet?” I have to respond with, “I don't know. I'm not sure where “there” is right now.” 
But in lieu of being “there”, we can learn to live right here. Loving, trusting and finding manna for today. We can choose joy, live our lives with gratitude, and learn to love others well. We can breathe deep, accept what is, and realize there can be contentment in all circumstances-- while life is on pause and moving full speed ahead. 

Monday, July 13

New Blog Posts Coming Soon!

Hi Friends! Sorry for my absence here...

This crazy thing called COVID-19 happened and it threw me off my writing/blogging rhythm for a while.

But just last week I attended this FABULOUS online writing conference called Speak Up and it
re-inspired, re-encouraged and renewed my passion for sharing words with others.
If you'd like to learn more about SpeakUp so that it's on your radar for next year, check out their website at https://speakupconference.com


Rest assured, I've got some blog post drafts oin the hopper and will be posting regularly again very soon. I hope you and your families are all doing well and I'm looking forward to re-connecting here with you in the upcoming days and weeks! 

                                                                                   Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash




Tuesday, April 21

Encouragement For Moms as We 'Shelter From Home'



"Therefore we do not lose heart..." (2 Corinthians 4:16) 



If you came here looking for an answer to what "thriving" looks like right now, you might be disappointed. 

I don't have clear answers or easy tips-- I'm not sure those exist at the moment. What I do have are questions, and faith that God is at work no matter what is happening around us, so if you're in need of some extra encouragement in your faith today, or just want to know that you're not alone in your wonderings about what is "normal", then you've come to the right place. 

I had another post started-- it was Part 2 to last week's post, "Moving From Surviving to Thriving With Your Kids At Home." After jotting down my ideas I went back and forth on whether or not to publish it...not because I don't believe in the power of a few suggestions to help-- similar suggestions have pulled me out of ruts time and time again.  Ideas are good. Suggestions are helpful. Tips for thriving are a welcome friend on the days you feel like you're just surviving as a mom. I know from experience. 

But, the truth is I'm not sure what the word "thriving" looks like right now. 

I don't say that to sound pessimistic. We're doing pretty well, honestly. 

In my heart of hearts I feel like this time is good for our family-- even needed on some level. We're getting to know one another better. We're learning how to live with each another on far deeper levels than any of us probably want to on some days, but because we're a family I happen to think that's a good thing.This bumping into each other and working through a real sense of living together.  My guess is that this time is shaping and molding our family in ways that will impact us for the rest of our lives. 

For the most part, I believe we are thriving...some days. 

We're definitely doing better than surviving...most days. 

Is there a word for that? A word for somewhere in-between the two? Somewhere in-between thriving and surviving? 

I feel blessed and grateful, and don't take what we have lightly or for granted.  We honestly have everything we need: printers, computers, enough tables and spaces and room for the girls to spread out while they're doing their schoolwork. We have food and shelter (even on the days when it feels like we've outgrown our house!), clothes and toys, craft supplies and lots and lots of games that were collecting dust and are now seeing the light of day. 

I know we have much and I am grateful for it all, but lets be honest, we miss things too. 

I miss hanging out in coffee shops when I need an hour long break-- just to read a book and write words in a journal without distraction. 

I miss playgrounds when my kids are antsy and I need to take them somewhere to run off their energy. 

I miss church and the fellowship that accompanies it--worshiping together, checking in with one another, getting my weekly fill of hugs and "how are you's?" 

My girls actually MISS school...I think this time will help them appreciate their teachers and having a school to attend for the rest of their lives! 

The reason I was struggling to write the post about "thriving" is that many of these things that we are missing were part what helped to pull me out of the bad days before--they were the things that filled me up, the things that helped me be able to get through the end of the day when I needed a change of scenery, or a word of encouragement, or simply a hug from a friend. They were the things that helped me to thrive

We have good days and bad days at our house, just like many of you. It depends on the weather, and emotions, and hormones (I'm not joking about that in a house where 4/5 of us are female!). It depends on the school assignment and whether or not I remember where the password is for the 7th website for my 3rd child on this 5th week of homeschooling. 

This isn't easy for anyone-- we're all ready to take our kids to playgrounds again, grab a coffee from a drive-thru, or buy our groceries without feeling fearful. We're ready to have our extended family over for dinner and celebrate birthdays in person. I miss my daughter's elementary school teacher and my aerobics instructors at the YMCA. 

I'm not saying I want everything to go back to the way it used it be,  but I'd love for some things to return to normal simply because they're the good and beautiful parts of humanity. 

The one thing  I can offer universally to anyone who is struggling right now is the truth of God's presence. No matter what any of us is going through, no matter how much things have changed, God remains just as steady, constant and sovereign as ever before. 

So, while I don't have tips to offer today, I have this truth about God:

He loves you. I promise. 

He is with you. I swear. 

He is beside you, even when things are difficult. I have felt Him. 

He whispers wisdom and grace into our hearts. I have heard Him. 

His mercies are new every morning. I have received them. 

If you're struggling this week I would encourage you to spend time in prayer. Whisper your prayers in quiet, write them in a journal, yell them in the car while you're driving circles around the neighborhood because there is no were else to go. Lock the door to the bathroom and pray for five minutes-- your kids will survive, I promise! 

God hears you. He sees you. He loves you. 

I came across this verse in my quiet time this week-- it's a verse I've read before, but that felt like it had new meaning in the midst of this season of viruses and quarantines: 

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes on on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18


I love that! 

Friends, let's NOT lose heart! Even though sickness, and brokenness, and viruses seem to be affecting the entire world, if we have Christ at the center of our lives He will continue to renew us each and every day. 

There is one catch- it's up to us to spend time with Him. To pray, to renew our minds with scripture, to make time for a Bible study or devotional that helps us fix your eyes on what is unseen.  Lets face it, a lot of what is seen right now is a little crazy anyways! 



If you have a specific prayer request please send me a message on Facebook or an email or text. I'd love to pray for you and your family in whatever specific ways you need prayer. 

I will continue putting new posts up here at the beginning of each week...I try to shoot for Monday, but...well...the kids, the house, the homeschooling...some weeks it ends up beingTuesdays. 

I do actually have a list started of ways to "thrive" during this time at home that I'll share with you next week-- it's the list I started for today, but wasn't ready to share. I hope you'll stop back if you're looking for some alternative suggestions to what you may already be doing, or are simply curious as to how other families are making the most of this time! 


You can always check my Facebook page, which is where I'll post the links to make it easier. If you put your email into the little box on the side of this blog page you'll receive an update when new posts go up.