Are You Hurting? Pray.

I have a deep love for the Bible. I always have. Not like my favorite books, of which there are many, the Bible frequently comes to me fresh and new. Not new, as in new versions, or a newly purchased copy – no, as in the message therin.

Because I was a church worker for twenty-two years, one might think I have most of the Bible memorized. One might be wrong. I have read it all the way through a few times, and there are more than a few verses stored in my memory bank, but I am no Bible scholar or expert. Actually, as long as we are speaking on assumptions, I should let you know that most church workers aren’t.

I just love the way I can pick up my Bible (or my phone with the Bible app) and find God’s actual words speaking to me today. Not just words written by some man thousands of years ago, but words that are alive, rich, and ready for me to ingest.

I have been dealing with a frustrating health issue for a few months, which has been only getting worse. It’s not life threatening – only exhausting. A few months back, I noticed I was sleeping more and more, longer and longer. I have always been a champion sleeper, able to sleep long hours and through just about any noise, but this was different. Seven to eight hours was no longer enough sleep. I was now needing nine to ten, sometimes twelve hours, and could still take a nap in between. And I have become increasingly forgetful. My brain is foggy on a good day, and murky on a bad one.

I went to the doctor and had a physical with all the blood work. We talked about the usual culprits – I am over weight, have low thyroid function, and I am a Type 2 diabetic. But all my tests came back, showing improved health over the last time. In fact, I’ve been making slow but steady improvements over the last couple of years. It didn’t make much sense to me or my doctor.

I left feeling frustrated, and he vowed to keep thinking on it. Then, this morning, as I read my Bible, these verses came across my page, from the book of James:

“Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven—healed inside and out.

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to reckon with.”

James 5: 13-16; The Message

I stopped immediately and prayed. And then I texted a friend and asked her to pray. It’s not that I haven’t prayed about this before – I have many times. But in my frustration this morning of feeling so, so tired, I found myself whining a bit. I started thinking about all the good things I have going on in my life that I am not enjoying to the fullest. I started thinking about the things I could be doing, but have been missing out on. And I whined some more. But while praying over these verses, I asked God to bring healing. I asked God to bring joy.

I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in my 30’s. My doctor, at the time, gave me this diagnosis after I had a bad round of mono. It was my fourth time since age 15 to have it. I was exhausted for over a year, but eventually found my stride again. And truth be told, I hadn’t given it another thought since.

This morning, I got a message from the doctor: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I had messaged him about it last week, wondering if that is still a thing, or could be a thing, and it turns out yes, it’s a thing. And it’s my thing. Since he was not the doctor who had diagnosed me many years ago, it wasn’t on his radar. And since I hadn’t thought about it or struggled with it in almost fifteen years, it had fallen off mine.

Now that I think about it, it makes sense. A flare up of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can be caused by a virus or physical ailment, but also by emotional strain. In the last twelve months, my daughter and oldest child graduated high school. We traveled most of the summer. Then we had a major electrical fire at our house the week before moving her to college. I spent the next six months dealing with repairs and insurance frustrations. I left my job of 22 years to take on a new role. My husband’s grandmother died. My husband’s car engine blew on his cross country trek to the funeral, leaving him with no choice but to buy a new car. And now my son (and my baby) is about to start his senior year of high school.

I’ve had a couple emotional strains this year.

You may look at the list and think, “She’s such a whiner! That’s nothing compared to what I’ve been through!” And if that were truly your response, I would reply, “I am so sorry you have been through so much worse.” And I would mean it, because that’s the funny thing about life… I have been through worse, too. But for whatever reason, my body has decided, at this point in time, to say, “Let’s sleep this one off.”

So this is what I’ve decided to do:

I’m going to rest when I need to rest. I’m going to sleep when I need to sleep. I’m going to drink lots of water. I will take my vitamins and go for walks. I will swim in my pool when I want to move, and I will float when I want to relax. I will praise God for all the blessings in my life, and I will cry out to him when my heart is heavy. I will call friends and make dates to see each other, because laughter really is the best medicine. And when I am too weary to do anything else, I will ask those same friends to pray for me.

And I will believe, as James reminded me this morning, that Jesus will heal me and put me back on my feet.

We Don’t Talk About Buttholes

My kids are long past the age of dying to watch the latest Disney movies as soon as they hit the theaters. My kids and I are not past the age, however, of curling up on the couch to watch when those movies hit digital streaming. This is how I came to learn why we don’t talk about Bruno.

I’d heard people sing that line and say it, and I knew where it was from, but I had no idea what it meant. “We don’t talk about Bruno,” means we don’t talk about things that are ugly, painful, embarrassing, or bring up uncomfortable feelings.

It was that song that led to a conversation between an old friend and I about why we don’t talk about buttholes.

Ironically, someone sent me this video during the pandemic. This hilarious little girl wrote a song about buttholes. I frequently send it to my kids to make them laugh – or roll their eyes – and once you hear it, it’ll be stuck in your head all day. It’s the catchiest song I’ve ever heard about buttholes.

I went to the doctor a few weeks back for extreme butthole pain. When I say extreme, I mean it. I’m not being dramatic – something I have been accused of on more than one occasion. No, the drama was real. I felt like I had a knife inside my butthole making tiny slices.

“Hemorrhoids,” I hear you saying to yourself. That’s what I was saying. I had them since my pregnancies and knew what they felt like. This felt different. It was worse. And I needed to know what was happening inside.

My doctor had me drop my drawers and exam me. He said I was due for a colonoscopy anyway, because I recently turned forty-five, which is the magic year insurance companies recommend for colonoscopies. Then he sent me to see a gastroenterologist who examined me. He said we needed to do a colonoscopy as soon as possible. He sent me home with a prescription for a cleanse, and two days later, I had it done.

The cleanse was the worst part of the procedure, and frankly, wasn’t as awful as I expected. In my mind, I was preparing for the scene in Dumb and Dumber when Harry was stuck in the bathroom with exploding diarrhea. It was no where near that. I wasn’t a day in the park, and it was nothing I would ever do for fun, but I’ve experienced worse.

After the colonoscopy, the gastroenterologist referred me to a colorectal surgeon. He said I had hemorrhoids, which I knew, and also some tearing around them.

So last week, I went to see the colorectal surgeon, who examined me, and said in the calmest, steadiest voice I have ever heard talk about buttholes, “I would like to tell you I have options for you, but I don’t. You will never be without pain if we don’t do surgery. I will need to remove the hemorrhoids and repair the tearing. It is one of the most painful procedures out there, I won’t lie. I can give you narcotics for a day or so, at most, but after that, you will have to rely on baths and over-the-counter meds. Narcotics cause constipation, and constipation will tear up the surgery I just did.”

He went on to tell me how recovery can take anywhere from two to four weeks, and I have to be extra careful. Normally, when you have a surgery, you get sutures and bandages, and you clean the incisions several times a day. None of that can be done inside your butthole. And it’s not exactly the cleanest place on the planet, so lots of extra care has to be taken.

He then proceeded to show me pictures of hemorrhoids on Google, and explained how everyone is born with hemorrhoids. Everyone. Did you know that? I didn’t. You may not have ever suffered with inflamed hemorrhoids, but you have them. He said they are designed to cushion and protect us when we sit and when we poop. They become inflamed and cause pain when there is pressure or strain, like in pregnancy, especially during labor, or when you have a job that keeps you on your feet too long, or a job that has you sitting for long hours. They also happen if you are genetically predisposed to having them. Most of the time, as in my case, they can be treated with over-the-counter medications, wipes, ointments, etc. Most people aren’t bothered by them but occasionally. That was how my case was until recently, when the pain came in like fire and never left. My diagnosis isn’t life threatening – it’s just painful. Permanently inflamed hemorrhoids and slight tearing.

If we are all born with buttholes, hemorrhoids, and we all poop, why do we never talk about them? I understand it’s not fun or pleasant conversation, but why is there shame or embarrassment around it? It’s not like I did something wrong to end up with this condition. I didn’t get here by being dirty, neglectful, or skipping doctor appointments. It just happens. It happens…just like the old bumper sticker.

Maybe, if we talked about what happens with our buttholes or our poop, we could lower the rate of people diagnosed with late stage colon cancer. People like my friend Jena Coker, who gave me permission to tell her story here.

A few years ago, Jena noticed blood in her poop. She had no pain, it didn’t hurt to go, but she pooped a lot. Her first gastroenterologist did a colonoscopy and told her she was fine. But the blood kept coming, so she sought out a second opinion.

Eight months after her first colonoscopy, a tumor was found, and she was diagnosed with colon cancer by her gastroenterologist.

More testing, more scopes, more exams, and probes…until her surgeon finally diagnosed her correctly. She had Stage 2 rectal cancer and immediately started twenty-eight days of chemotherapy, radiation, and being bathed in prayer by everyone who loves her.

Fortunately for Jena, the tumor disappeared completely. She has scopes and scans done every six months, and this December, she will be six years cancer free. Fortunately for her, Jena wasn’t afraid to talk about her butthole.

Unfortunately, I know stories of too many people who didn’t have a happy ending. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are fairly common in the United States. 1 in 23 men are diagnosed, and 1 in 25 women find out they have it. It’s a cancer that, if caught early, is incredibly treatable and has one of the highest survival rates of all the cancers. The problem is the low screening rate. People don’t want to drink the cleanse, they don’t want to have diarrhea for two days, and they really don’t want a movie made of their colon. But if you don’t get screened, you don’t know you have it. So why wouldn’t you get screened?

Because we don’t talk about buttholes.

But maybe it’s time we did.

Spinning Plates

“This must be the end. This is how I go.”

These are the thoughts that went through my mind as my chest clenched and the pain shot across my shoulders.

“Just breathe. Take slow breaths in and out. It’s just anxiety. I’m fine. Everything is fine.”

Except it’s not.

Anxiety is a badge of honor for some. I know there are women who feel like they need that anxiety to feel alive. I am not one of those women. For me, I feel alive when I am lunching with friends, and we are laughing until our bellies ache. I feel alive when my husband and I go on a golf cart ride to watch the sunset. We dance to classic 90’s hair bands, while the sky turns from blue to orange to black. I feel alive when my teenagers banter in the kitchen late at night, share popcorn and laugh at each other. I don’t need anxious adrenaline to feel alive. I abhor anxiety, and yet I make choices every day to live a life full of it.

I am a woman trying to be everything for too many people, and I am failing miserably. I am a wife. I am a mom. I am a friend. I am a church worker. I am a non-profit coordinator. I have a dog. I have laundry, dishes and toilets that need cleaned. My daughter is about to head off to college, and my son is now an upper-classman in high school. My husband manages billion dollar projects for his job and needs me to manage the home front.

If you and I were sitting over a cup of coffee, this is the point where I’d ask you how things are going for you. I don’t have a solution or a way to be rid of any of my things…not that I’d want to be rid of most of them. I wouldn’t. Except laundry and toilet cleaning; although, I try to be grateful for the ability to do both. But I also know that these problems are “First World” issues, and complaining to you does nothing, as you are likely dealing with the same.

We all have too much to do. We live in a bustling, hustling world where everything happens at hyper-speed, and we have to choose between keeping up or falling behind. We take on a lot because there is a lot to take on. We get involved where we can, because there are needs everywhere. But sometimes, I believe, we all need a reminder that everything does not depend on us.

I often imagine myself twirling plates in the air like one of those circus side-show acts. I have tall poles balanced on several fingers, and atop each pole, are various spinning plates piled high with food. On a good day, when my confidence is high and nothing out of the ordinary flies my way, I smile, twirl and spin. I’m tempted to believe it’s due to my ability and talent, and not God’s provision of grace and mercy over me.

On a bad day, when food is falling from the edges of the plates, dripping in my hair and eyes, and the plates all wobble atop my poles, I worry this will be the day God looks down and exclaims, “That’s it! She’s ruined everything!”

That thought implies I have a lot more power than I actually have. I constantly need reminding that God, who created the heavens and the earth, keeps it all spinning in orbit with zero percent help from me. He has never needed me.

God chose me and loves me and wants me to be near to his heart, but he never needed me. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west without my help. Maybe, if I handed him a few spinning plates, I’d have less mess on my head. And maybe, if I handed him all the plates, I stop having anxiety that feels like death.

I am reminded of Philippians 4:6-8, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

I feel like these verses are God’s whisper to me to empty the dishwasher, put the plates in the cabinet instead of spinning them in the air, and trust that he’s got me in the palm of his hand.

Fully Man and Fully God

One of the great wrestles of my faith is the belief that Jesus came to this world as both fully God and fully man. I believe it, but it is one of the pieces of the Gospel that requires me to fully rely on faith, for my brain will never wrap around it.

I have spent much of my life believing that my anxiety is a sin. That, because Jesus tells me not to worry and have faith, when I become anxious, it is because of my lack of faith. And yet, didn’t Jesus, being fully man, experience anxiety in his body like so few men ever have before?

I grew up thinking (and I point a finger at no one because I fear it may be a belief I came to on my own) that when we read of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and sweating drops of blood, it was a metaphor. And yet, as an adult, I have learned of a medical condition where the body goes into such extreme anxiety that the brain releases chemicals, causing the capillaries to break down the sweat glands. This wouldn’t allow for rushing of blood, dripping down his brow, but small droplets. Sweat, tinged with blood.

My Lord, being fully God, knew the suffering he was about to face, being fully man. His body, acted as a human body created by God, should do, to relieve pressure.

When I am told Jesus faced every hardship, temptation, suffering that man could face, I am sometimes tempted to think that couldn’t possibly be true. And yet, here is proof that he did. I am never alone in my suffering. While our circumstances differ in many ways, Jesus faced grief, betrayal, abuse, abandonment, and the worst anxiety one could experience.

As much comfort as I take in knowing that Jesus was fully man, it is that he is fully God that brings me the most relief. Being fully God, knowing what he was about to face, feeling the anxiety in his body, he still allowed guards to take him into custody. He still stood before a mock trial. He still took a sentence of a criminal when he had never committed a single sin. He allowed his body to be whipped, tortured, and nailed to a cross. All this because his love for me was so great.

Jesus, fully man and fully God, faced sin and death, looked them in the face, and conquered them.

None of this excuses me to wallow in worry or fret. No; what this does is allow me to go to Jesus and hand over my worries, because he has already conquered them. It allows me to trust that he sees the bigger picture, knows what is to come, and that I am held in his hands.

And it frees me from shame when my body acts in a fight or flight reaction, when adrenaline releases and I shake, when my chest clinches tight in anxiety so great I think I might die. Because this body, a body made by God, a body that functions like my Lord Jesus’ body, knows what to do to warn me of impending danger, relieve pressure, and remind me to call on God to give me peace.

In fact, everything about Jesus’ death and resurrection frees me from shame. He took all my sin to the cross – the sins I have committed and the sins committed against me. When Jesus looks at me, he doesn’t see my wrongdoings, my scars, my history. Jesus looks at me and sees that I have been washed clean by the blood of his wounds. He sees me as a precious, whole, beautiful child of God. Fully forgiven.

Present in the Clutter

I was fast when I was little. I loved to run. I didn’t run far, I ran fast. Short bursts of energy and speed, wind on my face, feeling like magic carried me from Point A to Point B.

I have a memory from when I was about four-years-old. I had just woke up from my nap and looked out the window to see my best friend across the street playing. Ground had been broken for a new house to be built on our street, and it was going to have a basement. There were huge piles of black dirt dug out of the hillside, and my friend was climbing, sliding and having fun when I had been wasting away the afternoon sleeping.

I ran into the kitchen where my mom was standing with our mustard yellow wall phone wedged between her ear and shoulder. She was stirring something in a pot, and I knew better than to interrupt her while she was on the telephone, but this was urgent. There was fun happening outside without me, and I needed to get to it fast.

“Mama! Can I please go outside and play?”

She shook her head and pointed down towards the floor.

“Yes! I’ll put shoes on first! Then can I go outside?”

She pointed toward the floor again.

“Silly woman,” I remember thinking, “of course I’m going to put shoes on. I’m going to need my boots to climb those dirt hills!”

I ran to my bedroom, put on my boots, and bolted out the front door. I ran like the wind across the gravel road that stretched up the hill of my neighborhood, and practically flew up the biggest dirt hill. My friend had brought his big yellow dump truck and other various construction vehicles, all of which we filled with dirt and rolled down the hill, sliding behind them on our behinds. I dug my boots into the dirt for traction and climbed back to the top so I could slide back down over and over.


My mom’s voice bellowed from our front door, and I froze. I suddenly realized that when she pointed down at me while trying hard not to be interrupted on her phone call, she was not reminding me to put on my sturdy boots so I could climb faster. Her pointing was to tell me to put on pants.

I have always been a hot sleeper, so when my mom laid me down for my afternoon nap, she often stripped me to my undershirt and panties. Going out to play in an undershirt was fine. Going out to play in panties was not.

As I stood frozen at the top of the pile of dirt, in my white cami with tiny blue flowers and matching panties, and my brown cowboy boots, I realized I had left too quickly, too fast. My little four-year-old self was keenly aware of my blunder. Had I waited a minute or two more, my mom would have helped me find pants and sent me out to play. I had simply been too eager, too restless, too fast.

So much of my life has been that way. Race ahead for the fun. Race ahead for the prize. Race ahead for the win. Don’t hold back. When the gun fires, just blast from the starting blocks like a rocket. Don’t wait for explanations, instructions, or warnings. Speak without thinking. Get the last word in before someone else can zing.

Some of this can be laid at the feet of my ADHD diagnosis; one that didn’t come until I was in my late thirties. ADHD was barely a thing when I was a child, and it was not really a girl thing. It was for the boys who could never sit still, talk loudly, and fight on the playground out of impulsive bursts. No one talked about cluttered desks and closets, constantly forgetting to put your name on your paper, or daydreaming for hours on end. No one thought about running across the street in your panties as an executive function deficit.

The mind is a fascinating place, and science has only touched on the outskirts of it’s possibilities. God’s intricate design of the brain never ceases to amaze me.

My mind is a very cluttered place. It’s filled with thoughts of what I’m doing, what I think I should be doing, and what would be more fun than what I’m doing. It’s filled with schedules – my own, my kids, my husbands, my work, and when Grey’s Anatomy is returning from its winter break.

This is where the problem starts. A cluttered mind leads to a cluttered space. I have a strong desire to purge, downsize, clean up. And yet, I actively create clutter. I defer putting things away until I have piles surrounding me. And yet, because I have no desire to become a hoarder, when the clutter and piles overwhelm me, I purge like that little girl running up the dirt hill in her boots. I do it with full gusto and speed, often getting rid of things that should have been saved.

When clutter becomes overwhelming, I tend to avoid it. If I can shove it in a drawer or closet and walk away, I will do so every chance I get.

When I find myself overwhelmed by clutter, it’s usually because I’m overwhelmed by other things in my life. Decisions to be made, conversations to be had, situations to confront. When I avoid cleaning my messes, I’m almost always avoiding something much harder.

And for me, avoidance leads to numbing. Numbing, for me, can be eating, drinking, shopping, watching television, scrolling social media, and sleeping. Those are my big ones. I usually start numbing when I don’t want to be alone with the thoughts chaotically rolling around my head. And when those thoughts get extra chaotic, it pays to be fast.

I’m learning to deal with my executive dysfunction. I’m learning to feel my feelings and think my thoughts, and not run from them. There is nothing wrong with watching television, but when I watch in order to feel someone else’s feelings or think someone else’s thoughts, it’s a problem. It’s the same for all numbing devices.

Being present is not easy for me. It doesn’t come naturally with the way my brain functions. But that’s okay. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me or the way I think; it just means I have to work at being present. I have to take extra steps to be self-aware, instead of racing from one hill to the next.

I find that being near water helps me. I also look for ways to engage my mind and body in separate ways, but at the same time; such as balancing exercises. Sometimes doodling helps. Deep breathing always helps.

One of my prayers for this Lenten season is for God to help me slow down and be present in my thoughts and feelings. I’m praying for him to guide me in giving myself grace when grace is due, and refinement when needed. I’m using a journal, Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect Guided Journal – Journey to a Simpler, More Soulful Life.

What is God teaching you lately about being present?

The Details Matter

A dear friend sent a text this morning on a group thread that reads, “Merry Christmas! First Sunday after Christmas! Mary recovering. Joseph worrying. Shepherds amazed. Kings traveling. And 2000 years later, the world still baffled and rejecting and rejoicing and marveling.”

A thrill of hope.

A few weeks back, in a staff meeting at work, we talked about what pieces of the nativity story bring us the most wonder. I knew immediately. It’s right there in Luke 2.

” 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

21 Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived.”

There is a gaping hole between verse 20 and 21. There is a lack of information that makes my imagination run wild. I thought about it for days after that staff meeting. And then again this morning after my friend texted.

What happened in those days? The shepherds left. The heavenly host of angels returned to the heavenly places from where they came. Mary and Joseph and the newborn baby finished the night in the barn.

I gave birth to two babies. Not simultaneously, mind you. Separately. Eighteen months apart. Both deliveries were fairly easy – as far as deliveries of humans go. But I stayed in the hospital, where nurses took my babies to a nursery so I could rest. They brought me sterile garments and walked me to the bathroom so I could rinse off and change clothes. They sent in a lactation consultant to help me when nursing was difficult. They brought me food to eat, water to drink, and changed my bed sheets.

When I arrived at home, the kind people of the church brought me casseroles for days on end. And I had teenagers who volunteered to come hold my babies while I showered and napped.

I know how blessed I was. I know there are women around the world who give birth today in situations incredibly similar to Mary’s birth story over 2,000 years ago. But I still wonder.

Mary and Joseph were in a barn because the government had issued a decree that every single person had to go to the city of their ancestral town to register for a census. Joseph had to leave Nazareth and travel to Bethlehem. They had to walk, just under 100 miles. According to scholars, they would have headed south along the Jordan River, west over the hills surrounding Jerusalem, and then into Bethlehem. And when they got there, they didn’t have a reservation at a hotel, a hostel, or an Aunt Lois’s house. It would have taken them days to get there, and they had to be exhausted. When I was nine months pregnant, I got tired walking up the stairs. I can’t imagine walking 100 miles. Frankly, I can’t imagine walking 100 miles not pregnant! But to do so, and then have to sleep on the ground, in a barn? No thanks.

Did a room open the next day? Did they find a place to rent for the next couple of years until the wise men showed up? Did the innkeeper’s wife bring Mary fresh blankets? A King Ranch Chicken Casserole? Did Mary’s rush of hormones make her cry for days? Did Joseph worry about her tears? Did the ladies from the temple rally around, not because the Messiah was born in their town, but because a young couple just gave birth to a baby boy in a barn? Did anyone even notice?

I imagine the details don’t matter as a matter of faith, or God would have seen fit to include them as Luke put pen to paper. One day, though, when I get to heaven, I’m going to ask Mary to tell me the entire story. I want to hear every detail.

In John 9:39, Jesus said, “I have come into the world to give sight to those who are spiritually blind, and to show those who think they see that they are blind.” There were so many who were blind to the miracle that happened in the little town of Bethlehem the night Jesus was born. There are so many still blind today.

And while I’m not blind to the reality of God sending His one and only son, I’m often blind to what He’s doing in my life. I’m often blind to my weaknesses, my bad habits, my addictions. I’m blind to my hurts – both the ones done to me, the ones I’ve done to others, and the ones I’ve done to myself.

Jesus came to be the light of the world; the truth. I pray that in my weariness, I won’t be blind to all the reasons I have to rejoice. I pray I won’t be blind to the opportunities God gives me to love others. I pray I won’t be blind to the people who love me. I pray I won’t be blind to the ways God is refining me. I pray I won’t be blind to the miracles happening around me every day. I don’t want to miss the details, because the details matter.

An Anchoring Prayer

Whew! October was such a long month! Every year since my girl was prematurely born – in October – October has felt like a month known for being a busy month, like May or December.

There’s just a lot in October, and this year, it all seemed to fall in a ten-day time frame. A work retreat, Homecoming, my girl’s birthday, a charity walk we do every year, and the Fall Festival at church. And because God has a sense of humor, bronchitis.

I’m not blaming God for the bronchitis. If the blame goes to anyone, it’s me. I know I have COPD. I know it. It’s a fact of life. I know I should not expose myself to chemical fumes like bleach for prolonged periods of time. And yet, as most Houstonians know, tile showers don’t get clean down here without bleach. We have a big shower. That means lots of bleach.

And after I have exposed my lungs to fumes like bleach, I know I should not spend time in the great outdoors, blowing the pine needles and dirt off the driveway. But the driveway refuses to clean itself, and the HOA likes to send letters so…


Then there was chaos surrounding Fall Festival planning. The bounce houses were coming, and then the bounce houses were not coming, and then we had to find bounce houses from somewhere else. And the band was coming, but then someone got sick, so the band wasn’t coming, but they got someone to fill in, so the band was coming. And no one could do hot dogs but then someone could do hotdogs and then they couldn’t. It’s fine. Everything turned out great because apparently, God loves children and loves to see them dress up in costumes, play games and laugh hysterically over candy.

This week has been a time to slow down, catch up, and reflect. I was reading a devotion this morning and was struck by this quote:

“If you’re going to anchor your soul to something that never changes, then you need to treat God’s Word as a gift.” – Rick Warren

I try to anchor my soul to so many things – my marriage, my kids, my friends, my job… all gifts from God, but not where I need to drop anchor. Those things are growing and changing, and ebbing and flowing, and one should never drop anchor on a moving target.

God has given us His Word for instruction and promise, and it never changes. His Word gives life – reminding me that I am made in His image, He loves me, and I can share His love.

When life is hectic and changing, I don’t know if I’m coming or going, God’s Word is dependable and true. There is no error in it, there is no confusion about who it is for, and it is perfect. I get so caught up in doing all the things, being in all the places, and making all the people happy. I often forget who I am and, more importantly, whose I am.

James 1:17-18 says, “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.”

If God sees me as his prized possession and has given me His Word as a gift to constantly show me how much He loves me, I am not sure why I don’t sit down with it more often. I don’t know why I don’t leap from bed every morning, racing to the pages of my Bible, to witness the new offering He has for me that day. Instead, I roll out of bed with a grumpy thud, going straight to the back door to let the dog out, and make a bee-line for the coffee pot. And while I love my dog and I really enjoy hot coffee, neither love me with the unparalleled passion of my Father God.

My prayer, moving into November, for both me and you, is that we would ground ourselves in God’s Word every morning. I pray we would seek His truth and light for our day before the clock starts tick, tick, ticking away and reminding us of our filled calendars and many to-do lists. May we sit in His love and bask in the warmth of His goodness before the world comes at us with its lies, hatred, and betrayal. May we know the gift of being anchored in His Word.

Parenting From Fear

There were a few brief minutes after my daughter was born, when my husband had signed all the paperwork at the hospital, gone down to get our car, and come back to get me, that she and I were all alone. It was the first time I’d been able to look at her and whisper in her ear when no one else was around to see or hear.

I kissed her forehead and placed my lips close to her ear and whispered, “I have no idea what I’m doing and I know you have no idea what you’re doing either but we will figure this out together.”

I felt as if I were at a disadvantage because my mom had died several years before, and truthfully, I was bitter about it in that moment. She should have been there to help me figure it out, to bounce the crying baby girl when I needed a shower, or to just tell me I was going to be okay. Realistically, I know most women feel as if they have no clue, whether they have a mom to help or not. We all kind of look around and wonder, “Are they really going to let me take this baby home with me? Shouldn’t there be a test?”

For the first five or six years of parenting my two babies, my girl and my boy, I did it with a stomach full of anxiety and a fist tightly gripped on a set of rules I had made up in my head of what “good moms” did.

I yelled a lot – at them, at my husband, at passing cars, the pharmacist, and anyone who didn’t do what I said, when I said it, or how I wanted it done. I cried a lot. I didn’t just burn the candle at both ends, I lit several candles up and did a baton routine with them. I was living in fear, and I was parenting from fear. I couldn’t label it or put my finger on what the problem was at the time, but looking back, I now know that’s exactly what was happening.

I finally sought help. Not on my own, mind you. Quite a few people recommended it, and after a particularly hard day in the middle of a vacation, I collapsed and admitted I needed it. I am so grateful I was able to receive the help I needed to break several bad habits but to also look back at my life, figure out where many of my fears were coming from, and be honest about how my behavior was effecting my parenting.

I wasn’t enjoying my kids; I was trying to make them perfect. I didn’t have fun with them because I wouldn’t allow myself to have fun. That’s not to say there weren’t fun moments – there were! But overall, my anxiety was holding me captive. My worry of messing them up or worse, allowing them to mess up, was like a set of iron handcuffs. When I look back at pictures of me during those years, I was skinnier than I should have been and my eyes had a dark and empty glaze. My fear had convinced me I would never be a good enough parent and therefore, my kids would never be good enough.

Crying out to God for help and seeking the advice and teaching of people in a position to help me was the best decision I have ever made for my family. God delivered a peace to my soul and a healing balm that soothed me from the inside out.

It didn’t happen overnight. It took years of hard work and dedication to being a parent who offers love and grace. And truthfully, I’m still working on it. God opened my eyes in a whole new way to see the love and grace He offers me every day. He showed me how to rely on Him and to rest in His arms. He pointed me to loving people who could stand in the gap for me when I needed a mama of my own.

I memorized Psalm 56:3, “When I am afraid I will trust in You,” and whispered it over and over and over. I realized the enemy wants nothing more than for me to live gripped in fear. When I ask God to remind me of what is good and true, He does it. He takes away the lies the enemy throws at me and disintegrates them immediately. And when those lies sneak back in, I whisper again to the Lord and He always answers.

These days, my kids and I enjoy each other a lot. We can have fun together, laugh at each other and with each other. We laugh at their dad a lot! They talk to me about life and love and faith and I talk to them, too. I am able to give them appropriate amounts of freedom because I don’t live in fear of them making terrible choices. I trust in God. I trust in the faith we have taught them. I trust in their hearts and minds to do what’s right. Will they mess up? Of course! They mess up all the time! But so do I! Messing up is part of living and I finally learned that no matter how tight I grip my kids, they are still going to grow up and fly away from our nest one day. I want them to feel like they have been loved well and taught well and can come back any time they wish. I don’t want them to feel the need to break free from a prison I built for myself and them.

If you have been living a life filled with anxiety and fear, know there is hope. It doesn’t have to be that way and it’s never too late to seek the peace our Heavenly Father offers. I got involved with Celebrate Recovery and see a therapist regularly. You may find other ways of receiving help. Whatever you do, I encourage you to reach out to someone today. You are worth it. And your family is worth it.

Surprising Tears

I had, what some might call an over-reaction a few days ago, to what should have been a small, every day inconvenience. I share because I have a suspicion I am not the only one having surprising reactions lately to what we otherwise might believe incidents that need little reaction at all. I share because, at the moment, I felt quite absurd but, later, after asking myself a few questions, was able to uncover the underlying feelings.

To say I am an HEB fan would be a slight understatement. If you live outside of Texas and don’t know what HEB is, my heart is a little sad for you. You might even be confused as to why one would have a need to be a fan of a grocery store, which is not fully describing what HEB is to Texas.

HEB is technically a grocery store. Our local HEB is what some might call a mega-store. It has food and drinks, a pharmacy, kitchen supplies, a really nice seafood department, bakery, etc. It also has a florist, and a sit-down barbecue restaurant with some of the best banana pudding you’ve ever tasted. The service is always friendly and the shelves are always stocked. (At least as much as they can be during a global pandemic and world-wide shutdown.)

HEB does smart thinking and amazing community care when it’s hurricane season or when a storm has blown through an area. They halt production and delivery on frivolous items and bulk up items people tend to reach out for – white bread, hot dogs, buns, toilet paper, bottled water, etc. They do what they can to love their neighbors and care for their customers. It’s a rare thing you don’t see in a lot of corporations anymore.

One day, when my kids were toddlers, I was waiting in line at the pharmacy when a full blown fight broke out between my son and daughter. I had run into the store quickly, only to grab prescriptions, and had put both of my children in the basket of a cart – despite the instructions on the cart clearly stating it was not a safe place for children. But I was only going to be a couple of minutes and I didn’t need the giant car cart, with its bright red car on the front for the kids to drive while I filled the tiny basket with groceries. I was only picking up our prescriptions. I simply needed to keep my children wrangled.

The fight exploded faster than I could contain it and my son fell out of the cart, head smacking the linoleum tile. To this day, I can still close my eyes and hear that terrible smacking sound of his little skull on the floor. He cried and cried and cried and I picked him up quickly to try to assess the situation and soothe him. There was no broken skin, no bump, no indention…only screams. (I could write a book on the injuries that child should have suffered over the years. He was clearly born with a tough skull, thick skin, and a very strong and swift guardian angel!) The pharmacist ran out from behind the counter, passing all the customers in front of me, bringing me a soft ice pack. I’ll never know how she moved so quickly. She then asked the customers ahead of me if they minded if she took care of me first, she handed me my prescriptions, gave my hand a squeeze, and told me to go home and rest.

Two days later, I received a card in the mail from that pharmacist. It was a “thinking of you” type card, and she wrote the sweetest message inside. She told me she understood the late afternoon trials of being a mom to toddlers, and that I was doing a good job. She reminded me to take deep breaths and know that kids are resilient and bouncy, and that she just knew my son was going to be okay.

He was.

This is one of more than a handful of examples I could give you of ways the pharmacists at my HEB have loved me well over the years. So when I found out this week that our prescription insurance would no longer pay for our medications unless we went to the pharmacy they required, I sobbed.

You may think, “Sobbed? Really?” and I would answer you, “Yes. I sobbed.” And truthfully, at first, I was incredibly embarrassed for myself. It felt so silly, so dramatic, so unnecessary.

But because I am learning to lean into my emotions, my feelings, and my reactions to certain situations, I started to ask myself questions.

What was this really about? Was I sad about the pharmacy or the people? Did I doubt the capability of the new, required pharmacy? When else had I felt this emotion lately?

Ah-ha. That was it. When else had I felt this emotion lately? That’s when the answer clicked.

This last year – actually more than a year – has been a time of government, doctors, businesses, friends, and even strangers online, telling us all what we can and cannot do, where we can and cannot go, how we can and cannot dress, who is safe, who is not safe, how we love our neighbors and what isn’t loving to our neighbors. We’ve been told that if we vote this way it is loving and if we vote that way it is hateful. We’ve been told if we support this we are righteous but if we support that we are selfish. We’ve been told we must accept this but not that, that but not this, and the idea that me, a grown, educated woman, could make a decision for her own life or the lives of her children has been criticized.

And then my insurance told me I couldn’t fill my prescriptions where I wanted.

It was one more domino in a long line of tumbling dominoes in this world and I, apparently, had reached my threshold. So I cried.

I realized in that moment I wasn’t crying for the inconvienience of having to switch pharmacies, although I really was sad about doing so. I was grieving the loss of one more piece of the “before.” This pandemic has been more than just a health scare; it’s been a reckoning. It’s changed so many policies, so many friendships, so many families. It’s shown false colors and true colors and turned so many issues into black or white, leaving no gray in between. I was grieving the loss of “before.”

I took a deep breath and allowed myself to sit in the sadness for a few minutes before asking God to step in and soothe my heart.

Philippians 4: 6-7 says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Jesus Christ.”

Acknowledging and allowing space for grief is so healthy. It’s a fact I’ve known for years, but only recently have I allowed it to be true for me and not just for other people. Sometimes, grief can spiral into worry and fear, and I don’t want that to happen. When I worry, I rob myself of the peace and joy God offers me so freely in amounts that far exceed my own understanding. Grief, however, is a different bird than worry. Grief acknowledges that something has changed and may not ever be the way it was before. It’s important to grieve the changes in life, to cry for them, and then set them free…even grief as small as a pharmacist change. I’m learning that the more freely I acknowledge the tiny grief moments, the easier it is to see the big ones for what they truly are. I can talk about them, thank God for His presence amidst them, and ask Him to take them from my open hands.

It sounds so simple when I type it out but, experience has taught me my tendency is to hold tight to grief. My personality is one that likes to hold the sadness close because it proves I have been hurt or wronged or mistreated. When God offers to take these grief moments from me, I allow Him in to sit with me and then I shoo Him away. I hold tight to the sadness and try to comfort it all on my own.

The thing is, my own brand of comfort never works. So my prayers lately are shifting from “Dear God, please take away…,” to “Dear God, help me release…” He has always been and will always be willing to take away what is harmful to me. I, however, have rarely been willing to hand it over. I want to take my cue from Jesus, who showed grief when on this earth. I want to shed the tears my body needs to shed, sit with the people who want to hold my hand, and then allow God to do the work needed to bring glory to His Kingdom. Again, it sounds so simple as I type the words. I know it will take a God-sized miracle for me to do it. But then again, those are the exact size of miracles He performs.

When the Body Remembers

In the first few years after my mom’s suicide, I dealt with trauma daily. I had nightmares and crying spells and anxiety attacks all the time. It was common for something to trigger my memories and my body and mind would shut down for the rest of the day.

It’s been twenty-four years since I last saw my mom and, while I have done an incredible amount of therapy and healing, my body still reacts this time of year. I get sad and my chronic fatigue syndrome flares up. I can’t get enough sleep. I ache all over. My digestion slows down. I cry at the drop of a hat, even when I’m not able to pinpoint my sadness.

The reason I experience all these symptoms is that my body is remembering the trauma of my mom’s suicide even when my brain isn’t thinking about it. Every cell in our body has the ability to remember trauma, even when our mind doesn’t. I have done a lot of work to process the memories of Mom’s death; of finding her body and the story that surrounds those memories. But I have only recently begin to understand body memory. I am learning ways to connect my mind and body to help release the tension when it begins to build up. Here are a few things that are working for me:

Be in the moment and feel the feelings. It’s easy to try to hide from or numb tension, stress, and anxiety. But when I acknowledge that something is happening in my body and am honest with myself, it’s easier to give myself what I need; which is usually a cold drink of water, a nap, and a hug from someone I love.

Make self-care a priority. Our society tends to reward those who never take a break and always put themselves last. When dealing with post-traumatic stress, these behaviors are not rewarding for the body. Slowing down and simplifying my day is often the best thing for me. Turning down the lights, lighting a candle, taking a bubble bath, listening to soft music are all ways I can connect my body and mind. For some, exercise is the way they connect mind and body. For others, walking in the grass with bare feet. Everyone has to figure out the method that works best for them.

Talking to my therapist, my friends, and, most importantly, to God. When depression rises up – in my mind or my body – I have to resist the urge to isolate. Isolation does not allow my brain or body to connect joyfully with others and joy is the exact thing I need when my body is trying to protect me from my past trauma.

Overcoming trauma is a long process, but thankfully, I serve a God who is bigger than my pain. He created my mind and body to be a miraculous work of art; one that does things even the most intelligent doctors don’t quite understand yet. He not only sees my past, my present, and my future, but He cares about all my days. He is the healer and His love for me allows Him to collide with my pain – and My God always wins.

“He will cover you with His feathers. He will shelter you with His wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”

Psalm 91:4 NLT