Author: Susan

Faith, Joy, Married Life, Mom Life, More Posts, Work

Your Life Changes Lives

Lately, I’ve been in awe of how a single person can change the course of someone else’s life. Everyday, we have the opportunity to encourage the people surrounding us, or tear them down. When my life is feeling insignificant and I feel discouraged, it helps to remember some of the people who invested in my life, because it reminds me to stop focusing on myself, and to be a blessing to the people around me. Here’s a quick (and very incomplete) list of some of the people who changed my life, one small act at a time. Who are some of the people who changed your life? Share in the comments!

  • The teacher who believed I could write, and helped me to believe it too.
  • The boss who valued my input.
  • The friend who showed up and cleaned my house when my baby was born.
  • The friend who taught me how to nurse, when that baby struggled to eat.
  • The friend who randomly told me they appreciated me, at that moment when I was ready to give up.
  • The friend who watched my kids, making it possible to run a business and homeschool.
  • The friend who sat with me, listened, and prayed as I watched our business fall apart.
  • The friend who sent me a text the night I was feeling like really, no one cared.
  • The friend who left a table full of friends to sit with me, because there was no room for me at their table.
  • The friend who gave me a number to a hair stylist; and a babysitter; and key information to help me begin to make my way in a new city.
  • The man who walked up to me when I was new, and introduced himself. I suddenly had a friend!
  • The friend who gave me the answer to a problem I’d been dealing with for years.
  • The friend who showed me the best walking routes.
  • The friend who drove 15 minutes each way, just to walk with me in the mornings. 
  • The friends who helped us load our house into a 28-foot moving truck.
  • The friends who helped us move. 
  • The friend who loved me and helped me, instead of walking away when things got tough.
  • The friend who told me she looked up to me.
  • The friend who brought me coffee. Again.
  • The friend who treated me to dinner.
  • The friend who made me laugh.
  • The friend who listened without judging, or telling me how I was wrong.
  • The friend who sat next to me during that hard time.
  • The friend who sat with me, when my husband was diagnosed with cancer.
  • The friend who kept my kids during my husband’s horrible reaction to chemo, so they wouldn’t have to see him so sick.
  • The friends who celebrated my babies with me.
  • The friend who made me feel less alone in those isolating days of having small children.
  • The work friend who became a true friend.
  • The friend who told me it was going to be okay.
  • The friend who picked me up from the airport.
  • The friend who danced on the beach with me.
  • The friend who gave me great books to read.
  • The friend who loved long hikes and walks as much as I did.
  • The friend who loved to write, too.
  • The friend who showed up, at just the right time, to tell me I was on the right track.
  • The friend whose story resonated with my own.
  • The Friend who made me realize I am loved, and never alone.


A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. Proverbs 17:17

Faith, More Posts, Work

Focused On the Track Ahead

It was 5:30 in the morning and I was half a cup of coffee into the day, as I sat, contemplating the day’s requirements. Even though I had a full night’s sleep, I felt weary and tired. Tired of being productive. Tired of navigating the ever-evolving school schedules. Tired of wondering whether it’s safe to go out to eat, or if we should just stay home. Tired of politics. Tired of change. Sound familiar?

As I sipped my coffee, assessing the year in exhaustive detail, I asked God where to get the energy to move forward, when I was still bearing the sore muscles and bruises of 2020. As I prayed, a picture came to mind that renewed my energy and my hope. Maybe it will help you, too.

Wooden Roller Coaster Track

I saw a wooden structure like an old roller coaster or mining track. Behind me, the coaster was in ruins; large timber beams scattered and stacked haphazardly. If I stepped backward, they could become dislodged and hit me. If I lingered too long, trying to understand what went wrong, or how it fell apart, I would be overwhelmed at the chaos and destruction I had just come through. The track had been solid as I rode, but at the place where I stood, all I could see behind me was destruction. It held together just long enough to carry me through.

Ahead of me, the track was still whole, the beams wrapping into a dynamic, circular, and purposeful pattern. This wasn’t a new track; it was a continuation of the track I was already on. The car I was to ride in was placed exactly at the beginning of this track. It could just as easily roll forward into safety; or backwards into peril. It was dependent on where I focused.

You see, the past is gone; nothing can change or fix it. But the future (the track ahead) is hopeful, with purposes yet to be discovered. We aren’t supposed to look back. God doesn’t expect us to carry the long road, the hurdles, and the assignments of the past into the new year. Instead, God is calling us to stand firmly in our life assignments, as they are right now, moving forward focused on the path He has for us in this season, and in this time. It’s a different path than six months ago; or a year ago; or five years ago. And it will continue to change, as we move into the future.

Yes, there were events, hurts, and struggles in 2020 that left us a bit battered. But they’ve also left us with a sharpened focus, new strength, and tenacity. We can start 2021 by humbly taking note of all we’ve overcome. 

Friends, there is a path ahead! The steady, solid track that stays constant through every chapter is God, His faithfulness, and His truth. As long as we stay focused on His path for us, we will move forward in peace, even if the track behind us falls into pieces. On this path, there is no fear, and He promises to continually renew our strength. After all, at the end of the line, when everything else has fallen away, this is the exact path that will lead us safely Home.

Isaiah 40: 28-31 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Faith, Living In Tennessee, Work

Much Has Happened! A New Job!

This year has stretched me well beyond my comfort zone, and my schedule has been so chaotic, I’ve frequently lost track of the day and month. Much has happened since my last post. 

I was happy in my job, even though I never imagined myself doing accounting for a living. Accounting was a necessary evil when I ran my small business; something that had to be done, but I didn’t enjoy. It was different at GraceWorks. The first time I cut a check and realized my efforts stopped someone from being evicted on Christmas Eve, my heart for accounting changed, and I became fully willing to do whatever it took to make the ministry run smoothly. I thought I’d be there a long, long time.

God had other plans.

In July, my friend texted about a writing and editing job opening at our church. At first, I dismissed it. How could I leave a job I loved, and that God so clearly called me to three years ago? I had flexibility, amazing coworkers, and a worthy mission, which kept my heart and mind engaged in both the minutia of accounting, as well as the rigors of managing human resources in the midst of COVID-19.

But the possibility of working as a writer, and spending my days writing copy to equip and encourage other Christians echoed in my head. It kept me awake with new ideas and inspirations. I couldn’t shake it. So, I prayed, then sent in my cover letter, resume, and writing samples…

Weeks went by with no word. I live in Nashville, where Christian ministries and publishers abound. I figured there must have been a lot of competition. It was okay, I reasoned. I loved my job at GraceWorks…

It turned out, I just needed to wait a little longer. In Mid-August, the church emailed, telling me they liked my writing samples, and wanted to meet. This began a several-month-long process of several meetings, a writing test, and a lot of praying. The end result: a job as a writer and editor for World Outreach Church and Allen Jackson Ministries. I couldn’t be more excited! It’s a church we’ve attended for 3.5 years, and the teaching and encouragement have blessed our family’s lives in immeasurable ways.

World Outreach Church is a large local church here in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and Allen Jackson Ministries is the department that takes the Senior Pastor’s teachings to over a million people a week over TV, radio and the internet. My job involves writing copy of all kinds, proof reading and editing. It’s exactly the kind of position I hoped to find when I moved to Nashville three years ago, only better…

Afterall, I had three years to learn, live, grow, and enjoy the friends I made at GraceWorks. I had three years to learn how to say y’all instead of “you guys.” And, after three years with a 45-minute commute each way, a five-minute commute means I can come home for lunch, which I appreciate in a whole new way!

You see, you really never know what’s right around the corner. Five years ago, Rich and I were enjoying the most prosperous year in our business’s lifespan. Three years ago, we had just shut it down. Today, I am working as a writer and editor for a truly inspiring ministry. Another dream has come true.

God has been so good and faithful in all of these seasons. I hope this encourages you in this crazy year. Once again, God has shown that there may be hardships, but with Him, the best is always yet to come. 

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Don’t Fear: Live Out Your Mission!

There is hope amongst the living. There is power in fellowship. Sometimes a hug is the difference between peace and despair.

Who knew sentences like those would become controversial?

Who could have predicted that being amongst the living; gathering with friends; and hugging a coworker could be harshly judged and seen as irresponsible? 

What a crazy era we are living through.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a blog post, and much has happened in my life.

While much of the country has been living a life in sequestered seclusion since March, for me, 2020 has been a marathon endurance event that I’ve had to run like a sprint. There has been very little breathing room or time for deep reflection. The staccato has been: Go. Go. Go. Go. Do. Do. Do. Do. Keep on going. Keep on going.

It’s been the same for everyone at the ministry where I work. People suffer, and still need food. Even with eviction moratoriums, rent still accumulates; landlords want to be paid. The daily ministry business must get done.

This year we received a record number of donations, and helped an unprecedented number of people (thank you God!) Until recently, I booked every single donation; deposited and cut every single check. The human resources challenges have been overwhelming and often difficult to navigate as we stewarded our staff through the COVID crisis. My job required my presence, and even on the days when I worked remotely, the need to work, and work hard, stayed consistent. 

My year has been defined by a strong sense of determination and purpose; a stark contrast to many other people, who have been forced to float in a seemingly perpetual holding pattern while we watch the pandemic unfold.

Most of the jobs in our ministry require our physical presence. And, while my family was able to stay home and quarantine, isolating was not something I could do…at least not much.

I’ve been going out into the world, pushing fear and angst aside, because there was a greater mission. 

There is still a greater mission. 

The truth is that, though a good portion of the workforce works remotely, there are many who cannot.

As this COVID epidemic wears on, I’ve become increasingly aware of how different the effects of this pandemic each person’s life. So much depends on your age, your work situation, and where you live in the nation.

There are people who are able to work at home, rarely leave the house and even wear a mask while driving alone in their cars.

There are people who are high-risk and still work full time with the general public because they feel their calling usurps any inherent risk that may come from the virus. 

Some people have kept their kids at home, isolated from all other children. Others go to the park and let their kids mix with the general public. 

Some states have closed their churches, not allowing public gathering or even singing; other churches are meeting indoors, implementing precautions to limit the risk of exposure to COVID.

The presence of fear permeates our country; fear of being close to each other; fear of sickness; fear of dying…and the news channels, as always, perpetuate that fear. As we surf the thin line between prudence and fear, fear continues to win.

I’ve been living this season with several truths resonating in my heart, and perhaps they will encourage you today:

  • Every day ordained for us was decided before we were even born (Psalm 139:16). I might get sick. I may die from COVID. I may get in an accident going to the grocery store…the fact is that nothing I can do will change God’s timing for my life, and the number of days that were ordained for me. So, I will be prudent and wise…and I will also trust that even if I get sick, God’s greater plan is at work.
  • God may call us to serve in dangerous situations, but the safest place we can be is exactly where He intends us to be. That is where His divine protection resides. The world needs love, hope and encouragement now more than ever. A friendly smile is hard to come by in a masked and isolated world…
  • As Christians, we believe in eternal life. When we die, our lives don’t end. So, even if we die pursuing our purposes, we win in the end, because we are with Christ. There truly is no sickness; no peril, no conflict; no enemy to fear. We know the conclusion, and it is beyond good. There is so much freedom in that truth.

This is the drumbeat of hope that has kept me going during 2020. This is the staccato that has kept my pace moving forward, forward, forward, to help, serve and encourage the people God brings into my path. 

God’s purpose for my life in 2020 was not to isolate, but to immerse myself even more fully in the lives of the community around me. Following that purpose with my coworkers meant bills were paid; hundreds of rent and utility checks were cut; and thousands of people were fed. 

God’s purpose for your life in 2020 likely looks different than mine, but it is just as important. I encourage you today to live out your purpose with diligent wisdom, and without fear.

As Psalm 91 says, we do not need to fear sickness or war or strife when we draw close to God. He will protect and guide us as we accomplish the purposes He has for us in our generation.

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Letting Mistakes Refine You – Not Define You

Overcoming mistakes while pursing your callingShe wasn’t my child, but I felt my heart swell with mom pride as I watched her perform. She sang with a full, strong voice and owned the stage with confidence. I found myself pulled into her character until….sudden silence…she forgot her lines.

Her performing face dropped into panic as she looked towards the prompter and, after a few beats, picked up where she left off.

I said a silent prayer for her: “Don’t let this take you off course, sweet girl. Keep on pressing into what you know. Be strong. Be brave. Don’t let this slip up define your performance!”

After a few haltering lines, she pulled through, resuming her confident glow.

The show was about being who God made you to be; not trying to be someone you aren’t. It was a perfect message for the kids who performed it, and as I watched the songs unfold into a story, I realized these 45 minutes were speaking to me, too.

The transitions I’ve endured over the five years have made me acutely aware of who I am, and who I am not.

I will never be an expert at crafts. My house, though functional and cozy, will never be featured for its sense of design on HGTV. I bake good cookies my kids love, but are not pretty enough to sell. My knees won’t allow me to run a 5K any longer, and my penchant for chocolate and ice cream means I will never be a super model.

I know you’re surprised.

What has caught me off guard is how God has been showing me the gifts He HAS given me, and the importance of being diligent to pursue them. I’m excellent at details, as well as seeing the truths that create the big picture. I love to read, study and learn. I treasure nurturing my family. And ultimately, all of these feed into an overarching gift, which is writing.

I’ve been investing more of my time into these callings, and actively trying to live them out — but I make mistakes. I get distracted. I forget my purpose. Then the litany of self-contemptuous thoughts race through my mind, making me focus on how badly I messed up, rather than the times I succeeded.

I have trained myself to be self-critical; to analyze interactions, and my words, and my responses. Instead of reassuring and refining me, these thoughts end up bullying me, making me feel like a failure, time and time again.

I know I am not alone.

As a boss, there were many times our staff made mistakes. I could see the bad news on their faces before they spoke a word. We did our best to address each issue with grace, love and instruction, which ultimately made them into stronger employees.

Amongst girlfriends, it’s common to hear complaints about a short coming; or a flaw with their appearance; or a gaff they made at work. Self depreciating humor is part of our culture, but it can become such a habit it becomes a destructive part of our internal monologues.

So, what’s a better way?

I think it begins with focusing on who God says we are, and letting ourselves be defined by those solid truths.

God loves us. He created us. He gave us each unique talents and skills to use in our world (1 Peter 4:10). He has plans to prosper us, not to harm us; To give us hope, and a future (Jeremiah 29:11)

As Christians, we are called by God to do the things He created us to do. He promises to equip us with all we need, to complete the task at hand. (2 Cor 9:8)

He says we are loved, and accepted and treasured. When we step out on faith and pursue these callings, the Bible says God delights in it. (Psalm 37:23)

Pursuing our callings can be a bumpy road. Maybe that’s why one of my favorite parts of the choir performance was the moment the actress forgot her lines. Instead of slinking off the stage, or collapsing into tears, or throwing her arms up in the air in a fit of disappointment, she kept going. She kept pressing forward until the flow returned, and it was as if the blip never happened.

I believe that blip was for a reason. It was for the people like me, who needed the reminder that, just because you fall, doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong path. Sometimes our stumbling tells a story to the people surrounding us. They might need to watch you make a comeback, to have faith they can, too.

Faith, Photography

Following God When It Doesn’t Make Sense

It doesn’t make sense to be an artist.

Exchanging a high-paying corporate job for camera gear and an altruistic assignment doesn’t sound wise, but I’ve known many who have done exactly that.

Moving across the country with no job, not much money, and three kids sounds irresponsible, but it was clear that’s exactly what we were supposed to do.

What if what God is telling you to do makes no sense, could financially ruin you, and seems to go against common wisdom?

Here’s what you do: You pray, you trust, and you go.

Here is what you don’t do: Doubt.

I’ve been thinking a lot about trust versus doubt lately. I used to think that considering doubts, worries and fear would make me more prepared for when the inevitable fall would happen, whatever that may be. It was as if it was part of doing due diligence; fully researching the pros and cons of each idea before I act.

Here’s what it looks like:

God puts a new idea in my head. It grows in my heart. I get excited, and start to think and dream into it even more, and imagine life in a new way…and then HARD STOP…I consider the doubts. I list the “What ifs”:

  • What if I fail?
  • What if this is harder than I think it will be?
  • What if this turns out to be a REALLY BAD idea?
  • What will people think of me? I mean it’s a crazy idea…
  • Am I crazy?
  • The list goes on…

I’m realizing that this train of thought does nothing to prepare me for failure OR the future. Instead, it quickly paves the way towards despair and giving up. It leads to complacency and a feeling of numbness…which makes me ask:

  • What if the cost of NOT following God is distancing yourself from His plans, His voice and your true purpose?
  • What if staying safely in the known entities of your life leaves you very comfortable, but increasingly dead in your heart?
  • What if there is something new, right around the corner, if only you let go of the voices of doubt that echo in your brain?
  • And who exactly owns those voices, anyway? Who are the people who speak light and hope into your life, versus doubt and fear? Notice the contrast, and what that does to your heart, your relationships and your inner thoughts. Choose who you open your heart to.
  • And perhaps most importantly: What if doubt is a form of disobedience; a way to delay doing what I know I need to do? What blessings are my family and I missing out on, because I’m following my own wisdom instead of God’s leading?

The Bible is full of people who initially doubted or resisted God’s call on their lives (Moses, Jonah, Gideon), as well as those who didn’t (Noah, Mary). I want to be like the ones who acted on faith, knowing that the One who called them would be the One who would work each detail out for our good.

What about you? Where do you feel the pull of doubt versus trust in your life? Do you feel God leading you in a new direction, but are afraid to take the next step? Or, do you feel God’s peace in your current situation, and instead of resting in that contentment, do you let doubt say you should be doing something else?

Let’s notice the voice of doubt versus truth, and choose to listen to truth. Let’s follow peace instead of fear. Let’s allow God to write our steps, and follow his still small voice as one day unfolds into another. Because the safest, most secure place we can possibly be is within God’s good and perfect will. That’s where you will find peace in your heart, no matter how crazy it may look to the rest of the world.

Matthew 21:21 – And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen.”

Faith, Joy

Leading Boldly In Overwhelming Circumstances

Leading Boldly in overwhelming circumstances I long for a good leader. 

I desperately want to find someone in charge who I can trust; a channel where the news reports just the objective facts, untainted by the political leanings of a news organization.

I want a hero, and selfless acts to celebrate.I want someone to stop the madness that is 2020.

In the midst of this chaos, I find myself reading my Bible more often than usual. Since the Corona virus started, my church has offered a weekly “Battle Plan” against the virus and the unrest in our world, which involves daily prayers and reading various books of the Bible. That week we were in the book of Acts, and as I read Acts 27, I found the leader I was seeking.

He spoke like he was in charge. He gave advice as if they might actually listen. He rebuked them with wisdom when they made dangerous decisions. He wasn’t the boss, or the captain of the ship, or even one of the guards. He was a prisoner: Paul.

Paul was imprisoned on a ship that had set sail, despite warnings, and became caught in the midst of a horrible storm. Before long, the crew was fearing for their lives, trying every possible solution to gain control, only to find themselves starving, with a ship on the verge of utter destruction, and no respite in sight.

Acts 27:20 says, “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.”

That’s when Paul spoke up, not caring that he was just a prisoner, and unafraid of the consequences. He offered this encouragement he heard from an angel of God:

But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Acts 27:22-25

Paul’s continual guidance served as a single beacon of light on that ill fated boat trip, and voicing this hope boldly kept every single person alive. His words and undeniable leadership kept them going until they were all safely on land.

What if Paul had looked at the circumstances and said, “You’re right. This is hopeless. Let’s all just curl up and cry. On second thought, let’s just all jump overboard…why extend the misery?”

If the only thing Paul relied on was what he could see and perceive with his physical senses, an entire ship full of people would have died.

Paul was deeply in tune with God’s voice, and the Holy Spirit’s leading. That night on the boat, God showed him truth, and gave him hope, despite the circumstances…and his faith led others to have faith, giving them the will to press on.

My friends, isn’t it hard to press on right now?

As if the thousands of details of life aren’t complicated enough, throwing a global pandemic into the mix has led even strong people to a place of mental, physical and spiritual exhaustion.

And the fear…fear of illness; fear of family members becoming ill; fear of being quarantined; fear of losing a job; fear of school being cancelled; fear of school being open…It’s alarming how quickly fear breeds more fear.

But in my long struggle against anxiety, I’ve also learned that gratitude breeds more gratitude. The more you practice gratitude, the more your mind is drawn towards peaceful thoughts, instead of despair.

Being thankful for health; thankful for good doctors; thankful for people who put their lives on the line to save ours; thankful for teachers; thankful for food; thankful for a home that is cool on a hot, humid, southern night; thankful for a cat who likes to sit on my lap; thankful for a can of cherry seltzer…thankfulness in the little things helps push despair away, so you can hear that still small voice of peace and hope.

Just as fear and despair and worry is contagious, so is gratitude and peace.

Which will you choose?

Where will you put your hope?

How will you lead the people on your boat?

Read the full story to see Paul’s remarkable leadership in the midst of adversity: Acts 27

California Life, Faith, Living In Tennessee, Married Life

Pursuing Peace & Joy Inexpressible

I cannot count how many times I have settled down with my journal to pour out my frustrations and dashed dreams, and within a span of a few pages, find my writing shift into something like praise. It’s not because I’m holy or somehow divinely inspired. It’s because God shows up, time and time again, and speaks truth to my heart as I write. I recognize God’s voice by the sense of peace that comes along with it. It’s the sense that I am moving towards joy.

It was October 8, 2016 and our small business was slowly failing. The pressure of constantly meeting payroll, and rent for four commercial spaces, and the $10,000 metal print supply order that we had to place nearly every month, felt increasingly oppressive. I was homeschooling my two children and had a toddler. We were also residential landlords and land owners. The responsibilities were overwhelming.

A babysitter was coming so Rich and I could celebrate our wedding anniversary a day late. Neither of us felt like celebrating, but knew we should. We had limited funds, and decided on our favorite cheap date: a day in Yosemite Valley. We’d have the drive up to Yosemite and back to talk, and in between the drives we knew we could find someplace beautiful to wander.

That morning, I sat on the porch swing on our front porch with my Bible and told God I was sick of the stress of the business. I missed my sisters and extended family. I was tired of not having a church where our kids could learn and grow. I was exhausted from homeschooling, and the idea of continuing into high school felt overwhelming. I prayed an, “I’m at the end of myself, save us now!” kind of prayer…and then got ready to go to Yosemite.

We were exhausted and stressed driving up towards the valley, and as always, our conversation turned towards our business. Rich had ideas on how to downsize and streamline our services. We sat eating sandwiches, somewhat numb to the beautiful vista, and thought up new business plans.

We kept driving, and parked near El Capitan meadow. We walked east, and found ourselves in a part of the meadow where we’d never been, though we’d been walking in that area for 18 years. Suddenly Rich looked at me and said, “I think we’re supposed to sell our house. I think we need to sell our house and move back to our little blue house.”

I agreed. The cost of having a larger home was draining our pocketbook, and it seemed wise to downsize our living expenses so we could shore up our savings.

He continued, “We need to downsize because I think something big is about to happen.” 

My heartbeat picked up in excitement, and I felt like he was speaking truth I already knew, but hadn’t verbalized yet. “I agree!”

“I think God is going to move us. I think he’s going to move us to a city of some sort.”

I nodded, my spirit perking up like a dry plant drinking in fresh rain, as these words poured out of Rich’s mouth and into my ears.

“Suse, I think he’s going to move us to Nashville.”

Nashville? Rich had never been to Nashville. 

“I don’t know about Nashville, but I agree…I think God is about to do something. It’s like we’re on the cusp of a big change.”

October 8, 2016, the night we learned we were moving to Nashville. A candlelit dinner with a view of a pickup truck in the window sets the scene in Mariposa, California.

And just like that, the weight of the business; the worry; the angst that had plagued us for months lifted as God gave us a new vision, and a new dream. We spent the rest of the night feeling giddy and in love with each other, and with life. We had an amazing dinner at a little restaurant in a neighboring small town, wondering at what the future held, and for the first time in a long time, we felt a sense of freedom.

“And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” 1 Peter 1:7

It’s the rush of  inexpressible joy that keeps me coming back to Jesus, time and time again. That’s what we felt that day in Yosemite. 

And the time when we drove home after Rich’s cancer diagnosis, and stopped the car to look at the thousands of stars in the dark mountain sky and suddenly felt full of joy and peace, even though Rich was so sick and the prognosis wasn’t good.

And when our son was in the NICU after being intubated because he stopped breathing for unknown reasons, and Rich came into the hospital room with his face beaming because God had inexpressibly spoken to His heart and given him sudden peace and joy while sitting in the hospital courtyard.

Though I’ve experienced God’s peace in these trying times, one of my favorite places to find God’s joy is in the mundane moments. It’s so unexpected, and such evidence of His constant presence. I recently took walk by myself around our neighborhood. It was twilight and the sun had set. Bunnies were out collecting bites of flowers, and the robins were twittering. I began thinking about my friends far away. I was missing their faces, and praying for them, and my mood shifted from melancholy to being suddenly full of joy…joy inexpressible, as I walked in the middle of a typical suburban subdivision in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

These circumstances; this inexpressible and unexpected peace and joy, is living proof that God is present in all situations. He is constantly working good on our behalf, even when the circumstances are hard. Hard times cause us to lean on Him more fully, and to be more aware of Him and His voice…which refines us. The truth is that sometimes, to be rebuilt, things need to be torn down. Businesses close. Marriages fail. Relationships sever. But God is not done. He is still writing our stories.

“So that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable even though tested by fire; may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6’

I’m 3.5 years past that prayer on my porch swing. We never moved back into our little blue house, but God did move us to Nashville, where I have a fulfilling job working at a ministry. My kids are in excellent public schools. We found a church that has stretched us and grown us, with the teaching perfectly coming alongside us as we began to rebuild our lives. Rich is pursuing his dreams in new ways that are inspiring both of us. It’s a good new life.

Are things perfect? No. There is a lot that is hard about this time. It’s possible to see blessings as curses sometimes…which leads me back to my journal, so He can transform the feelings in my heart into joy inexpressible, once again.

 

Living With School, Married Life, Mom Life, More Posts

New Plan: Be Content With Simple Things

Survival & SimplicityThere is value to simple fun; fun that costs nothing other than free time and a place to play.

When I was a kid in the 1970s and 80s, I didn’t play soccer, take ballet, or do art classes. I went to school, came home, played in my yard, and planned various ways to spy on my teenage sisters. 

I was frequently bored, and had to find creative ways to fill my time, like pretending the rock garden in our back yard was actually a kitchen; or finding a packet of morning glory seeds in my mom’s junk drawer and planting them next to the pillars on our side porch. My mom stared at them in disbelief when they began to work their vines up the pillars, wondering how they could have possibly grown on their own.

We had three very old out buildings behind our midwestern farm house, and I would endlessly examine their floors and corners, looking for treasures from the families who came before mine, but usually just found disturbing spiders.

I have always had an active imagination, and I think most of that is because I had to entertain myself as a kid. I had to create my own simple fun. This was common amongst children when I was growing up.

Kids of today have different childhoods. “Fun” is often organized, planned for, and often paid for. Trampoline arenas, climbing gyms, pottery painting, Chuck E. Cheese…As my friend Delissa once said, it’s a “Pay to Play” era. Somehow having my kids at home, all of the time, has made me realize how much I seek entertainment from the outside world, and I have conditioned them to do the same.

I am also becoming more and more aware of a monologue in my brain that is a bit neurotic. It’s a compulsion to do something; to fix things; to remove boredom; to invest in my kids’ education; to give them another experience. It goes something like this:

“Have my kids done their homework? Have they answered emails from their teachers? Did I buy the snacks I promised for the kindergarten classroom?” Oh wait, there is no school.

“My kids haven’t moved enough today. We need to enroll them in something, anything. Rock climbing? Tae Kwon Do? How much would that cost every month?” That’s right, there are no classes right now.

“He’s interested in coding. I wonder if there are any coding camps he could do this summer?” Oh…yes, most camps are cancelled.

“He’s been on his screen too much today. This isn’t good!” Oh, but that’s the only way he can do his school.

“Has he seen his friends lately? We should plan a playdate. What about socialization?” Oh, that’s right, we aren’t allowed to see anybody!

So often, my answer to each perceived problem is an action; it’s DOING something. But in an era when we literally can’t DO anything with our kids outside of our home, this dialog is completely useless.

So I’m having to resort to new thought processes. I have to be OK with many things being broken; or different; or just kind of existing as is. Here’s what I’m noticing:

Our lives are far less chaotic. We are lingering at the dinner table instead of racing through to get to an activity.

It’s a nice break from the outside world of teenage pressures. I feel like my teenagers can be themselves in a way that isn’t possible when they are out on the town, perpetually embarrassed by their parents and little brother.

We are all getting a little crazy, and the craziness looks different on each of us. If you are  trapped in a house with your kids and your spouse, you know exactly what I mean…if not, I’ll leave it up to your imagination.

My kids are remembering old interests, and are spending time doing hobbies that had been set aside because of the busyness of school. They have been reading books for fun again.

In many ways, this time is reminiscent of when we homeschooled. On the days when I work from home, we eat all three meals together; we share stories; we talk about old memories from when they were little…

And it’s kind of like a family vacation because we are all together on this adventure, with little interaction with the outside world.

But there is also an overwhelming sense of unrest. As much as I love having my children at home, and all of the family time we’ve had, things aren’t as they should be. Teenagers love to be with friends. My kindergartener misses going to the park. My parents have been in isolation for months now, with no reprieve in sight. Things aren’t right.

A difficult season calls for a different plan. So I’m working hard to adopt a new approach to life, and to school, during COVID-19. Here’s my new plan for the remainder of this season. It’s based on embracing simple things, and easy expectations. Maybe it will resonate with you:

Activity #1: Survive as well as we can. Let’s face it, shopping with gloves and a mask is no fun, especially when grocery stores are depleted. Contracting COVID-19 is even more scary. I’m here to say SURVIVAL IS ENOUGH. But just surviving can get boring and repetitive, which leads to the rest of my list…

Activity #2: Bake cookies and try some new recipes. When my dad had a heart attack at 43, I remember my older sister telling me to stop crying, and then pulling out the ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies with me. Doing something ordinary like baking distracted me, easing my spirit, and made the time pass more quickly. It is the same today.

Activity #3: Do the little things that give us joy. Like baking. Or watching the baby bunny in the backyard. Or looking at old family photos.

Activity #4: Do the school work that must get done, but realize that the majority of the “work” in this season is character development. We are all learning about endurance, patience and being content in any circumstance. I, for one, like seasons like this to pass quickly (which illustrates why I apparently need more practice learning those character traits).

Activity $5: Exercise and breathe fresh air. Exercise is my Prozac. If I don’t move, everyone suffers.

Activity #6: Focus on our blessings more than our hardships during this season. This is a lesson I’ve had a lot of practice in since the closure of our small business three years ago. It has taught me that gratitude is a choice, and it is something that has to be practiced. When I practice being thankful, I realize that, though there are a lot of hard and unsolvable things in life right now, I am also surrounded by blessings. It’s a constant, repeated choice to choose gratitude over grumbling, and the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Activity #8 Embrace the simple fun. Card games; binge watching a Netflix show; reading books; making the cats chase after the laser pen…my kids have the chance to live my childhood for awhile. I’d like to enjoy it with them. How about you?

Living With School, Mom Life

Truths About Schooling During COVID-19

Truths for Schooling During Covid-19First of all, let’s be clear: This is not homeschool.

We are six weeks into COVID-19 distance learning and I feel more overwhelmed with educating my kids than I ever did as a homeschool parent. The schools are calling, texting, and messaging repeatedly, with updates, reminders, and new ideas on how to educate our children at home. It’s helpful, and it’s necessary…but it’s also overwhelming.

I homeschooled my children for eight years. They’ve been in public school for the last three. With this kind of background, you would think I’d take this change in schooling in stride, but I am here to say: I’M HAVING A HARD TIME WRAPPING MY BRAIN AROUND COVID-19 SCHOOLING!

When I homeschooled, I spent hours researching curriculum and planned school for each of my children, modifying based in their needs as we went through our school year.

When I sent them to public school, I did my best to reign in my control-freak nature as they learned how to navigate teachers who were not me…the hard ones who challenged their skills; and the ones who assigned consistent busywork.

COVID-19 school is a weird hybrid of the two. Though my kids are enrolled in public school, they must do their school work at home. In our school system, the work is optional, and it’s not graded. We can log in to see the assignments…or not. Though this alleviates the pressure of worrying about their grades, it introduces an entirely different type of pressure.

My lazy parent (and child) voice says, “Do they actually need to do the assignments? Why make them, if they aren’t graded? None of their friends are doing them…”

The over achieving voice says, “Of course they need to do their assignments! If the teachers are still giving assignments, my students should be doing them! They are home all day anyway…what else do they have to do?”

The hard part is that, unlike when I homeschooled, I now have a full time job. My husband works full time from home. OUR work has continued, and is busier than ever…and now we need to add schooling into the mix. The opportunity for mom guilt is endless, and at times, it feels suffocating.

As I pondered the overwhelming emotions that have come with parenting during this season, I asked myself, “What is true?” And I began to make a list. And as I looked at the list, I thought other parents might find it to be helpful too. That’s why I’m sharing these truths about having children during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Truth #1: This is temporary. It will not last forever. School and normal life will someday resume to a (new) normal. Take heart.

Truth #2: Our kids are learning a lot while living through an historic event, and watching how we and the world around us respond. They notice EVERYTHING. Don’t freak out.

Truth #3: This virus has upended every area of the WORLD…So it makes sense that this aspect of our lives feels so unsettled. We aren’t alone.

Truth #4: My kids are learning, growing, and are spending more time together than they have since they started public school three years ago. They are closer, and our family is closer, than when the safer-at-home orders went into effect. This is a gift.

Truth #5: The schools truly have our best interests in mind, and I am so thankful that they are diligently trying to instill some normalcy into my children’s lives, when everything else is abnormal. This is grace.

Truth #6: IT’S NOT ABOUT ME, or my kids, or school! With COVID-19 risking so many lives, cancelling school and having to figure out how to do life in a new way is a necessary sacrifice. My kids being at home means life for someone else. This makes the discomfort and confusion worth enduring. This is necessary.

Truth #7: THIS IS NOT HOMESCHOOL…but it is a chance to approach “school” differently (which is my next post!). As I told my kindergartener this morning, learning doesn’t just happen at school. It happens everywhere. Sure, he has assignments from school, but he also has been building impressive Lego creations, playing ball with his brother and Daddy, and studying the bunnies who live in our backyard…and those are all fantastically worthwhile for a six-year-old to do!

Truth #8: Parents, we are doing something unique, and hard, and rather illusive: trying to come alongside our kids during a difficult time in the world. It’s going to look different in every family, because every family has different needs and demands. We need the peace of knowing that, with school, and with every aspect of our lives, all we can do, is all we can do. And truly, that must be enough.

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