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Focus On Who You Were Made To Be

It was the kind of day that highlighted all of the places where I fell short.

A busy weekend led to a messy home that was short on groceries, simply because I didn’t have the time to refill my cabinets. I just finished navigating a week that contained a CT scan for my husband, a surgery for my son, and deadlines at work. I couldn’t seem to stay asleep, and when I did sleep, my slumber was full of strange anxiety dreams.

It was that kind of week. 

When I woke up and went to pour my first cup of coffee, my carafe felt too light– I forgot to put in water when I programmed the coffee pot the night before. I sighed, told myself this was NOT how the entire day was going to be, began the brewing cycle, and settled down to have a few minutes with my journal and my Bible. 

The house was blissfully quiet. 

No one was awake.

I could read, and hear my own voice. 

This doesn’t happen often, with three kids in the house.

As I listened to the peace, my mind was able to settle down. I pondered all the overwhelming emotions of the week, and the words came to my mind, “There are holes.”

Holes … what does that mean? 

Holes in me? 

Holes in my family? 

Holes at work?

“Yes.” I felt an affirming answer to all of these. They each had holes. 

The unexpected thing was that this revelation didn’t feel bad, or like some great shortcoming was being revealed to me…it was simply a matter of fact. Because we aren’t meant to be whole.

There are holes in me–places where I fall short, and things I don’t excel at, but there is another portion of me that is strong, and good, and able. I am a writer and an editor, who also has solid accounting and business skills. I am a friend, and a loving mom, and a listening wife. Though I try, I am not the best housekeeper, or inspired cook, or dedicated dieter. 

I’ve spent a lot of time lately focusing on my holes, and what I’m not–instead of what I am. 

The truth is that we all have holes, and that’s part of God’s design. We’re like puzzle pieces, designed to fit together–what’s whole in me complements what’s missing in you, and vice versa. We need each other to be complete, and that’s not only okay, it’s how we were made! 

This goes against my independent nature, and feels hard for me to accept. I like to do things, fully, my way. I like to be in control. I like to be competent, and able, and excellent at all things, and I easily grow frustrated because I’m not.

But truly, things work out better when my best skills combine with yours, creating something transcendent and so much bigger and better than I could muster on my own.

Experience tells me this is true. When we ran a small business, each person held key responsibilities, and they also had things they did not do. I never scanned a piece of film in my life, but one of our staff members scanned tens (maybe hundreds) of thousands of images. He never did the books, nor the website, nor the promotional emails, nor payroll…but I did… 

My last job was at a ministry that required skills ranging from truck drivers, to fundraisers, to accountants, to social workers, to sales clerks–we each had specific skills, and couldn’t function as a whole without each one’s contribution.

It’s also incredibly apparent in my current job, working at a church. Every person has a lane, and it’s as wide and busy as a Los Angeles freeway at rush-hour. There are on-ramps and off-ramps, and we all need to navigate our own lanes carefully and diligently to complete each project or event. By doing what we each do well, we come alongside each other, honoring God and building His Kingdom, together.

Each of us on our own would be like a tiny cricket chirping in the night. All of us together create a resonant harmony that transcends what’s possible individually. 

So, yes, we have holes. Every one of us. But together, when we live out all that we are (instead of focusing on what we’re not), we are whole. 

God doesn’t expect us to be everything, He just wants us to be diligently pursuing the skills He gave us, and use them for His glory, growing and stretching into the talents and skills that bring life.

What holes in yourself have you been staring at too long? 

Where are you strong and capable, alive and engaged?

Lets change our thoughts to focus on what we are, instead of what we’re not, as we each embrace what God made us to be.

Romans 12: 4-5
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

 

Faith, Living In Tennessee, More Posts, Work

Is God Real? Take a Look at My Past Five Years…

I used to spend a lot of time pondering two questions:

  1. Is God real?
  2. Does my life even matter?

In my last blog post, I wrote about how I’ve come to realize the great impact one person has on the world around them.

In this post, I want to tell you another thing I’ve come to know for certain: the God of the Bible is real. 

I watch God acting in lives all around me, every single day. When I began working in full-time ministry three years ago, the number of “God stories” I encountered increased exponentially. I see evidence of God every day, and often several times a day. 

Let me say this again: God is real. He’s all around you, and He’s working all of the time. 

You don’t need to believe in God for this to be true. It’s simply true. He’s bigger and better than our loftiest ideas and philosophies.

I’ve shared a lot of my “God Stories” here on my blog, but I thought it might be time for a recap of the past five years, because the only way I can explain so much good coming out of such unexpected hardship, is the faithfulness of God, no matter what.

2015 was the best year of our business’s life. We employed 23 staff members, and enjoyed printing for some of the most revered landscape photographers of our time. For nearly 20 years, our printmaking studio had been an industry leader, and we accomplished it while living in our dream location, just outside of Yosemite National Park. We couldn’t imagine a better life!

This is also the year the movie War Room was released. It’s a movie about the power of prayer, and it led me to pray more deliberately for myself, my family, and the people around me. If you ever wondered about prayer, and if it has an effect on the world at all, or is just wishful thinking…read on (and watch that movie)!

2016: Our company always experienced a downturn during election years, and this time, our business had no busy season. Our market was changing, and what started as a dip in our sales turned into a crater.

I homeschooled my children, and the idea of homeschooling them through high school overwhelmed me. We were attending church an hour away, and I knew it would be difficult for them to be involved in youth activities in a meaningful way, due to the distance. It seemed like we were at a dead end, with few options.

During a walk in Yosemite Valley, Rich suddenly turned to me and told me he thought we needed to sell our house, and that we should get ready for something big. A moment later he added, “Suse…I think we’re going to move to Nashville.” Rich never wanted to leave the mountains. It was as if he turned to me and said, with a perfectly level tone, that he thought we should sell the house and join the circus.

I knew it was God, because Nashville somehow instantly made sense, even though I’d only been there twice on brief visits, and he had never been. At that moment, a sudden peace came over both of us, as we realized God was planning a new direction for our lives. We were on the cusp of a big change.

2017: We thought the move to Nashville was a few years off into the future. We had to save money. We needed time to plan, and to figure out a way to move our business. God wrote the script differently.

We ended up shutting down our business in March 2017, sold our brands to a competitor, sold two houses, and moved the entire contents of our lives to Tennessee in a moving truck on July 1, 2017. Truly, nearly all that we spent 20 years accumulating and working for, was liquidated in a span of a few months. It was a strong reminder of the impermanence of stuff, and the eternal nature of God’s Kingdom. We brought our skills, talents, hearts, and each other to Tennessee. Almost everything else was left behind.

In 2018 I settled into my new job at GraceWorks Ministries. I needed to find a full time job, and I wrote in my journal that, if there was any way possible, I wanted it to be in ministry, and I wanted to be able to invest my talents to help people and grow God’s Kingdom.

I had no local network and an atypical resume, after being self employed for 20 years. I applied for a position through a temp agency, and the day before my interview, a different job came into the agency: a ministry was looking for help. It was GraceWorks. What started as a temp position turned into a full time job as the accounting and HR manager, I found myself using every skill I learned running a small business, and then some. Working in a ministry meant I could be share my faith at work. I could love people as Jesus did, and tell them my God stories, and I wouldn’t get fired or sued. It was an amazingly liberating thing.

As I drove my 40-minute commute to work one morning, I found myself asking God, “Did you really need to move me here to have me drive like this every day? Do I make that big of a difference at GraceWorks?” He reminded me that He’s the God who would leave the 99 sheep to chase down the one who went astray. Aspects of GraceWorks had gone astray, and I was one of the shepherds sent to bring it back on course.

By 2019, our family settled into a routine. For the first year in a long time, we didn’t have a new baby, a major move, or a job change. Having a routine, after several years of turmoil, felt like a miracle. I began attending a small group at my church, and suddenly I found myself with friends in Tennessee who were much like my friends in California…their God stories echoed of the faithfulness of the same God!

That summer, my sister and I managed to move my parents from California to her Ohio town, just before my father encountered major medical issues that he’s still battling today. There is no way they could have navigated their challenges in Oakhurst, as non-drivers, an hour from medical facilities, and with several nearby wildfires that would have further impacted my dad’s breathing issues. It was truly just in time.

2020 – With COVID-19, GraceWorks completely revamped the way we delivered food, and rent and utility assistance. I was able to work a bit in the food pantry, and with staff members I normally didn’t interact with on a daily basis. Though the pandemic kept many people at home, in the ministry, it brought us together in a new way, with new purpose. We filled trunks for 80+ families day, after day, after day, after day. We were often the only people our neighbors had seen or interacted with in quite some time. They were so happy to see friendly faces, and to receive good food.

At the same time, our church began an initiative to keep gathering together as safely as possible. They hosted outdoor worship services, bringing some of the biggest Christian bands (who were out of work, and stuck at home in Nashville) to perform for the community.

The world felt uncertain, and I began to read my Bible more, and to pray more. My kids were sent home on quarantine, and we suddenly found ourselves in a homeschooling situation again, only this time, I was working full time, with a 1.5 hour commute. God showed up by giving me energy; providing Rich with patience; and by giving our kids time to disengage with the sometimes toxic aspects of public school, so they could hear their own voices again. I also found myself unexpectedly applying for a new job, writing for the media team at our church. I ended the year in a new job at our church. A new God story had begun…

And now we’re four months into 2021.

I am working as a full time writer and editor—something I never thought I’d do as a job, back when we were immersed in running our own business. When I graduated college in 1995, I never envisioned using my Journalism degree to work at a Christian ministry, let alone a church. It’s amazing how much God has changed my heart, and the focus of my life, over the course of the past 25+ years.

There are so many things I haven’t listed: The friends who showed up at just the right time; the many stepping stones that were revealed, just in time, as we walked this journey from California to Tennessee; the financial provision; the healing in my heart of things I didn’t even know were there; the people who spoke into my life, in exactly the right way; and how I gave up the beautiful mountain vistas but gained the gift of dynamic and interesting friendships I never would have found, any other way…

Without Jesus, the past six years would have been so much harder, and so much less sweeter. In fact, I think I would have succumbed to dread and despair, if I hadn’t kept my eyes and heart focused solidly forward and upward. One step at a time, He has led us, guided us, and provided what we need. He has been a Constant Companion, a Steady Counselor, and a source of strength and wisdom with every victory and every hardship.

I do not know how people do this hard and crazy life without faith in God…and if you have read this far, and you are one of them, then take a step and ask God to show you He’s real, and to tune your heart so you can see Him at work. Make a point to pray each day, and be specific in your prayers.

When I was first a Christian, I prayed for furniture to fill our hollow, empty townhouse, even though we had no money to buy it. The next day, a woman at my Bible study asked if anyone needed furniture. She needed to find a place for hers while her family went to Ecuador on an extended mission trip. God is that amazing. 

The truth is that hard things come, whether you believe in God or not. The benefit of knowing God, and walking through hard times with Him, is that He will lead you each step of the way; you are never alone; and you know He’s always working you towards something better. Just wait and see.

Jeremiah 33:3 
Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

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

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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.

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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.

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?

Faith, More Posts

Waiting for Easter and normal life to return…

I can’t imagine how disillusioned and disappointed they felt. In one day, their hopes, dreams and plans vanished, as they stared at Jesus, dead on a cross. The one they had given their lives, and their livelihoods, to follow: Dead.

In 2020, we have the benefit of knowing that the story doesn’t end with Jesus dying on the cross. That on Easter Sunday, He miraculously rose from the dead. But his disciples, friends and family didn’t know the full story during the long hours that spanned from Jesus’s death until they found His tomb empty on Easter Sunday morning.

And here, as we sit in the isolation of COVID-19, we are in a season of unsettled waiting, as well. Many are in despair. We bounce amongst the walls of our homes, and wait. We go for a walk, and wait. Those of you who are essential workers are working, working, and working and waiting for a chance to stop and rest.

We don’t know what is to come. We don’t know what is next. We don’t know if our very lives may be lost; or our livelihoods; or maybe both.

But God does.

Who would have imagined a virus could spread across the world and shut down nations, economies and everything within? That the entire modern world would be isolated in their homes, afraid to interact, and terrified of catching an invisible illness?

God works quickly, decisively, and resolutely sometimes. And often, ironically, those periods coincide with a season of waiting for what’s next. Like this season of waiting.

Here are some things to ponder, during this odd and unlikely time:

– What have you written off as being dead, that is actually in the process of being brought to life (or resurrected) in a new way?

– What areas have you let fall to the wayside in the busyness of your normal life?

– What things are you desperately missing (Church, Starbucks, chicken wings, your kids going to school, the novelty of a schedule) that you took for granted?

– Who are you missing that you cannot see right now, even if you wanted to?

I think this season of waiting is making me immensely more informed of the many blessings of my normal daily routine. Don’t you?

As for me, I’m living out this COVID-19 pandemic one hour a time. Some hours I feel like it’s the best thing, having more downtime with my family. Other hours, I feel I am on 2020’s hit list.

Today, however, one thing is very clear: COVID-19 didn’t stop Easter weekend from arriving; a weekend when we are reminded of God’s power. He brought Jesus back to life, and He will do the same thing for us, our circumstances, and our lives.

Our faith can be made stronger, or fall apart, during times like these. Let’s help each other stand strong, look up, and wait patiently.

It really is a matter of time until the miracle of a daily routine will be given back to us. Let’s be ready to embrace it with a new perspective, fresh gratefulness, and a full awareness of the blessing that comes from living “normal life”.

More Posts, Work

Small Business Owners – I Understand!

Oh, Small Business Owner, how I feel for you.

I understand the fear of knowing what tomorrow holds. Stay-at-home orders mean a lack of sales, dwindling business prospects, and evaporating savings accounts.

I understand the faces that pop into your mind at night: Your employees and the faces of their children; those children who are fed each week by the income brought in by your ideas, innovation and persistence. How will those good, good people pay their bills if you lay them off?

I know how you are sitting up, looking for a new market, or a new way to address the same market, to bring in some kind of revenue to bridge this ever-widening gap of income.

And let’s just acknowledge that, when they talk about how most Americans live paycheck to paycheck, the truth is that many American small businesses do, too. The income from this week pays for next week’s payroll…

I know how, even if you have a decent savings stacked away, or a line of credit, how quickly payroll and rent eats that up. $250,000 in the bank can become $250,000 in debt in a few short months for many small businesses. It’s nothing to lose the cost of an entire mortgage or two, with a few months of bad business.

You never thought you’d see 20 years of brutally hard work evaporate, seemingly overnight, right? I get it.

These are the times that small business owners live in a haze of caffeine, anxiety, and endlessly stretching their minds for a great idea that might save the day.

And dare I suggest that the idea that might save the day is this: You don’t need to save the day. 

Run your financials; make projections; create plans and worst case scenarios and backup plans, and whatever you need to do to reconcile the crazy in your mind with the craziness surrounding you…and then take a walk.

Go breathe the air outside, feel the sunshine on your face, and hold your little boy’s hand as he picks up dandelion bouquets. Notice the things in your life that have nothing to do with work, and begin to cherish them in a new way.

If you are like I was, you have become so entrenched in running your business that somehow you became your business. Its success or failure equals your success or failure. And that’s not the truth.

Your business is an entity that you created, grew and gave life to. And just like all things, it has a beginning date, and an end date. Statistics say that most small business owners will outlive their business. Statistics also say that second businesses are often more profitable and better run than the first.

What if this is a turning point for you? What if this is the thing that makes you finally focus on what you’re supposed to be doing? What if it allows you to trim a department or make a change you’ve been knowing you should do, but couldn’t find the justification to do it? Or what if it’s time to stop this business, so you can embrace something new?

I have learned and grown a huge amount in the three years since I closed my small business. I didn’t plan it, and I didn’t expect it…but once I surrendered to a new course for my life, I felt a freedom I hadn’t felt in years. I was able to release the pressure and my own expectations, and look forward as a new chapter began to unfold.

And guess what? I like the new chapter!

My prayer for you, Small Business Owner, is this: That you trust God. That you seek Him out, and ask Him to show you the next step, and the next step, and the next step. And that you embrace that fact that He loves you, and He will give you the wisdom you need to endure this season, and whatever challenges or successes it includes.

While I’d love to tie this up with a neat little bow, the truth is that this season is really hard. Stand strong, breathe deep and press on into tomorrow, one day at a time, knowing you truly are not alone.

Photo: The staff of our small businesses, West Coast Imaging and Aspen Creek Photo, in 2016

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