The Blood of Goats and Calves

I used that title because I’m a former 4th grade teacher who knows about GRABBING the attention of the reader. Unfortunately, because it’s gross, it may also have the ability to send any potential readers running for the hills! Since I was a little girl I’ve had a curious heart for a big God. I had exposures to Him in varying ways (summer camp, sleepovers that led to Sunday morning church, etc.), but I did not understand the true Gospel until I was a grown woman. With that understanding (that continues to grow regularly as I learn more about the Bible), came a connecting of the dots between the Old and New Testament. Jesus Christ, the son of God, is woven through the entire tapestry of the Bible in a truly amazing fashion. The title of this blog comes from Hebrews 9:12. It’s one I did not know until this past week’s sermon and it felt so powerful.

“With his own blood-not the blood of goats and calves-he entered the Most Holy Place once and for all time and secured our redemption forever.”

If you are new to the Christian faith or curious from afar, let me do my best to briefly explain the whole bloody animal bit. Back in the OT times, we had prophets throughout history that God would use as His mouthpiece for the people. The Creator God is SO big, perfect, powerful, etc. that a regular human couldn’t even look at Him because of His glory. Because of His perfection, our sin nature had to be atoned for (or cleansed) and back then, God allowed people to use an innocent lamb or calf as a sacrifice on their behalf. This served as a way to temporarily cover their sins. This does sound strange, but back then, it was a completely acceptable way to use symbolism to show substitution and cleansing. They had numerous, elaborate and very decorative ways to worship and honor God. One example of that was the creation of the Most Holy Place, the fanciest and most important section of the Tabernacle/Temple, that was symbolic for being “set apart” as God had to be because of the sin of mankind.

Now, the weirdly beautiful part about it is that throughout the Old Testament, there were prophecies (many VERY specific) that told of someone coming that would become a ONCE AND FOR ALL sacrifice to cover sin. So, throughout the OT, the people were living and recognizing their sin, seeing that it was impossible to be perfect and recognizing their need for atonement (cleansing) in order to come in contact with the Holy God. They hoped and waited, explaining this hope throughout generations, and then FINALLY, the prophecies come true with the arrival of Jesus Christ that we read about in the New Testament. This was the plan all along. God always intended to send His Son, who came as both fully God and fully Man, to die as the ULTIMATE sacrifice. Three days later, Jesus rose up from the dead, was seen by hundreds of people, and then went up to Heaven where He is now, sitting at the right hand of God. He’s there thinking of us and praying on our behalf.

I’ve been particularly emotional and sensitive to this Easter season and feeling especially grateful for all that Jesus Christ did for us. God is alive. When we repent (recognize our sin nature) and choose to trust and put our faith in Christ, we are FOREVER safe and can rest in Him. He’s preparing a place for us to spend eternity in Heaven, where there will be no more pain and heartache. He delights in us NO MATTER WHAT. He loves us so much that He planned all of this FOR US. That is news that my deep-down soul needs to hear on an everyday basis.

If you are curious, even a little bit, about a higher power of some sort, I encourage you to reach out and pray. You don’t have to speak in fancy words. You just start talking and asking Him about whatever you wonder, doubt, or need. He already knows you. He loves you. The Gospel is beautiful in a million ways, but it can also seem rough around the edges to some that look from afar; the bloody animals, the bloody death on a cross…it’s powerful. It’s intriguing. It’s curious. It has the potential to knock your socks off. Don’t shy away from taking a look. As my pastor said on Easter Sunday, this truth demands our response.

You are loved, dear reader. I thank God for the HOPE of Christ.

Dear Dad,

Dear Dad,

You’ve been gone from this earthly life for 365 days. Some days it feels fresh and others I even forget you’re gone and it catches me off guard. Because our relationship was difficult for the last few years of your life and our interactions intermittent and emotional, I’m beginning to think my grief processing was delayed. It has been felt a great deal more over these last few months. I have been confused. It’s alarmed me because it comes in strange ways. I have been making choices out of sadness or fear, but also beginning to use those experiences for finding paths towards self-improvement, which I think you would be pleased with and want me to continue. 

To know you’re gone forever here is strange. Recently I could picture and almost feel what it was like to hug you. It was eery and so very sad for my little girl spirit. As most people say, whether in real life or in the movies, I do wish I could hug you one more time; to move your glasses away from your neck and hear you say, “I love ya” in my ear. I can see the tanned skin of your scruffy cheek and feel the firm stomach pressed on me as we hugged. Dad, if I knew that snowy day last January would be the last time I’d get to hug you, I would have stayed for hours. I would have asked you so many questions and just snuggled up next to you on the couch. 

I really miss what could be. Just today when I visited the post office, I saw a little girl with her Papa. A couple of weeks ago I stopped a grandpa in the grocery store that was with his granddaughter to tell him how wonderful it was that he could spend this time with her. Dad, you would have been such a wonderful Grampy! You would have loved to sit on the couch and let my little Rachel entertain you. She would dance and sing and you would get that grin that let me know that you were content and so happy. My sweet boy is playing basketball and I know you would be at his games and watch with pride. You would shoot hoops with him in the driveway. You missed so much before you left and I’m sad to think of all you will continue to miss.

You met God through hard times while you were here. I think you are there with Him now and are sensing His pleasure in you, regardless of any and all mistakes you made here. I believe you are with your brother, Steve, and that you gave him a tight hug when you first arrived. I believe you are with your Mother and that she is so beautiful that you are somehow seeing her with new eyes. I believe you are at rest; oh, that amazing, soothing and freeing rest that we both crave. Although I have sorrow that comes because of what could have been, I have hope that I will get to hug you again someday. Plus, there’s still laughter to be had. When I first started this letter, I had a typo and initially wrote, “Dead Dad”. That’s funny right there. 

I miss you, Dad. 

Let’s Go Brandon??

What started as a live television interview goof, the “Let’s Go Brandon” phrase has infiltrated the conservative political world and become a way to express deep frustration over the current United States Administration. I am truly amazed at how quickly it’s been embraced and become commonplace, especially among the Christian community. I feel incredibly frustrated by it, too. Is the fast pace media-driven world an excuse for such “accepted” and blatant disrespect for the leader of our country? When did things change so rapidly that this is now allowed by the same political party that prides itself on honoring our country and its rich history and not to mention its Christian principles?
This post is written to the grandmother who is driving around town with both her grandchild’s Christian school logo and “Let’s Go Brandon” bumper sticker on the back of her car. The same car that carries the grandchild’s backpack and sports equipment. This means OUR KIDS THINK THIS IS ACCEPTABLE. Ha! It’s a funny goof where the tv host thought the crowd was cheering for the race car driver, but alas, they were cheering as disrespectful of a phrase as I can think of for the leader of our country: F*uck Joe Biden. Do you think our kids aren’t going to figure out what the heck it’s actually meaning? Are we ok with our kids thinking that we’re ok with speaking a phrase like that about anyone, much less our President? Even as I type this on my computer and my sweet little girl happens to read the title of it, I’m flustered and redirect her so that I don’t have to explain it.
An excuse I recently heard was that the Democratic Party used to berate and say disrespectful things about George W. Bush all the time. Then there’s the obvious excuse that “The President is terrible and leading our country into the ground.” Although I’m filled to the brim with my own sin nature and poor choices, as a Christian/Follower of Christ, I don’t think these should ever be excuses to speak and share words like these. I am well aware of how this could make me sound like I need to get off my high horse or maybe that I even need to wake up to the reality of how bad our President really is. I choose to speak my thoughts regardless. It is tacky. It is disrespectful. It is sad. If you consider what Jesus would do under the circumstances, I believe he would speak boldly, yet calm and direct. I believe He would be consistent in his actions and naturally “take the high road”. He would be modeling how to respectfully stand up for what he believes is good. WORDS HAVE POWER.

So Long, Farewell!

Today is January 1, 2022. I’m intentionally writing this morning to reflect on anything I’ve learned in 2021 and desires I have for this new year. I hope not to do so in a dramatic way with lofty ambitions and rose-colored glasses. If we never stop to consider how things are going, I bet we’re likely to just keep on doing more of the same. Maybe that’s good, but it also makes a lot of space for poor habits to continue settling into our bones.

2021 had grief, sickness, new opportunities, relationship strains, medical advancements that balanced health, big changes, maturity, travel, a move, reconnections, and therapeutic conversations. I purposely bounced between positive and negative in that list because it’s LIFE; an up and down marathon. When I consider the more difficult experiences, it brings up things I’d like to work on improving. For example, with the loss of my father this year, I realize even more how valuable the opportunity is of still having my mother. One of my values is quality family time (see ACT, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, for more), so in order to practice living with that value in mind, I want to prioritize more intentional time with my Mother. I haven’t run that by her (hi, Mom!), but I hope she’s ok with it. The one simple value of quality, intentional family time can pour out into my everyday life in many ways and can have a domino effect. 2021 certainly brought me wonderful insight into how revolutionary value-based living can be (I found this rather simple and helpful resource, if you care to learn more).

My best friend uses a word of the year, which I began last year because of the influence its had in her life. Last year I chose GRAY in hopes of choosing to better accept uncertainty and the unknown. Although it did not serve as a dramatic guiding light for me, I can look back and see several areas where I began to practice accepting things as they are and recognizing when my expectations were out of line. I give great credit to the counseling I’ve been a part of this past year.

I have had two words bouncing around in my mind over the last several weeks as I think about values, goals and changes I want to make. BALANCE & PRACTICE. They uniquely tie together in a way I’ve never considered. I have spent years beating myself up for my lack of self-discipline and motivation. I would try to use self-control when it came to alcohol and social media, or attempt self-discipline with household tasks and exercise, but I continued to fail. Failing to me meant not doing it perfectly, every time, on a regular basis. Just yesterday I heard an analogy using a donkey and carrot. If we want a donkey to follow our lead, we can use a carrot or a stick; both will get the donkey moving, but which do you think he prefers?

My hopes for 2022 include PRACTICING BALANCE in living a life that is VALUES BASED. For me, that looks like:

intentional time with my children

quality family time

gentle care for my body and mind

prioritizing my relationship with and learning about Christ

organization in my home

closeness with my husband

serving others

being brave in making and developing friendships

engaging in the creative arts

If you’re not a fan of setting New Year’s Resolutions, I hear you. As I grow older, I’m seeing the frailty in those type of goals. I would encourage you to consider what is most important to you; not just goals, but what would a nourishing, valuable life look like to you?

I wish you much joy and the peace of Christ, dear reader. Happy New Year!

Jesus Freak

This blog title is the name of a song from the mid-90s that has long since given me the heebie jeebies. I didn’t want to be associated with those types of Christians; the ones who wore black t-shirts with a cross made of big nails (no offense if this was or is your jam). When they put their hands in the air, to me, it made the Christian life appear easy and seem like there was zero room for doubt. More than that, they wanted to share this good news with a passion and that seemed uncomfortable. I don’t like uncomfortable and especially don’t like to make others feel it. So, any expression of faith that I’ve ever had, for the most part, has been timid. As I’ve said 2,001 times on this little blog, I tend to be a people pleaser. Honestly, I have cared way more what the humans around me think of me than I do the big God I believe is the Creator of all things. That’s a big embarrassing. 

Just like with politics, religion is a sticky topic and ripe for ugly discourse. I poked my little nose into a faith-based or political hornet’s nest a couple of times and ran away with my tail between my legs because I hate the feeling of disapproval. One of these times was several years ago when out of nowhere, I had the notion to “share the Gospel” with a few family members that do not believe the God of the Bible to be real or relevant. This was very unlike me and because I felt such a strong feeling in my gut about it, I thought it was possibly the Holy Spirit nudging me. (Yes, I said it. Holy Spirit. I also refer to Satan, the Deceiver, from time to time, too. He’s a nasty one). I wrote a letter and, along with a Lee Strobel DVD (because I thought the idea of watching something would be easier than reading an actual book), I mailed them to a handful of these family members that repeatedly came to mind. It was terrifying. For you Jesus Freaks out there, this is a piece of cake, but you could call me a Jesus Wimp! I had sweaty palms as I dropped them at the Post Office.

Sometimes when I think of it, I’m proud of myself for having the balls (“yikes. should she be using the word balls in a post about Jesus, for crying out loud?”) to send them in the first place, but other times I just feel icky. The response was mixed reviews. One led to a VERY high-stress (I’m talking really sweaty palms here) string of email communications to debate the issues, which was ultimately ok with me because it meant dialogue. The most difficult response came in the form of a stern letter (unopened DVD included) that advised me to not push my beliefs on them. Although I wouldn’t call it fruitful, any potential behind the scenes heart and mind changes are things that only God will know and ultimately (and thankfully) not my responsibility.

I’ve read a lot of stories of other believers that have prayed for years and years for their loved ones’ salvation. This encourages me to continue to pray for those people that come to my mind; that they would have softened hearts and minds towards Jesus. In an attempt to be actively praying this for my family members and friends, I created an alert so that their initials pop up on my phone each Friday as a reminder to pray. I may never see changes in my lifetime, but I’m believing that I’m honoring God by praying and maybe He’s working on me through it.

Praying has been as far as I’ve gone in recent years in an attempt to help others know God. I don’t have the natural boldness that others have, but I think a big misconception I’ve been carrying is that we should feel bold in order to be bold in our faith. My current bible study (through BSF) is on the New Testament Book of Matthew and I’m learning so much on this topic. It’s encouraging me to practice loosening my fear of looking like a kooky Jesus Freak and moving toward my confidence in Christ. Faith is not simply a soft and cuddly positive outlook that everything will be ok. My BSF notes on Matthew Chapter 8 boldly define biblical faith as, “relational trust in God – not just that He exists, but that what He has promised is true and worthy of personal commitment”.

As we dive headlong into the Christmas season, it is easy to glide along listening to carols, frantically shopping for gifts, or cursing the loneliness with bottle in hand. Then there’s the mall Santas telling us we better be good and the damn Elf on the Shelf reminding us that we can never get our act together in remembering to move it (I banned the Elf on Day 2 of Christmas 2015). Mindlessness and avoidance can be the name of the game and before we know it, the season is over and it’s back to “normal”. I don’t want that. There just has to be more to this life. Thank God, there is. It’s Jesus.

Questions to ponder this Christmas season: Is Jesus really the “Reason for the Season”? Is the Christmas Story fact or fiction? The history, the archaeological evidence, the supernatural occurrences…What would it mean for you, in your everyday life and for whatever happens after you stop breathing, if Jesus Christ truly is the Son of God? It could be a Game Changer. Worth the ponder, but don’t stop there. This evidence demands a response, one way or another. My Christmas prayer for you, dear reader, is that you would know God’s love for you and that your heart and mind would be softened to hear and trust in His truth.

Love, Emily

This Thanksgiving Day

I’m wearing a cozy sweater and puffy vest right now and taking in delightfully crisp weather on this Thanksgiving Day. My view entails a multitude of fall colors in the trees and those leaves already fallen, the light reflecting off the lake with shades of moss green from the depth, along with a faint whiff of firewood burning (or maybe that’s my own clothing that’s oozing of it from the last couple days of campfire smoke). A family reunion of sorts is occurring this Thanksgiving Day and I am with some of my most favorite people in the whole wide world. Cool weather makes everything feel a little better. Cozy sweaters, wool socks, puffy vests, pumpkin pie cooling…these are indeed a few of my favorite things.

 It doesn’t mean that I feel pure joy in every moment of this season, but rather that I feel moments of immense joy that spur me on towards the next moment and the one after that. With influencers pushing the magic of the pumpkin spice that make things appear practically perfect, sometimes it can feel like we’re doing something wrong; like we should be jumping in piles of leaves without a care in the world. Life doesn’t stop for us though. Thankfully, we can practice gratitude and often be surprised by how helpful that can be to encourage us to move through the ups and downs. The author/artist Ruth Cho Simons reminded me today on Instagram of this truth. She said, “Tell your soul what to do. Rehearse what to do, not just what you feel.” This doesn’t say “slap on a fake smile” to me, but rather be gentle and simply practice (it’s become my favorite phrase in working towards health) gratitude. I shared her post to my page just in case I had friends that needed to hear it, too. You can feel both: the icky and the delightful. It’s a gift to recognize that it’s ok to do so.

My gratitude bucket overflowed this week. I certainly had grumpy, tired, dog-barfing, disposal clogging, dead dad sadness, and constipation woes, too, but the cozy moments were dabbled enough in between. I’m thankful for the family we spent time with this past week, from a camping trip to a lakeside family slumber party. I’m thankful for the bright green patches of grass poking up from under a thick layer of brown and gold crisp leaves. I’m thankful for the remains of a charcoaled fire pit that brought silly jokes, belly laughs and plans for future gatherings of cousins. I’m thankful for the boat dock that held a dozen family members snuggled and relaxing, a wirey-haired puppy dog, and chilly fingertips being periodically warmed by the sun.

I’m deeply grateful for my Auntie who speaks words of life to me. She whispers in my ear as she hugs and they are things I didn’t know I desperately needed to hear. I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to finally meet a long-lost cousin and see him meld in with us almost as though we’ve always known him. I’m thankful for the hope of future reunification of family members. I’m thankful for the comfort of my mother, especially as I feel the permanency of losing my Dad, and that she lives close to me so I can regularly know that comfort. I’m thankful for my step-Dad, that has smoothly moved into the role as one of my children’s grandfathers. I’m thankful for the mix of conversation, both silly and reflective, that I have with my cousins and wish I had hours more. I’m thankful for my little brother, especially as I hear him in conversation across the room refer to me as his sister, because it makes me feel the sacredness of that title and reminds me of how glad I am that we have each other. I’m thankful for my beautiful sister-in-law and her peaceful nature that oozes out when around her.

Even though I’ve spent a great deal of time in very close quarters to my immediate people and worked through whining, dirty socks and stinky toots, I’m feeling cozy gratitude for the opportunity to love them. I’m delightfully exhausted from this weeklong trip, but also ready for the Christmas season that has now begun. I’m ready to welcome in the stressful moments, frustrating disappointments when I’ve let my expectations get the best of me, and will look for and practice carrying a spirit of joy, whether I feel like it or not. Will you join me? 

Xoxo, Emily

Feeling All the Feelings That I Feel

I’m feeling overwhelmed. I’m not, but it feels like it. I don’t need anyone to give me grief or tell me I shouldn’t act/feel/think this way because I’m my own worst critic. I don’t have it bad. I have an abundance of good. The biggest culprit behind my overwhelm right now is being smack in the middle of moving from one home to the next, but I should be grateful and shouldn’t be complaining, right? Just like the kind older woman from church told me years ago when I gave a her a brief peek into my anxious mind, “Just look at your blessings!” There may not be logic to my swirling feelings, but this is depression. Although I’m not sure why, I’d like to give you a glimpse into what depression looks like on me; a 42-year-old privileged mother who should be thriving. It may even look like I am on the outside, but the swirling is on the inside.

Because I have had many, many years of mental health counseling, I’ve picked up a few phrases or explanations for how depression works. It’s one thing to know the buzz words and quite another to apply them in real life. I often deal with a lot of Cognitive Distortions. Maybe you do, too. Most of the time I don’t catch them, but sometimes I do. Just the other day I very loudly noticed one of these distortions in action and it allowed me to recognize that maybe my depression was “inflamed”, if you will. Mental illnesses are generally chronic and when life hits with an increase in stress, the symptoms can become exacerbated. In a nutshell, I feel like a failure in most areas. This comes in the internal critique that I’m lazy. It comes in the form of thoughts like, I’m not a good mother. Some of my friends didn’t invite me to hang out with them because I’m a burden. I can’t keep up with basic things in the house. This person thinks I’m annoying. That family member thinks I’m complaining too much. They don’t want to spend time with me. How come they didn’t call me? I don’t know how to be myself. I spoke out about something and now have done irreversible damage to that relationship. God is disappointed in me. I’ll never get better at this.

As I type that list and the phrases kept flooding, I burst into tears because of how awful they sound and yet how true they feel. This is depression. These are cognitive distortions. If you’re not familiar with what that means, here is a list I stumbled upon that I found helpful and clear. In addition to picking up on that negative banter that was becoming a regular script, I’ve noticed how much more tired I feel. I’ve been crying more often. I even had a “classic” sign of crawling into my bed one morning this week and sleeping rather than being productive like I should have. I recently reduced my anti-depressant medication (with my doctor’s approval) and this may be a solid sign that I may need to go back up to where I was. Is that disappointing? A bit. The side effects (weight gain, lethargy and an increase in heat-sensitivity aka sweaty!) aren’t my favorite, but I do know that my well-being is more important.

Besides considering my medication dosage, what else can I do about it? Thankfully, I’ve had a lot of “experience” with this so I’m a tiny bit better equipped, but it’s still not easy. Another buzz word from therapy is Behavioral Activation. This is basically doing the things you know you should do, but really don’t want to do. It’s moving forward; one step at a time. It’s really the only way to find more freedom or ease of symptoms, but it won’t feel good right away. It may not feel good for some time. It may be as simple as getting out of bed and walking to the mailbox each day or for me right now, it’s getting up with my alarm or purposely listening to a podcast that I like. I need to and want to be kind to myself. Right now I may feel frustrated or angry with myself, but I can practice being kind. The biggest key I have in my toolbox is PRACTICING. I am going to choose to practice making space for quiet in my day and for setting small goals. I’m also going to ask for help. I’m going to pray and PRACTICE reminding myself of how God truly feels about me; whether I feel like it’s true or not.

If you have experienced anything like this or love someone that does and you don’t know what to say or do, begin by asking for help. Try to be consistent. Practice being kind to yourself. This life is filled with so many emotions and experiences. Just because you may be more sensitive to those things doesn’t mean you are wrong or broken. Our minds just need more tending to; just like a diabetic or quadriplegic need more physical tending. We are worth it. As I heard this morning in church worship, if I’m not dead, then God’s not done. We are still breathing and I’m here right alongside you.

10 Things I Hate About You.

Hey, girl. I hope this doesn’t hurt your feelings too much, but some people don’t like you (sigh. or me). I know, right? Some people get annoyed with the way we talk or dress and shonuf don’t think our jokes are funny. It sucks, I know. I’m 42 (or am I 43?) years old and I still try too hard to make them like me and care too much whether they do or not. I worry if I said the right thing or if I said the wrong thing or said too many things. Honestly, by the end of interactions like these, I feel worn out! As I reflect on this overthinking habit, sometimes I get frustrated with myself that I care so much. I’ve written about this before, so clearly it isn’t an easy habit to shake, but I’m not letting this one go. 

I’m going to take you back old school, circa 1991. I’m a 6th grade student at Lincoln Middle School with a mean permed mullet. Walking into school one day, I was confident enough to wear a rather vibrant pair of shorts. They were lively with abstract colors and design. Within a matter of a class period or two, I heard a comment from a fellow student about how ugly my shorts were. Well, that was the end of any confidence I was carrying in my Jansport. During my health class, the assignment had something to do with writing a reflection in my journal. Because I can sometimes resemble a packrat, I kept this journal and ran across it years later in an attic purge. What I was reminded of and sometimes even consider impactful in my decision to become a teacher, was the kind note scribbled at the bottom of my entry. Sadly, I don’t even recall the teacher’s name, but she validated how that must have made me feel. She encouraged me to be confident being myself and finally, jotted a “P.S. I really like your shorts!” Mind you, I doubt my 11-year-old brain truly trusted or took to heart the stylistic opinions of an “ancient” 30-something woman, but her thoughtfulness influenced me nonetheless. 

Words have power. We tend to cling to the crappy ones and they tattoo themselves to our brain, but I have a game plan. Let’s practice not caring (even though we often still will). Let’s practice wearing the piece of clothing or accessory we really like, but typically hesitate in case someone will think it looks dumb. What about sending the text about hanging out even if we worry they might be annoyed and only say yes out of obligation? Maybe even the most important thing might be the way we talk to ourselves with those worries that come after an interaction with someone. Even though it may feel uneasy or strange, we can try making space for the uncertainties of others’ opinions of us. Maybe I did blab too much about XYZ. It’s possible they think the sparkly bumble bee earrings were a bit much. They might not have invited me to that get-together because I’m loud and unpredictable, but WHATEVS. It is really tiring to get all of my ducks in a row to make sure I don’t rock the boat of their approval or upset the apple cart filled with their “Like” button. Here’s all the evidence: Life is too short! We should listen more to our favorite colors, activities, and accessories. I believe we will ATTRACT healthy relationships with others by practicing healthy relationship with ourselves. Say the thing. Stand up for something you think is good. Does your heart feel a tiny bit giddy when you see that karate cat t-shirt? Wear it, girl! Practice talking freely, sharing stories or comments that come to mind. We have to PRACTICE being us and taking the chance that it won’t win over everyone’s approval. Luckily, as I said already, we already know not everyone will anyways. Whew. What a relief. (Wink, wink. That’s me practicing.) 

We Will Never Forget

Today is September 11, 2021. It’s been 20 years since the terrorist attacks on our country. Every year when this date rolls around, I feel a tug to watch footage from that day, to remember. I don’t know why exactly, since it does nothing but bring about a heaviness in my mind and gut, but yet, here I am, pausing the television to write my story and reflect, before I again, hit play and travel back in my mind to that day in my life. As a college student finishing my last semester and internship with a group of 5th graders, I had no clue what was happening or how it would affect us. We flew by the seat of our pants in how to best address such a frightening time with the young children I was teaching. How much is too much? How must my parents have felt with me being away from home during such an uncertain time? I was barely an adult, feeling both terribly alone, yet closer than ever to my fellow American citizens, as we were dipped into a vat of common humanity like never before.

I often consider 9/11 to be similar to the attack on Pearl Harbor in the way Americans of different generations feel and respond to its anniversary. Unfortunately, because of my age, I have often dismissed Pearl Harbor as something “from the history books”. I wasn’t alive at that time, so it hasn’t had the power over me that 9/11 does and will likely continue to do. I feel disheartened by the idea that the September 11 anniversary will be skimmed over, like an advertisement post on social media, but I understand why it is so. Because of this, I see now that I feel an obligation of sorts, to pause and remember. I don’t want to forget.

What does this mean for us, as Americans? Why pull ourselves back into that pain? I firmly believe by doing so, we are honoring and showing respect to every single life lost, those impacted by loss, by trauma, and by chronic pain brought on by the rescue mission. I also feel it can help us with perspective on pain, compassion, and the honor of being an American. We were so vulnerable on that day and the many days to follow. It felt frightening to move about our everyday lives with the uncertainty of what was to come. It also brought a pride in my country and feeling of comaraderie like I have never felt before or since. Although our country is torn and heightened with fear, I want that reminder of what is possible. I want to pause and reflect on how many Americans were driven into service because of that day twenty years ago. How many families were affected both on that day, but since then as they have protected us from further terrorism? I want to pause and consider how difficult it must be to carry the task of leadership in our country, especially on an anniversary like today. Thank you, Families of Lost Ones. Thank you, Americans. I hope we will never forget.

Surrender to the Flow

You know those moments when you hear a phrase of some sort and it stops you in your tracks? It often happens to me when I’m reading and I’ll underline it. Sometimes it’ll get transferred into my notebook or journal, but over my lifetime, it’s few that lodge into my brain for future recall. I do love those (the good ones, at least), especially when they pop back to the forefront right when we need it. It’s certainly the benefit of memorization of scripture, so that we can “bind them on (our) heart always” (Prov. 7:3).

Recently, my husband was watching The River Runner documentary on Netflix which is about a group of hardcore kayakers taking on some of the most dangerous spots in the world. I only caught bits and pieces as I walked through the room, but towards the end I stopped for a watch because of the stunning beauty and sounds. The subject of the documentary, Scott Lindgren, was reflecting on his life-changing experience of having been diagnosed with a brain tumor and how it changed his perspective and the way he approached things. He said, “I tried to control everything in my life. And once I realized, with my tumor, that I had no control over that, I just surrendered to the flow of life.” Now, I know the dramatic music playing to the slow-mo wave crashing action played a part in my having the “stop me in my tracks” feeling, but I took that phrase, “surrendered to the flow of life”, and visually applied it to my own life.

One of the areas I continually try to weave into my everyday mindset is practicing being mindfully aware of the thoughts and feelings that might try and set up shop in my mind. Generally, these are the stinky or condescending ones and I’m often unaware of their impact. Sometimes though, I can notice them and try to visually let them float down the river in my mind. Yes, I’ve created a safe, cozy little creek in my mind and the thoughts or emotions can be labeled on a leaf that bobs on down at its own pace. Because of this cozy creek of mine, I can see why the powerful river analogy felt so profound.

As I’m typing, I’m reminded of my trips to Adventure Island as a girl. I absolutely love water parks, but I’ve never been keen on too high or too fast, so I was never a Tampa Typhoon type of gal. Even with the simple slides, if my bathing suit bottom picked up a notch in speed, I was pushing out my arms to slow my roll. It was an automatic response to when things felt out of control. How similar that is to moving through life! The weaving pattern of life is similar to gravity on a water slide; we can do our best to slow things down or hide away from trouble, but it’s just plain inevitable that we will keep moving. Are you even aware of how often you’re trying to push off the slippery sides of life? I found Scott’s statement so profound because it felt so freeing. In fact, just a few sentences later, he said, “I no longer try to control the outcome to anything. I just show up with my heart. And it gave me so much freedom.”

So, as usual, this post serves as nothing more than a personal reflection that I hope may help me with more awareness and maybe be encouraging to someone, somewhere, in this World Wide Web. May we both begin to practice surrendering to the (inevitable) flow of life.