5 Types of Grief That Are Healthy, Helpful, & Productive

Grief is no fun. We don’t like to be in pain. We don’t like to see others in pain. And, while we know the grief process is necessary, we sometimes wish it would hurry up so we can feel better.

But, what if we reframed it? What if grief, as an inevitable part of life, could be a gift? What if we could recognize several forms of grief that help us heal, honor, and move with our losses, rather than trying to leave them behind?

In that spirit, I want to offer you five healthy, productive types of grief that can help support us in our losses, rather than feeling like grief is working against us. This may just be the helpful framework we’ve been searching for.

5 Healthy, Productive Types of Grief

Anticipatory Grief: This is a hard, but truly helpful type of grief. Anticipatory grief is very much what it sounds like. It’s the kind of grieving you do when you are “anticipating” a loss, such as when someone receives a terminal diagnosis. As painful as it feels to think about “after”, to make the arrangements, to endure the physical decline, it is also a beautiful gift to psychologically move forward with some of the necessary grieving that needs to be processed, one way or another.

Acute Grief: This is what we most commonly think of as “grief.” It’s the emotional pain that occurs simultaneously with loss, sometimes overwhelming us. This is the tears, the grasping for a different reality, almost losing a sense of time and space because our world has changed so dramatically. And, while it may be incredibly difficult to think of one of these concepts in such a time, this type of grief is a gift. Our brains know when something is “too much.” The disconnection we sometimes feel during deep emotional distress is part of the way we cope. Then, we can reengage later, when it is psychologically safer to do so.

Displaced/Deferred Grief: This type of grief is fascinating, and such a smart way our brains handle things sometimes. Displaced grief is when we encounter a loss, but we transfer the grieving to a different situation. Case in point, when I lost my father at sixteen, I grieved. But, the loss was just too intense to grieve completely at that time. Fast forward nine months, to the breakup with my high school boyfriend, and I stuck the grief there. That loss was more “normal” and “developmentally-in-sync” at sixteen. Years later, I could see that I displaced that sadness and cried those tears in another space but grieved both experiences nonetheless.

Delayed Grief: This type of grief can get a bad wrap. People sometimes get criticized for “not dealing” with their sadness if it is not done immediately, and outwardly. Now, if someone is intentionally avoiding their grief, that can be concerning. But, many people experience delayed grief not because they are avoiding it, but because it doesn’t “fit” yet. The loss of a loved one can quickly become an uncommonly busy and complicated time. When you have decisions to make about funerals, obituaries, bills, bank accounts, and who knows what else, sometimes the grieving takes a back seat. No worries, they’ll get to it. They’ve just got a few other things to take care of first.

Sacred/Ritual Grief: This last category may be my “favorite” type of grief, if that’s not too strange of a thing to say. Death happens. Losses are part of life. And, the way people find to honor those losses as life moves forward can be so beautiful. Sacred or ritual grief is the sadness, memories, and/or intensity that resurface at times, sometimes predictably and sometimes unpredictably. It is visiting gravesides, celebrating birthdays, memorial runs, and “talking” to them. It is also the song that catches you off guard, an experience that makes you wish they were there, or the tears falling years later seemingly out of nowhere. It is the sacredness of having loved someone in such a way that they go with you and “rejoin” you from time to time. And, you let them.

Dear readers, thank you for your indulgence in reading through this post on such a difficult topic. Grief has become such a sacred space in my own life, and I hope this can somehow make it a more supported one for you. As hard as it is, it is also certainly a worthwhile endeavor for this integral part of our common human experience.

Photo by Ante Gudelj on Unsplash

The Three Ways of Jesus

Writing over at The Glorious Table today with a mashup of Jesus and Sherlock Holmes. Start with a preview here or click this link for the full post. Enjoy!

I’m a big fan of Sherlock Holmes. I first fell in love with the series in an unconventional place, when Data from Star Trek solved mysteries on the holodeck of the Starship Enterprise (catching my geeky vibes yet?). I was then later enthralled, shocked, and thoroughly amused by the more modern version starring the ever-quirky and entertaining Robert Downey, Jr.

Given the long-standing popularity of the series (it first started in 1887!), it seems mysteries are beloved by many. I find that interesting since most of us are really not a fan of suspense in our own lives. I guess it feels okay to sit in the unknown when you are watching it play out for someone else—and when it wraps up by the end of a feature-length movie.

In all the time I’ve spent watching Sherlock Holmes, very rarely can I figure out the answers ahead of time (the goal of a mystery). Usually, it develops over the course of the story, with bits and pieces of evidence coming together as we go along. Of course, I love it at the end when all comes clear and I can finally say, “Of course! I can see it all now!” That space is so much more comfortable than the suspense of the unknown.

The suspense of the unknown. Anybody recognize their walk with Jesus in that phrase? I imagine so. We sure do prefer when we can see what he’s up to rather than living in uncertainty.

In our own stories, occasionally God is super clear. Other times, we only get bits and pieces of information until he reveals the ending. I have no idea why he chooses one way over another, but I think it’s fun to look at the different options. Below are just two examples of his strategies from the very end of his time here on earth.

The Three Ways of Jesus

When Jesus Was Crystal Clear

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:25-29 NIV)

Just as he was with Thomas, sometimes Jesus is super clear with us. These are rare, merciful times when he lets us see and feel exactly what he is up to. At these times, we exclaim like Thomas that he is so clearly our Lord and our God. These times when he is so viscerally real to us are precious.

When Jesus Let the Story Develop

To read the rest of the post click to go to The Glorious Table here.

The Benefits of Reframing Emotional Bravery for Children

Me: “Hey buddy, just wanted to say we’re proud of you. You were really brave last night.”

Son: “Because I stopped crying?”

Me: “No, not because you stopped crying. Because you were willing to feel your feelings.”

This scene happened six months ago, the day after we told our children we were moving. As with many kids when they move, they had some big feelings. There was anger, tears, a lot of questions, more anger, and more tears. Of course, we did not want them to hurt. And, as parents, we did not want to watch them hurt. But, we knew it would hurt them more to shut them down. So, hard as it was, we encouraged them to feel. And, feel they did.

I admit, it kind of bummed me out the next morning when my son repeated the age-old lie that brave = not crying. But, it also isn’t surprising. Teaching kids that feeling is brave is an ongoing project because it is the opposite message from what they often hear or absorb. So, we remind them, again and again. It’s just too important. Becoming emotionally healthy “feelers” benefits kids (and their later adult selves) in the most incredible ways.

Anne Rulo Benefits Reframing Emotional Bravery Children

How Engaging with Emotions Benefits Kids

Emotional Intelligence: Children who are encouraged to engage with and process their feelings get the chance to safely experience what different emotions feel like. Just like someone who has listened to a lot of music learns to pick out the difference between a violin and a guitar, a child who has permission to get to know their feelings will learn how to pick out embarrassed, lonely, or vulnerable from just “sad.” Knowing these nuances helps them to identify the pain and move through it more smoothly. Feelings wheels are a great place to start (link).

Emotional Permission: Children who are encouraged to feel their feelings tend to create safe space for others to do the same. It’s a powerful thing for one kid to give permission to another child to feel, especially if they don’t get that permission elsewhere. When we speak emotional freedom to our kiddos, it helps give them the language to benefit the other children they are around.

Emotional Endurance: It’s no fun to see our kids hurt. However, if we protect them from every pain, they don’t learn how to manage them. Emotional pain is a reality of living. So, when we give them permission to feel and move through their pain, they learn that there is relief eventually on the other side. Letting them gain this knowledge as children gives them good emotional “endurance” muscles for those tougher things that come with adolescent and adult life.

Emotional Confidence: Despite my son’s repetition of “the brave lie” the next day, he did a beautiful job of moving through his feelings the night before. It is the most incredible thing to watch humans (my kid, clients, friends, myself) encounter emotional pain, bravely engage, hurt like a son-of-a-gun, but then, usually, rise. I’ve had the incredible privilege to watch time and time again as people encounter anything from a scraped knee to unimaginable tragedy—they eventually come through. They rise in hope, they begin to envision the future, and they ask questions about what will be. And, every time this happens, there is an emotional confidence layer instilled that we can get through life’s difficulties, gain knowledge, and find solutions that allow us to move forward.

So, the next time our kiddos run up against a painful time, we can encourage them to “be brave.” But, this time, our definition won’t only be what the world says is brave. Instead, it will be what also helps them feel, cope, and rise on the other side. Here’s to raising a generation of brave, emotionally healthy humans.

Photo by Xavier Mouton Photographie on Unsplash

When You Grow Weary of Validating Your Kid: How Mirror Neurons Can Help

There is so much value that comes from validating our children’s emotions. From their earliest years, we can do the important work of teaching what their emotions are (i.e. “It looks like you are sad”) as well as affirming that difficult emotions can be experienced and managed, “I hear you saying that you are angry. Can we cuddle for a minute and talk about it?” It’s all very valuable. It’s all very kind. And, it’s all very fabulous in the theory-land of parenting. That is, until you just can’t do it anymore.

Yep. Sometimes I’m just too tired to validate my kids’ emotions.

Anne Rulo Validating Kid Mirror Neurons

Now, as a therapist, I know how important this validation is. I’m not throwing out the idea that it needs be done. I’m just saying that the mental and emotional bandwidth it takes to think of the right words and the right approach in the middle of a child’s meltdown when dinner is on the stove and your iced tea just spilled is not easy.

We have to have another option when our nerves are frayed, our kids are not in a space to hear our words or, we are simply too worked up to say the kind, appropriate, healthy thing.

Enter mirror neurons.

Mirror neurons are one of the most important brain discoveries of the past 20+ years. And, their implications for parenting are incredibly valuable. Basically, mirror neurons are the part of our brain that is wired to respond empathically (psychologically identify) with what someone else is feeling or experiencing. In short, whatever one person is projecting, it can help create that same experience for the other person. So, on the not so awesome side, that’s why it can be so easy for us to hit the ceiling when our kid is losing it. However, on the positive side, it also means that if we can get it together enough to at least be calm (even if we say nothing) that actually helps to calm our child.

Let’s go back to the iced tea scenario. If my kiddo is the one who spilled my iced tea, I guarantee you he’s losing it. He’s embarassed he spilled it. He’s upset that I’m upset. And, he’s frantically rushing around with a washcloth to wipe it up because he couldn’t think straight enough to grab a full-sized towel.

In this moment, if I try to do the whole “validate emotions” thing, I’m probably going to fail. When everybody is hungry and his emotions are raising my emotions, it’s hard to say just the right thing. But, if I can pause long enough to calm my body and my breath, then we can get somewhere.

When we calm our output, it activates the mirror neurons in our kids to lead them towards calm. Slower breathing matches slower breathing. Softer voices match softer voices. And, if they are in the place for it, even a hug where they are intentionally listening for our heartbeat can influence the slowing of theirs.

It is hard to be able to come up with the right words sometimes as a parent. I am so grateful for this far less pressured option we can choose until our brains and bodies have calmed down long enough to get back to that more sophisticated parenting.

Here’s to slowing down, breathing, and maybe a few more heartbeat hugs.

PS – This is my favorite (and brief!) video on how mirror neurons work. Enjoy!

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

Dive Deep Into Your Faith

Writing today from over at The Glorious Table. Four of my favorite tips for going below the surface of our faith included. Enjoy the preview below or link to the full article here.

My husband and I both have public-ish lives. By this, I mean that we are small potatoes public figures, he as a small-town football coach and me as an author/speaker. Even with these minimal platforms, we can encounter some surprising impressions among people who know only our public personas rather than our daily, regular ones.

The first misperception we usually run into is that my husband is unapproachable and intimidating. And I mean, I get it. He’s a big guy with a buzzed haircut, intense eyes, and a strong brow. He also happens to be a football coach, which carries with it all kinds of assumptions. As his wife, my job is to remind him to smile in order to attempt to overcome this go-to impression. One of my favorite things is to watch people get to know him and then comment on how kind, welcoming, and loving he is. It’s fun to get to see them get to know those precious parts of him.

In my case, people often think I am very serious and studious since the majority of my published work is in the area of emotional and mental health and Bible studies. It has definitely thrown more than a few people off when they meet me and I lead with a little irreverence, a joke, or sarcasm. The truth is that I actually have a whole anonymous side gig creating funny memes. I enjoy it when relationships develop far enough for me to start communicating mostly in GIFs and Friends quotes. It’s more of the fullness of who I am.

The reason I’m sharing this is not because we should be expected know everything about others. To some degree, we all craft public images. The reason I’m sharing this is to point out that in the same way we tend to create boxes for people based on surface impressions, we often do the same for people of the faith. People like Jesus and Paul, Mary and Daniel. We will likely never know the depths of everyone around us. But only getting to know the surface details about the heroes of the faith? That can leave us without some incredible information that God meant for us to have for our blessing, our ministry, and our development.

Tips for Avoiding a Surface Understanding of Faith

Daily Connection Time. This is not another cliché advocating for “quiet times.” Instead, this is a call to figure out what works for you. Most of us have a spiritual discipline (or two) that feel more natural. I tend to be a read-the-Word-and-journal kind of person. My husband is more of a worship-and-prayer type. While engaging in the breadth of spiritual disciplines yields blessing, starting with the ones you look forward to makes you more likely to do it. Then, once a habit is established, it may become easier to expand into something with more depth and variety. God never changes, but my goodness, we sure do. The fruit of our daily relationship with God comes from getting to know him better as we ebb and flow through our own emotions and life circumstances.

Intensive Study

One of the coolest parts about getting to know the Bible and its residents is that we have access to more information than any previous generation. The ease with which we can ask a question or research a topic is lightening-quick. But the access to insta-information can also cause us our spiritual muscles to atrophy because we don’t have to work as hard…

To read the remaining tips, link to the full article here.

Moving: The Good, the Bad, & the God

As I write this, I am surrounded by boxes labeled with sharpie-scribbled words like “kitchen” “living room” “playroom” and a decent amount of my children’s “helpful” artwork. As I write this, I am living between waves of energy, exhaustion, tears, and good-goodbyes. As I write this, I am reflective but also really practical about getting this article written because — I got stuff to get done people! Yes, as I write this, our family is moving.

Moving is listed as one of life’s most stressful events, often ranked just behind death of a loved one and divorce. Gracious. That means it is really, really hard. And, we’ve done it more than a few times.

As with many other major events in life, moving is a mixed bag. There’s some really hard things but, there are also those hidden gems that always come along with life’s challenges. As a general practice, it’s important to reflect on all sides of things when we do hard stuff. So, in honor of this move, I’d like to spend just a little time thinking about what moving has taught me. The good, the bad — and the God.

Moving is hard. I’m not a spring chicken anymore. Ugh to assembling all the boxes. Packing all the things. Lifting all the awkward furniture. Trying not to damage one place on the way out or the new place on the way in. It’s a physically hard process that takes place in the middle of a mentally, emotionally, and psychologically hard space. And, it’s easy to get overwhelmed because it is also such a big process. But, I have found that there’s a lot of comfort in remembering that I am human, I can’t do everything at once, and asking for help. Moving (like life) is meant to be done with others.

Moving is unsettling. Me and my people are homebodies. We like our quiet spaces and our settled environments. Each time we move it seems to disrupt my equilibrium for several weeks until the walls around me don’t surprise me any more. One of the most important things we do during this time is connect with one another regularly so we are grounded in the familiar, even if we don’t know where the heck we packed our underwear. We need some stability until the environment starts to feel like home. That’s why every move is going to involve eating pizza and watching Star Trek that first night, even if we are in sleeping bags in the living room.

Moving moves me. It took me fifteen years of piddling around to begin writing my first study, Cultivating Joy. You know what finally prompted me to get it done? The move before this one. There was something about the unsettled, out-of-comfort-zone unknown that made me grasp for something I could control. And that, my friends, was writing. I have noticed that with every major change in life, my spirit seems to move forward with something as well. I think that’s a cool side-effect.

Moving gets rid of stuff. This has to be one of my favorite parts of moving. When we move, I try really, really hard, not to move anything I don’t want/need anymore. I have given away or donated more in the past ten years than I ever would have done if we stayed in one place. And, from a psychological standpoint, you shed stuff too. Moving has a really cool way of managing the people and pieces of your life. I love seeing what ends up persevering through a move, and what was meant for one place and time. One is not better than the other, it just helps you acknowledge and appreciate their purposes.

You never out-move God. This. This is the one most important thing I have learned about moving. He’s wherever we were and, He’s wherever we’re going. No matter how unpacked or unsettled I may be, He is the familar space that accompanies us everywhere we go. I tell you what, I really hope we are done moving for a good, long while. But, just in case we’re not, I’m so glad we can’t ever move away from Him.

And so, with that dear readers, you have my last new blog post for a few weeks. You’ll see a couple of my past favorites re-posted on social media while I honor this time to move our boxes and our hearts to a new place. I’ll be glad to reconnect with you after we find our underwear again.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Lessons Learned from Job’s Wife & Friends

Every once in a while I get the opportunity to write for my church. This is one of those times. Below is a preview of a devotional on empathy, grief, and what Job’s wife and friends taught us (and not to!) do when one of our loved ones is suffering. Or, you can link to the full post here. I hope this is practical, encouraging, and helpful!

The life of Job is such an interesting deep dive into the mind and emotion of a person who encounters great suffering. He is, quite literally, the comforting BIblical figure for so many who find themselves in season after season of loss, trying to make sense of themselves and God in the midst of it.

And, while Job himself is an important character to study, I have often found myself particularly interested in a few of the folks around him, namely, his wife and three buddies. They are an intriguing study in how people respond when others are suffering and a great read on what to do (and not do!) when you are trying to help.

Just in case you are unfamiliar with the story, Job’s life starts out pretty fantastic. He has a large family, lots of land, livestock, etc. He is living “blameless and upright” (Job 1:1) for the Lord when Satan does a flyby. Satan suggests that the only reason Job is faithful is because God has not allowed any hardship in his life. At this, God allows Satan an opportunity to access Job’s life, wreaking destruction, havoc, and death in almost every way imaginable. By the end of chapter 1 (of 42 chapters!) Job has lost all his livestock and his ten children. This is how the chapter ends: “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” Job 1:20-22, NIV

Gracious! I cannot imagine that kind of loss, particularly all at once. The pain would be unbelievable, and the crisis of self, faith, and God is just as overwhelming. Certainly, it couldn’t get worse, but it does.

As we enter chapter 2, God allows Satan access not only to the things and people around Job, but to Job himself. He is afflicted with painful sores over his entire body, apparently pushing his wife to the limit of what she could stand. In her pain, she offers this, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” Job 2:9-10, NIV

At this point, Job has lost his livelihood, his children, and his wife has turned on him and the Lord. But, here come his buddies, comforting Job and giving us a great example of how to be with someone who is suffering.

“When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” Job 2:11-13, NIV

These guys got it (at first). They did exactly what we need to do with suffering people sometimes. We need to just be there. Close our mouths. Pray. Weep for them. Gather with other friends and sit in solidarity just to say, “You’re not alone.” If only they could have remained that way…

To read the full post go to LP Women here.

Celebrate with Discernment

Today’s blog was published over at The Glorious Table! See below for a preview or link to the full post here.

In my mind’s eye, there exists a vague memory of being in elementary school, holding a long ribbon, and dancing back and forth among my classmates. The various colored ribbons overlap one another, weaving a pattern around what I’m guessing was a tetherball pole. I realize now that it must have been a May Day celebration. I have no idea what was taught that day, but I remember it was fun. When this memory came to mind, I thought, “Maybe we’ll celebrate May Day this year. That might be great.” Since I didn’t know anything about May Day, I decided to look it up.

Whoa, nelly. I had no idea about the history of this holiday! What I learned was interesting, and I’m going to share some of it with you. I’m also going to share the interesting way Jesus showed up in the middle of my research. I love how he can be a part of anything we learn, and—more importantly—that he should be part of anything we learn. Let’s dive in.

May Day celebrations go back a long way, with their origins in ancient agricultural rituals practiced by the Greeks, Romans, and Celts. As with many other celebrations, the specific practice has varied quite a bit over culture and time. Originally, May Day was used as a time to celebrate the shift to spring by doing things like putting cattle out to pasture and doing extra milking. The celebrations also often included bringing in a tree from the forest, setting it upright to decorate, and gathering flowers and branches to decorate one’s home. Music and dancing were common, and even crowning a May Day king and queen were part of the fun. In short, it was the yearly chance to get together with the rest of the village and celebrate the new life that comes with spring. Sounds fun, right?

Celebrate With Discernment

So where did Jesus show up in all this? It was when I read that the relationship between the church and the holiday has been contentious at times. May Day was strongly opposed as a pagan holiday several times throughout the history of the church. Both in the United Kingdom and the United States, May Day celebrations have been banned at one time or another for being blasphemous and involving the worship of false gods, or for being overly sexual because of May Day’s association with fertility. The celebration of May Day never really caught on in the US like it did in other countries, probably because it was so strongly opposed by the Puritans at the beginning of our country’s development. At one point, when May Day celebrations were banned in 16th-century England, some folks were executed for rioting. Yikes!

Ironically, at other times, May Day celebrations have also been adopted as part of worship, human rights efforts, or simple childhood fun. In the 18th century, Catholics used May Day for devotions, and 19th century labor efforts used it as a way to secure worker’s rights and an eight-hour workday. May Day has also been a time for children to gather flowers into bouquets or baskets and leave them on people’s doorsteps as a gift (see here for a super cute picture of former first lady Grace Coolidge receiving a May basket from some children in the 1920s.)

So, what do we do with something that has been both accepted and villainized by the church over time? We ask for discernment, just as we do with so many other things in life:

To read the full post link to The Glorious Table here.

He’ll Be There to Catch You

Writing over at The Glorious Table today! See preview below or link here to the full post.

I am a child of the ’80s. That means I wore a lot of polyester, knew the glorious transition between corded and cordless phones, and watched a LOT of cartoons. I had several favorites (hello DuckTalesJemThe Smurfs, and Inspector Gadget) but the classics, like Looney Tunes, were always a staple. Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, that’s where it was at. And, that’s exactly what popped into my head when I was thinking about God the other day. How’s that for an odd combination?

Let’s unpack it.

My family is currently in a transition period. My husband will have a job somewhere else next year, but we don’t know where yet. We have made the decision to leave our current situation, knowing we want to make a transition. But we made that leap not knowing where we were going to land. We are, quite literally, hanging over a gap of unknown. That’s what made me think about the coyote.

You see, the coyote always seemed to find himself out over the edge of a canyon with nothing but air beneath him. The audience would see him recognize the peril of his situation, look them in the eye, and then fall. The poor guy never learned. He just fell, again and again.

A Cartoon Faith

I feel like that coyote right now. I see the unknown below, me and I just know I am going to fall unless something holds me up.

I put on my Jesus goggles and realize that Peter’s attempt to walk on the water is the spiritual equivalent of that beloved ’80s cartoon coyote. They both had so much confidence when they first stepped out. They both even got a little ways. But then they focused on the circumstances and they fell, or sank, into the fear below. Let’s watch the scene:

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. (Matt. 14:25-32 NIV)

To read the full post link to The Glorious Table here.

The Gift of Childhood Boredom (Summer Edition)

A couple Christmases ago, I wrote about the pressure to entertain our kids vs. giving them the “gift” of boredom. Now, as summer approaches and pandemic restrictions wane, I feel that tug again. Ahead are all the possibilities for camps, summer school, and activities. Unlike summer 2020, we have the potential to make ourselves, and our kids, busy again. It’s a very tempting option.

As we make the transition to this particular summer, I’m reflecting on what we learned during the pandemic. Complete isolation was obviously far too extreme for our mental, emotional, and physical health. But, many of us also felt relief from being “over-busy.” For the first time (maybe ever) we had time together that was uninterrupted, unplanned, and gave way to creativity, family time, and rest. It was such a gift.

Just as the transition from school structure into the pandemic was (really!) hard, the transition between school and summer freedom can be difficult as well. But, just because a transition is hard, it doesn’t mean there aren’t gifts to be found. Rather than just trying to make our summer situation look like the old routine we were comfortable with, we can look for the unique blessings that can be found in those long, unstructured days.

In the coming weeks, as we make choices between unstructured time and scheduled activities, my kids will definitely have some busyness. But, I’m also going to work really hard to remember that they need to experience boredom, unstructured play, and rest. Our job as parents, despite any pressure we may feel, is not to entertain our children. We are to love them and keep them fed, safe, and clothed. And then? Let their precious little minds have space to think without input, create without direction, and feel without oversight. We need to let them learn now what it means to manage their experience, draw resources from their surroundings, and cope with a life that is not always exciting, or entertaining. Because, let’s be real, it’s not.

So, when your kids get bored this summer, please know you aren’t neglecting them. You are loving them. You are gifting them with the opportunity for independence, self-reliance, and creativity. You, “boring parent”, are creating beautiful functional adults.

PS – Last thing, if they tell you they are “bored”, remember “bored rhymes with chores.” This phrase is a great reminder that they would much rather come up with their own way to fill the time than to allow their meanie-pants parents to come up with the solution. Kids who are good at filling their own time tend to be kids who have had practice filling their own time. Let’s give them that chance. Happy summer planning (or not!) everyone!

Photo by Elena Rabkina on Unsplash, used with permission