How to Reclaim the 2020 Holidays If Things are Different

I’m not ashamed to admit I shed a few tears over this post. At some point in March, I remember making an off-handed joke about what we should do if COVID was still around during Christmas. That feels so short-sighted now, but we didn’t know. We didn’t know how long this would last. We didn’t know how deeply it would impact the world. We didn’t know how hard this was going to land at our front door.

Just this week, our immediate family made a decision. No Thanksgiving. And, delay Christmas a week to try to create some quarantine space from the school days. To say this is a departure from normal is a drastic understatement. We are an all-up-in-it kind of family. As many days together as possible, as much time together as possible, get sick of one another kind of family. Except, not this year. This year I will make the turkey dance in the sink for only my children. I will not wake up on Christmas Eve in my Mother’s home. I will not repeat “get down from there” incessantly to my nephew. The good, the hard, the predictable — it will all be different. I am about to know a holiday season that looks different from any I’ve ever known

…and that’s okay.

In the coming weeks, families all over the world will seek to make the decisions that are right for their situations. For some, these decisions will be easy or remain unchanged. But for others, putting tradition and family in a bowl with health and life will be very difficult to stir. No matter what circumstances you are facing, here are some thoughts that may help that mix a little easier.

Tips for Reclaiming the 2020 Holidays If Things are Different

  • Stay Present. Making a decision about the 2020 holidays does not mean you are making a decision about all holidays forever. It can feel very threatening to do something different this time around, as though that will change things in the future. If this is plaguing you, remember, you are just making changes for now. Don’t let future worries trip up your present enjoyment.
  • Keep Perspective. This is not the first time people have switched up their holiday celebrations. As we consider both World Wars, the Great Depression, or that one Christmas I had the flu, we all have to be flexible sometimes. Situational circumstances, both big and small, sometimes change our plans. People throughout history have managed to have meaningful holidays under less than ideal conditions. We can too.
  • Look for Opportunities. That turkey dance I mentioned earlier? It goes back at least four generations. I remember my Grandmother, Great-Grandmother, and Mother doing it. Someday, it will be my tradition to continue so why not embrace a practice round now? If you want to continue a family tradition on your own, do it! And, if you want to start something new, now may be the time for that too. When things change we can either focus on what’s missing or we can look for what can be. Operating from scarcity rarely brings joy. Operating from abundance does.
  • Grieve. As upbeat as these tips may sound, I do want to acknowledge the losses of this year. For some, we have quite literally lost people to COVID or other illnesses. This may be our first holiday without a certain grandparent, parent or friend. For others, the choices we make this holiday means we will miss out on moments and traditions we love. The people we love. The hugs we wanted. It’s okay to have tears of sadness and joy in the same day. I plan to have both. We can grieve and celebrate at the same time.
  • Keep the End Goal in Mind. I saved this one for last because I think it matters the most. I don’t care what you do for the holidays. Truly. See each other, or don’t. But, keep the big picture in mind. No matter what you decide to do, try your best to preserve your relationships. There is almost a guarantee that people will have different opinions on what “should” be done. Whether your family gets together for 2020 is secondary to whether you make it through 2020 still wanting to see each other in 2021. Be kind, be understanding. Try your level best to make it through with your relationships intact. This year has had enough loss already.

Okay folks, here’s to the 2020 holiday season, whatever in the world that means. I pray that it is full of beautiful memories, even if they are different than what you’ve seen before. I pray that you are overwhelmed by the beauty that can come from the unexpected. And, I pray that your hearts, eyes, and hands are open to possibility. May the end of 2020 somehow be the gift we never saw coming.

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash, used with permission

Are You Okay with Getting Messy?

Writing over at The Glorious Table today! Click here to link to the full article or begin the preview below…

I’m working on reading through the Bible. Front to back, slowly but surely. To be certain, going through it this way has been different, but, this approach also means I am getting to experience God’s Word in ways I never have before.

One of my favorite parts of reading the books “in order” is that I get to see certain things develop chronologically. As an example, I spent the last couple of months getting through Exodus, where we witness the building of the tabernacle. The tabernacle was a physical space God had his people build so they could worship Him in the desert after they escaped Egypt. They called all the people to gather supplies.  Gifted artisans were asked to create the space where the people would commune with God, offer sacrifices, practice atonement, and keep the Ark of the Covenant. I have to confess, reading through the details of its construction was fascinating, if a little exhausting! The descriptions are so elaborate.

Are You Okay with Getting Messy?

Here’s a list of some of the materials needed: gold (so much gold), silver, bronze, blue, purple and scarlet thread, fine linen, goats hair, red ram skins, badger skins, acacia wood (lots of acacia wood), and onyx. And that was just the exterior. For the inside of the tabernacle they also made the ark, a table, lampstand, a couple altars, washing basin, and some seriously elaborate “priestly garments.”  These items now added precious stones like emerald, amethyst ,and topaz, and again, so much gold. It sounds gorgeous, both physically and spiritually. I cannot imagine what that gleaming space full of precious metals, incredible woodwork, and people covered in jewels must have looked like. Apparently, it fit the bill, because the final chapter of Exodus ends with the heading, “The Glory of the Lord”. God’s presence took his place. They had accomplished what he had asked of them.

So, there I was, finished with Exodus, enjoying the pretty scene and God’s presence ― and then Leviticus started. Leviticus 1, the header reads, “The Burnt Offering”. This is where we start to see Moses, Aaron, and the priests start using the tabernacle by offering sacrifices for the sins of the people on the altar. The pace I was reading was about a chapter a day. Around day four, I paused and wrote a little something in my journal. Why? Because what I was reading was just so blatantly in contrast to what I had witnessed in Exodus previously. In spite of all the finery, it quickly got messy. Bloody. Animal pieces and parts, and fire everywhere. This is what I wrote:

“All this work that went into the tabernacle, and now we are watching it be used to do ministry, absolve sin, and worship. I love this picture of the church! Get dirty; use it!”

For the very first time, I felt like I got a modern word for the modern church from the old pattern of sacrifice, slaughter, and restitution. Typically, I tend to focus on the messiness of  sacrifices and think about my gratitude for being on “this side” of the Old Testament, grateful for Jesus’ stand-in as the eternal and forever sacrifice over my life. But this? It felt like it wasn’t about that this time. This was a message for us. The body. The people who build the buildings, decorate the entryways, paint the children’s wings and shiplap the sanctuaries. Are we just making the church pretty, or are we using it? We gotta ask if we are okay with getting messy, because that is the model we’ve been given.

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

Parenting Hack: Creating Better After-School Connection with Your Child

“Hi honey! How was your day?!” This is how I start each day after school if I’m not careful. Of course, it’s a perfectly fine way to greet someone. The sentiment is healthy. We want to know how they are and what they’ve experienced in our absence. We are being loving. We are being invested. And, we are possibly being totally overwhelming without intending to. So, what are we to do when we’ve been missing our kid and they are finally in our care again? Here’s some ideas that are helpful and match up with the science of your kid’s after-school body and brain.

Tips for Better After-School Connection with Your Child

Anne Rulo Parenting Hack: How to Have Better After-School Connection with Your Child

Offer Statements, Not Questions: Questions require a response. Statements do not. The adrenal letdown that happens once a child is out of school and back in your care can leave your kid unable to engage in the way they normally would. So, it can benefit them when we only offer input, rather than asking for something back. Welcoming statements like, “I love you buddy.” “I missed you today.” “I’m so glad to be together again” can be helpful in the transition. These types of statements offer affection and comfort without requiring a response from your depleted kiddo.

Let Them Lead: After a greeting, giving the lead over to your child is critical. When I discipline myself enough to remain quiet until they speak, we typically connect better. Sometimes they fall asleep, which is a huge indicator that talking was not in their ability. Sometimes they remain silent for most of the ride and then start talking near the end. And, sometimes they launch right in with information. It’s different each day because they’ve had different experiences each day. Letting them take the lead with their own self-care and disclosure is both loving and encourages personal leadership.

Provide Creature Comforts: Whether your kid is five or fifteen, after a long day creature comforts are super helpful. Think all the senses. Snack on hand, lovey in their seat, comfy temperature in the car, soothing music on the radio. It is hard for our bodies to relax enough to communicate when we are butting up against physical discomfort. This is not about being overly accomodating. Rather, this is about teaching them how to self-soothe even as they grow up. As adults, we know how to make ourselves a cup of tea or choose the right tunes. We have to teach them what it looks like to create comfortable experiences so they can recover and then reengage.

Empathize: Sometimes we connect more effectively with our children when we simply stop and say, “What would I need in this situation?” When adults have been in a high energy, performance situation for many hours, we often need a moment to collect ourselves before we can engage in a discussion about the day. It doesn’t matter if we hear about our child’s day at 3:15, 5:15, or 8:15, but that time might make all the difference in how much/how well our kids can communicate. Sometimes they just need lower energy/lower stakes situations (i.e. not face-to-face, before bed with the energy/lights are lower) to be able to engage.

The reality is, sometimes our kids are going to willingly share with us, and sometimes they aren’t. If we are focused on our own need to connect we are more likely to operate from our own agenda, possibly bypassing important signals from them. But, if we consider what both parties need, we will be more likely to find solutions that satisfy everyone…eventually. Remember, the measure of connection is not volume or frequency, but rather, quality. Giving our children some control over what and when they share encourages independence, self-agency, and self-care — essential skills they will need as adults. It can be hard to let them lead. But, hopefully if we do it well, when they choose to share it will be richer and more satisfying for all.

Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash

Healing Testimonies: A Word on Balance & Love

The other day I was driving along, listening to a local radio station. A woman’s voice came on, shaky but clearly elated. She was sharing a healing testimony with the radio host.

Although I don’t remember the exact words, it went something like this. “I have struggled with anxiety all my life. I never thought I could be without it. And then, I experienced a moment where I gave it all over to God. A peace came over me that I cannot explain and, since that time, I have not struggled with anxiety any longer. He healed me. I am so grateful.”

Reaction 1: I believe her. God is a God of miracles and, for some, full healing this side of heaven does occur.

Reaction 2: Lord, please don’t let anyone listening be hurt, confused, or misled when they hear this. You don’t heal everyone this side of heaven — and not because You don’t love them, or not because their faith is not strong enough. Only You know why.

This second reaction is why the therapist in me went on full alert. I believe God heals people. He heals them physically, mentally, and emotionally. He redeems and restores things that seem so far gone they could never return. He remains, and will always be, the Great Physician. I will never, ever doubt that He does miracles. And, I love that this woman experienced that.

But, I’ve seen the other people. The people who have sat before me in pain, questioning if they weren’t faithful enough for God to heal them. The people who have wondered if God’s love had eclipsed them. The people who equated healing with their goodness or God’s favor, when neither operates as exact math.

It’s simply this. We must take Scripture in its entirety. If we don’t, when things don’t “go our way” we can get duped into believing things that make us feel unloved, forgotten, or faithless. That’s the worst.

As examples, these words are in the Bible: “But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 30:17, NIV

And, these are too: “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4, NIV

But, so are these: “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.'” John 9:1-3, NIV

And, even Paul shared this: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9, NIV

It is so important to be loving and balanced when we offer, or hear, a testimony of someone’s healing. If we experience healing, we must keep in mind not to align God’s kindness with our efforts. And, if we find ourselves continuing to seek healing, we must protect ourselves from the false idea that God’s love has abandoned us.

Ultimately, it all comes down to this: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways  and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9, ESV

Sometimes, God heals people from their earthly pain. And, sometimes He doesn’t. I cannot answer why. But, what I do know is that we can love better by giving as much value to the healing story as we do to the other. Both have purpose. Both involve love. And, most certainly, both include God’s face so close to His child’s suffering that His breath is upon us. No matter what you may have experienced with healing, I hope you have known His love. And, may we honor how that love plays out in each one of our lives.

“Fill in the Gaps, Lord” – The Tiny Prayer that Freed My Parenting

In season nine of the hit show Friends, perfectly mismatched couple Monica and Chandler find themselves at a crossroads. They’ve not been able to conceive a child on their own, so they decide to pursue adoption. At this point, Chandler delivers the following punchline that is irreverent, amusing, and wholly and beautifully true.

“I want to find a baby that needs a home and I want to raise it with you. And I want to mess it up in our own specific way.”

I love that line. In its Hollywood-ness, it echoes a prayer I started praying over our children from their earliest days. They are words I’ve said countless times. “Fill in the gaps, Lord. Fill in the gaps.” Simple and powerful, I pray it because I know we are “messing it up in our own specific way.” Leaving gaps only God can see. Leaving gaps only He can fill.

Of course, we don’t aim to leave gaps in our children’s upbringing. But, as parents, we are going to make mistakes. We lose our tempers and respond occasionally in ways we know are less than stellar. These mistakes are an obvious place to beg God’s mercy. But, I want to take the awareness of our limitations one step further today. Dear readers, it is not only our mistakes. Even the good we give our children will leave behind gaps in what they need. Yes. Even the good we give our kids is insufficient. How about that for raising your parenting anxiety?! Hang in there, it’s gonna’ be okay. Here we go.

You see, unlike God, we are limited to the pace and development of time. We are not able to provide everything our children need because we cannot see their futures. We do not know what they will face or what skills they may need. We are unable to foresee the “good works which God prepared in advance” for them to do (Ephesians 2:10, NIV). We are raising these children not knowing what God has for them as adults. This leaves us able to only do the best we can, and then ask Him to fill in the gaps of anything else they may need for His plan.

As an example, I came from a very kind, low-confrontation home. I knew happiness and little arguing. It was wonderful and gave me a safe, solid foundation…except. In all the kindness, I was left ill-equipped for handling or resolving confrontation. Enter my husband, whose parents encouraged debate, discourse and disagreement in love. He has taught me what it means to stay present in the tension and work toward resolution. My loving, low-conflict parents didn’t know I would need that one day. They did what they thought was best and God filled in the gap later to help me in my work as a therapist, marriage speaker and coach’s wife. He provided what I needed when I needed it.

No matter how we are raising our children, we simply cannot be “Renaissance parents.” Instead, we can only prioritize what we think is best for them. Those choices may, or may not be, exactly what they need for their future selves, future relationships, or future professions. And, that’s okay! In our limitations, we must trust God will send people, experiences, His own teaching and grace to supplement what our children need. It is not a burden to be unable to do and be everything they need. It is a gift. Even more importantly, we must not wish to be all things to our children, for then they will not see or understand a need for reliance on God. For this, we are devastatingly poor substitutes.

So, embrace your insufficiencies my friends. Whether it be from the mistakes or from the good, go right ahead and set yourself from free from trying to get it all exactly right because you never fully can. It wasn’t designed that way. Just do your best and if you feel there is a way you may have left your child wanting, it is a beautiful act of faith to simply pray that God would fill that space. In His time, in His way, and in His love. Remember, in our weakness “His grace is sufficient” and “His power is made perfect” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV). May we all love and parent as best we can…

and “Lord, fill in the gaps.”

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

When People Around You are Hurting – Coping with Others Pain in 2020

Last week we talked about tips for managing our own ongoing mental load from COVID-19. This week we are going to address a different part of the experience — ways we can cope with continually witnessing the pain, loss or challenge of others.

To frame this, I will share that I recently had an odd experience. On Monday, just before bed, I received several messages in a row about the impact of COVID on people and a community I love. It was hard, and sad, to hear about even closer impact from this virus. Several hours later I woke up, teetering on the edge of a panic attack. I recognized it because I have felt that way exactly one other time in my life, when my infant daughter was gravely ill. That comparison alone was enough to encourage me share this information with you.

For reference, I am not typically an anxious person. I offer that for two reasons: 1) Don’t discount the impact of repeated exposure to loss, trauma and/or pain just because you happen to be a chill person. Everyone has a limit. And, 2) if you are someone who does struggle with anxiety, please know that this year you are dealing with more than usual. Please don’t be hard on yourself if you are having more difficulty. You’re not living in the same world you were.

There is a lot of pain around us, both on a global scale and in our own back yards. Even if everything in your immediate experience is going fairly well, many of us who are empaths can feel overwhelmed by the pain of others. Feeling overwhelmed, or even secondary trauma (typically associated with healthcare professionals) is not out of the realm of possibility in the weirdness that is 2020. If you are having difficulty staying centered in this particularly painful year, here are some tips for managing the pain of others’ experiences.

Ground Yourself: Part of why we have difficulty witnessing other people’s pain is, at our core, it feels threatening to us. Even if we don’t recognize it explicitly, our brains are considering, “What if this happens to me?” If you begin to feel overwhelmed by another’s story or pain, sensory and situational grounding can be really helpful. Saying things like, “I am in a safe place” “I know how to get help if I need it” and keying into your five senses can reorient you to your current, safe experience.

Recognize & Set Your Limits: If you are someone who is particularly sensitive to others’ pain, you will need to limit what you take in. I cannot safely read, watch or witness what lots of other people can. I evaluate carefully what I have coming up or what time of day it is (i.e. not before bedtime) if I am going to do or see something that is harsh. Obviously, we cannot avoid knowing or hearing about other’s pain (nor should we, see below) but there’s no medal for taking on every article, news report, or friend’s need. You are not a limitless vessel of giving, so don’t try to be.

Reframe Your Response/Responsibility: I actually wrote about this one in last week’s Instagram post. As people of faith, we must remember that we do not bear witness to pain alone. Rather than shouldering the experience on our own, we share it with Jesus. It is our chance to share in His heart for His people — and remember that we are not in charge of fixing it alone. It’s way less intense when we encounter pain with support, rather than on our own. “A burden shared is a burden halved.” ~ T.A. Webb

Ride the Fear Wave: In last week’s post, I offered “ride the grief wave” as a way to manage your own losses. This concept is similar, but associated with the fear that can come from the many threats and destruction we are watching others encounter time and again. Whether it’s just a little wave of anxiety or a full-fledged panic attack, it’s going to feel awful. And, that recognition is probably the most important place to start. “This feels awful — and, I won’t always feel this way.” Fear and panic attacks typically resolve faster when you don’t fight them. Rather, tune into your breath, close your eyes, and ride the thing out. Exactly as I had to do in the middle of the night this week.

My dear readers, this time we are living through is so unique. Unlike the usual pattern of life where individuals have hard seasons, we are encountering one collectively. That requires us to not only manage our own pain, but also possibly cope with our ongoing witness to one another’s difficulties. Be kind to yourselves, and forthright about how hard this is. God is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18), so I imagine He is hugging every one of us now. Thank goodness. We are able to love each other better when we aren’t trying to do it alone.

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash, used with permission

Managing the Ongoing Mental Load of COVID-19

Way back in the spring when we first began experiencing some mental distress from this pandemic, we talked about some tips. Now that this experience is creeping in on some of our most sacred spaces (school year, holidays) I figured it might be helpful to swing back for some reminders and adjustments to help manage the long-haul we are facing. Here are five tips for managing some of the mental load associated with COVID-19.

Anne Rulo Managing the Ongoing Mental Load of COVID-19

5 Tips for Managing the Ongoing Mental Load of COVID-19

Control Your Controllables: There’s a lot of things happening right now that we can’t control. Everyday, you or someone you know might end up with this virus or get quarantined. We’ve got elections coming that are probably going to be a virtual poo-storm of negativity. And, (enter my own tears) it’s becoming ever clearer that our usual holiday traditions may not happen. So, when I say control your controllables, think about things that are close to you. Increase your creature comforts. Enjoy your tea. Savor your warm shower. Try to make your workspace comfy. Get some sleep. Those things may sound unimportant in light of what we are facing, but we have to give our bodies a chance to say “ahhhh” in order to combat the hyperarousal of our current situation. Even feeling in control of a few things can help you cope with a bunch of stuff that’s not.

Don’t Be a Hero: Say it louder for the people in the back, “You don’t have to operate at the same level during a pandemic as you did before.” If you want to accomplish some goals, add some activities or make an improvement, have at it. But, if you are being driven by some idealistic notion of what you “should” be doing? Let that nonsense go. If I were counseling someone who was going through grief/difficulty/trauma, I would never encourage them to up their game. Instead, I would encourage them to take care of themselves and figure out what their current emotional bandwidth can handle. Just making it each day is fine folks.

Ride Each Grief Wave: The holiday you didn’t think would get messed with? The sport or conference you didn’t think would get cancelled? The birthday, celebration, or significant moment you thought was going to clear this pandemic? It might not. You are not supposed to get “used” to this. You are not winning if loss doesn’t affect you. Your job is to honor your heart and mind by acknowledging the pain of losing something and grieve it. It’s okay to let some tears fall. You will find a way forward, again and again. Remember, ignored grief doesn’t go away. Far better to deal with it than let it pile up.

Speak Strength: I’m going to get serious for a minute. We lost another one. Another precious, teenage soul in the middle of our country who took his life. I don’t know if it was related to the stress of COVID. But, I do know this report from the CDC says that youth suicide rates have increased by over 50% in the last decade. We have to be speaking a narrative of strength and resilience folks, pandemic or no. I am not suggesting to be Susie Sunshine when things are hard. But, we have to remind ourselves this will end. There is hope to live for and we are capable of figuring out difficult challenges. The narrative so many people are hearing says the world is a dumpster fire not worth staying in. Tell them, and tell yourself, that we can do this and they are worth it.

Shrink Your Mental Bubble: Okay, last one, super practical. If thinking about the future (next year, next week, uh, tomorrow) is stressing you out, try being present. Anxiety often develops from trying to control stuff that is either out of our control or in the future. Even doing more than one thing at a time can increase the stress of our mental load. If we can stay present doing one thing at a time and only think as far as is comfortable (like, I should go get my kids from school in the next hour) it can be very calming and centering. Trust your lists and your calendars to help you as the day goes on. You don’t need to be constantly mentally running through everything that is coming. It’s going to come anyway, just meet it when it arrives.

Alrighty folks, 2020 is a trip. It’s super hard in so many ways but it is also life-giving when I see the way humanity rises up, survives, and loves each other. Be kind to yourself, give hope to others, and be the light that will eventually help illuminate the end of this very weird tunnel. Much love to you all.

Photo by Luis Galvez on Unsplash, used with permission

Embrace Your Gifts

Writing over at The Glorious Table today on the internal and external ways God equips us for our work. See preview below or go to The Glorious Table here.

I want to take this opportunity to admit something I am jealous of: skills. Specifically, handyman skills. The kind of skills that enable you to fix things—when your toilet breaks or you need a picture hung, want a new fan or your oil changed, you just do it. All by yourself! You see something on HGTV and create it. The sink stops up, so you bust out the wrench and a bucket, and voilà! You’ve saved yourself $100! It all just seems so darn efficient to me.

Alas, I am not a handy person, although I make a valiant effort. In my garage I have my own drill, an assortment of tools and fasteners, and a stud finder that’s pretty cool. But that’s about where it ends. I have the tools, but I just don’t have the mindset for it. Behind each of the pictures I hung with my fancy drill, there are no less than three to four “practice” holes. I repainted my kitchen cabinets, but I definitely cut corners on the whole sanding thing. I may or may not have scared my husband a few years ago when I threw a proper fit on our back porch because I couldn’t figure out how to attach a gate to the top of our steps. No matter how much I want to be, or try to be, a skilled handywoman, I’m missing some of the necessary tools― and I don’t mean the physical ones. Some people just have the “gift” for this kind of work.

What Are Spiritual Gifts?

When we talk about “gifting” in the faith, we usually are taught from a couple lists found in the new Testament, namely 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. By definition, spiritual gifts are given to us by God to use in the service of others and to glorify him. A quick search for “spiritual gifts” give us words like hospitalityhealingleadershipprophecyservicewisdom, and administration. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to use surveys and studies to help discern my own spiritual gifts. It is by studying and understanding these Scriptures and their application that we learn how to best serve in the ways we are designed.

Today, I want to take us one step further in our study of giftings. It’s a step into the past. Have you ever looked at the way God equipped people with gifts in the Old Testament? He did it quite a bit when he was calling people to use their gifts for the building of the tabernacle. It’s such a cool lesson.

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

Permission to “Pester” God

I have a niece named Rose. She is three. And she recently taught me a wonderful lesson about persistent prayer.

You see, Rose is what you might call a chatterbox. More accurately, she is a laser-focused chatterbox. I have never met a child who knows more clearly what she wants and advocates incessantly to get it. As an example, this past summer Rose came to visit while we put on a youth football camp. At the end of each session, each camper got a popsicle. And Miss Rose wanted a popsicle. Specifically, she wanted a blue popsicle.

“Aunt Anne? May I have a blue popsicle?”
“Aunt Anne? I want a blue popsicle.”
“Aunt Anne? Is it time for popsicles? I want a blue one.”

The problem with the popsicle situation was that I had to make sure each camper had one before I could get one to her. It was never a question of if I was going to provide for her, it was simply a matter of when. And so it continued…

“Aunt Anne? Did everybody get their popsicles?”
“Aunt Anne? You promised me a popsicle.”
“Aunt Anne? I’m ready for my blue popsicle.”

As I tell the story, it feels like the kind of situation where you could get really irritated with little Rose. But that day, something was different about how she was asking. Rather than panicking about what she wanted (which I have certainly seen her do), this time she was calm. She was not asking out of fear. Instead, she seemed to be asking from a position of trust. She knew I was the holder of the popsicle and had the power to give it to her. And, she knew she could not get it herself. Although the promise had not yet arrived, she kept asking, confidently believing it was coming.

Rose’s approach that day challenged how I think about approaching God with requests. Her persistence was high. Her inhibitions were low. And her confidence? It was absolutely unshakable. That, I thought, is what it looks like to pray with “faith like a child.”

My dear friends, my invitation today is to resist the urge to “adult” so much in our prayer lives. Frankly, sometimes we just think too much. Rather than worrying about whether we are asking too much or too often, may we instead throw off our inhibitions and “approach the throne of grace with confidence” as often as we need (Hebrews 4:16, NIV). Remember, asking of God is not pestering Him, it is honoring Him. Admitting that which we cannot do on our own is worship.

So, keep coming to Him. No matter how many times you make a request, it is never too many. In fact, sometimes our greatest act of faith is continuing to ask, having “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV).

Remember, child of God, He loves to hear from you.

“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'” Matthew 19:14, NIV

“Be persistent in prayer, and keep alert as you pray, giving thanks to God.” Colossians 4:2, GNT

Photo by Camylla Battani on Unsplash

When (Not If) Mental Health & Sports Collide

It is my privilege to continue to write for Friday Night Wives. I appreciate their willingness to acknowledge the importance of mental health and sport.

We are entering such an interesting time in sports.

In a country that thrives on the yearly routine of sport seasons, instead we are facing starts and stops, and even the full elimination of seasons at the high school and college level.

As a coach’s wife who has lived this rhythm for almost two decades, facing this change is unsettling.

However, as a therapist who has had a front row seat to the stressors of players and coaches, the impact this could have feels potentially even more threatening.

In nearly 20 years as a coaching family, we have seen up close the mental health challenges that face many athletes and coaches. The grit and resilience athletes learn sometimes bleed over, becoming more of the mental and emotional narrative than is healthy.

And coaches (who may frankly need to win to keep their jobs) feel the pressure, too.

The pressure to keep going, never quit, sacrifice for the team, the game, the mission, and the family.

The sport becomes the identity. And, for some, it gets to be too much.

These are stories we hear every year —

Coaches developing chronic panic attacks.

Players suffering from depression or anxiety.

Coaches becoming physically ill due to mental distress.

Coaches and players struggling to navigate online criticism.

Players who cut.

Players who take their lives.

This may sound intense but they are not isolated instances and they are not once-in-a-career situations. This is reality. Mental health issues are not something that only happens to “other” people and “other” programs. It happens for all of us.

To read this article in full go to Friday Night Wives here.