Parenting Hack: When Kids Ask for H.E.L.P.

Coming at you with a super-practical parenting post today. I live in a house with two children, ages five and nine. This means that they are plenty old enough to do a lot of things, but, also young enough to still need help sometimes. As parents, we have worked really hard to encourage independence in these developing humans, but that doesn’t stop them from occasionally asking for help when they don’t really need it. Because, let’s be honest, sometimes it’s just physically, emotionally, or mentally easier to ask for help than to do stuff on our own. I know if I am tempted to do this, my kids are certainly going to be prone to do it as well.

All that to say, part of our job as parents is helping kids when they need it. But, it is also our job to help them push against the edges of their physical, emotional, and mental comfort zones in order to gain the ability to find solutions on their own. Full disclaimer, I regularly fail at this, because it is really hard to stay focused on the big picture when “Moooooooommmmmm…I neeeeeed hellllp” is reverberating off the walls. So, rather than just sit in my Mom shame (super fun times) I came up with an acronym to help me focus and slow down. It is, fittingly, H.E.L.P.

What to Do When Kids Ask for Help

H – Hesitate. Let’s get the obvious out of the way. We do not hesitate when a child is actually in danger. Most of us know the difference between our kid’s fear voice vs. frustrated voice. If they’re hanging off the roof, please help them. But, if it’s less serious, try hesitating. This practice of hesitating when a child calls for “help!” is exactly what it sounds like. Just take a beat. Feel free to finish the chicken you were chopping, the towel you were folding, or the bill you were paying. “Just a second kiddo” is a perfectly acceptable response when a child asks for help. Many times if I hesitate for just a bit, I get “never mind, I figured it out” before I even get to them. Self-efficacy for them, non-interruption for me. Win-win.

E – Evaluate. This is the self-reflective part of the process. If we get past hesitation and are actually going to engage with our child, we need to reflect on where we are. On my way to them, it usually helps me to take a couple breaths and remember that these kiddos are a gift, rather than an inconvenience. And, that whatever emotional state I find them in does not have to dictate mine. Kids who are asking for help sometimes feel (and act) a little irrational and panic-stricken. Meeting them with calm helps support their self-regulation and models that they too can be calm while problem-solving.

L – Listen. This may be the most important step in the whole acronym. When we go to help our children with something, it’s not just about the task itself, but the mental and emotional process around it. When we take the time to ask (and validate!) how they are feeling, listen to what they have already tried, and hear what they want to accomplish, we affirm they are worth listening to. So many times, especially if I feel busy or irritated, I just want to blow past what they are thinking and feeling and fix the situation so they will stop being sad/frustrated and I can get back to whatever I was doing. Obviously, this fixes things in the short term, but does very little for their long-term development and independence. Listening and helping are both essential.

P – Problem-solve. This step is where the real-life rubber hits the road. This is where we get the chance to teach them how to be critical thinkers, encourage them to look at problems from different angles, offer potential solutions or parts of the solution, and empower them to choose a path forward. In short, this is where we help them stretch not only their knowledge, but their ability to be creative and persevere even when the answers aren’t obvious. The post-script on this one is that sometimes when your kid can’t figure it out, you can’t either. Part of the full course of problem-solving is admitting when you don’t know, and then teaching your kiddo how to seek outside information and support as needed. You know, like humans have to do sometimes!

Okay, there you are. During this past year, parents may have had to respond to “I need help!” more than any other parents in recent history. We have been with our kids more, faced things that none of us had any clue how to do (hello, virtual learning) and do it all while trying to attend to our own responsibilities and well-being. If nothing else, I hope filing this little acronym away in your head will be a way to help us all slow down, take care of ourselves, and put us in a better space to take care of our kids. If we do this well, we may just turn out some awesome little problem solvers when all this is over.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels, used with permission

How (and Why!) to Help Children Learn & Practice Gratitude

This year, my husband (who has spent his entire career educating teenagers) became an elementary health/PE teacher. As different as it has been with so many humans under five-foot-tall, he has really thrived figuring out ways to teach them some wellness concepts. Exhibit A: This week’s lesson on gratitude. It has been fun to talk about these ideas and, ultimately learn a few things about how to enhance gratitude in our own littles. Here we go:

Thoughts on Enhancing Gratitude in Children

Scarcity is Our Set-Point, Gratitude is Learned: As evolved as we are, our brains are also still hard-wired for survival. It is far more natural for our brains to focus on what we don’t have/what we could lose, rather than focus on the positive. This is important to keep in mind when we begin teaching gratitude to kids (read: less developed) brains. It is really hard for them to focus on what they do have, rather than disappointments. Be patient as they learn to shift perspective.

You Can’t Be Grateful for Something You Don’t Know: One reason kids have trouble expressing gratitude is because they haven’t practiced. But, another reason is they aren’t aware of differences. Many kids simply don’t know that lots of people in the world go without adequate food, shelter, adult support, friends, education, clothing, safety, and/or opportunity. There are developmentally appropriate ways to help even the smallest children recognize the blessings and privileges they have that many other children do not.

Beginning “Gratituders” Need Categories: Yep, totally made that word up, but it’s a good concept. You cannot learn a sport without skill-specific training, you can’t learn to read until you learn your letters, and you can’t learn to be a strong “gratituder” until someone breaks it down. When kids are asked, “What are you are grateful for?” they often struggle to come up with much. But, when it is broken into categories, they do better. When you first start teaching gratitude to your kiddos, it is more effective to say, “What is one food/time of day/season/friend/ability/activity/family member you are grateful for?” rather than leave it open ended.

Mental Gratitude Pathways Have to be Formed: Speaking of this training, one of the reasons gratitude works is that it literally changes the pathways in our brains. But, these pathways do not form automatically. They have to be traveled over and over and over again for us to “default” to gratitude rather than fear or scarcity. Asking children regularly to practice gratitude may feel repetitive (or even exhausting) but I assure you it is as important as anything else do. We are literally helping to form their brains to be resilient and positive, long after they leave our care.

Gratitude is a Modeled Behavior: This is the age-old truth of parenting — kids pick up far more of what is “caught” than “taught.” If we practice gratitude, our kids are more likely to do so as well. I know, practicing gratitude can be so hard, especially in sad, scary, or difficult situations (like this pandemic we are enduring). But, if we demonstrate gratitude in front of our kids, they will be more likely to do so when they encounter their own struggles. We aren’t pretending things aren’t difficult. We are simply showing them gratitude can exist even when things are so very dark. In a world that can be so challenging, this is so very important for them, and for us.

Okay dear readers, I hope these tips help as you seek to enhance gratitude in yourself and your kiddos. It’s not always easy, but it is definitely, definitely worth it. All the best in your “training!”

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8, NIV

Photo by Alyssa Stevenson on Unsplash, used with permission

If This Winter is Feeling Extra Hard, It’s Because It is

Hello from the polar vortex! I’ve had a very strange sensation the past few days, I’m mad at the weather. I don’t think I’ve ever been mad at the weather before. Annoyed, sure. Weary and ready to move on to the next season, yep. But, standing at my window with my brows furrowed and swear words threatening to bubble up in my brain? That’s new.

I started wondering what in the world was going on with me and then I realized, what’s going on in the world is the problem with me. This plunge into winter feels extra hard this year because it is extra hard this year. We cannot dismiss the “layering effect” this weather is having upon all that we have faced for a year in the pandemic. To that end, I wanted to offer some thoughts and ideas for relief to those of you who also may be muttering in front of your frost-covered window panes.

Tips for Managing Winter Blues

  • Call a Spade a Spade: We do ourselves no favors by pretending this experience is something it’s not. Much of the country is currently in a temperature plunge with some combination of ice, snow, electricity blackouts, and kids home from school again (mercy!) But, unlike other years, we are doing this after a year in a pandemic. If you are struggling more than usual, it’s not weakness. It’s the product of difficulty upon difficulty for a really long time. Give yourself a little grace and a hug, not shame.

  • Acknowledge the Public Health Crisis: In a similar vein to the point above, we are in a very real public health crisis. The articles about mental health impacts on different populations (ex. mothers, young people) are in the headlines daily. If you are struggling, remember that you are not alone, this is hard for many people. Also, seasonal affective disorder is real and may require medical, supplement (Vitamin D), and/or therapeutic intervention. Don’t be afraid to call your doctor and remember, online mental health therapy can be done right from your home through companies like BetterHelp and TalkSpace.

  • Find Sunshine: Not all of these options will work for everyone, but here goes. On the days when the sun shines, even if it is bitterly cold, it can help to be in front of your window in the sun or even (bundle up!) step outside for a few minutes. My screensaver and television are routinely tuned into some pleasant scene with sunshine. And, for those who have the means, light therapy has been shown to be effective to lift mood. Here’s a review on several that are rated well (link).

  • Switch Your Focus to “What Can I Do?”: Because I love to be outdoors, I really struggle with a scarcity attitude in the winter. But, focusing on how winter limits our options is really deflating. My days are much better when I start with “what can I do today” or “what will I miss when it’s summer/busy/not pandemic?” Usually that shifts me back into gratitude for the permission to read the extra book, watch another movie, sleep in, bake with my kids, etc. For those of us who like to be busy and productive, we have to remember that the pioneer people weren’t lazy when they had to stay in and around the house. It was just the truth of the season.

  • Widen Your Perspective: Pull up a calendar. Seriously. It can be so helpful to simply look at a calendar and realize that if the normal pattern of weather holds true, we will begin to see signs of spring within a few weeks. Winter does not last forever and polar vortexes don’t last for more than a couple days (thank goodness!) Counting the weeks or days until we experience a little relief can help alleviate the “forever” feeling.

  • Move: Yep, it’s probably not going to be your normal routine, but we have to move. My Mom walked a mile in her two bedroom house each of the last couple days (so impressed btw). Many of us have fitness options available on our televisions or phones. Bodies aren’t designed to stay still and they feel extra physically, mentally, and emotionally funky if they do. Even if it’s just a few minutes, doing something to stretch and move can do wonders.

Folks, we’re going to be okay. It’s been super-duper hard for a really long time, but the end of all this (pandemic, cold, isolation) is so much closer than it was. I hope a little joy, sunshine, and grace meet you this day and give you stubborn hope for the joy ahead.

Photo by Adam Chang on Unsplash, used with permission

Little Love Offerings

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the “usual” ways we are able to care for one another. Thanks to The Glorious Table for allowing me the opportunity to explore how we can shift a bit and still love each other well. See preview below or click for the full post here.

A few months ago, my five-year-old came home with a scrap of paper. I mean that quite literally: a scrap of paper. She had rolled it into a miniature scroll and presented it to me with great enthusiasm. “Here Mommy,” she said. “I made this for you today!” As I unrolled the scroll, I saw a series of shapes. Squares, triangles, circles, rectangles—all things she had been practicing in school for the past few weeks. “Thank you honey,” I said. “I love it.” And we moved on with our evening.

As I put her to bed, I asked her about her “highs and lows,” the best and worst parts of her day. I don’t remember what she said about the worst part, but the best I will remember: “The shape scroll Mommy. That was the best part of my day.”

Little Offerings of Love

I was so touched by her perception of that gift and a little convicted by my own. I didn’t think it was a big deal. Just another little note among the many other little love offerings she gives me. I would never have known how much it meant to her if I hadn’t paid attention and asked her about it. The way she put so much love into something so “little” made me think about how we love one another. I pulled a few lessons from this experience.

Lesson 1: Don’t Let Effort, Size, or Expense Distract You from Noticing

It is now several months later, and I still can’t tell you why that purple-markered line of shapes means more than any other note she’s ever given me. It was not bigger, it did not require more effort, and it was not even the best work she’s ever brought home. But for whatever reason, the care she put into it that day made it valuable to her and, thus, a meaningful gift to me. It stays on my refrigerator as a reminder that I shouldn’t simply bypass the little love offerings my children give me, no matter how insignificant they may seem.

On a bigger scale, it has also reminded me to check myself regarding the efforts and gifts others offer me. This pandemic has caused many people to not able to care, do, or be together in ways they normally take for granted. Moreover, the economic impact, along with the mental health stress, has made it so that many people literally can’t give or care in ways they normally would. It’s a good lesson for us to pause when people offer us even the “littlest” gift or care. It may be all they are able to give. If we can recognize it and receive it with love, it may end up being the best part of their day—and ours as well.

To read the full post on The Glorious Table click here.

When Something is Suddenly Taken Away

This past year I turned 40. And, for the very first time, I am attempting to read the Bible from front to back. Other people do this in a year. Well, God bless’em. I am puttering along, just now in Joshua, and here is what I came across the other day:

“On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. 11 The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. 12 The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan.” Joshua 5:10-12, NIV

Did you catch it? God does this all the time in Scripture. He drops in quick little one-liners that are chock-full of lessons but, if we’re not paying attention, they will slide right by. It was the part about the manna stopping. That, my friends, is a really big deal.

As soon as I read, “the manna stopped” I thought, “Whoa, hold the phone. The manna’s done? Just like that? How long have these folks been eating that stuff?” Turns out, 40 years. Exactly my age right now.

I tried to think about what it would be like to have God provide in one way for so long, only for it to stop this year. How strange it would be to have something go away so suddenly, and then to have to learn a whole new way of functioning. To have to watch for the new way He is going to provide — and (the really hard part) trust that He is going to.

Like when…
you lose a parent
you lose your spouse
you lose a child
you lose your job
you lose your friend
you lose your home
you lose your health
when you lose — something that sustained you.

For these Israelites, manna was the only thing they had ever known. It had been a part of their lives for so long that, I suspect, they couldn’t imagine life without it. But, when God made the switch, I want to make sure you catch what happened:

  1. God provided in both situations. When they were in the wilderness, He provided manna. When they came into another season of life, He provided from the land. Either way, He provided. He doesn’t make or allow changes without provision for His children.
  2. The provision overlapped. Look back at verse 11. The day before the manna stopped, He had already let them taste the “produce of the land.” This lesson is about far more than food. Often, when we experience a change, we can look around and see where He had already been putting things in place to support us as we transition to a new way.
  3. The manna may have gone away, but its value did not. The manna was so important in its time. It remains an important part of Biblical history, teaching people as time marches on. We don’t forget the old ways God provided, in fact, we celebrate them. Just as, in time, we will learn to celebrate the new way.

I know so many of us have encountered unimaginable losses in our lives. Ones that left us reeling and saying, “Whoa God, that person/place/job/situation/friend/parent/child/ability sustained me. They helped me live. They provided for me. And, now it’s gone? What now?”

May we hear Him say, “I will provide my child. I am and I always have. I was preparing the support you needed before you even knew this change would come and I will continue to for all your days. The manna was what I gave you for a time. Be on the lookout for the new ways I will love you. I will always sustain you.”

Written in loving memory of the laughter, hard work, fatherhood, brotherhood, friendship, service, and sacrifice of Jake Riner, an incredible provider of so many things.

Photo by Karim MANJRA on Unsplash

How Will You Use Your Hands This Year?

Published this article over at The Glorious Table this month! It was fun to consider how the Bible talks about our hands. Read on for a preview or click to access the full post here.

Stepping into this first month of 2021 feels categorically different than other years. It feels different because it is different. Twenty-twenty changed us. The crises we encountered may inspire us to ask, “How does our experience in 2020 affect the posture we take toward 2021?”

I chose that word—“posture”—carefully because I mean it literally. Here’s why. A dear friend of mine, who is also a therapist, taught me about a physical position that is sometimes used with clients in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). The simple position is to sit (or stand) with your hands open, palms up, in a position of acceptance toward those things you cannot control. While this is a helpful therapeutic practice, I have adapted it as a helpful position for my faith as well. Whether it be prayer, worship, or work, I want to take a more intentional and accepting position this year. I want to move into 2021 with a more open posture, ready to accept whatever God wants to place in my hands.

As I considered this approach to the New Year, I wondered what God’s Word had to say about our hands. Turns out, the Bible contains quite a few references. Let’s look at a few.

To Serve

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us — yes, establish the work of our hands.” (Psalm 90:17 (NIV)

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:10 NIV)

No matter what comes our way in 2021, we are always called to serve. God, in his favor, establishes work for our hands. It is not a punishment. Rather, we were “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I also think it is beautiful that we are God’s handiwork, formed by his very own hands. Whether the stress of 2020 continues or lets up, he alone knew long ago how we were going to serve during this time. Consider who and how you can love others in this coming year.

To Worship

“Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.” (Ps. 134:2 NIV)

To read on for more about our hands, link to the full post here.

The Most Noble Calling is the One That’s Yours

When I was in college, I changed majors seven times. Bless my Mom’s heart. I bet it seemed like every time she called I was pursuing something different. All these changes mean I’ve had many different answers to “what’s your major” or, once I had a job, “what do you do for a living?” But the strange thing is, no matter what answer I gave, the reaction was often the same:

“Oh, good for you. I don’t know if I could ever do that.”

After noticing this pattern, I have since paid attention when other people are asked about what they do. Turns out, it’s not just my answers and it’s not just in reaction to paid jobs but also to unpaid and volunteer work. I have seen (or had) the reaction, “Oh my. Good for you. I don’t know if I could ever do that” to someone saying they are a nurse, teacher, entrepreneur, lawyer, police officer, lineman, pastor, stylist, administrative professional, stay-at-home-parent, accountant, janitor, missionary, laborer, farmer, politician, church nursery volunteer, soldier, waitress, engineer, or electrician. So, what’s behind this common response to other people’s work?

  1. Some of it is genuine admiration. We want to affirm other people. We are conveying thanks and/or gratitude for the work they do.


  2. We are engaging in comparison. When someone else says what they do, many of us automatically begin to inventory our abilities, gifts, and interests and notice how different they are from our own.

Obviously, number one is not a problem. And, number two isn’t a problem as long as it is doesn’t wander into the realm of judgment and criticism. But, what I’ve learned is, sometimes it does. So, here is what I wanted to make sure you hear today:

No one person’s call is more valuable than another. In short, the most noble calling is the one you are designed for because that is where God can best use you.

God can use work as worship for any of us. He needs people in all types of work because He needs His people served in all kinds of ways. Our lives are not simply what we do, but the “how” and “why” we do it. While the world (or your own perception) may place more importance on certain professions, God does no such thing.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10, NIV

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

If looking at what other people are doing with their lives makes you feel badly (or makes you feel better!) please take a pause. Comparison is often just a fancy version of judgment, and that’s why God asks us not to do it. Our job is simply to search, learn, and understand how God has created us and then lean into however that allows us to serve Him and His people. Our greatest satisfaction can be found in that place, not someone else’s.

You, dear reader, are valuable just exactly as He designed you. And, that design means You have valuable work to do. Onward in your most noble calling. Do it for Him.

Photo by Charles Koh on Unsplash, used with permission

Here are My Empty Baskets Lord, Please Fill Them

I am writing this week’s post for all of us with empty baskets. Empty energy baskets, empty emotional baskets, empty financial baskets, empty patience baskets, empty make-dinner-and-care-for-my-kids baskets, empty able-to-deal-with-one-more-thing-baskets.

For close to a year now, we have been steadily serving out of our baskets. But, if we are honest, many of us are weary. And, many of our baskets are empty or they are carrying crumbs that feel as though they could be swept away by the wind at any moment.

Especially in these times, I think one of the most precious qualities about the Bible is that it is the “living Word.” It does not apply only to first century life, instead, it follows us. It follows us in the here and now to our present, tired, empty-basket circumstances and gives us hope and direction. Let’s see how it may encourage us today:

12 Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.” 13 He replied, “You give them something to eat.” They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” 14 (About five thousand men were there.)

But he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15 The disciples did so, and everyone sat down. 16 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. 17 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

This message of Jesus feeding the five thousand is familiar to many of us. But, in this time when many of our baskets feel so very empty, I want to make sure we notice a few things:

  • Jesus will always care about other people more than we can. This is not a knock against us, but instead, a statement of freedom. When we say to Him that we don’t have enough energy, enough money, or enough strength, He can make a way. Your empty baskets do not limit His ability to love those you are trying to “feed.” Stop shaming yourself for not having enough or being enough and instead, watch for how He will provide.
  • Jesus is happy to use you even when you didn’t have enough. After the disciples said they couldn’t do it, He didn’t say, “You disciples are worthless. Just get out of My way and watch Me work.” Instead, He listened to them, fixed the problem, and then reengaged them for the miracle. Don’t take yourself out of the game just because you couldn’t do it on your own. Watch for Him to invite you back in.
  • Jesus did not just fill the disciples’ food baskets that day. He filled their faith baskets, their energy baskets, their confidence baskets, their hope baskets — and He filled them to excess. But, this only happened after the disciples acknowledged, “We are out. We can’t do it.” If you are out, admit it. Jesus is neither fooled nor honored by us trying to white-knuckle this life on our own. Hand over your empty baskets so He can refill them in His way.

A prayer…

“Lord, As 2021 has emerged, with many of the same burdens as 2020 plus some — here’s our baskets. They are splintered, frayed, and worn slick on the handle by our efforts to continue to serve out of our own strength. We give them to you now. We ask that You fill them. And then, we ask for the strength to pick them back up without shame, fear, or intimidation. You delight in giving us more loaves and fishes Lord, no matter how many times we run out. Thank you for the ways you fill us and love us.”

Photo by Nasim Keshmiri on Unsplash, used with permission

When One Crisis is Added to Another: Tips for Managing Mental Safety

The experience of existing in a global pandemic means our minds have been aware of unique concerns for our safety for almost a year. Then, as events unfolded at the US Capitol on Wednesday, it layered yet another barrage of images and messages. Add to that the other times of global and national unrest throughout 2020, any personal worries, and many of us find ourselves managing an uncommonly heavy pile of mental threats — all at the same time. That’s a lot to handle.

As human beings, we have a basic need to both be safe and feel safe. Even at times when we may be physically safe, our minds may not feel that way. And, when our minds don’t feel safe it is hard to do basic day-to-day life well, much less excel or thrive. In these difficult times, when safety threat piles upon safety threat, it is essential that we take even more care to attend to our psychological well-being. We may not be able to control the world around us, but we can take steps to help the world within us.

Tips for Increasing Psychological Safety

Safety of Routine: Anytime the world feels like it’s turned upside down, it can be tempting to depart from our normal routines. And, while taking breaks to collect yourself or rejuvenate can be helpful, we must remember that our minds and bodies like predictability. As soon as you are able, get back to your regular bedtime and wake up routines, hygiene practices, exercise, eating patterns, conversations with your normal support people, and anything else that makes your mind or body say, “Oh, yes. I recognize that.” Familiarity supports our psychological safety.

Environmental Safety: The extent to which someone can have environmental safety has a great deal to do with economic status, privilege, and available resources. With that said, to the degree that you are able, increase your sense of physical safety and physical comfort. Be with people who are supportive rather than divisive or unkind. Make your living environment comfortable in terms of temperature, aesthetics, and creature comforts. Be okay with staying in if that feels better, as long as you don’t remain isolated. Lock doors, turn on lights, read a good book, watch an uplifting show. Don’t underestimate the power of small gestures to tell your mind, “I’ve got you. We’re safe here.”

Information Safety: Here’s my mental health public service announcement. There is no prize for being the most well-informed human on the planet. Unless you are in immediate danger, there is no need to watch the news constantly, particularly as events are unfolding, uncertain, and speculative. If you are physically safe and do not need the latest update on a crisis, you may be psychologically safer to do a once-a-day check-in of the headlines. The same goes for processing crises with others. Our minds benefit from debriefing and feeling supported, they do not benefit from obsessing.

Lack of Change Safety: This one is a bit of a mouthful but let’s see if we can unpack it. As an example, in the coming year it is expected that 300,000 to 500,000 less babies will be born than is typical. The same thing happened during the recession in the late 2000’s and during the 1918 Spanish Flu. While that may seem surprising given all the time people have had together with little else to do, the reality is that people often avoid major changes or life decisions during times of instability in order to feel safer or make life more predictable. Unless you want or must make major life decisions during these difficult days, it is more than okay to put them off for a bit. Keeping our brains from having to manage one more new thing can be a great gift to our psychological safety.

We must remember that the constant undercurrent of the COVID crisis means that any additional concerns will be just that — additional. More than we are used to. It is not weakness to occasionally feeling overwhelmed by that. But, in those times, if we stay consistent with our routines, create comforting, safe environments, limit our crisis information intake, and avoid adding new stressors as possible, it can help increase our feelings of psychological safety. Take care of the safety within when the safety outside feels uncertain. One day it will match up again.

Photo by Deniz Altindas on Unsplash, used with permission

Surveying What’s Ahead

Writing over at The Glorious Table today about surveying the year ahead. Click here to link to the full article or read on for a preview below. Happy New Year to you all!

When COVID all but shifted the world on its axis early in 2020, it was incredibly jarring. The shutdown was so quick and life-altering that it took us all a moment to get our bearings. If I’m truthful, what got me through those first few months was Jesus—and a lot of adrenaline. “We can do this!” I said. “A few months of weirdness and then back to normal!” I was more than a smidgen wrong.

I wish I could have understood what was coming. I wish I’d had some premonition that this experience was not a momentary pause, but rather, a lengthy adjustment to life as we know it. But I recognize that even if I been given a glimpse of what was coming, I would still have had to make a choice. A choice about how to proceed. A choice about who or what I was going to put my faith in. I know this because, way back when, God did that for a group of people. He gave the Israelites in the desert a “glimpse ahead” at the life and land they could inherit. Their responses have a lot to teach us about how we might respond given a similar opportunity.

Here’s what happened:

Let’s go all the way back to Numbers 13. The Israelites had been wandering around in the desert and were now poised on the edge of the promised land. But before they proceeded, God asked Moses to send twelve spies to survey the land. Of course, God knew what was there. And the people knew God had promised to give this land to them and be there with them. Yet he still had them go through the process of surveying it. He knew there was value in the exercise—value for their faith.

Off they went. Those twelve spies from the twelve tribes spent forty days observing the people, resources, and attributes of the promised land. They checked their defenses, investigated whether the soil was fertile, observed if the land had trees, and took a bunch of grapes back as evidence of the plentiful nature of the land (Numbers 13:17-25 NIV). Upon their return, this was the report: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large” (Numbers 13:27-28 NIV) .They saw a mixed bag of good and bad. That sure sounds like life, doesn’t it? Okay, back to the scene.

Ten of the spies responded this way: “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are. The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:31-33 NIV)

But then two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, responded this way: “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” (Numbers 13:30 NIV) “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Numbers 14:7-9 NIV)

What a difference.

To read the application for us as enter 2021, see full post here.