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Our Kids & Prayer: 5 Unique Ways to Love & Lead Them

Today we are going to chat about prayer and kids. I think this is dicey because anytime we talk about faith and children, there can be the perception that the information-giver (in this case, me) is extra pious, or thinks herself extra pious. So, in order to combat any of that nonsense I offer the following:

  • Direct quote from my five-year-old last week: “Mom, if you love us why do you use a mean voice sometimes?”
  • Sometimes, I don’t like my kids behavior. And, sometimes I kinda’ don’t like them. (Insert obligatory “but I always love them.”)
  • I suffered from post-partum depression largely because my hyper-independent 32-year-old self was shell-shocked by the work of motherhood.
  • I am not a “natural” at being a Mom. Sure would love to be, but that’s not who I am. I love my kids so much, but I have to work pretty hard at it.

Okay, now that we’ve established my Mom-halo is as off-kilter and tattered as everyone else’s, I’m going to offer you some “types” of prayer for these precious kiddos of ours. Each of these yields it’s own valuable fruit, for us and for them, and sets us up to support our kids in different ways. Here we go.

5 Types of Prayer for Our Children

Praying About Our Kids: Praying about our kids is exactly what it sounds like. It’s your personal prayer life that may have started before they were born and continues now as they encounter struggles, disappointments, hopes, and dreams. It is the intercession we offer as we think about them in the middle of the night, as they walk away to school, and when they try new things. It calls to God on their behalf to love, protect, change, and guide them — and us.

Praying in Front of Our Kids: This is “example” praying. The prayer is sincere, but, it also serves as a way to help kids understand what prayer sounds like. As a person who did not hear personal prayer until I was sixteen, I remember learning “how” to pray by listening to other people talk to God. This is where kids learn that prayer is not just for dinner and bedtime “with eyes closed and heads bowed.” Prayer is for everywhere, anytime. So, when we bust out praise for the beautiful tree or a prayer for the accident we just passed, they learn they can too.

Praying With Our Kids: This is a newer one for me, brought about by a recent playdate. My five-year-old was looking forward to a one-on-one with her bestie. When we arrived, said bestie was with another friend, inciting great disappointment. I tried all my best psycholology about including new friends, which failed. She was “too scared.” I took a risk and asked if I could pray for her. I held those sweet little hands next to the monkey bars and asked God if He would be with her as she went to be with new people. A short time later she courageously marched over. While this will certainly not always work, we must remember it is our job to work ourselves out of a job. I sure as heck want her relying on Jesus more than me as she gets older, so we may as well practice now.

Kids Independent Prayer: This one creates safe spaces for kids to practice prayer because, like anything else, that’s how they get comfortable with it. Both public and private, it’s a no pressure situation, but an oft-invited one. Privately they are encouraged to “check in with Jesus” in the mornings. We don’t check on them, we just encourage a morning moment. Dinner is floated as “who wants to pray tonight” with enough silence to allow them to jump in if they want to. My son’s job is to pray as we leave on trips. He has full reign to decline but the predictability of this “role” has given him a safe space to practice praying outloud (when we aren’t looking at him) and he has come to own it over the years. The goal is to create low-stakes opportunities they will capitalize on when they feel ready.

Praying Their Requests: Last one, short and sweet. This is when we start asking them how we can pray for them. It’s a way to show we care about what they care about, rather than deciding for ourselves what is important. And, whatever they tell us to pray for is a valuable window into what worries, fears, hopes, and dreams they have. It’s a cool way to get to know your kid’s inner world, and pray for them in ways that matter to them.

Well, there you go folks. From an imperfect Mom who prays for God to “fill in the gaps” of the stuff I mess up, these are the tips that are working best for us. I hope adding one or two of these angles into your own prayer adventure with your kids is a great blessing. Happy praying!

Photo by Elisabeth Wales on Unsplash, used with permission

Post-Pandemic & Postpartum Experiences: How the Parallels Can Help Us Recover

A resounding theme is growing among many of the women in my life. Cutting across all age groups, I hear it from women at home with small children, moms of teens, empty nesters, working professionals, even older women with self-proclaimed “few” responsibilities. They keep talking about being tired. And while women feeling worn out is not uncommon, this isn’t the usual multi-tasking Mama tired. It’s like extra tired with a side of shame because it’s spring and the restrictions of the pandemic are waning so we all “should” be feeling better and having more energy. What’s going on here?

Admittedly, I am feeling much of the same. The exhaustion seems to be lingering. I was texting a couple friends about this when I wrote, “I don’t remember being this tired for this long at any other time in my life than after I had a baby.”

Aaaaand…lightbulb.

That’s it. Coming out of this pandemic has great parallels to postpartum recovery — all the way down to the irrational guilt and pressure we put on ourselves to “bounce back.” We’re putting expectations on ourselves to recover from this pandemic the same way women put pressure on themselves about lots of other things. Notorious for the expectation to function optimally, during transitions we often push way too quickly with too much pressure and far, far too little grace. Maybe this reflection can help us think about post-pandemic adjustment differently.

Post-Pandemic & Postpartum Parallels

Adjusting to a New Reality: When we discover we are pregnant, it shifts our lives. The early days of this pandemic definitely had some similarities to finding out you are having a baby. It changed our perspective, it made us read all the medical things, and we either got sick or worried about getting sick. Now that many of our lives are starting to look more normal and we’ve birthed this pandemic baby, we seem to feel some pressure to return to “normal” life immediately. Well, it’s not that easy. We’ve spent a lot of time getting to this point and it’s going to take us a while to figure out how to function again. We have to incorporate what we’ve learned and brought into our lives. We will adjust, but give it time. Nobody would expect you to do “all the things” immediately after having a baby. Please don’t expect yourself to do all the things immediately after this experience either.

Emotional Endurance: I think this may be the strongest influence we are underestimating. When this pandemic entered our lives, we slowed down physically, but went into mental and emotional overdrive. We had an unbelievable amount of new information to learn about a virus, our safety, school, and how the heck daily life was going to work. For a year, we’ve been applying additional mental and emotional energy to everyday decision making in a way we never had to before. We’ve worried about and prayed for ourselves and our families and general humanity. Consider this quote from a beautiful memoir I read recently:

“…it occurs to me that maybe the reason my mother was so exhausted all the time wasn’t because she was doing so much but because she was feeling so much.” ~ Kelly Corrigan, Glitter & Glue

Yes, we must honor how hard our hearts have been working. Our caretaker selves are tired.

Weight Gain: I read an article the other day citing, on average, people had gained thirty pounds over the course of the pandemic. Ironically, about the average gained during pregnancy. But, rather than the number, here’s what I really want you to hear. If you gained weight during the pandemic, you are not alone. You are in the company of hundreds of millions of other people who were stressed in unimaginable ways while also being restricted from their usual coping and exercise options. Remember, if it took you a year’s worth of a pandemic to gain the weight, it’s reasonable to think it’s going to take you a while to lose it. Your body that is a little bigger also survived a really difficult time. Be kind to her and be patient. She will recover.

While I know there are more than a few differences, the way women believe they “should” be recovering from this pandemic just sounds way too much like the pressure we put on ourselves after we have kids. That breaks my heart. But, no need to make the same mistake twice beloved. We have nested in fear, sadness, hope, adjustments, mask-wearing, hand-washing, distance learning, people missing, hug deprivation, and how-do-I-reengage-with-the-worldness for a year. Please don’t feel like you have to jump right back to whatever you were before. You’ll get there, and what you’ve learned and grown will be there too. New life in a new time. Let’s honor the adjustment.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay, used with permission

The Blessing of Taking a Closer Look at Holy Week

I love Holy Week. And, somehow I think I love it more because I didn’t grow up in church. Until I became a Christian at sixteen, Easter was simply the fun of a new dress, searching for my basket, and gathering eggs at my grandmother’s house. Then after, Easter became a precious celebration. I do so appreciate the memories of those early days.

Years later when I got married, I had the additional privilege of getting to know Easter not just as Resurrection Sunday, but also as a week full of celebrations per my husband’s Lutheran upbringing. Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, they were all new to me. It was neat to add those extra days of understanding, sweetening the crescendo up to a victorious Easter celebration.

In that same spirit of expanding the experience of Easter, this year I decided to investigate the remaining days of Holy Week. Not surprisingly, there are many things that happened on those less “famous” days of Holy Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday. As a light appetizer, I’ll offer just a little here. On Monday, Jesus cleared the temple. On Tuesday, He visited the Mount of Olives where he would be betrayed later that week. Wednesday (also referred to as “Spy Wednesday”) is suggested as the day Judas made the decision to betray Jesus. And, finally Saturday, (sometimes referred to as “Black Saturday”) when Jesus lay in the tomb.

And, while I definitely considered using today’s post as a deep dive into each of these less well known days, a different lesson came to mind instead. Recognizing these more obscure days in Jesus’ last week on earth is a simple reminder that there is so much to learn about Him “in between the highlight reel.” By looking closer, we learn more about this important week and other experiences He lived. And, by looking closer, we get not only the Sunday School level of Jesus, but a birds eye view to some of the finer nuances of His character. Just like when we spend time getting to know people better, when we take the time to know God better, it helps us love, appreciate, and understand Him even more.

During this Holy Week, I pray that you are blessed by learning more about who Jesus was over that time. And, I pray that practice also encourages you to learn and develop deep, meaningful relationships with others as well. I sure do love it that any lesson we learn about Jesus also has this cool, blessed application for our daily lives too.

Holy Week happened a long, long time ago but its implications are as modern day as they come. Blessings to each of you as the victory of Easter Sunday approaches. May you deeply know Him — and be deeply known. For this is where life is truly lived.

(For those interested in a deeper dive, a thorough infographic on Holy Week events can be found here.)

Photo by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash, used with permission

Mistakes are Cool: Three Ways to Fail More Productively

I spent a lot of years saying no to God about writing. It wasn’t necessarily in a defiant way, but instead, like when you ask your kid to do something and they get busy doing something else. I just didn’t take the time to explore what was tugging at me. I knew it was going to be hard, I knew it was going to be public and, I knew once I started I had to be committed. That was a lot to process so, I just took about fifteen years to get around to it.

I don’t share this delay with shame. I don’t think it does us much good to live in the regret of what could have been. I share it because I know there are some of you who have wanted to step into something and haven’t done it because it’s scary. We worry about what others will think of us (or what we will think of ourselves.) We worry we won’t be successful or it won’t be worth it. We worry we will fail.

So, to that end, here’s my gift to you today: You are going to fail.

When we step into something new, that’s when we are the worst at it. In fact, these “failures” are an inherent, valuable part of the process of becoming more of who God designed us to be. Part of this is because our brains need time to learn. And, I suspect, part of this is because God doesn’t want us building our own personal towers of Babel. Failure is the necessary part of the process that keeps us humble and makes us better. And, if practiced authentically, our failures can be a gift to other people because it makes us accessibly human — giving other people permission to be human also.

So what does it look like to fail in productive, healthy, life-giving ways? Here are some suggestions.

Fail Better: This one is easy-peasy, at least in concept. It just means learning from your mistakes and trying not to make the same ones again. It means making a quarter-turn in your approach to see if that works better this time. It means celebrating doing less poorly than you did before because, if you do that enough times, eventually you will end up doing it well. “Failing better” is often just the natural outcome of practice. We get better each time we try.

Fail Forward: This term isn’t mine. Leadership guru John Maxwell has an entire book written on this concept. Failing forward means failing without activating the self-protective response to quit or retreat. These failures are opportunities to gather information and reaffirm our value and purpose. When we think about failures as necessary steps forward, rather than back, it helps us keep moving.

Fail Face Up: Failing face up means being willing to be seen. This is harder. Many people have begun a new thing in the quiet of their mind or the closed door of a room, and never made it out. One of the most important ways to fail is in the presence of other people — but not just any people. Not everyone earns the right to an opinion. But, for those who love you, for those who mentor you, for those who are “in the arena” with you, being real is essential. Without allowing others to witness of our failures, we risk the quick death that comes with being a people-pleaser — and nobody ever gets anywhere that way.

So, there you go fellow humans. My fifteen year siren call was writing, and I took a darn long time worrying more about the dangers than the joy it ultimately brought me. Mistakes and failure still meet me every day, but I know now I wouldn’t trade it. Onward, brave soldier. Onward toward “failure.” It’s totally worth it.

PS – In a “fail face up” disclosure, this entire post is an example. I began writing it months ago and gave up because I couldn’t figure out a way forward. Then, yesterday after hours spent on another article, someone I trust affirmed that piece was not ready to be shared. Many hours, some self-pitied whimpering, and over seven hundred words later, I am better for it. Just wanted to give you a glimpse into the life of this human, who falls on her face all the time. Come join me.

Photo by Ricardo Viana on Unsplash, used with permission

How to Cope, Honor, & Seek Beauty: One Year into the Pandemic

Well, it’s here. The one-year anniversary of the pandemic that left us stunned for weeks, reeling for months, and tired as we trudge ahead. I have seen a lot of articles about this anniversary and the trauma that will accompany this time for many people. And, I want to affirm that this heavy word “trauma” is 110% a valid and accurate way to describe how some will experience it. However, in the midst of this trauma, a light is also beginning to emerge. There are redemptive angles to observe. And so, we will do that here today. The list below includes ways to cope, honor the hard stuff, and find the co-existing beauty.

Coping, Honoring, & Seeking Beauty in the Pandemic

If It’s Too Much, Don’t Look at It: The same rules apply one year into this as when it started. The news, your social media feed, even your relationships may be full of pictures, conversation, and reminders of how wild this was when it started. You have the choice to actively re-absorb all those memories, or don’t. You can’t keep everything out (and probably shouldn’t) but you can definitely set boundaries to avoid being overwhelmed. No need to deep dive into a pool when you don’t want to go swimming. Just stay on the edge.

This is the Anniversary: One of the hardest things about trauma is that our memories can feel just as intense as if the situation were happening again, right now. This is literally a biological function of the brain’s response to trauma. An important part of getting through difficult memories is reminding yourself how far you have come, what you have survived, and that we are much safer and better informed than we were when this all started. Trauma brain doesn’t always recognize the truth, so we have to remind it.

Anniversaries Can Improve: Quick story. I dreaded my daughter’s birthday for the first four years. I know, birthdays are supposed to be happy occasions, but for me, all it did was remind me of when she was born and how we almost lost her. But, you know what? Every year the images of her in the PICU came less often, the “what ifs” became less loud, and the year she turned five I woke up the next morning and thought, “Huh. I didn’t think about the hospital at all.” While we are never without our difficult memories, our brains can (and do!) get better from really hard situations. While this anniversary may be hard, it will hopefully be easier in years to come.

Be Cool with Your Narrative: As we muddle through this anniversary, some people will be sad, angry, re-experiencing emotions from the beginning, and grieving. And, there are going to be people who are joyful because relief is coming, they are hugging their grandchildren for the first time, or grateful because they made it. A great many of us will be living with a la carte emotions from the entire list. So, which way is best? The way you need. You gotta’ do you and other folks gotta’ do them. Let’s love each other wherever we are.

Celebrate: You, dear reader, have made it one year into a global pandemic. We didn’t have any idea what that meant when we started, but we sure know now. But, even more than what we’ve learned about pandemics, we’ve learned some incredible lessons about people. People are strong, people are resilient, and people show up for one another. Even as you grieve the incredible losses of this experience, I want you to see that strength. I want you to see how you kept going and honor those who have helped carry you through. I want you to see how, even in the dark, you grew. This pandemic took a lot from us, but it has also produced a great deal of perseverance, character and hope. Now that is something to celebrate.

So, here we are. Exactly one year ago today my children came home from school with no plan for return. Exactly one year ago today we wondered when we would see each other again. And, exactly one year ago I wrote this line, “My fellow humanity, I have no idea what is ahead. But I know I trust you.” That was a good decision. We have done well. Hope to hug you soon.

Photo by Thomas Bormans on Unsplash

Lessons in Transitions

I am writing this week over at The Glorious Table about transitions. While we hope for smooth transitions, the reality of often far bumpier. Lessons on that and more in the preview below or via the full article is link here.

My husband and I grew up on opposite sides of Missouri but had similar upbringings. We both come from two-parent households in the suburbs. All four parents worked. We spent our entire childhoods in one city and one school system. They were predictable, safe, even unremarkable experiences in many ways. I sure miss that consistency sometimes.

You see, since leaving for college, our adult lives have looked nothing like those predictable, consistent childhoods. We both moved around some in college, and since we married, we have lived in four different places. Each place has required packing and unpacking, making new friends, finding a new church home, grieving the people and places we’d just left, and coping with transition. After all these moves, I’ve decided transitions are often awkward, bumpy, and difficult, even if God has ordained them. It was the same for God’s people.

For many months now, I have been reading slowly through the Old Testament. I feel like it has been forever since God brought the Israelites out of Egypt in Exodus, waiting for the fulfillment of their entrance into the promised land. After a rather laborious trek through Deuteronomy, I have finally entered Joshua. Thank goodness. I get to watch these folks finally take possession of the land they were promised all those years ago.

Lessons in Transitions

In Joshua, I think I was anticipating them just sauntering into the promised land untouched, unscathed, and uninhibited. Turns out even a biblical transition at this level involved some growing pains. I want to share with you the ones that I have observed so far, in hopes that they will teach us something we can use when God is taking us through transitions in our own lives.

  1. Transitions Aren’t for Everyone: Moses, who led the Israelites since they left Egypt, died in the last book of Deuteronomy. A whole bunch of other people died before the transition as well. Joshua and the rest had to move on without them. These people didn’t get to make the transition because they were being punished. But the truth of people having to move on without others often holds true in our own transitions. Each time we’ve moved, there have been people, traditions, and even favorite restaurants and stores that I wanted to take with us. But they were not meant for the next place. Often, you have to move on alone.

For the full list link to the article here.

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.