Moving Forward

Happy New Year everyone. I hope it’s going well for you so far. 

I have been fighting a lot of stress and some depression as I’ve moved forward into January. Lots of reasons. 

First of all, let’s just acknowledge the parents/caregivers who take the lead in making Christmas and holidays happen. Kids really are oblivious to the amount of behind-the-scenes work it takes to make a holiday feel special. By the time New Years came and went, I was pretty wiped out. It was a great holiday season: cozy, fun, special. But it took a lot of energy. And after every high, there is usually a low. 

Second, we have a court date set for February concerning our foster daughter. Some things have changed and so this upcoming court date is churning up a lot of stress in my life. A lot. 

And lastly, I am finding it hard to get excited about this new year we are in. My goals have diminished down to “Let’s just survive.” Ok, that’s not exactly true. I have set some new exercise and weight loss goals, and they feel achievable. I am really focusing on getting my whole family into a healthier eating lifestyle. But aside from that, I feel like I am playing defense. Let’s just handle each challenge/catastrophe as it comes. 

Recognizing that I’m in a place of stress, I’ve been working a lot on making my home a cozy, relaxing place to be. I bought some more candles, acquired a new plant, made a new centerpiece on my dining room table. Got most of the Christmas stuff put away, but kept a couple things out like some angel figurines on my mantel. I’ve tried to make my world a little smaller. Keep my focus simply on family and housework. Try to get my mind out of the future and just be in today. (I’m not doing real well with that one, so far, but I’m trying.)

Through it all, I have felt God’s presence with me in a new way I’ve never felt before. Where my thoughts used to wander to anything and everything, I find my thoughts moving back to Jesus over and over again. It feels like grace sitting heavily on me. And while my mind has always equated grace with happy peace and rest, lack of troubles; it’s an interesting experience to be in the midst of troubles and stress and still have peace. I wouldn’t call it happy peace though. It’s more solemn. And more solid. And I am clinging hard to it and moving forward into this new year, one day at a time. 

Sin and Bad Dreams

I just woke up from a horrible dream. In the dream I was sleeping around on my husband. And then someone walked in on me, right after the fact, and they could tell what I had been doing and the look of shock and disappointment on their face was horrible. And I started making up all these lies and excuses, but I could tell they didn’t believe me. And they left and I sat there knowing that I would never have peace until I confessed what I had done, but how could I confess? My husband would divorce me and then it would ruin our kids’ lives. And I knew I would just have to keep this horrible secret forever and I was just covered in despair. 

And then I woke up. And I had to go through some self talk to calm myself down. Have you slept around on your husband? No. No I haven’t. Are you planning on sleeping around on your husband. No. No I’m not. Ok. Then this is not your worry. You don’t have to carry these feelings around. Let it go. It was just a bad dream. 

But then honesty had to kick in. Are you capable of sinning like this? Umm. Yes. My heart is just as sinful as the next person. There have been rough times in our marriage that, if I had been faced with the exact right temptations, I might have succumbed. But, God’s grace has kept me. 

And then I just had to sit there and cling to that. God’s grace has kept me. 

From so many things. 

And then I had to think about the nature of our God. He is God who can unravel any mess that we make. What if I had been in that situation? What if I had confessed such a sin? Maybe my husband would have divorced me. Maybe not. But I do know that God would have been faithful to work in my heart. To bring me to a place of repentance. To take me through a path of healing. To help me deal with the sin issues in my heart that led me in that direction. And throughout all of it, he would have stayed with me. 

The tragedy of the dream, I think, is the pain and suffering I would have caused my husband and children. Why do our sins always end up hurting other people? And knowing that God could bring me to a place of repentance and healing, but what about those wounds I would have inflicted on my family? I would have no power to heal those wounds. Only God could. And I would have no power to force my loved ones to turn to God for that healing. It would be completely up to them what they did with those wounds. 

It brings home how completely dependent we are on God’s mercy and grace. We truly live in a sinful dark world. And we are capable of the worst sins imaginable. And it is truly a miracle that Jesus would be willing to come down and offer a solution to our sin problem. He died on the cross and took the punishment for all this sin that we humans so easily commit. If we turn to him and repent of our sins, he will forgive us, and cover us with his own goodness. When God looks at me, he no longer sees sinful Esther. He sees Esther covered in Jesus’ goodness. Clean. Acceptable. And when I submit myself to him, say Your will be done in my life, not my own will, he is faithful to lead me down a path of goodness. 

And yes, while I live on this earth, I will still deal with sin issues that pop up here and there. We are on a path of change, while God works in our hearts to slowly make us more like him. But my God is big enough to unravel every mess I make. And I cling to his grace and mercy. 

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Increase My Faith

We went camping as a family this last weekend. It was a lot of fun. Canoe camping. We drove into a National Park, put into a lake and then paddled over two hours before we got to a creek/small river. We took our canoes out and then had to carry our stuff up the bank, down the trail about the equivalent of a city block to our campsite. We got our tents up, a campfire going, cooked some supper. The kids were running around the woods having a lot of fun. Suddenly my daughter started crying and grabbed her chest. She ran over to me. Mom! My chest hurts! I need my inhaler! Ok. I got this. I went and got my ziploc bag full of all my emergency medicine that I always have with me on these trips. (Be prepared!) I pulled out her inhaler with her spacer, handed it to her, she went to press the button and something was wrong. The actual medicine tube had fallen out of the casing. There was no albuterol. Just the plastic casing. Crap. 

Ok. Take a deep breath. (Me, not the asthmatic kid.) I stood there, holding her in a hug while I rubbed her back. It’s ok. Let’s get you out of this woodsmoke and stop running around. We’ll find a nice quiet place to sit till you feel better. I could tell she was starting to panic. I was trying not to panic. We just stood there quietly for a while. I got a camp chair and moved it away from the smoke. Sat her down. My brain was racing. Ok. People had asthma long before inhalers came around. I took mental stock of what I had. I could pound on her back to help loosen things up? I remembered that in my medicine bag I had some essential oils. We could put some in boiling water and have her breath in the steam with a towel over her head. Ok. We can do this. I stopped and prayed out loud for her and she slowly calmed down. 

It was bedtime. The girls were all going to sleep in their own tent, but this had thrown my daughter off. She asked to sleep in my tent. Sure sweetie. Then it was a domino effect as the other girls decided that they weren’t brave enough to sleep solo if one of the sisters was missing. So then I had three extra kids in my tent. And an empty tent all set up. My husband abandoned ship and took one of the little boys and they went and shared the abandoned tent and I layed down, surrounded by little ones. 

As I lay there in the dark my heart was pounding and I found myself fighting off fear. Yes, my asthmatic child seemed to be doing better. But what if her asthma got worse? I imagined us jumping into a canoe in the middle of the night, paddling for hours, and then driving trying to find a hospital for her. My other daughter said her head was hurting and she had a runny nose. What if it was Covid? What if she suddenly got really sick in the middle of the night, and here we are, out in the middle of nowhere??

And I found myself casting out a desperate prayer, God how do I stop living in so much fear? And he answered me. I lay there and God showed me image after image in my head of how I view Him. My warped understanding of Him. My default worldview that has me thinking of God as someone distant who constantly disapproves of me. I come to him as a slave to a harsh master, crying for mercy, but not sure about getting it. And then he brought to my mind a dream that he had given me back when I was nineteen years old. In college. I didn’t even know what a prophetic dream was back then. I just knew that the dream had been different. I told my roommate, I think God was trying to tell me something in a dream. And after I told her about the dream she said, Yes! God was definitely telling you something! I wrote the dream down. But, I still remember it vividly. 

I won’t go into all the details of the dream. But it was essentially, God loving me as a groom loves his bride. And I thought how different, how much stronger my faith would be, if I could fully grasp how loved I was by God. How my prayers would seem different. Asking for help from your lover is so different from asking for help from a Master. I know that if I asked my husband for something, he would want to do it for me. Just because he loved me. And he would take pleasure in giving it to me. 

We read the story last night of Jesus with his disciples out on a boat in a storm. And the disciples were all freaked out and Jesus stops the storm with his words. And then in Mark 4: 40-41, 

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”  They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Do you still have no faith? And then they ask, Who is this? And that seems to be really key to not being afraid. Having a true understanding of who our God is and having faith that he will stay true to his character. Religion and law teach us that God is someone that we are constantly trying to appease by being good, following the rules. Relationship with God is different. It’s understanding that he First Loved Us and then he Made A Way for us to be reconciled to him because of his Great Love for us. 

I feel like I have been on a lifelong journey to move from the position of viewing God through Law to the position of viewing God through Grace. I’m not there yet. But, I feel a lot more like I know how to pray. I know better what needs to change. God, let me understand you better as a God of Love. Let me walk in a fuller understanding of your Grace. Increase my faith. 

Growing My Faith

I got good news this morning. My dad is doing a little better. Clear head. Breathing a bit deeper. Still on oxygen, still has a ways to go, but hopefully we have turned the corner! My mom is slowly gaining her strength at home also. Relief is a small word to describe how I feel. 

This has been a hard week. I feel like I’m living in a overdramatic soap opera that just never stops throwing crazy curveballs at my head. 

This week has been about living with the fear that your loved one might die. And how do you respond? How do you live? I don’t have a pat answer. I know for myself I have spent a lot of time on my face before God. And I have found it to be a place of surrender. A place of trust. God, I don’t want my father to die. Our family needs him. We aren’t ready for this. But at the same time, hands open, not grasping. You love him, you know the plans you have for him. And they are good plans. I trust your plans. 

That sounds like it was something simple. It wasn’t. It was a battle of the mind to be in that place and stay in that place. I’m exhausted. Last night I climbed into bed at seven and checked out for the rest of the evening. 

But this morning I woke up with a praise song running through my head. Hopeful. 

It makes me wonder about faith. The bible says that without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Why? (This is not going to be a doctrinal/theologically complete answer, just my thoughts.)

I think about my marriage. How important trust was at the beginning of our relationship. We both felt like we knew the essence of who the other person was. And we trusted that person. When we first got married I did not have the long history and deep knowledge of my husband that I have now. But I chose to trust him. And over our almost twenty-two years of marriage, he has proved to me that yes, he is trustworthy. I didn’t make a mistake to trust him. But at the beginning, I had no way of knowing what the future held. I just trusted him. Because I loved him. And that trust was tangible proof to him of my love for him. 

Maybe it’s the same with God? We sing songs about how much God loves us, but how do we show that we love God? Maybe by trusting him? Saying, I believe you are who the Bible says you are. And I love you. And I prove that to you by trusting you. Having faith. 

I don’t know. It’s a thought. 

I do know that going through these hard situations grows my faith. My trust deepens. And it’s not that I trust that God is going to turn everything out the way I want it. It’s that he proves over and over again that his Presence is enough. His Grace is sufficient. He is truly all that I need. 

Fat Fridays: Fixing the Roadblocks

Today (Thursday) has not been a great day for the diet. In fact, the last three days haven’t been great. A lot of fast food. This morning I had run out of my lite greek yogurt cups. I ate the last of my blueberries and then looked in the fridge again. There was not much there and none of it looked good. I poured myself a bowl of cereal. My first cereal in a really long time. Last night someone dropped off pizza at our house. I thought I would go and cook myself some lentils and rice. Didn’t happen. I was really busy and then I was super hungry so I grabbed some pizza. 

That has kind of been how the days have been going. I’m super busy and there is not-so-healthy food available and so I eat it. 

I’ve been feeling pretty bad about it today. But, as I tried to explain what was going on to my trainer, I got some clarity on what’s going on….

This week has been crazy. It’s the first full week of having all my kids home from school, and that’s following a vacation and then immediately having all my big kids head off to camp which meant I was managing all the little kids on my own for five days. I have written down a new family schedule, but now, by sheer force of will, I have to get all my kids onto this new schedule. And that takes a lot of will power. At the same time I am trying to get my house in order after the vacation and having a week with no older children home to help. And also get my house summer-proofed (organizing my activity drawer for rainy days, organizing books and math puzzles and workbooks for keeping our school skills honed during the summer, organizing all our legos and building blocks and art supplies for bored kids). 

You would think I would have already been prepared for summer to come. After all, it’s no surprise. But, alas, I was so focused on just finishing up this crazy school year that I did not give a lot of thought to summer. Also, we have a foster child who does not handle a “go-with-the-flow” lifestyle, which my other kids are more adept at. We are finding out, loud and clear, that our house needs a strong routine/schedule NOW in order to help her function better. And so this week has seen me extremely busy and slightly panicked as I have been trying to establish order as quickly as possible. 

Grocery shopping and meal prep and cooking healthy dinners have been low on the priority list. 

So, I’ve learned something important about myself. I have to have a routine/schedule or I can’t function as a mom of many kids . 

I have been working hard on fixing that and I’m actually pretty hopeful that by this coming Monday morning, I’ll have the most important things in place and I can be back on schedule. 

It was really helpful to talk to my trainer and put things in perspective. Ok. There is a roadblock. Let’s make a plan to fix the problem and then move on. 

Penance or Grace?

This past week I’ve been thinking about penance and grace. The dictionary gives the following definition for penance:

pen·ance

noun

  1. 1.
    voluntary self-punishment inflicted as an outward expression of repentance for having done wrong.

I have been on a journey this year to lose weight. At the beginning of my journey I was losing two pounds a week. Yay! It felt like I was making good progress. Then the weight loss slowed down to one pound a week. And that just feels agonizingly slow. Every week I am working out six days a week, I am keeping a record of everything I eat, keeping my calories at the right amount, always choosing the healthier options, checking in with a personal trainer daily…it’s a lot of work just to see the scale move one pound. 

And I had this thought. This is my penance for being overweight. My punishment for gluttony and sloth. My just dues for allowing myself to get to this place of needing to lose so much weight.

And that thought felt very comfortable. Yes. I am facing the consequences of bad choices, and I’m just going to have to work really really hard to get myself back to a good weight. It’s all my fault and this is my punishment. 

So, I kept hold of this idea for a couple days and then, all of sudden, out of nowhere, this thought popped into my head. What if, instead of punishment, this is grace? 

Definition of grace (Entry 1 of 2)

1a: unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification

What if I have simply not been in a place, mentally or spirtually, to be able to fully learn how to take care of my body the way I need to? And finally I am in that place. And God is teaching me how to care for myself. And it’s a long process. A long process of breaking off bad habits and establishing good ones. A long process of learning how to gage how much food is “enough” and how much is just gluttony. A long process of learning how to enjoy movement, exercise. A long process of changing my lifestyle so that it embraces health. What if that one pound a week is a symbol of grace. Proof that God does not simply leave me wallowing in my sin, but has opened a way for me to change. 

Last night I attended a Celebration of Life service for a man who had recently died of Covid. I was not personally friends with him, but I am friends with his wife and one of his daughters. As people shared stories of his life and personality and character, a picture was painted of a wonderful father and husband and friend. But what really stood out to me was the observation, by more than one person, that this man was who he was because he was a follower of Jesus. It was Jesus’ grace in his life that enabled him to be this wonderful father, husband, friend. And I think about this as I think about penance and grace. 

God’s grace in my life enables me to become the best version of myself. It’s not about punishment any more. Jesus already took that punishment on the cross and then declared that It was Finished. Yes, we face the consequences of our sins, but it is not in a spirit of punishment and condemnation. It is a spirit of Grace. Here, my daughter. The way you are choosing is not bringing you life, try doing it my way instead. Let me restore you, strengthen you. Walk with me and I will turn your ashes into beauty. 

Penance or grace? I choose grace. Or rather, grace chose me. 

Thoughts on the Protests

This past week the DA in our city released the bodycam video of the police shooting of Anthony Thompson Jr at Austin East High School. I watched the presentation the DA gave as she walked through all the evidence, one step at a time, and ended with the conclusion that it was a justifiable action by the police officer and no charges would be brought against the police. Seeing the evidence, as she presented it, I had to agree. Yes. This looks like it was definitely justifiable. 

So, I was really surprised when I started reading FB posts from my black friends from this neighborhood. They had a completely different perspective. They felt that the DA maligned Anthony’s character by bringing up the domestic violence incidents that led to the police being called. They wanted to know why the police did not use a taser or try talking first. They wanted to know why the police did not speak to Anthony from the doorway of the bathroom and ask him to drop his weapons and come out with his hands up. They watched the video and felt that they were seeing the police’s hands on the gun, not Anthony’s, when it was fired. In fact, they were seeing something completely different from me. 

When two people watch the same video and see two different things, you’ve got to step back and realize that vision is not just a physical thing that our eyes do for us. Vision is affected by what is in our minds, our past, our experiences as well. Perspective. We can all see an image, but our perspective is going to tell us different things about that image. 

I think about where we are at in our country. When this incident happened, we were in the middle of the George Floyd trial. The news is frequently posting more and more incidents of police officer shootings that seem to have been avoidable. The experience of people of color in their involvement with the police has led to a feeling of distrust and danger where the police are concerned. 

Since the release of the bodycam videos, our city has seen a couple protests. I watched some video from one of the protests and the things that they were chanting hurt my heart. This is not my perspective. I don’t hold these views. But, I feel like I can understand, a little, where these views are coming from. 

So, here’s the question. Can we lay down our self-righteousness, our desperate need to always be right, and just enter into the idea that other people have different perspectives than us? Can we withhold our judgement for a minute and remember that other people have vastly different stories than we do, and those stories have caused them to see the world in a very different light than us?   

I believe in absolute truth. And I believe the Bible spells out what that truth is. But, when it comes to things like watching bodycam videos of a seventeen year old being shot and then deciding who is guilty and not guilty, I don’t think that falls into right and wrong categories. There is a lot of gray that we have to wade through. Let’s have grace for each other and understanding as we all react to this event in a different way. 

The Record Player

I have a record player in my head. Any time I am feeling down, or insecure, the record player starts playing. It’s a voice that goes over all my accomplishments. In high school you did this…When you were in college you did this…Remember that time you did that one thing? And all these things are the “good” things that I feel like I have done. Places where I have excelled. Things I have mastered. Memories of me being great. Basically a list of all my righteous deeds. 

The other day I was having an interesting conversation with someone about different religions and the main point that we landed on was “good works”. I was explaining that in Christianity, we don’t believe that our good works save us. The only thing that saves us is the work that Jesus did on the cross. His forgiveness of our sins. All the good deeds in the world won’t get us into heaven. Just the grace of God that is offered us through belief in Jesus. 

Now, I know these things. I’ve been taught these things for a long time. But that record player still exists. My list of good deeds makes me feel better about myself. Boosts my confidence, soothes my low self-esteem. Justifies my behavior. (Maybe I messed up here, but look, usually I’m a good person!)

Last night I heard the record player turn on, but instead of listening to the voice, reliving all the good memories, I stepped back a pace, and questioned why this record player even existed? Why do I do this? 

I have been trying to take these thoughts captive today. Bring them to a halt. All those good things do nothing to give you worth. Your worth comes from being loved by Jesus. He is one that has done all the work, not you. 

This last Sunday I watched the first episode of the second season of THE CHOSEN. If you have not watched season 1, I highly, highly, highly, recommend it. You can get The Chosen App, free, in your app store and see all the episodes free. Season 2 is just starting to come out. 

Something that really stood out to me was the foreignness of Jesus. He said and did things that the disciples were not expecting, took them off guard, had them constantly guessing what was going to happen next. This stood out to me because I feel like now, so many years later, we think we have Jesus figured out. We have the scriptures to read, we know the stories, we have developed elaborate traditions around the life and work of Jesus. He fits very comfortably inside a beautiful box. We are very comfortable with the Jesus that exists in our heads. And that comfortableness makes us complacent, stuck in our ruts. 

Watching The Chosen brought home to me that I don’t have Jesus all figured out. He is his own person, God in fact, and I do not understand all of his ways, nor do I perfectly walk in all of his ways. And I feel empathy with the disciples. They didn’t get it right away. In fact, even after three years of walking with Jesus, (in person!) they still messed up sometimes. And my heart feels full of thankfulness at the grace Jesus gave the disciples and that he gives me, now. Yes, I’ve been walking with him, most of my life, but I still sometimes completely miss the point. My record player turns on and I cling to my own good works, completely forgetting that I am saved by Grace, Jesus’ work on the cross, His Forgiveness. My worth comes, not from being a “good” person, but from being a child of God. 

Always Failing at Something

Do you have that One Thing that is always ready to jump out of the corner and condemn you? Like, you’re walking along, thinking that you are actually an Ok human being. You are handling life pretty good. In fact, you might even be doing well. And then that One Thing jumps out with it’s jeering face and says, Oh yeah? What about this??? And you hang your head in shame. Oh yeah. I forgot about that. I guess I’m not really doing that great. 

For me it tends to be a messy house. I’ll be assessing how the day is going. Ok, lets see. We homeschooled today, that went well. I’ve cooked all the meals. Had some good quality time reading aloud to the kids. I made a lunch for my husband. I’ve eaten healthy today. Got in my workout. Had my devotions. Yep. I’m doing ok. Then here comes the voice. 

Oh yeah? Have you looked at your house?? It’s a mess! You’re behind with the laundry! Those pots have been “soaking” for a really long time. The kids can’t find anything on their school shelf, it’s such a cluttered mess. We won’t even bring up subjects like mopping and dusting! 

And my little ego deflates. Oh yeah. I actually kinda suck. 

Of course, this is a glimpse into just how performance-oriented my self-esteem is. If I am doing good things then I must be good and have worth. If I am failing in any area then I must be bad. Not really worthy at all. 

And unfortunately, there is always something or some area where I am failing. And this means that my default attitude towards myself tends to be rather negative. 

It makes me think about my spiritual walk. Jesus is all about grace. But my default position, when I think about God, is that he is all about law. If you fail these commandments, this is the list of punishments you will get. If you aren’t careful, you will be burned up in God’s wrath. 

I have heard the sermons, I’ve read the scriptures. I know, in my head, that I am forgiven. That Jesus’ goodness covers over all my badness and cancels it out. I know that the Holy Spirit is living inside of me, slowly changing my heart to be more like Jesus. I know that he sees me through eyes of love and grace. But I still wrestle. My default is still law and punishment. Condemnation. 

I’m a work in progress. I have to constantly remind myself that I am loved, forgiven, a daughter of the King. 

So, today, as my brain started beating me up about what a horrible housekeeper I am, I tried to exercise some grace. Yes. The house is rather messy right now. So what? There’s a lot of good reasons why it’s in that state. Is the world going to end if it doesn’t get cleaned today? Nope. Does a messy house mean I am a horrible person? Not really. Are you ever going to get your house clean? Sure, I’m planning on getting it done this weekend! Ok. Then you are fine. You have permission to ignore the mean voice whispering in your ear. 

Romans 3: 20-24

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

It’s Been Rough on the Kids

One of my little kids just came inside and told us that she heard gunshots. THREE SHOTS! REALLY FAST! I looked at my husband, he said, tell the kids to come inside. I called everyone in. They didn’t want to come in. The gunshots were far away! They weren’t close! Yeah, well, what if the person shooting the gun is in a car and he drives this way? Lets, just come inside for a while. They were disappointed, but came in, and within minutes were distracted by some new game they were playing. 

Such is life in our neighborhood.

Tomorrow the kids won’t go to school because our entire district has gone “RED” due to covid numbers, and so we will have a week of virtual school before Christmas break starts. My kids were not happy about this news. My daughter’s best friend in her class does not have internet in her home. They are an immigrant family, the little girl in my daughter’s class has been diligently learning English this year, and it’s possible that she speaks the best English in her family. Our district is offering help for families to get internet, but some extenuating reason is keeping this family from getting connected to help. My daughter cried and cried because virtual school means she doesn’t see her friend any more. 

Such is life in one of the poorest schools in town. 

We walked down to the park this past Friday afternoon since the weather was nice. There is a Children’s Museum at the park that we used to have a membership to. Covid shut the Muse down and then when they finally opened it was with so many restrictions and weird hoops to jump through, that I decided to not renew our membership until it gets easier. One of my kids saw the Muse, Can we go there???!! No sweetie. Not right now. WHY??? Covid. It’s just made things too difficult. But, we’ll go again as soon as things get easier. 

Such is life with a pandemic.

My three year old informed another sibling that he had friends. What’s their names? I don’t know. But I have friends! He is remembering last year when we were at a homeschooling co-op once a week and he would play with kids his age. I decided to not do the co-op this year, mostly because I didn’t know how Covid was going to affect my public school kids and how often we would be home or in quarantine. Fortunately, my elementary kids have had a good run, no quarantines, been in school all semester till now. But, we didn’t know that in the beginning of the semester, and we have been pretty isolated this year. My three year old is blessed to have lots of siblings who play with him, but he doesn’t see many other children. 

Such is life with social distancing.

It’s been a rough year for our kids. I’ve had a couple kids who have been struggling with depression, anger, frustration that life is not going like it’s supposed to. And it’s really hard to see my kids struggle. It weighs me down. I feel like I’m working overtime to keep my head above water, keep my outlook positive, focus on the good, not the bad, and I finally get into a kinda-good place and then my kids start falling apart, and I start the mentally strenous journey of trying to help them see the good in life, help them focus on the positive, help them get to a kinda-good place…You know, we are supposed to preach the Gospel to our children, well, I would say this has been my most prolific preaching year yet. God’s in control. We need to count our blessings. Let’s talk about the good things that have happened. Let’s pray about it. God has promised to help us. One day at a time. 

We’ve got Christmas coming up, typically a stressful time of year as we try to add celebration preparations to all the other things we have to get done every day. We, as parents, are already running on empty. And with kids being off of school for the holidays, needing time and attention, I am trying to remind myself just how much grace my kids need. 

I have decided that I am not going to take this next week of virtual school too seriously. Sure, we’ll give it our best shot, but if we miss something, or accidentally skip something, or get really confused about something, I’m not going to give it a lot of weight. Oh well. Let’s move on. I’m also not going to try and be super strict about anything this Christmas. You want to watch tv? Sure. Go ahead. We’ll still do our regular chores, and I hope I can keep the kids interested in playing outside, reading books, playing games etc, but if everyone is in meltdown mode? Well, I might pull out some candy canes, or just turn the tv on for several hours. This is not the time for rigid rules or really high standards. We are all mentally exhausted, including our kids. Let’s be as kind as possible to each other.