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When You Feel Stuck

 I'm not sure what it says about me and my life right now that finding the energy/motivation to write this post has taken me much longer than I care to admit, but here we are. Laziness is the mother of necessity or something, right? (I know that's not what the saying is. Let me live.) 

The last few months have been weird, and I'm not just talking about Covid weirdness (because nothing is weirder than that). I have had two different job opportunities unexpectedly open up and then even more unexpectedly fall through, leaving me with feelings ranging from disappointment to a full-on existential crisis that had me convinced I was a failure at pretty much everything. (To quote Father of the Bride: "Why would I overreact?? NOBODY IN MY FAMILY OVERREACTS!") 

The dizzying ups and downs of considering full-time employment and all that would mean for me and my family, especially with a new baby, back to deciding it would be okay to be home, then considering it again, and then not... ugh, let me off, please. It was basically a two-month long roller coaster and the person running it was one of those carnies that keeps the ride spinning for way too long and laughs maniacally when you pass by looking green (ask me how I know those people exist. Thank you, Cumming Fair). 

So, there was the whole "will they or won't they" situation, which is sometimes charming as a plot device in a sitcom but rarely in a possible career move. Then, in addition to belatedly adjusting to being a stay-at-home mom to two thanks to the pandemic, I have suddenly found myself with not only no prospect of a job but also with the same nagging, low-level anxiety I've felt for months and months... the kind that shows up when I'm not writing. 

Clearly the only person feeling stuck here is Amy Jane. 

Overall, I've just felt stuck in a lot of ways. How do I use my gifts to do more than write an occasional Instagram caption that really connects with someone? How do I take the years of input (all my reading) and figure out a useful way to turn it into output (helping others with these resources)? Most of my "stuck" feeling is work or creativity-related, but any parent who has had both or all of their offspring screaming at them within the space of a few moments has also felt that "I'm about to run away and never come back" mental crisis that, even if it only lasts for a few minutes, has you mentally calculating the cost of a plane ticket to ANYWHERE ELSE. (I know it's not just me.) 

Obviously, I feel guilty about this. I love my girls and at the end of the day, I know I'm supposed to be with them. I've been making plans for homeschool, I'm trying to enjoy Amy Jane's tiny-ness while I can, and overall we have a jolly time. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that over the last few months (as we all have, thanks to quarantine) I haven't felt stuck emotionally, mentally, and even physically (hello, postpartum self).

What to do about this? SURPRISE! There are several books I'm about to share that have helped me and that I have returned to frequently. But the first one I want to talk about contains what I consider the key to the rest of the advice. It's The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi, and here's how it will change your life:

Name what matters

That seems so simple, but it has been profoundly effective for me. I've practically been chanting it about everything under the sun. And not only is it the foundation for all the other principles in Kendra's book (which you need to order immediately) but also it WORKS. Naming what matters forces me to actually dig into why I care (or don't) about something, whether it's meal planning (don't) or reading (do) or preschool or a relationship. It makes me see that I can make space for what actually matters to me (because let's face it, I do have lots of time, screaming children notwithstanding) and I can, as the subtitle says, "ditch what doesn't." 

I love that the book is not a "rock on, girlfriend" kind of woo-woo thing, although I think Kendra would certainly encourage me to rock on. (ha!) It's also not a "I do this so you must also do this." It's so applicable to every life stage and situation and I honestly don't know a woman who couldn't benefit from reading it. (Men too, really.) It is endlessly practical and gives actual actions you can take, which is great for people like me saying (in my best The Kid voice), "But what do I doooo?"

When I'm stuck, naming what matters is really clarifying. FOR EXAMPLE. Today Alice was, um, "challenging my authority." I could feel myself going crazy, and while Alice raged in one room and Amy Jane raged on her play mat (why all the rage, my children? why?) I was for SURE feeling stuck. More like trapped. Like Chilean miner trapped (too much? okay). Anyway. In that moment, even though I don't even think I consciously used the phrase, I named what mattered by reminding myself that what matters to me is to be a calm and kind parent. (I was feeling neither calm nor kind because of all the rage.) But I pulled myself out of that kind of instant "EXCUSE ME?' mode that we can go into when our children are being disrespectful and steam is pouring from our heads like a fog machine. (Again, just me?) 

That sounds like a small thing, and to be honest, it was a fairly brief moment of the day (it felt like an eternity, but that's neither here nor there). The point is, this principle helped pull me out of it. It also helped me get myself in gear and write this post, since what matters to me is to be writing more often and losing the yucky, shame-y feeling I get when that doesn't happen. 

SO. The Lazy Genius Way. In the words of Woody, "If you don't have one, GET ONE." He was talking about moving buddies but truthfully this book would be an excellent buddy for moving through life (see what I did there?) and I can't recommend it enough. 

Here are a few more books to help if you're feeling stuck:

-The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman. Fun fact: Emily and Kendra are BFFs in real life! Honestly, consider this book included on every book list of mine forever and ever, amen. (A bonus EPF pick, especially for those who want to create but feel stuck: A Million Little Ways. SO GOOD.)

-Do Over by Jon Acuff. This is definitely one to read if you're wanting to switch careers, start a side hustle, or otherwise shake things up in your career. I'm a long-time fan of Jon Acuff and this is so helpful and practical. 

-Let Your Life Speak by Parker J. Palmer. The subtitle is "listening for the voice of vocation" and it has so many good thoughts about your calling and purpose in life. I read it in January and still think about it often.

Rhythms of Renewal by Rebekah Lyons. The four rhythms are Rest, Restore, Connect, and Create, and I still think about what she says about input/output all the time. 

Your Blue Flame by Jennifer Fulwiler. Jen has become one of my favorite authors in the last couple of years. She is a little crazy and truly unique but in such a good way. This is a great book on finding and strengthening your gifts.

Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle. I think so many people could benefit from reading these "reflection on life and art." Plus I find that Madeleine's words have a way of dusting off the cobwebs of my mind somehow. She always offers a new perspective, even from decades ago.

Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson. Goodness gracious, this book! I need to reread it at least once a quarter. =) It is such a powerful reminder that we can take ownership of our lives, find joy in Christ, and truly thrive despite the big and small difficulties of raising children in this crazy world. 

There you go! I hope one or all of these can help you make some progress, feel less weird (by 2020 standards), and name what matters. May we only be as stuck as the current Covid circumstances require us to be! 

Book Review- Modern Parents, Vintage Values

Nearly every time I ask for topic suggestions for book lists or posts, someone requests "parenting." I've been meaning to put together a list of those for a while, and I've accumulated quite a stack on the subject, but today I want to focus on one book in particular. This is not the first book I have read by these authors, and after becoming familiar with their work over the last year or so (even though they are hardly new to the parenting/counseling scene with decades of experience), I can't recommend them highly enough.

Modern Parents, Vintage Values Sissy Goff and Melissa Trevathan is so helpful, encouraging, and above all, practical. It has three sections: Modern Parents (addressing issues all parents have to address at some point), Vintage Values (the beliefs that never go out of style and ones we want our children to possess), and Timeless Truths (reminders for parents that although this is a hard job, we can do it).

In the first section, Modern Parents, Sissy and Melissa walk through all kinds of problems facing our families: lack of respect, the internet, entitlement, safety with strangers (in person and online), and more. Some of these problems are timeless, but others (like social media and gaming) are of course more recent, and all of them have been exacerbated by the constant use of the internet. The authors do not suggest burying our heads in the sand or unplugging our routers (however tempting that may be) but offer suggestions as to how we can combat these issues in our children and in ourselves. 

In Vintage Values, Sissy and Melissa tackle this list chapter by chapter, providing reasons and reminders as to the importance of values like kindness, compassion, forgiveness, integrity, and responsibility. This section is full of ways to teach your children these values, how to implement them into our home, and how to do it without constantly lecturing. Of course, the best way, the authors suggest, is to model these values ourselves (easier said than done!), as our example to our children is more powerful than any lesson or activity. 

Finally, the Timeless Truths section offers a few reminders about why these things are so important and, more importantly, how we are equipped to handle them. There are four brief chapters--Take Heart, Have Life, Seek Hope, Give Love--and each of these will encourage any parent, no matter how frustrated or hopeless they may feel. 

Sissy and Melissa are not just "armchair" parenting authors. They have worked with children, teens, and families for decades at their counseling center and camps in Nashville, Tennessee. There are dozens of illustrations and stories taken straight from their real-life experiences with real families who have put their biblically sound advice into practice over the years. My favorite thing about this book (which I hinted at before) is that it's so practical. Big-picture, philosophical parenting books have their place, but nearly every parent I know would much rather be given concrete examples and advice to follow, especially when it comes to having hard conversations that we'd rather avoid. (To quote "The Kid," "But what do I DOOO?") Each chapter includes a list of ways to implement that particular topic or value, and each chapter ends with a "Sunday Drive" activity, a way for you and your child to connect over something fun and meaningful. There are so many ideas that you could pick one or two per week and easily plan several months' worth of activities!

I'll be honest: I'm sitting here writing this review while both my girls are napping, and even though we're only halfway through our day, I have already run the gamut from pity party to Dragon Lady. Because of the pandemic, I've only been "flying solo" and adjusting to life with two kids for about a week (even though Amy Jane is five months old). I have not been handling it like I planned to, and more often than not I've felt like a mess. So, as you can imagine, revisiting these words as I looked back over the book just now could not have come at a more perfect time:

"You can't remove yourself and your own story from parenting. As your children stomp around your house, they will inevitably step on your stuff, your pain, your sin, your unhealed wounds from your own childhood. They will remind you of areas in your life where you struggle. They will remind you of things you missed when you were growing up. You will be left discouraged, disheartened, and feeling childish...

Rise... your children are calling out to you. God did not make a mistake when he made you the parent of your children...even with your insecurities, pain, and darkness... Rely on what God has placed inside of you, and there is so much. Take heart. Have courage. Rise. You can do this. Jesus is calling you." 

Goodness! That passage alone has me fired up and ready to face the rest of the day. (I'll have to revisit it to face the rest of the week, but at least it's there waiting for me!) I really love this book, y'all, and I absolutely know it will be a blessing to you. 

More by the authors: 

I received a free copy of this book from B&H Publishing  in exchange for my review. 

Amy Jane- Five Months

Well, everyone. If it feels like I just posted one of these updates, it's because I did... our four month update was almost two weeks late but this month I was determined to post it on time because if I'm learning anything about myself right now it's that I have to have/set deadlines for myself or things will never get done. (This applies to so many things... library books, closet clean outs, exercise. I'm an Obliger and I need accountability.) 

With Alice, I was also so careful to plan ahead and have her monthly pictures and posts done on time or even a day or two early. HA. To quote Michael Scott, "Well, well, well... how the turn tables." But I'm TRYING (Amy Jane, if you're reading this in an apocalyptic future, I really am trying!) so here we are. Five months to the day. Give me all the gold stars.

Weight/Length: She is 25 inches long and a whopping... 12 pounds (and some change). She's a string bean! 

Nicknames: Many variations of Bean (String Bean, Small Bean, Little Bean, Beanie Baby, Baby Bean, etc.) Sisert. Toodles. Toot Sweets. Drooly Scrumptious (clearly a lot of these are Chitty Chitty Bang Bang themed).

Sleep: Still 11ish hours at night (little angel) although this morning she woke up early, apparently ready to seize the day and celebrate the first full day of our girls only club now that her daddy is back at work. She's still a very sporadic napper, as was her sister. We can't have it all. =)

Eating: Every three hours pretty much on the nose. She stretches to four occasionally but not often. I might start trying solids a little sooner than I did with Alice since she could use a little fattening up! =) Also she's starting to spit up a little more (yuck) but thankfully she spits up FAR less than Alice did. I am haunted by that child's amount of spit up.

Clothing: So, we are still in the same boat with these lanky legs... she needs 3-6 or 6 month stuff for the length, but her waist is SO tiny! We are mostly doing rompers and dresses since separates are so tricky. 

Mood: I feel like she's either super happy or super grumpy with not a whole lot in between right now! More happy than grumpy, thank goodness. She doesn't necessarily want to snuggle or be held all the time but she really doesn't like to be left alone or without attention of some kind (much like her mother, she both craves and rejects alone time). 

Loves: Daddy
Rolling around
Her cactus teething toy
Her paci
Chewing her toes (ew)

Doesn't Love: Being cold
Her carseat
Being hot
Being hungry/wet
Looking at the camera at the same time as her sister

What I Want to Remember/Milestones: She is rolling over/scooting around constantly. She's SO strong and can hold her head up for long periods of time. She's also already trying to pull up on all fours (um, no ma'am) and I have a sneaking suspicion she'll be an early crawler. We've gone to the beach twice and she was not a fan (see her dislike of being hot and wet) but did much better in the shade and enjoyed the breeze. When I think about the last few months I'll picture her in the carrier and Alice in the jogging stroller on our long family walks that have become a cornerstone of our quarantine/covid time. She loves riding around in the carrier with her daddy! She's also starting to "talk" a lot more and is very chatty (she's trying to catch up with her mom and sister. We're a talkative household). And she's starting to grab things and get a good grip on her bottle, paci, toys, etc. 

What I'm Looking Forward To: Um... this pandemic to be over? Okay, wishful thinking. I am looking forward to the holidays, Al's birthday, lots more matching outfits, perhaps cutting a feeding soon (fingers crossed), trying some solids, getting into a routine with just the three of us here at home... lots of little things but nothing big in particular other than starting homeschool with Alice in a few weeks! (More on that later, I'm sure.)

Me: Oh man. Speaking of holidays... in the last week I have felt the urge to 1) decorate for fall and 2) listen to Christmas music. (Don't worry... I did not indulge either of these temptations.) But I think personally (and probably everyone, honestly), I've never been more anxious/desperate to rush into the next season of life. Surely covid can't follow us into October and Alice's birthday? What about Christmas?? I know that it will still be a reality by those times, but there is just something magical for me about both autumn and winter (especially the holiday season) that transcends all the fear and anxiety of our current situation. (Oh, and there's an election. Don't mind me, I'll just be burning the internet to the ground.) But I'm really trying to be hopeful and look forward while not wishing away the days I'm in right this minute. My girls will never be this little again. Even though nursing feels eternal right now, it will be over soon. Alice will be FIVE in two months. Amy Jane is still such a tiny baby and I don't want to be so focused on all the dumpster fires in the world and getting past them that I miss out on my own little magic moments with my sweet girls. (Sometimes the dumpster fire is in my own house, but that's neither here nor there.) 

There we go. Amy Jane, your mother loves you. Let the record show I finished this post with two hours to spare. And now I'm off to bed because you and your sister are siphoning my energy like little elfin thieves. 

Book Review: A Way with Words

Every now and then I read a book and think, "Wow! This is exactly what I needed to read right now." And then, even more rarely, I read a book and think, "This is exactly what EVERYONE needs to read right now." That's how I feel about Dan Darling's new book, A Way with Words. It simply couldn't be more timely and needed for the current cultural moment we're in right now, and if I could put a copy in the hands of everyone I know, I absolutely would. Writing (and raving!) about it here is as close as I can get. =)

The subtitle of the book is "Using Our Online Conversations for Good." If you've spent any time on the internet lately, you know that many, many conversations are far from being used for good. Between the virus/lockdown concerns, racial strife, and our hideously divisive political landscape, social media in general often feels like a minefield (or cesspool, or dumpster fire. Take your pick of negative comparisons). Dan's approach to this problem is to use an abundance of Scripture and a call to civility, a return to gentleness and kindness  (fruits of the spirit! imagine!) and a commitment to truth-telling that is rooted in the authority of Christ, not our own flailing opinions.

For me personally, reading this book felt like a light shining right on my soul. The last few years have been incredibly disappointing and disorienting for me as I have watched Christian leaders and "church people" practically come to digital blows over everything from politics to worship songs. (Speaking of "coming to blows," Dan introduced me to a new word in the book, "pugilistic," which is perfectly accurate and more relevant than I wish were necessary.) But reading his words on the way we should interact online-- in fact, the way we are called to communicate with one another as believers-- was refreshing and encouraging. For example:

"Paul, like Peter was no shrinking violet. He was no squish. Both were martyred--put to death in the most inhumane and cruel ways by an unjust government--and yet called God's people to live out civility in every way possible. We, rage-tweeting on the internet, are not tougher or more courageous than the apostles."

Yes! I spent large portions of the book practically pumping my fist in the air in agreement. The chapter on conspiracy theories (is Dan prescient?) was equally timely. The last few months have proven that for whatever reason, Christians far too often abandon truth for lies ("conspiracy, half-truths, and tabloid-style clickbait) that "are harmful to a civil society." More than ever, these words are a needed warning and reminder that believers need to be committed to "the end of our pursuit of knowledge: Jesus, the wisdom of God."

Even though I did get caught up in the personal validation I found in so much of the book, there were many parts that deeply convicted me. Like so many of us, I seek affirmation from my online interactions far too often. This passage spoke to that so well:

"The answer to our fame-seeking is about more than unplugging. It's about recognizing that we are dissatisfied with the real version of who we are. We feel, deeply, the alienation from the One who made us. We know we are broken vessels, we see the mess in the mirror, we feel the weight of the fall. and yet the reality is that God has come down to us in Jesus, to both rescue us in our brokenness and join us to a new community of peers, where we are not measured by our wit or our perfectly crafted images but are approved as sons and daughters of the King."

What a blessing! As we seek God's face in our "real" lives, we are drawn less and less to the performative outrage, self-promotion, and other trappings of online interaction. Dan warns against confirmation bias, division, unkindness, and the variety of ways we fall into ungodliness in our conversations though social media. Finally, though, the most important reminder is his encouragement about our constant state of frenzy regarding, well, everything:

"We may be wringing our hands online about the future of the church, but God is not in heaven wringing his." (We could also insert the future of the country, community, political party, etc.)

Dan Darling is such a needed voice right now. This book is balanced, measured, kind, and truthful. It is undeniable that, for a host of reasons, many Christians have felt justified to lash out in anger, defensiveness, and downright ugliness online, usually in the name of "defending the faith" or "standing for what's right." While standing for right is needed, the way in which we do it is just as important, if not more so. We represent Christ to the world (and world wide web!) and need to use our words accordingly. Thanks to this book, we have a biblically sound blueprint for how to do just that.

I received an advance reader copy of A Way with Words from B&H Publishing. 

Amy Jane- 4 Months

Well, in a turn of events that is zero percent shocking, I missed writing about Amy Jane at 3 months and am several days late on her four-month post (which should have been done on the 4th. Oops). But I am refusing to let another month pass, especially since I feel like she's changing so much! It's already been a busy summer and we've made a lot of memories (and had the BEST time this past week meeting her name twin, Auntie Amy... come back now, please and thank you), so I want to jot it all down before it escapes to the cobwebby corners of my forgetful brain.

Weight/Length: She is 23.5 inches long and 11.5 pounds (#stringbean) and actually the NP we saw at her last checkup wants her to gain weight so we're doing an extra feeding. Personally, I think she's just going to be tall and skinny like her daddy so I'm pretty sure she's fine. =) Alice was definitely a chunky monkey already at this age so it's funny to have a more petite baby this time around!

Nicknames: Sisert is still going strong (even though Alice has started pronouncing "sister" correctly which breaks my heart). Bean. Little Bean. Beanie Baby/Baby Bean. Toot Sweets. Toodles. And Alice calls her "my baby" which is adorable.

Sleep: still getting a solid 10-11 hours a night (praise) but is an intermittent napper at best. We're working on that. I've never seen such a tiny baby fight sleep so much during the day! I mean, I wouldn't trade her nighttime sleep schedule, but we still need to find a happy medium with her naps. Alice was the exact same way!

Eating: She eats about every 3 hours except for her bedtime feeding which is usually a little under 2 hours from the last one. She's doing great with nursing and bottles as needed (but starting to spit up a little more. Bleh).

Clothing: This poor child... she's so long that her legs need the room in 3-6 or even 6 month clothes (particularly sleepers), but her waist is so tiny that she's still wearing newborn shorts. Alice had the opposite problem of short legs and a long torso, but the issue of sizing in separates remains. Ha!

Mood: Oh, she's the sweetest. She really only cries if she's hungry (or, occasionally, if she's fighting sleep). She is so smiley (reserving her biggest smiles and best giggles for her sister) and her giant eyes get even bigger when she's in a new environment or Alice is acting crazy (guess which thing happens more often). She's also extremely active and is always kicking her legs and trying to stand up straight when we hold her hands. (I've called Jonathan the Energizer Bunny for years... there's a reason he and Amy Jane both burn so many calories, apparently!)

Loves: riding in the carrier with her daddy
any attention from Alice
her paci
being outside

Doesn't Love: being hungry or wet
the pool (she has the grumpiest look the whole time)
being hot (sorry, kid... kinda unavoidable here, and at odds with your desire to be outside)
naps (whose child is this??)
her carseat

What I Want to Remember/Milestones: meeting friends and family in North Carolina last month (my oldest niece holding my baby, the youngest grandchild? I die. Same with the picture of her and my 90-year-old Mamaw. Priceless). Lots and lots of family walks. Rolling over. Grabbing her toes. The way she dramatically covers her eyes with her arm as if the weight of the world is just too much. My sister meeting her namesake this week (all the feels). How happy she is when she wakes up. How happy we all are to have her around.

What I'm Looking Forward To: hmmm, can I change this section to what I'm dreading?? (jk but serious.) I am NOT looking forward to Jonathan going back to work (whatever that's going to look like) and disturbing the idyllic little setup I've got going here (as in having both of us home 24/7 since the day she was born). I will be the first to say I've been incredibly spoiled and as difficult as all this Covid stuff has been, I've benefited from it in a big way in terms of our home situation. So, we'll see how this fall goes, but I'm fully planning on savoring these last few weeks of all four of us at home!

Me: I spent most of the month of June and parts of July in a pretty big funk, honestly. I've had some totally unexpected professional opportunities come up (and then mysteriously disappear) and the roller coaster of those experiences has left me with a bit of mental and emotional whiplash that I certainly didn't go looking for (who does?). I'm in a different place with this baby than I was with Alice in that I am looking for employment (rather passively, but still) but the responsibilities and concerns of a baby (and 4-year-old) don't change just because I need to find a job. Addition, not subtraction. Actually, multiplication. I think. (I am not a mathematically-minded person which I'm sure comes as a surprise to no one.) Anyway, I just feel like I'm in a weird transition phase and that the ground is kind of shifting beneath me, which is not my preferred state of being on any level. But if there's anything I've learned over the last few months it's that we might as well commit to being flexible because it's really all we can do. (Again, this is not my preferred mantra. Does this mean I'm growing? =)

There you go, everyone. The four-month update on my second child, the content you are HERE FOR. Honestly, though, I get that this is mainly for my own memories and I'm okay with that. But if you did happen to slog through to the end of this glorified baby book/journal entry, I thank you. Stay safe, everybody!

A Pollyanna Lesson

I've put off writing this post for over a month, mainly because it seems like every time I try to write it I think of an entirely separate situation that it could apply to or another way it might offend someone or I'm just reminded that there is a near-deafening roar of information and opinion here on the world wide web at the moment. But when I truly can't get away from something, there's usually a good reason. Please know up front that I say all of this in love and that I've certainly not achieved any of it 100% by any means. I'm just trying.

The last few months have been, to use a word that has really had its moment lately, unprecedented. First there was (and is) the global pandemic, the result of a virus that has killed thousands and infected--body, soul, and spirit--millions more. There have been some really amazing moments that have transcended class, politics, or geography (see just a few compiled here).

But whether the angst is concerning the source of the virus, the response to it, the politicization of it, or just the decision for or against wearing masks to fight it, the tension online has been at an all-time high. Extended quarantine/lockdown, business closures, and social distancing/isolation have all taken a toll as we have sought to quiet (or stir up) our fears by turning on each other, usually by way of comment sections.

I get it. I am an Enneagram 6 (we tend to peddle in Worst Case Scenarios) and even I with my long list of Scary Things did not see any of this coming, nor have I handled well the idea that such a deadly virus is still largely a mystery. And when we're afraid (of much more than being sick... lost jobs, depression, anxiety, loss of access to other medical care, lack of support/community, etc.), we lash out at those around and latch onto whatever we think will make us safe. Since we have different opinions on that, things can (and did) get ugly.

Then over the last month, there has been a massive national response to the murders of three different black people in a brief time period (Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd). While some responses to their deaths have turned violent and destructive (which no serious person I know is condoning), the positive effects of this outpouring of concern and empathy from people all over the country, particularly white Christians, have been monumental. I'm not here to debate that... any movement away from racism and toward racial justice/reconciliation that is done within the framework of the gospel is a good thing. But, as always, these conversations and events have sparked fierce debates on what those changes should look like and have caused some irate reactions from some who do not want to be confronted with the truth of our nation's racial history and current reality.

On top of all of this, it is an election year. Hooray! Let's take the most divided and polarized time in recent history and throw in a literal "us versus them" contest. Perfect.

Okay, I'm not here to talk about politics. Honestly, I'd rather chew off my arm. =) But I think it's worth mentioning that some of the comments and posts we've all seen over the last few months have been just plain ugly about a variety of topics besides this election. And I'm not even talking about conversations between strangers (even though that's still the norm). I'm talking about people being hateful to people they KNOW and apparently have the guts to chew out on Facebook when they know they won't be seeing them at church because it's online. Yikes. Masks on, gloves off.

So, as election season descends upon us and things ramp up even beyond the fever pitch they've already seemed to reach, I want to encourage you to check out a few resources that will help guide our thinking when it comes to another round of "If You Don't Agree with Me, You Must Hate My Guts." Or something catchier. Then we'll get to the "lesson" part of the post.= )

Them by Ben Sasse- Written by a U.S. Senator who explains, as the subtitle says, "Why we hate each other and how to heal." Senator Sasse is a Christian and a good man. This is well worth your time.

Political Tribes by Amy Chua- this book explains "group instinct and the fate of nations": basically, what political tribalism really is and why it harms rather than helps the groups that cling to it most fiercely.

You're Not Listening by Kate Murphy- man, what a timely book, whose subtitle says, "what you're missing and why it matters." When the MO of most online interaction is to devolve into virtual screaming matches, this book is more relevant than ever before. I genuinely want everyone I know to read it.

Competing Spectacles by Tony Reinke- this is a short little book that teaches us how to "treasure Christ in the media age." We are constantly inundated with information nearly every moment of the day and we desperately need discernment in how we process and respond to it. Reinke provides a biblical framework for how to do that.

The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King- this is a biography of Fred Rogers and boy, do we need more Fred Rogers in the world. If I could personally assign every American some homework it would be to watch an episode of Mr. Rogers at least once a week. Maybe some of his kindness would rub off.

Humility by Andrew Murray- probably the hardest one to implement but the most valuable one to read. Murray's short little book on humility is something we need to return to again and again. We are never more Christlike than when we are seeking humility and never less like Christ than when we reject it in favor of pride and self-importance. This is a great book.

Coming soon: A Way with Words: Using Our Online Conversations for Good by Daniel Darling and
Divided We Fall by David French

Finally, I'll leave you with this scene from Pollyanna (I didn't forget the title of this post... it just took me a while to get here). If you haven't read the book or seen the movie (which you should totally do), Pollyanna is a little orphan girl who's come to live with her rich aunt, who is fairly grumpy and basically runs the town. Pollyanna comes across the pastor of the local church practicing his very fire-and-brimstone sermon and innocently suggests the "glad passages" her own father used to preach from. Throughout the movie, she encourages the pastor and others to play the "glad game" with her: always looking for the good in everything and everyone around them, even when it becomes almost impossible.

In this particular scene, though, she shows the pastor her necklace that is inscribed with these words: "When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." (Watch the scene here.) That's where we are, isn't it? We look for the bad and are pretty much never disappointed!

It's a great movie and that's a great little game, but it could be revolutionary if we actually put "looking for the good" into practice. I'm not talking about ignoring sin or injustice or being "okay with" things that are objectively wrong. But I think if we are honest with ourselves, we can see that there's a whole lot of space between acknowledging that someone else has a different viewpoint (or is even completely biblically off-base) and choosing to belittle or dehumanize that person. We have been reduced to memes of ourselves and each other and it seems like the biggest victim of "cancel culture" has been the Golden Rule itself.

It would be quite a day in this country if we would recognize and understand that there is not a single person that Jesus did not die for. There is no one across any political aisle from me that Jesus loves less than he loves me. I am not more highly favored to God because I believe a certain way about anything. I base what I believe on what He says in Scripture and try to live that out, but He doesn't love me more because of it. Every single person, no matter what their stance is on any single issue, is created in the image of Christ, is fully loved and known by Him, and is eligible for His saving grace.

"Even if...?" Yep, even then. That is God's creation you're talking and posting  and commenting about. Even them. If loving our enemies is good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me.

I read an amazing article from the guys over at Rambling Ever On (please read the whole thing), who shared this quote:

 Few things communicate genuine love like listening to a person. And a most sacrificial form of this can be when we listen and observe and try to learn from people who dress differently than us, act differently than us and think differently than us. My brand of cultural Christianity often thinks you have to have answers and that revealing ignorance is shameful. But exposure to other cultures teaches me that there is so much I don’t know–about God, about people, about the world.

I think it is incredibly easy to assign motives we can't fully understand, intentions we'll never really know, and malice that may be present but may also be projected. Again, I know there are issues that we can and should stand for. I'm also saying that the way we stand is just as if not more important than the fact that we are standing. Imagine if a driver gave you the finger and then you noticed they had a certain church's bumper sticker on their car. Maybe it was even the pastor! That might affect your opinion of them and their church a little. Well, it seems like over the last few months we have collectively flipped the bird (sorry, but it's true- have you BEEN on Facebook??) to each other, to kindness, to civility, and to empathy, and goodness gracious, do we need to beg God to help us get them back.

Join with me, friends. Tensions are high, misinformation is rampant, anger is rising, and fear is flowing. But we can stop it. Not in our own strength, but in His. I know it's confusing and exhausting to be a person right now. There is so much injustice, so much hate, so much wickedness. We want to do better but it's hard to know how. We want to stand for right and against wrong but it feels nearly impossible to separate light and darkness sometimes. We want to be kind but that post we scroll by just gets us so riled up and our keyboard warrior fingers begin to fly. If we stay silent, are we complicit? If we speak up, are we causing more division? It is just plain hard to navigate these days.

Still... the tides are turning; in some ways it feels very much like we are on the verge of something. I'd love for it to be revival, wouldn't you? Aslan is on the move.

Please look into some of these resources. Check information you find against the Bible. Use discernment and discretion before you jump onto something just because it "sounds right." Listen. Care. Look for the good, and find it.

A Few Books on Race

Source: Oh Happy Dani

I share a lot about books so it only makes sense to me to share several titles that have helped me have a deeper understanding and clearer perspective on racial issues and the history of racism in America. This is not even remotely an exhaustive list, but it includes books for almost all ages and covers multiple eras.

This is so important. We cannot even begin to do the work that needs to be done for reconciliation if there is not a knowledge and context for what has already taken place. Today’s weariness and outrage is not tied to isolated events. A long history of injustice and evil has perpetuated these feelings.

I’m praying for the courage to listen and learn and let those who have experienced injustice lead toward the light of Christ’s redemptive power and saving grace. ❤️

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson https://amzn.to/2XFnlL7

Blood at the Root by Patrick Phillips https://amzn.to/3gz3Psj

Under Our Skin by Benjamin Watson https://amzn.to/3dnW9Hm

Buried in the Bitter Waters by Elliot G. Jaspin https://amzn.to/2X97Ufl

I Never Had It Made by Jackie Robinson https://amzn.to/3dbC6w3

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor (and the rest of the series- these are middle grade fiction) https://amzn.to/3gxeQKV

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson https://amzn.to/2X9uuo1