Why Desperation Can Be a Good Thing

desperationFor the last 9 hours, I’ve been riding through Colorado and Kansas over snowy, ice-covered highways with my husband and 2-year-old son. My husband, ever the competent and confident driver, has been navigating our Nissan Altima over the slick roads with the expertise of a seasoned truck driver (Believe me, he looks nothing like a truck driver, though).

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My non-truck driver husband braving the roads.

There is always snow and ice on the highways when we travel back to Oklahoma after visiting my family in the Denver area at either Thanksgiving or Christmas, so it was no surprise when we were greeted by a blanket of wintry precipitation on the car this morning.

Unfortunately, the roads are worse than what we’ve experienced previously. We had just passed the famous “Oasis” in Colby, Kansas (if you’ve ever driven to/from Oklahoma/Colorado, you know what I’m talking about!), when we discovered that I-70 was closed for more than 200 miles. So now we’re on country road highways being extremely careful and prayerful. And it’s been 9 hours.

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Entertaining a 2-year-old

I have been sitting in the back seat, trying to keep a toddler entertained with “The Lion King” on an iPad, pictures from a magazine, and all the food and milk his heart desires. Need I repeat, for 9 hours. Still, my job is not nearly as difficult as my husband’s, as he tries to keep us alive. Oh, and I’ve been praying like there’s no tomorrow and asking for prayers from every person we’re close to.

I would like us all to make it home in one piece … no matter how long it takes.

The sad thing is, I realize that today is probably the most I’ve prayed in the last few months, and it’s because I’m scared. It’s because I’m desperate for the safety and security of home.

It’s interesting how times of desperation draw us closer to God. I think back over my life and see this to be true – times of desperation have caused me to get closer to God.

  • I fully dedicated my life to God as a teenager when I was going through a terrible trial with a friendship.
  • God taught me to run to Him during our difficult first year of marriage. Every argument was fuel for me to run to God and find His help.
  • Again, I ran to God out of desperation when our son was a newborn. I was so worried and exhausted mentally and physically during the first couple months of his life, as I dealt with his kidney condition and an unsuccessful breastfeeding experience. I felt like I was surviving only by telling myself that the words I was hearing in worship songs were true.

God meets us where we’re at. He will come to us in our times of desperation. If you’re in a rough spot in life, cry out to Him.

Times of desperation cause us to look for an outlet. Sometimes, those outlets are negative. Sometimes, those outlets are alcohol that drive a person to become an alcoholic or get a DUI. Sometimes, those outlets are relationships with people that end in heartbreak.

Let God be your outlet. Psalm 46:1 says: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.

 He will get you through this storm. He is an outlet that will never disappoint or leave you in a worse place than you were before. He will fill you with peace and hope as you trust in Him and make you a stronger person as you endure this hard time. He is an ever-present help in times of trouble.

Desperation can be a good thing, if you’ll respond to that desperation by running to the right place.

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The Power of Places

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I love places. There’s something spiritual and almost otherworldly about certain places that we return to throughout our lives.

I am not one to sit at home. I am one to explore places. I am one to find the best place to hike, the quietest place to think, the most delicious place to eat, the most fun place to take a kid.

I love discovering the personality of a place. Places have many human qualities … they can be peaceful, professional, hipster, holy, pretentious, fun. Often, what determines the personality of a place is the type of person/people who created that place, and the type of people who frequent it.

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When I’m in a certain place, I sometimes like to think about all the thousands of people who have come before me and sat in that spot, and the thousands of people who will come after me. And I like to wonder how my life will be different next time I return to that particular place.

Sometimes, I run out of new places. Sometimes I am destined to return to the same places … and I think it’s for the better that I do.

I live in the city I grew up in, and with that comes the propensity for a flood of memories to wash over me when I visit a certain place. When I go to the Tulsa Garden Center that is sadly now full of dead, poisoned roses, I am reminded of the time that the gardens were flourishing and my parents took me there when I was about 5. I was whining and complaining the whole time for one reason or another and missed the beauty of the flora around me.

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Now that I’m a parent, I get to introduce my son to some of my favorite places, and see the magic of those places through his fresh eyes. A sleepy nature park becomes woods for a dragon and pirates to play in. LaFortune Park, one of my favorite places to play as a child, now has much cooler playgrounds, and he could entertain himself there for days.

Perhaps some of the most important places to me are spiritual places … places where I have felt God’s presence. I can’t go into the Prayer Gardens or Prayer Tower at ORU without feeling that God is right there with me. It’s a place where I’ve felt God since I was a child, when on Sunday afternoons my family would visit the bright blue fountains that used to fill the campus. In college, it’s where God would quietly direct me during those 4 years as I sought Him and His purpose for my life.

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Sometimes, a spiritual place is much less formal that a prayer garden or a chapel or a cathedral. Sometimes it’s a closet. Sometimes it’s a bench at a park.

It’s wherever we can connect with God. Even the Bible was full of spiritual places — places where God moved again and again. So many miracles happened at the Jordan River, for example — the miracles of Naaman the Leper, Elijah and Elisha, and the baptism of Jesus.

Go to your spiritual place. If you don’t have one, find one. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It just needs to be a place where you experience peace, love, fulfillment, and most of all, God.

Where are some of your favorite places?

When Anxiety Comes a Knockin’

Let’s be honest. I’m terrible at casting my cares.

I’m pretty all or nothing. I either don’t give a flip about something, or I’m so concerned about it that it keeps me up at 3 a.m.

That’s why Jesus created 1 Peter 5:7. For extremists like me. “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

I recently read something about that verb “casting” that really stood out to me. I’m about to get all Greek on you. Minus the Windex.

From Rick Renner’s blog:

The word “casting” used in First Peter 5:7 was the Greek word epiripto, a compound of the words epi and ripto. The word epi means upon, as on top of something. The word ripto means to hurl, to throw, or to cast, and it often means to violently throw or to fling something with great force.

I imagine a couple things when I think of the verbs Renner mentions. First, I think of flinging off a nasty bug if it were to fly on you. You would smack that thing away with you with the force of The Hulk.

Secondly, I think about what I do with my clothes after a long, hot, humid summer run. Sorry to get nasty here. But I fling those things away! I want nothing to do with them! They’re stinky, sweaty, and an abomination only fit for the washing machine.

So getting back to me and my cares. It’s time to cast them away. It’s time to violently throw them off and fling them with great force, never to pick them up again.

That’s the thing about cares. We keep retrieving them. The same worries and concerns end up circling around our minds over and over.

But not if we truly fling them. Not if we truly cast them on the Lord, who can carry those burdens with such ease.

Here’s one more verse about casting – this time from Psalms. “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” Psalm 55:22

When we truly give him those cares and concerns, He sustains us like only He can. We get sweet sleep, we don’t carry around those worries. It’s not that we don’t have a care in the world; it’s just that we’re doing giving our cares to the one who can carry them. We were never meant to carry them alone.

What are some burdens you need to release? How can you practice flinging your cares away and not retrieving them?

What Older Folks Have Taught Me

I’ve spent the last five plus years doing marketing for a beautiful senior living community. Its halls are the final home to some of the finest people on planet Earth. On Monday, I began a new job that won’t have me around seniors every day.

During the last five years, I have learned so many valuable lessons from my elders. Here are just a few.

  1. This is not Georgia… just another funny old lady.

    A Sense of Humor is a Must.

I learned this from a Resident we’ll call Georgia (I’m changing her name for the sake of HIPAA, OK?). For over a year, every morning when I walked into work, she would greet me by telling me my hair looked crappy. But that’s part of the joy of being older – you don’t have to have a filter anymore!

Even though her sense of humor is a little odd, I’ve come to love Georgia dearly. She makes fun of those she loves.

Thanks to Georgia and the others who have taught me to more freely laugh at myself… and others, in an appropriate way.

  1. Old folks know how to dress!

    Appearance is Important.

The Greatest Generation … they may be the last generation that truly dressed up. Think about it. People barely dress up to go to work anymore. Just compare the way flight attendants dressed 50 years ago and the way they dress today. People don’t dress up like they used to.

I’m not saying we should spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on our outward appearance, because life really is all about developing your relationship with the Lord and your character. But the thing is, if you’re 30 now and you’re having a tough time looking good … imagine what it will be like when you’re 90.

Your body is a temple, according to the Bible. I see people in their 90’s who look like they’re in their 70’s, and people in their 70’s who look like they’re in their 90’s. You can do things today that will help you look your best when you’re elderly – exercise, eat a healthy diet, and avoid smoking and drinking.

Oh, and why not dress up a little? I’ve learned through the fancy ladies in their 90’s who wear adorable suits and jewelry to put a little extra effort into my appearance. Because if they’re still worth it at 95, then I’m also worth it.

  1. Your attitude is a culmination of your daily choices.
Do you want to be a Maxine or a Betty White?

This is the greatest lesson I’ve learned the past five years. I’ve realized that there are two types of old folks: They’re either super mean or super nice. Basically, they’re either a Maxine or a Betty White.

So what determines if someone will turn out to be super mean or super nice when they’re in the final chapter of their lives?

Daily decisions.

It’s refusing to become depressed even when your dear friends all die.

It’s finding hobbies you enjoy doing and doing them.

It’s separating yourself from people who drain the life out of you.

Grouchiness doesn’t happen overnight. You know that crotchety old neighbor from your childhood? He didn’t get that way in a day. He decided over a lifetime to allow negativity to get the best of him.

So thank you to the super nice, but also to the super grouchy elderly who have taught me this valuable lesson. I will continue trying to make decisions each day that will result in me being the kind of sweet old lady that younger ladies look at and say, “I want to be like her when I’m old.”

Because Sometimes We Need a Good Humbling

shoeHere’s a funny story about how just when you think you’ve got your act together, God reminds you how much you need Him.

A couple weeks, I picked my son, Luke, up from daycare on a beautiful, sunny day. “Did the kids get to go outside today?” I asked his teacher.

“No,” she replied without explanation.

I realized that this wasn’t the first time in the past couple weeks the kids hadn’t gone outside on a beautiful day. I pushed for more. “Hmmm, that’s weird. It’s so nice outside!”

“Well,” she explained, “one of Luke’s classmates doesn’t have shoes.”

Sure enough, one of the toddlers was wandering around wearing only socks on his feet.

Without even thinking, I said, “OK, I’ll bring him shoes tomorrow.”

The thing is, I had no idea what the situation was. I didn’t know if the kids’ parents couldn’t afford shoes, or if they were just too lazy to put him in shoes, because they knew he would kick them off (hey, I have a 1-year-old boy too … I understand!). I just knew that because one kid didn’t have shoes, none of the kids could go outside.

So the next morning, I brought a bag with three different pairs of shoes — three sizes and styles for the teacher to choose from. When I picked Luke up at the end of the day, I was pleased to see that the child was wearing one of the pairs. No, the kids had not gone outside that way due to weather, but I was confident that the next day would be an outdoor play day.

feetThe next morning came, and the weather promised to be perfect. But guess who failed big time this time?! Me. That mom who thought she was perfect the day before because she helped out another kid. The mom who was going to make sure nothing prevented the kids in her child’s class from getting to play outside.

I FORGOT LUKE’S SHOES.

The irony. OF ALL THE THINGS FOR ME TO FORGET!

After a rushed trip to Wal-Mart to buy Luke shoes for the day, I walked into daycare with a humble heart. The teachers laughed with me as I recounted the story.

The thing is, parenting is hard. Motherhood has oodles of challenges. But every once in a while, you feel like you’ve got it under control. I only have one kid right now, and he’s 19 months. We’ve worked through tons of challenges, but right now is not a particularly challenging season. He can entertain himself for an hour while I write a blog post. It’s pretty amazing.

But oh, how I still need the Lord! May I never forget that! I need His grace, even if now is not a season when I’m barely getting sleep or potty training or doing other challenging parenting things.

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I love this verse in James 4:6. The humble person recognizes her need for grace and cries out for it. The proud person just tries to do everything in her own strength and ends up having a breakdown. I’ve been there before. I’ve done things on my own power, only to look back and feel miserable and like I have nothing left in me.

Let’s walk in humility and ask God for grace each day, no matter how easy or difficult our circumstances may be. He’s always there, willing to give us more grace.

Especially when we forget our kid’s shoes.

To the Mom Who is Beating Herself up about Breastfeeding

Not me or my baby!

Dear Mom Who is Trying So Hard to Breastfeed and Struggling So Much,

It will be OK. Your motherliness or love for your sweet baby are not dependent on your ability to produce milk. One of two things will happen for you:

a) Things will get better than they are now. You’ll hit a breakthrough in your milk production, and you’ll be able to successfully breastfeed.

OR

b) You will realize you have tried the very best you could try to breastfeed. You gave it your all. But you just couldn’t make it work. And that is OK.

I was in the “b” camp with my son, Luke. Here is our story.

NICU Luke… oh, what a different child he is now!

Luke and I got off to a rocky start with breastfeeding because he was immediately whisked off to the NICU after birth due to a kidney tract problem he was born with that we knew about going into delivery. Traditionally, it is hard for NICU babies and moms to breastfeed, because the babies are hooked up to tubes and wires at all times, because the babies may not be functioning as well as babies without health issues, and because they aren’t staying in the same room as each other 24/7.

I found it nearly impossible to figure out the “latch on” thing when my baby had something attached to his head, foot, and arm — which was all the time his first 8 days of life! As a first-time mom, I was nervous enough just holding a 7-pound, delicate baby. Top that off with a baby attached to life-monitoring wires, and I was a nervous wreck.

This was the first time he drank milk I produced! (from pumping). I was so excited!

While we were in the hospital, I expressed my issues to two different lactation consultants. I did everything I was supposed to do. I pumped non-stop. I drank special Mothers Milk tea. I ate cookies a friend made me that were supposed to promote breastfeeding. Still, at the end of Luke’s 8-day NICU stay, I was barely producing any milk. Of course, the hospital had to begin to supplement him once he lost more than 1 pound of his birth weight.

Once we went home, I thought I would get the hang of breastfeeding. I consulted two more lactation consultants and did literally everything I read about or was recommended. I took every natural pill and drank every tea that could help with lactation. After 6 weeks of pumping 6-7 times a day and trying to feed Luke 8-9 times a day, I was still only producing 1/3 of the milk he needed, according to measurements a lactation specialist took.

This entire process was so unbelievably frustrating to me. Looking back 1 year later, I can think of few things in my life that have been more frustrating than attempting to breastfeed. I just wanted to be able to provide for my baby! And I could only 1/3 provide for my baby, even when I was trying twice as hard as I was supposed to! I felt like I was feeding (or trying to feed) two — my baby and the breast pump. And I was STILL having to use formula on top of that! It was sooo frustrating!

When I went back to work after 8 weeks of maternity leave, I decided I would still attempt to pump and breastfeed as much as possible. During one of my first weeks back, I worked at an event where the only place I could pump was a restroom. Sorry if this is TMI, but I had no choice but to sit in a stall to pump. After that unfortunately unhygienic experience, I said enough is enough! I had tried my very best. I realized that my level of love for Luke was not determined by the amount of milk he got from me. I loved him sooo much, and he knew that.

So if you’re in the process of trying to breastfeed, I encourage you to continue trying. Give it your best shot, but do not beat yourself up along the way. Give yourself grace. Do something nice for yourself today — take a bubble bath, eat an ice cream sundae. Consult multiple lactation consultants if you need to. They will be able to give you great advice.

Me and Luke nowadays

If and when you do stop breastfeeding, know that you and your baby will be OK. You will have an amazing bond no matter what, as long as you give him or her love. I’m not a child development specialist or a healthcare professional, but the one thing I’ve learned as a parent so far is that your child can sense your love. When you look into their sweet eyes, sing them to sleep, play with them, pray over them — whatever is you do to connect with your child — they will know that you love them.

And they will know you tried your best. And God will know you tried your best. And with that in mind, dear mommy, you can rest assured.

Wait, Wasn’t I Supposed to Be a “Somebody” By Now?

Me in college — big dreams, big heart

I venture to say that most of us, at one point in our lives, dreamed to believe we would make it big, in one way or another. Maybe you dreamed of being the next Mariah Carey, or Rebecca St. James, if you grew up listening to the kind of music I did! Maybe you imagined you’d be a famous actor or artist or preacher.

For me, I was just sure I was bound for journalistic greatness. The summer in between my junior and senior year sealed the deal. I had already spent the previous year in college as the “big fish in the small pond” editor-in-chief of the university newspaper. Now, I was interning at the newspaper of the wealthiest suburb in Oklahoma. I was headed straight for The New York Times, naturally.

I wrote so many stories that summer that I’m pretty sure the full-time reporters at the sleepy little suburb newspaper either hated me for stealing their bylines or loved me for allowing them to take a much-needed break. I wrote about clowns visiting kids in hospitals and summer camps and even interviewed the CEO of Sonic (no, I didn’t get any free slushies out of that gig).

At the end of the summer, the editor of the newspaper wrote the nicest letter to the president of my university, saying essentially that I was destined for journalistic greatness. I treasured a copy of that letter as much as I would my college diploma, and it’s still in my portfolio to this day.

My people.

But The New York Times‘ doors I would never see. I don’t know that I was ever meant to see them. These days, I spend my time with my husband and 1-year-old son or marketing for a senior living community. This is not quite the career path I imagined. Yes, I still get to do some writing for local publications, and obviously, this blog, but I’m no Christiane Amanpour. I’m not traveling the world writing about war-torn countries like I once imagined.

And yet, I know if my heart, everything is just as it should be, for now. Would it be nice to be famous? Would it be nice to have an audience and be seen as a person of influence? Sure. I think we can all answer those questions in the affirmative.

For now, though, my lot in life is simple: to love. I may never be “successful” in the eyes of this world, if success is defined by money, fame, and good looks. But I will love those around me deeply. I will be “somebody” to those in my life — to my family, to the elderly people I see each day, to the nursing staff I work with.

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Dr. Bennet Omalu

While I may not be a “who’s who,” I get to occasionally interview relatively famous people for a magazine I write for. I recently interviewed an amazingly humble, truly spiritual man named Bennet Omalu. In many people’s eyes, he has been a big success — coming from destitute poverty in Nigeria to becoming the physician who discovered Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in the brains of football players and veterans, namely.

Yet, Dr. Omalu doesn’t see success the way many do. Here’s his definition of success: “Success is not always about money. If you’re married for 30 years, that is a big success. If you raise your kids to be good human beings who treat others well, that is success. We shouldn’t always measure success by
money or professional accomplishments.”

Choose to embrace those around you and see success in terms of relationships, not money and fame. I hope you know that you’re a big somebody in the eyes of those you see each day.