Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Family, Friendship, Grief

Comfort, Comfort My People

US: We’re all a little afraid, God? Ok, some of us a lot afraid. Most of us are somewhere between freaking out and totally Zen, depending on the day, the hour, the moment. What are we supposed to do?

GOD: COMFORT, COMFORT MY PEOPLE.

US: You mean we’re not supposed to tell them not to be afraid?

GOD: COMFORT, COMFORT MY PEOPLE.

Don’t tell them not to be afraid. HELP them not to be afraid!

US: How should we do that?

GOD: You already are in so many ways, and I’m so grateful for that.

When you answer the phone and cry with a friend who has lost her job, YOU ARE.

When you drop a roll of paper towels off in mailbox for someone who is running short, YOU ARE.

When you hold your kids close who are now having nightmares, YOU ARE.

When you order a pizza from a restaurant who wonders if they are going to make it (and add a few dinners to go), YOU ARE.

When you pray for your coworker whose mom is in the hospital (and tell them that over and over and over), YOU ARE.

When you put stuffed bears in your windows for kids to see as they walk by, YOU ARE.

When you drop a note for your elderly neighbor, asking if they need anything, YOU ARE.

When you keep your distance if you’re out and about, yet greet people kindly, YOU ARE.

When you have a video conference call with your family to celebrate your son’s birthday, YOU ARE.

When you listen to your spouse’s rant about all the scary things that are going on inside her, YOU ARE.

When you collectively gather on the internet with your faith community and remind each other of God’s tender care, YOU ARE.

When you hold another’s heart carefully and tenderly, allowing for all the feels, YOU ARE.

US: Really? That will HELP them? That will HELP me? Not to be so afraid?

GOD: Yes. Yes. COMFORT, COMFORT MY PEOPLE.

Posted in Anxiety, Faith

What Am I Doing About My Fear?

I’ve been asked about food prep, my mental health, my routine, church, etc.

Because of this, I want to offer short videos answering those questions over the next several days, weeks, etc.

I plan to give you practical HELP and glimmers of HOPE as we navigate our new normal together.  I promise to sprinkle lots of HUMOR throughout as well.

Today, I am answering the question, “What am I doing about my fear?”  I happen to be a little bit of an expert on the subject.

JOIN ME AND FIND OUT.  (I know you have the time hahaha)

CLICK HERE!!!

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Family, Friendship, Grief

Fear Keeps Me…

Fear keeps me from loving deeply.

Fear of rejection.
Fear of losing myself.
Fear of embarrassment.
Fear of pain.
Fear of not being enough.
Fear of abandonment.
Fear of grief.
Fear of failure.
Fear of being swallowed up.
Fear of loss.

If I love deeply, every last one of those fears might come true. Many of them already have.

But, it’s a risk I am trying very hard to take every single day, no matter how afraid I am, because…

If I love deeply, I will also find ALL of these along the way:

Grace.
Life.
Kindness.
Intimacy.
Acceptance.
Tenderness.
Joy.
Goodness.
Empathy.
Peace.
Belonging.
Mercy.
Trust.
Healing.
And ultimately, LOVE.

Fear may win a few skirmishes here and there on the battlefield of my heart, but deep LOVE will win the war. That’s a guarantee from LOVE HIMSELF.

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Health, Sabbath

Hello Darkness, My (New) Friend

I jolt awake at 4:40 am.

My husband’s ride for his early morning flight never arrives.

Flying by the seat of his pants (pun intended), he jumps in his car and is off in the darkness.

I lay eyes wide open.

I don’t want to be awake yet. It’s so dark out. I didn’t plan on this.

“Don’t forget. You have decided to heed the call of the darkness this winter,” the Lover of My Soul reminds me.

I stir, don my cozy slippers and venture to the big room with the big dark windows, turn on the Christmas tree and open the wood-burning stove. I leave the rest of the house quiet. Dark.

“Darkness, what do you have for me this morning?”

My Savior greets me softly and the darkness answers.

“You need me this morning, my friend.”

“You need silence to settle your frenzied mind.”

“You need solitude to rest your weary soul.”

“You need stillness to revive your anxious body.”

“You need Shalom (remember your Word of the Year?) to heal your troubled spirit.”

“You need me this morning, my friend.”

Right outside those big, dark windows, the light will dawn in a few moments and display the freshly-fallen snow.

It will be glorious.

BUT for now, I sit in the darkness.

#darkness #beautyinthedark #whatthedarknessknows #hope

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Grief

What Do I Really Need Today? (and maybe you do too)

As I lie here this very normal Thursday morning, my body and mind and heart are somewhat anxious, so I spend some time talking to God.

The old, ugly, harsh, “principal’s office” God begins his normal barrage: WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?  Can’t you get your act together?   UGH.

I quickly step in and remind myself that this voice is not God, it’s the voices of discouragement and shame, enemies of my soul.

In its place, a tender voice speaks gently:  what is wrong with you?  what do you need?

I start bantering with this lover of my soul, and quite the conversation ensues.

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I need Jared to start making money at this job he is working so hard at selling insurance.

 Actually, you need My wisdom to know how much to help or not help.

I need our house to sell (and especially for this fledgling contract to be signed).  This one is huge right now.  It’s causing lots of underlying stress on our finances, our marriage, our very bodies. 

Actually, you need a settledness of soul in the waiting, an abiding trust in Me.  I care and I know.

I need Rachel to make a friend out there in California. 

Actually, you need to feel your sadness over missing her and confront your own loneliness without her.  You need to grieve.

I need Allen’s job to be more secure. 

Actually, you need to live in today and from a place of provision from my generous heart, instead of that never-ending, life-sucking place of scarcity.

I NEED TO BE OKAY ON THE OUTSIDE!

Actually, you need to be okay on the inside.  

(this time, He keeps going….)

My Esther, it’s not going to be having all the OUTSIDE problems solved.  More of them will creep up every day.  What you “needed” a year ago is completely different than what you will “need” a year from now.

What you REALLY need, however, is the same every moment, every day.  You need to trust, to settle, to be in that “all manner of thing shall be well” place INSIDE, the place where I dwell.  It’s safe there.  You have EVERYTHING you need there.

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And my God will liberally supply (fill until full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:19)

P.S.  One thing I do desperately need this morning (and any of you who might grace my presence would heartily agree):  I NEED A SHOWER!  Warm soapy, water, here I come!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Anxiety, Family, Motherhood, Podcast - Dolly Mama and the Millennials

Mom Guilt (battling the beast)

Help! MOM GUILT! Before our babies are even born, we wonder if we are doing everything right by our child. Am I eating healthy enough? I forgot to take my vitamins. After they are born, it doesn’t subside. EVER. Am I playing enough with my toddler? Am I allowing too much screen time? Am I strict enough? Too strict? I yelled at them for not making their bed. I let my middle schooler quit soccer in the middle of the season. Why don’t I want to spend time with my pre-teen? I shouldn’t go back to work. We need the money for college. Should I have taken away my teen’s cell phone? Am I enabling my adult son?

AM I DOING IT ALL RIGHT ALL THE TIME? Mom guilt. 

Join me today as I talk with two moms of toddlers, one who works outside the home (my daughter Sarah) and one who stays home (my daughter Sarah’s close friend, Elizabeth Enns Petters – known as Lizz). We tackle this universal mom language and we uncover some valuable insights into combatting this monster. Sarah and Lizz are wise, young, smart, capable, kick-butt moms who teach this old-timer some new tricks on keeping this beast corralled and even quieted down.  You don’t want to miss out!

Posted in Anxiety, Family, Health, Motherhood, Podcast - Dolly Mama and the Millennials

How My Anxiety Effected My Parenting

Join me as I speak with Josh (our 22 year-old) about how my “nervous breakdown” and subsequent anxiety disorder informed my parenting.  Find out the answers to these questions:  how did crippling fear effect my decisions as a mom and what changed as I began to heal?  Enjoy funny stories as part of the crazy!  If you struggle with anxiety/fear as a parent (and I know I am not the only one), this podcast is for you!!!  (Bear with audio issues…I’m building the plane as I fly it!  It will get better!)

 

CLICK ON PODCAST LINK BELOW:

https://anchor.fm/esther18/episodes/Episode-6-How-My-Anxiety-Effected-My-Parenting-e2qjpl

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Thank you for taking the time to listen!  Please share this with anyone you know who is beginning the parenting journey, in the middle of the mess, or still navigating it all with adult children!!  It’s powerful stuff!

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Health

DO. EVERYTHING. BETTER.

“I love the illusion of being able to do it all, and I’m fascinated with people who seem to do that, who have challenging careers and beautiful homes and vibrant minds and well-tended abs. Throw in polite children and a garden, and I’m coming over for lessons.” (Shauna Niequist)

The vicious mantra of our world is three simple words: DO. EVERYTHING. BETTER.

First, I am supposed to DO. Perform. Accomplish. Behave. “Make it happen.” Push.  “Get ‘er done.”  Move.  Cross-off.

Second, I am supposed to do EVERYTHING. Exercise. Eat healthy. Vote. Brush teeth. Make friends. Manage social media. Keep learning. Stay neat. Be spiritual. Dress appropriately. Make money. Recycle. Manage time. Serve others. Dream big. Sleep.

Third, I am supposed to do everything BETTER. Exercise in the best way for my particular body style and shape. Buy a tracking device for my wrist. Make completely nutritious and delicious meals from scratch and chew more slowly so that digestion happens correctly.  March for and give to my favorite social justice cause without offending anyone. Brush twice AND floss once every day AND go to the dentist twice a year for regular cleanings. Create meaningful and long-lasting relationships with diverse people groups. Keep my social media to a minimum while remaining completely engaged with those in my networks.   Take a class AND possibly teach one myself. Listen to life-changing podcasts. Read a book a week. Have carefully marked and organized spaces for everything I own and put all of it where it’s supposed to go as soon as I am finished with it. Go to church regularly. Read a daily devotional first thing every morning. Pray. Give. Be in a small group. Be like Jesus, for goodness sake. Purchase and wear clothes that are fashionable and reasonable. Change them throughout the day depending the weather and what you are doing and NEVER EVER sleep in them (I have pajamas for that). Get a good-paying job AND make sure to invest in wise places to secure my future. Take out life insurance. Rinse out every bottle and remove all the wrapping before I place it in the bin. Acquire an electric car. NEVER waste time. Check all the boxes off my list every day because I am doing all the right things at the right time and in the right amount of time. Serve the homeless at a soup kitchen and donate all my unused clothes seasonally (make sure I wash them first).   Create space every day for the pursuit of my passions.  Find a vocation that fits my personal purpose.  Guiltily remind myself that it takes 10,000 hours of complete dedication to master a skill. Sleep without interruption for 8 hours every single night. There are no excuses.

STRESS CLOSES IN LIKE A MONSTER, CHOKING THE LIFE OUT OF ME!

DO. EVERYTHING. BETTER.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The gentle lilt of Jesus is this:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with ME and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-29 The Message Version)

BIG SIGH FOR MY HEART. I need this today and every day.

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace

 

 

 

**A shout-out to Shauna Niequist who first called out those three words that were shriveling my very soul**
Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Family, Health, Motherhood

Two Desperate Words of All Parents (and what to do about them)

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Paul)

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“BUT I…”

It’s a cry heard all over parenting land.

BUT I took my prenatal vitamins and I did exactly what the doctor told me.  Why does my baby have a heart defect?

BUT I waited until she was “ready” for potty training and I followed the exact steps that worked for all my friends.  Why is my six year old still wetting the bed?

BUT I had him evaluated and got him a specialized tutor.  Why is his teacher still telling me he’s not doing well in school?

BUT I gave up my job and made her a complete priority in my life, even leaving cute notes in her lunch.  Why is she rolling her eyes at me and hardly ever coming outside of her room?

BUT I never had liquor in the house and he’s been through all the drug and alcohol awareness programs.  He’s even seen his friends lose their licenses.  Why did I just find vodka under my senior’s bed?

BUT I took her to church her whole life and we even had family devotions.  Why did my college student just reveal that she doesn’t believe in God anymore?

BUT I paid for four years at a good college and I remember the dreams he had growing up about becoming a doctor.  Why did he barely receive his diploma and can’t even find a steady-paying job?

BUT I TRIED MY BEST AND LOVED HER WITH MY WHOLE HEART, WHY IS SHE STILL NOT OKAY?

We want so desperately in our lives to have A + B always = C.  We want the formulas to work.  We get advice from all kinds of sources (friends, parenting books, the internet, pastors, counselors, doctors) and we cry in frustration “BUT I…” when the recipe ends up more like all those Pinterest fails we’ve seen on the internet (note the picture above).

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When I was just a wee bit younger (okay, like 30 years ago, but I’m not that old, right?!), I believed wholeheartedly in all the formulas, and especially that they would work.  Why wouldn’t I?  It’s perfect.  Just do all right things, make all the right choices and life goes the way it should.  I’d heard it from preachers, parents, teachers, friends, authors, and I’d repeated it endlessly in my own head.  Being the “good Christian” woman that I was, I brought this into my parenting.  Of course I did.

As you may have heard in my Podcast with Sarah, our oldest (CLICK HERE TO LISTEN – IT’S WORTH IT), these lovely formulas worked with her.  She was naturally compliant.  She loved the formulas herself.  (If we were Catholic, she probably would have wanted to be a nun.)  She followed all the rules, had sticker charts completely filled in, received accolades in school for being the best citizen, and excelled at “being a good Christian” whatever that means.  Our formulas seemed to work (especially to the outside world).

But inside our home, they weren’t.  She struggled with tummy aches even as early as three.  She had full-blown Obsessive Compulsive Disorder at 10 years old.  She struggled to go away to sleep away camp for a week when she was 14 because she couldn’t leave the perceived “safety” of our home.  She needed meds for her anxiety in college.  As much as she and I tried our hardest to make A + B = C, it just didn’t happen.  The “right” side of the equal sign became D or J or V or most like a giant question mark.

WHY?  I screamed in desperation.  I was doing everything right!

Should I just try harder?  Maybe I am doing something wrong?  Maybe the equation isn’t right?  All questions that swirled around in my head.

And believe me, I still tried to fix it for years.  I read books, took parenting classes, listened to podcasts, asked friends, had mom prayer circles and even begged Allen to figure it out.

Still, I couldn’t make A + B = C.

New questions swirled.  If this doesn’t work, then what?  What do I do now?  How do I parent?  What really makes me a good mom (something I so desperately wanted and still want)?

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It’s funny how when we come to the end of our trying and our finagling and our controlling and our rope and our selves, our hearts open to the possibility of something new.  A new thought.  A new possibility.  A new way.

God used the end of all of this for something new in me.  A new thought about what matters in our family.   A new possibility of how to be a mom.   A new way of seeing my child.

He invited me into relationship, both with Himself and with my children.   At first, this uncertain place seemed like a curse.  It would take lots more time and wisdom when making decisions.  I might not even make the same choice twice.  What I did for one child in one circumstance might not be the best for a different one.  There might be “it’s unfair” shouts.  It would be complicated, messy.

But as I embarked on this different journey of parenting with much trepidation, I found that it just might be a gift, and a good one at that.  Instead of living in a “what I wish were true” place, I began to live in a “what’s actually true” space.   Life is messy and no amount of “doing the right thing” ensures complete safety and success.

I slowly began to gain freedom from the formula master, one chain link at a time.  Instead of viewing my child as a problem to be solved, I began to see them as a mysterious person to be known, loved and enjoyed (kind of like action thriller enjoyment, which is scary and fun all at the same time).  Instead of seeking certainty,  I began to pursue wisely-placed trust, trust in a wild God, One I can’t control, but One who is completely good and utterly safe.  He doesn’t need any formula for my children to thrive and be okay (the real cry of my heart).

My relationship with my kids slowly began to change.  Instead of having an agenda (the sum of the equation), I could just BE with them, no matter where they were or what they were doing (good or bad).  It was hard for me, like super hard.  I know best, especially as a mom.  I want what’s best for them.  I know how they should get there.  But it doesn’t come from the best place.   I like a little bit (I mean a lot) of control.  But we all know how control works out (see formula above).  It doesn’t.

As I turned the tables (another new thought), I realized I don’t want to be anybody else’s agenda or project.  Neither do my kids.  Instead of “here is what I think you should do, be, act like, etc., I love when others say, “I’m with you,” and that’s the end of it.  That’s what my kids want.  I don’t want to feel like I’m going to the principal’s office when I am with someone.  Neither do my kids.  It creates defensiveness, hiding, guilt, shame, people-pleasing, all the yuck we parents are now in counseling for ourselves.

However, when someone is just WITH ME in my beautiful, messy life where sometimes I make bad choices or think terrible thoughts, unconditional love opens the door for vulnerability and trust.  THIS is what my kids want.  All the good stuff happens the most in this safe place.   No one is going to counseling for this.

Now I had a new question.  Was it as simple as love God and love others (including those people who’ve been placed in this family under my purview)?  Yes.

Formulas are not love.  To boot, they don’t work.  Loving God is trusting Him (the hardest part of parenting), especially when things don’t go as planned.  DON’T FORGET:  it is a trust that is wisely placed.  IT BRINGS US FREEDOM.

Agendas are also not love.   Loving others (our kids) is being WITH them, especially when they are not where we think they should be or want them to be.  That’s a love that’s unconditional and safe.  IT BRINGS THEM FREEDOM.

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Posted in Anxiety, Celebration, Faith, Grief, Health

Merriment and Melancholy

Voices of carols play everywhere I go.

Joy to the world…Children laughing, people passing, meeting smile after smile…Tis the season to be jolly…It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

MERRIMENT.

Texts, posts and phone calls crowd my screens.

Second-born not able to come…Over-the-top difficult family dynamics for many…The same terrible government news…Health scares…Anxiety creeps in and a settled spirit is hard to be found.

MELANCHOLY.

The two sit side-by-side.  One NOT more important or legitimate than the other.  One NOT pushed aside to make room for the other.   The shout of one NOT drowning out the cry of the other.  No choice has to be made.  The two lay beautifully intertwined.

Merriment AND melancholy.

BOTH AND.  Wholeness.  Completeness.  Integration.

CHRISTMAS.


Suffering AND Savior.

Peacemaker AND Warrior.

Servant AND Leader.

Poor AND Rich.

Grace AND Truth.

Man AND God.

Both AND.

Wholeness.  Completeness.  Integration.

Jesus.