The Best Version Of Me

This year I turned 43. Yes, I said it. Forty-three.

When I was in my teens, 43 was next to death. You hit your 40’s, and life was over…done…no more fun. You couldn’t be cute anymore, because that would be weird. And for the longest time, I thought I would be that person who hit her 40’s and refused to reveal her age. Avoid saying it out loud, like a swear word in church.

But then it happened, and I didn’t hate it. In fact, 40 & 41 weren’t terrible at all. I was comfortable in my own skin for the first time. More confident than ever before. My vision clearer, my direction set. Happy! This was going to be fun!

Then 42 happened.

And I mean, overnight happened.

At first, I just felt a little worn around the edges, a little more tired than usual. I rationalized it away and blamed it on a busy life, three boys, and not enough coffee! Everybody would rather stay in and Netflix it every night…right?

But before long, I was going to bed early, waking up late…and still.so.tired.

So at my yearly physical (because I never go any other time, even when I probably should), I voiced some of my concerns to the doctor and quickly followed with, “you know, the normal 40 stuff,” and rolled my eyes.

But she didn’t buy it. Not one bit. And after a slew of tests and prayers that I wasn’t knocking on death’s door, we found out that it was something really very simple. My body doesn’t absorb B12 orally. That’s it. That was the reason I was feeling so lousy. A vitamin deficiency that had been left untreated for so long that it had reached a dangerously low point. Big sigh!

Relieved that it wasn’t worse, I didn’t even care that it meant I would need to take B12 shots for the rest of my life. The fact that there was a treatment at all was fantastic! Sign me up!! There was hope, and all I had to do was grab hold of it.

So I did…and began the weekly shots immediately.

Now, I don’t know if it was completely psychological or the fact that my body was starved for the B, but I began to see a noticeable difference almost instantly. I had a little more energy at the end of the day, my focus clearer, my outlook on life brighter. Things that didn’t seem possible before now seemed within reach!

It was a-maz-ing.

I started looking forward to each appointment knowing that I would only feel better on the other side.

Then it hit me. Isn’t that how it is with us and God?

Caught up in the hectic activities of life, we spend less and less time with Him & in His Word. Over time, we find that we have slowly become deficient in our walk with Him and increasingly weary with the burdens that we carry. It happens so gradually we don’t even notice. And when we finally do, we rationalize it away until we cannot ignore it any longer.

We need our daily time with Him. Like the air we breathe and the food we eat, His Word is nourishment to our soul. When we go without it for too long, we become tired and depressed. Hard things seem harder, and sad things seem sadder. We have no hope. Nothing to give us that extra push we need, that word of encouragement, or truth that sets us free.

But oh when we finally return to Him…

When we finally open up His Word and drink from the deep Well of Life, we feel new strength and new hope as we become saturated in His presence. We begin to look forward to each new day and our quiet time with Him, because we know that we are only going to feel better on the other side.

And we do.

He doesn’t promise to always fix things, but He does promise to give a peace that passes all understanding and to comfort us with His presence. But how can He do that if we are too busy to spend time with Him?

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

About a month ago, something happened that prevented me from getting my magical B12 shot for a couple of weeks. My doctor warned me that it would cause my levels to dip again, but I didn’t think it would affect me all that much. After all, it was just a few weeks, and I had built up my reserves and was feeling pretty good.

But it did. And by the time I was able to go in for my shot, I all but begged her for it.

Please hear me, Friends.

We think we can take a break from Jesus, and it won’t matter. We think we can handle it.

Life is busy, full of “important” things that just cannot wait. I know. I’m there every day. But the truth of the matter is, our time with Jesus is what cannot wait, because all of those “important” things hinge on Him. They are possible because of Him. We cannot do them without Him. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you can.

You will find yourself lost and alone and begging for His comfort, guidance, and help. I know because I’ve been there.

Why let ourselves get to that point in the first place? We don’t have to do it.

Let’s determine to put Him first. Whether it be the early morning hours before the rest of the house is awake, sitting in our car at lunch, or after the house is quiet and everyone else is asleep. Make time for Him. Seek Him. Drink from His Word. Saturate ourselves with His presence so that we can do all of the other important things in life.

We can’t be the best version of ourselves if we don’t. And we deserve the very best, so let’s do it.

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”

‭‭John‬ ‭15:4-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Don’t eat the yellow snow…

If you’ve ever lived anywhere that has accumulated even the smallest dusting of snow, you’ve had a parent or friend jokingly (or quite seriously) say “Don’t eat the yellow snow!” Having three boys and a dog myself, I know I’ve uttered these words more than my fair share even though we live in the balmy southeastern state of North Carolina.

Take recently, for instance. Not only did we experience snow while visiting our Michigan family for Christmas, but then we returned home to the biggest snow our hometown had experienced in quite some time. The boys were ecstatic, playing in it until they had their fill. And every time I looked out the window, I saw my 9-year-old son scooping up a hand full of snow and feasting on it like it was manna from heaven. In fact, I seem to remember that’s exactly what he called it. “Manna from heaven.” (He has a flare for dramatics.)

And every time, I would pop my head out the door and say, “Make sure you don’t eat the yellow snow!” Because let’s face it…between three boys and a dog, the chances of hitting a yellow patch are high.

It reminded me of a time when I was about his age, growing up on the Ohio/Michigan border where snow did not come in short supply. And much like him, I liked to eat snow. I think most kids do. In fact, I would take snow, put it in ziploc bags, and stick it in the freezer to snack on later. I don’t know where I thought that snow on the ground was going, but I guess I wanted to make sure I had plenty stocked up in case we had a warm spell.

When one day randomly, my dad called me to the freezer and pointed to my stash. Inside a couple of the bags nestled in the back of the freezer, we could clearly see a faint tinge of yellow staining the frozen snow.

“Have you been eating these? he asked, mildly amused.

I stood there in shock, trying to figure out how I could have possibly missed the yellow snow I had scooped into these bags. I thought I had been so careful, but maybe my mind wandered as it was prone to do. Then I began to wonder if I had somehow eaten some of that snow!

Wouldn’t I have tasted the difference?

What if I didn’t?

What if I had been eating yellow snow all along and didn’t realize it?

Whyyyy hadn’t I paid attention better?!?

And on and on it went until finally I noticed that my dad was more than amused and outright laughing. Come to find out, he had squirted lemon juice in the bags to play a trick on me. And well…obviously, it worked.

But that memory made me think.

There are many things in our everyday life that we love. People, places, activities, things. And like snow and eating snow, they are mostly good. But instead of blindly eating all of the snow, it is important that we pick up the snow, check it over, and then eat carefully making sure it doesn’t look or taste like something we shouldn’t be eating.

I could give many examples of each, but the one that currently stands out in my mind the most, and has given me pause, is people. To be honest, the past year has been extremely disheartening for me. There have been several leaders I have held in high regard, both Christian and political, who have said things and taken stands with which I strongly disagree. Initially, they rocked my world and made me question how I could have missed the “yellow snow” when I began to support their ministry or leadership.

Our knee-jerk reaction is typically to stop. Stop eating the snow. Stop making the snow cream. [Stop listening to what that person has to say.] Just simply stop.

However, just because we run into some yellow snow, does that mean all of the snow up until this point has been yellow? [Has everything that person said been garbage? Has everything I believed in been wrong? Is everything they say going forward heresy?] Human nature makes us think it has and is. Human nature makes us question whether we’ve been eating yellow snow all along but didn’t know it. Human nature makes us want to boycott snow completely!!

But the truth is that no beautiful field of freshly fallen snow will remain spotless, just like no human being will ever be perfect. No matter who we hold in high regard, we must always carefully sift through their words and actions and make sure they line up with the Word of God. Nobody is exempt from this. Nobody is so infallible that we can blindly follow without caution. The only authority in which we can confidently trust is the inerrant Word of God.

“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” Proverbs‬ ‭30:5-6‬ ‭

So yes, this past year has been disappointing in many ways. And yes, I’ve questioned my own judgement as a result. But what I’ve come to realize is that maybe I haven’t been eating “yellow snow” all along. And maybe the things I learned from those people weren’t all garbage but actually good and helpful. The fact that I recognized the detour from the truth is important.

It is their responsibility as leaders to speak truth that lines up with God’s Word…and it is my responsibility as a Christian to feast with my eyes wide open so that I don’t swallow something that isn’t truth.

And at the end of the day, God is still on the throne.

Once I made that distinction, I realized I have more control over how these revelations affect me. It is still disappointing when respected people make mistakes. Nobody likes to see a leader stumble. But at least now I can see the “yellow snow” for what it is, toss it to the side, and keep on moving.

The devil would love nothing more than to ruin an effective person’s influence; and we can’t keep them from making mistakes. However, we can somewhat thwart his efforts by protecting ourselves from stumbling with them.

“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.” 1 Peter‬ ‭5:8-9‬

So please…guard your heart, proceed with caution…and don’t eat the yellow snow.

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Psalms‬ ‭119:105‬ ‭

Mornings Are Hard. Parenting Is Harder.

Have you ever had one of those mornings that grabbed a hold of the song in your heart and every good intention, crammed it down the toilet, threw in a few unmentionables, and flushed…repeatedly…?

Asking for a friend.

No? ok then….

Well, mornings around our house are typically borderline mayhem. People shouting, clothes flying, dog barking…the works. If you happen to be walking past our house, just keep on truckin because there is nothin’ to see here!

Every school year, we vow to be better; and every year, the first week is all cupcakes and daisies then it’s straight downhill from there. And although I consistently try to do everything I can the night before to make things more manageable, it always seems to be next level. It’s a wonder we make it to school on time.

But every now and then, mayhem isn’t good enough.

No…no, we are overachievers and have to amp it up a notch.

Or ten. And by the time we leave for school, the dog is hiding under the bed, somebody is crying (or somebodies), and we’ve made fourteen trips back into the house for things forgotten.

Bless.

Unfortunately, this morning happened to be one of those. The really bad ones. It’s been awhile since we’ve gone down that road; and frankly, I thought we were past it. So this one blind-sided me. Threw me for a loop. Drop-kicked my fresh devotions and prayer time right out the window, and I spent the rest of the day trying to climb out of the funk it created.

It all started with an outfit.

Yes, an outfit. Yes, I have boys. Are we sufficiently confused yet? (some of you may remember the last time I wrote about this involved an outfit as well. When Mornings Suck.)

Jesus take the wheel.

But this wasn’t about just any outfit. It’s Spirit Week at school, and I have to say that I like Spirit Week even less as a mom than I did as a teacher. We spend the whole weekend before trying to plan out the attire for each day, and then I try not to spend a million dollars in the process. Hard to do when you have little ones with big ideas, but somehow we managed.

So my 9-year-old had his outfit all set out the night before, ready to go, and he was pumped.

And although he usually struggles with mornings and tends to be a grouch, I was hoping the excitement of Spirit Week would inspire him to be more pleasant. A girl can dream.

BUT…

Nope. Wrong. Not even close.

In fact, it was so bad that I think it wins for the all-time worst. And that’s quite an accomplishment for us.

Mr. Sunshine finally woke up after numerous attempts, copped an attitude because how dare we wake him….and suddenly the outfit wasn’t good enough, he didn’t want to wear it, and threw a fit.

And what did I do?

Of course, I calmly reminded him that….psh…yeah, right.

No, I lost it. For real. Even broke a hair brush on the bathroom floor. You can judge me now, because I deserve it. 

Back and forth we went, a battle of wills, until I finally told him to go change into normal clothes, because I was not going to drop him off at school in tears. (We moms have an image to uphold, you know.)

So here’s the thing. Was he wrong? Yes. Absolutely. And he lost some privileges and earned an earlier bedtime as a result. Something I should have done a long time ago.

But I was wrong too. Not only for losing my temper but for letting this morning routine go on for as long as I have.

What you allow will continue.

Rather than nip it in the bud, I have just dealt with it and picked up his slack all in an effort to get out the door and to school on time. Then by the time we return home, I am too tired to rehash the wreckage that was better off left behind. But that’s not fair to anyone, including him.

So why do I do it? 

Because consistency and enforcement is hard work. But if you think about it, so is this. We do no favors by being inconsistent. In fact, we create more work for ourselves in the long run and ultimately produce children who cannot face real life.

Contrary to what we may feel at times, children crave boundaries and consistency. There have to be consequences for their actions, even if it inconveniences us at the time. This creates a secure environment in which they know what to expect.

And if we are honest with ourselves, we already know this deep down inside.

Hey, tired & stressed out mama. I see you. I hear you. I AM you.

Being a parent is hard. There is no greater challenge and no greater blessing than being a mom.

We are going to mess up. A lot.

We are going to yell, and cry, and sometimes break hairbrushes.

We are going to ask forgiveness…from our children and from God. Many times over.

But we are going to be blessed for our faithfulness. 

We are going to be rewarded for our consistency.

We are going to be loved by our children in spite of it all.

So hang in there. Don’t give up. Keep being consistent. Don’t be their “friend.” Know when to give tough love and when to extend grace. Surround yourself with mamas both in your season and in the season ahead of you. Learn, read, ask questions, PRAY. Be willing to admit when you get it wrong and celebrate when you get it right.

We are all in this thing together, my friends. So just keep swimming.

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

‭‭Galatians‬ ‭6:9‬ ‭

Monday: Before healthy boundaries. (The outfit that launched a thousand tears.)

Wednesday: After healthy boundaries.

Now to keep it going. 

We can do this.

 ________________________


 

If You Question Whether Or Not You Should, You Probably Shouldn’t.

If in doubt, don’t.

I remember my parents often saying this to me when I was growing up. And although I have ignored it more times than I would like to admit, it has stuck with me throughout the years.

Now, please don’t take this deeper than its intent. I’m not talking about the battles that rage within us between God’s Will for our lives and Satan’s attacks. Sometimes we doubt when we really should be doing, but that’s a whole other blog post itself.

At the moment, I am talking about something that affects just about every person who has a social media account.

You know that impulsive rant, questionable picture, or funny post that may be offensive or taken the wrong way?

I’ve learned it’s just best to “don’t”.

Is it worth the likes we do receive even if it means we’ve alienated that person or group of people we have been working so hard to reach? Show love? Extend grace?

Do we really want to blow it all in one fell swoop?

Yes, it’s our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Yes, we have the right to say what we want anytime we want. Yes, last time I checked, it is still a free country. All of those things are absolutely true.

But here’s the question I have…is it worth it?

I can’t even tell you how many times I have posted something thinking it was funny or cute only to delete it minutes, or even seconds, later.

In a house full of boys, you can only imagine the things that go on here. Crazy things, politically incorrect things, gross things. Sometimes our humor is an acquired taste, borderline (and often wildly) inappropriate. Sometimes we take the frustrating things that are going on in our world today and make jokes to lighten the mood.

And I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve wanted to rant about Greenville drivers, Hellmart, or politics. The rude lady that ran me over in aisle 5, the latest controversy, or the horrible refs at my son’s football game. There are a million and one thoughts that traipse through my head every day, and they.need.to.be.heard, for crying out loud. 

But do they really?

I want to be transparent, so I share a lot of real life. And I think we should all do a little more of that. But there have been many times that I have frantically typed out my thoughts (with perfectly placed caps, exclamation points and emojis, mind you) only to have that gut feeling the second before I hit “post” (or often the second after) triggering the internal debate as to whether I should share.

And 9 out of the 10 times I ignore that feeling…I regret it.

We live in a time that everyone is offended by everything. I get that. Sailing through life without offending someone is about as likely as a unicorn pooping rainbows. (or my youngest wearing underwear)

But we have a responsibility as Christians, as humans, to show love. We have a responsibility to show respect. If we can at all help it, we are to live and speak in a way that helps others instead of hurting them.

Are we to speak the truth in love even if it is the opposite of what the world is saying? Yes. Absolutely. No question about it. But nobody has ever changed his mind about anything because of a Facebook rant.

Save the rants and questionable pictures or funnies for close friends and family. Those with which we have relationship. They know our hearts.

Or don’t say it at all.

We won’t get it right 100% of the time, but as Wayne Gretzky (or Michael Scott, depending on your generation) said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” If we don’t try to be kind and respectful, we won’t be. Ever.

So let’s try, because it is always worth the effort.

“An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars. Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction. The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Proverbs‬ ‭18:19-21‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Living An Extra’ordinary’ Life

When Satan convinces we are not enough, God reminds us that we are.

I would love to say that I’ve been on a writing hiatus because life is so incredibly busy and leave it at that…because it is. So that would be true. But it’s not the complete truth.

The truth is that life is incredibly busy…and Satan is incredibly smart.

It’s been 4 months since my last post. 4 months of busy, 4 months of excuses…and 4 months of self-doubt.  And it all started when I let the little voices inside my head take over. No, I’m not crazy. I’m just human.

The nagging thoughts…“What is the point?” “Why are you wasting your time doing this?” “You have much more important things to do.” “You’re not selling anything but truth…and that’s free. So really…what.is.the.point?”

And so I listened. Believed. Fed the lies with my own insecurity and let them take root in my soul.

But thank God, He never lets it stop there. He doesn’t see our struggle and leave us to fight it alone. No, He meets us in our deepest valley and points us to the path that leads us home.

And that’s exactly what He did for me.

Through a series of devotionals and books He dropped in my lap over the summer, I began to see things from a different perspective. One that was less me and more Him. Less my glory and more His glory. Less what can He do for me and more what can I do for Him?

And before you think it was an instant revelation, let me be clear. It was an uphill battle that took every bit of 4 months to gain even the slightest bit of ground at all, and I’m still not there. But it started the journey…and there is power in the journey. There is strength in even the smallest victory. And it gives us the courage to keep going.

Have you ever felt like you really missed the boat somewhere? Like everyone is doing something really fantastic and important, and you are just sitting there doing your best to make sure your kids, pets, and plants are fed and live to see another day? For the first time in my life I’ve successfully kept plants alive for an entire summer, and I’m fairly certain that’s award, if not HGTV, worthy.  (I once had a rock garden, so believe me when I say that this is huge.)

Do you have to hide people on social media or quit it all together because you just can’t bear to see another success, award, or fabulous sunset that isn’t your own? ouch

And in the midst of my struggle, God reminded me that success doesn’t always come wrapped in the same sparkly package.

“Everyone should examine his own conduct; then he will be able to take measure of his own worth; no need to compare himself to others.” Galatians 6:4

Some people are destined for flashy and big. Some have the drive and fortitude it requires to be entrepreneurs, CEO’s, fitness guru’s, professional athletes, and best-selling authors. They were born for it. And that’s ok. Quite amazing, actually.

Some will drive fast cars, own big boats, and live in mansions. Some will be happy, fulfilled, and use their success to help others…

And some will not.

Others are destined for a more subtle life, one that most would consider “small”.

But whether big or small, it’s what we do with that life that matters.

My grandfather worked the same factory job all of his adult life (after serving for a time in the military). By the standards of many, he was not what one would call “successful.” He wasn’t flashy or big and lived in a small two-bedroom home with his wife of over 50 years and a yard the size of a postage stamp. No, he may not have had much in the bank, but I believe he was truly successful in ways that far surpass monetary value. He was faithful, honest, kind. He loved Jesus, led a service down at the mission, and cut the church grass every week. He had that old-fashioned work ethic and loyalty that so many of our grandparents possessed, and everybody loved him. In terms of my 9-year-old son, he was the “G.O.A.T.” (Greatest Of All Time), and I have no doubt God met him at the pearly gates and said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

So why do we feel like we don’t measure up unless we make more than 6 figures and/or the whole world knows our name?

Success doesn’t always come with a paycheck. Sometimes it doesn’t come with any earthly reward at all.

If we use the gifts that God has given to us for His glory, to bless others, and to further His Kingdom….then it doesn’t matter what we do for a living or how much money we do or do not make. No matter where we are in life, our goal each day should be to look around us and find a way to help others.

If only we could change our perspective and how we measure success, our sense of purpose would sky-rocket and there is no limit to what we could accomplish.

Satan would love to challenge us on that. Make us feel inferior to those around us. Stop us from doing all that he knows we can do.

But he’s wrong…

And we don’t have to listen to him.

Here are a few things that help me when Satan has me feeling like crap and hiding from the world:

  • Listen to worship music…lots of it. It feeds my mind, heart, and soul with constant reminders of God’s goodness and grace.
  • Get in the Word. Satan shrinks when we fight him with Scripture. His lies have no power when we use the Word as a sword & shield.
  • Pray. Talk to Jesus. He’s better than a BFF, because He’s always available and ready to listen. He doesn’t have dinner to make or errands to run. He’s just waiting on us.
  • Read good books. There are so many books that have helped me fight insecurity. Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick, Uninvited by Lisa TerKeurst, Unashamed by Christine Caine, Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer
  • Surround myself with encouraging people. Those people that speak truth and encouragement into my life, cheer on my victories, and pick me up when I fall.
  • Look for ways to serve. Volunteer at church, lead a small group, feed a family going through a tough time, babysit for a friend who needs a break…nothing is too small.
  • Keep fighting the lies. Always. Don’t give up. He may not ever stop trying, but it will become easier with time and practice…and it will be worth it.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” ~ Dale Carnegie

5 Reasons I Love “This Is Us”…Even Though It Wrecks Me Every Time.

Once in awhile, a show comes along that speaks to our hearts…and immediately sucks us in. This is that show.

It’s been a couple weeks since the “This Is Us” season finale, and I’m still mourning the thought of an entire summer without it.

It’s devastating…and all of America is devastated with me.

But why?

What makes a show like this come out of nowhere and hit the ground running? What makes people stop life and rush home when it comes on? Threaten anyone who dares interrupt with a dirty scowl, upheld hand, or an exaggerated SHUSH? Finish watching an episode with tears streaming down our faces and ready to come back for more? What makes people turn to mush at the mention of its name? Girls (and guys!) gush about its goodness and even become a little misty-eyed as they do?

We know every episode is going to rip our hearts wide open and leave us raw for days to come…but we love it. We welcome it. We live for it.

But why?

I’ve given it some thought, and I think this is why This is Us wrecks me every time….yet like a glutton for punishment, I always come back ready to be wrecked again.

1. Women love to cry.

It’s a fact. We love to feel emotion of any kind, but especially emotion that guts us. As the only human female in our home, I’m a mystery to the males with which I live. They look at me like I’m crazy and ask why do I do this to myself?!

I don’t even know.

It’s like a train wreck. I can see it coming. I know they are going to throw a catastrophe in there somewhere. I know it’s going to destroy me.

But I can’t look away.

To my family, this is insane. It makes no sense. But to me, it doesn’t have to…. I just know I love every ugly-crying second, and that’s good enough for me.

2. The writers are genius.

I’m very picky with what I spend my free time watching, and there are few shows that  have been written well enough to rock my world on a weekly basis. Parenthood was one of them…and I haven’t seen one that rivals that until now.

These writers know people. They get us. 

They keep us on the roller coaster of emotions and know that we are going to love every second. The highs, the lows….the present, the past. They know when we’ve laughed so hard our sides hurt that we are ready for the 100-foot drop that sends us spiraling down into the depths of despair and questioning what is life?!?!

They know the trials we face and the seasons we walk, and they package it all up in an beautiful hour of laughter, nastolgia, heartbreak, and tears.

It’s brilliant…and we love it.

3. Everybody wants to be like Jack.

He’s amazing! I don’t even know how he does it.

He takes seemingly traumatic events and turns them into adventures and fun. Ruined holidays and birthday parties become precious memories…traditions that are carried into adulthood and long after he’s gone. When one of his children or wife struggles, he speaks to their struggle in the way that they need most…without losing it first!

He makes me totally question my parenting skills…yet inspires me to do better.

We can’t even be mad that he sometimes has a drinking problem. We can’t fault him for his flaws. He’s so full of goodness and love that we want to face each day like he does and love our people with the same fervency.

And then when he does mess up (as all humans do), he turns around, says a few words that might as well be poetry, and we end up begging him not to walk out that door.

Because if someone as good as he is has flaws…then maybe there is hope for us yet.

4. The characters are relatable.

While the characters may seem so very different in every way, we can find even the smallest piece of us or someone we know in every last one. Something we find relatable. A situation…a feeling. A moment that connects us on a deeper level.

Jack’s secret demons, struggle with his alcoholic father, or the exhaustion of trying to make ends meet and provide a good life for his family while providing for their emotional needs as well.

Rebecca’s suppressed gifts and dreams, her struggle to juggle her love for music with being a responsible mother and present wife without becoming bitter in the process. Her unconditional love for a child and need to protect him….but not always doing it in the right way.

Randall’s constant battle to fit in, overachieving to prove he deserves to be a part of the family, sibling rivalry, and search for what made him who he is. He wants to be the best…and we want that for him too. The loss of both fathers…

Kevin’s jealousy over his brother’s position in the family, attention and success, trying to fix bad decisions made out of selfishness, and realizing it’s not all about him. Searching for happiness and finding it wasn’t where he thought it would be.

Kate’s struggle with her weight and self-worth, the feeling that she doesn’t deserve love and the fear of sharing too much of her pain, making herself vulnerable and open to more hurt. Pushing those who love her away in self-preservation.

Beth’s quiet strength, love and support of her husband throughout his family issues and search for his place in life. And when she gets that postcard in the mail…..we all feel validated. Recognized. Loved.

Toby’s unconditional love for Kate but need for more. Comic relief and overall love-ability. He makes us all feel a little bit of Jack….and I wonder if maybe that’s what maybe Kate feels too.

And William….I didn’t want to love William. I didn’t want him to come in and take Jack’s place. It wasn’t fair to me. But then he waltzed in with his calm demeanor and aged wisdom…and I couldn’t help but adore this man. I wanted to take him home and be his friend. I wanted to sit and talk with him and listen to his stories. I wanted him to stay in the “This is Us” bubble forever. And when he didn’t…I cried like a baby and didn’t care who saw.

5. They’ve become our family.

They’ve stolen our hearts and become like family to us. We sit around the next day talking about what happened the night before like we were there in the flesh.

We laugh when they laugh and cry when they cry. We feel their injustice and success as if it were our own.

My boys often make the comment “it’s just a show”…and I know it is. Believe me, I do.

But it’s a rare breath of fresh air in the world of crappy television that warms my heart and makes me smile….and as long as it is (and I hope it does), I will keep coming back for more.

Talk Is Cheap…And Meaningful Conversation Is Priceless.

Recently, I was talking with a group of women when a question was asked that stumped us all….

“How often do you have meaningful conversations?”

Crickets

As I glanced around the room, I could see everyone clicking through the days, the memories, the conversations, until one brave soul spoke up and said, “Not often.” Everyone nodded in agreement, and a few offered further explanation…but all confessed that it was definitely not often enough.

But why is that?

It’s not that we don’t communicate at all, far from it. With an abundance of technology and communication devices at our fingertips, we can “reach out and touch someone” clear across the country any time we want. (Some of you millenials may need to google that phrase, but I promise it will make sense when you do.)

But the problem isn’t quantity, it’s quality.

We live in a fast-paced world that teaches us just the opposite of that. More bang for your buck. The bigger the better. Value this, and super-size that!

But just because we can get an entire meal from McDonald’s for less than five bucks doesn’t mean it’s going to nourish our bodies….and just because we comment on a post or like a picture doesn’t mean we’ve actually built relationship with that person.

As much as I love social media for keeping up with friends and family who live far away, I feel like it has all but taken the place of face-to-face conversations, and in many cases it has. Hiding behind our phones, we pat ourselves on the backs for “reaching out” when really we haven’t accomplished much at all.

God didn’t intend for relationships to be built on 140 characters. In fact, he didn’t intend for wifi or a data plan to be necessary at all. 

Do you remember before you had a smart phone? Sure, it was a little harder to keep in touch, but you had to make an effort. You had to write that card and send it in the mail, pick up the phone and hear a voice on the other end, or meet for coffee to catch up on what’s happening in a friend’s life. As a result, conversations happened. 

Now, we are so inundated with technology that we mistake casual contact for building relationship, and it has rendered us useless in common situations. 

How many times have you walked down a hallway at church or an aisle at the store and suddenly pulled out your phone to avoid eye contact, saying hello, or starting a conversation? If we avoid even the smallest of pleasantries, then how can we expect to ever go deeper and engage in meaningful dialogue?

We can’t.

And if we can’t engage in meaningful dialogue, then how can we expect to have healthy relationships with each other or reach others for Jesus?

We can’t.

But technology is not the only thing that hinders us from nurturing the “ships” in our lives (relationship, friendship, worship). We often hinder ourselves by making excuses. We’re too busy. We don’t have time, money, energy. Someday….

I hate to break it to you…but life is not going to slow down. Not.one.bit. And conversation is free. 

We can make all the excuses we want, but the fact of the matter is that we make time for what’s important to us. And what’s more important than making time for the people you love. What’s more important than cultivating the relationships with which God has blessed you. What’s more important than spending time with God period.

Nothing.

So let’s put down the phone a little more and be intentional about building quality relationships. 

Let’s sit as a family around the dinner table.

Let’s make eye contact and give hugs. 

Let’s laugh loudly in rustic coffee shops, and go on double-dates with good friends. 

Let’s join small groups and start supper clubs. 

Let’s FaceTime loved ones across the miles, or better yet, visit.

Let’s talk to God.

Let’s do less typing and more talking. 

Let’s have meaningful conversations

Let’s make time.
 

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20