Trends (Others Telling You What to Do)

I have never been a fan of trends. In high school I even stopped wearing orange – which I loved – because it became trendy. I didn’t want to do something just because everyone else was doing it.

Ultimately, I’m a rebel at heart who doesn’t like being told what to do, say, or think. As a “good Christian girl” I never rebelled in the traditional sense, but I’ve found little ways to rebel whenever possible to satisfy that need. 😉

So, when I got this email yesterday I rolled my eyes:

Screenshot 2019-05-30 at 4.09.03 PM

The haircut trends You NEED to know for summer. Yes, because you NEED to know what celebrities think about hair and what you should do with yours.

Why? Why do so many in our culture let someone else dictate what they should do with their hair? What they should wear? Why do you want to be like everyone else? 

I know this sounds like a rant, but it isn’t. I promise. I’m just thinking out loud and encouraging you to join in to discuss in the comments!

I simply do not understand why people follow trends set by the fashion industry/celebrities/strangers. In reality, you’re allowing someone else to control you, and your wallet. And all for what? To feel good about yourself? To feel like you “fit in” (even though, honestly, people aren’t thinking that much about what you’re wearing)?

You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

By telling you what you “should” be wearing and doing, the fashion industry is encouraging you to constantly give them your money. They make you think that you always need something new because your current wardrobe is outdated, everyone is judging your lack of trendiness, and therefore your perfectly good clothes are not worth wearing. And that’s why they make millions.

I wear clothes that are totally not trendy, but I don’t care. They are comfortable and in good condition. I buy new things occasionally, but I choose to spend our hard-earned money in other ways. Essentially, I refuse to be told what to do and what to buy, especially by people I don’t even know.


Are you a trend-follower? I’d genuinely love to dialogue about this in order to try to understand your perspective! Let’s discuss!

Sacrificing the Good for the Great

I knew this would happen.

We bought our first home in December 2012 as an investment, knowing that we would fix it up and then sell it and pay off our $50,000 in student loans with the profit.

I did well for the first year or so with not being attached to it. I remembered that it was only a temporary home and that helped me not be attached emotionally.

But, somewhere along the line, it happened. I became attached.

Now that we are so very close to listing our home, I am finding myself feeling sad because I don’t want to leave it. It’s the perfect little home and we (with the amazing help of our friends and family) have made it look so great! We have had so many memories there. It was our first home together. I have lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere since I left my parents’ home. It’s where we lived with Tori. And it’s where we said goodbye.

My mind loves to wander and reminisce, and I try to find ways out of selling it. But, I have to stop and remind myself that we are sacrificing the good for the great.

Our home is good. 

Being debt-free is going to be great. 

I can’t even imagine how amazing it will feel to have $500 extra in our savings account each month instead of it going to student loans. We made a wise investment in this home and we are so close to seeing it pay off. And that feels so good, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy.

I remind myself that we can always find another home to make our own. Once we are debt-free we can more easily live the life we want to live.

Sometimes we have to sacrifice what’s good in life for what’s great, and it is always worth it, even though it’s difficult. Now if I can just convince myself…

(As a side note, if you’re looking for a beautiful 1,800 sq. ft home in the Colonial Park/Lower Paxton area, let us know!)

Here are a few pictures of the remodeling we’ve done to our home:

The Discipline of Gratitude 

I was taught a lesson (a discipline, really) during my senior year of high school that has had a profound impact on my daily life: the discipline of gratitude.

A wise woman in my church (named Vicki Allwardt) handpicked a few of us to mentor and disciple; our journey formally began on January 1, 2001 and ended when we all left for college, but I have never forgotten the wisdom that was conveyed.

She handed us all journals and asked us to write at least three things each day for which we were thankful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She included verses on colorful paper about thankfulness at the front of the journal.

I faithfully wrote in mine that year and sporadically the next. The entries are amusing at first, giving insight into my eighteen year old mind (I was very thankful for boys 😉 ), but a gradual shift can be seen as I fine-tuned this discipline of gratitude.

Looking back, it isn’t the specific things for which I was thankful that had an impact: it’s that I was taught to recognize God’s hand in my life in such a simple, yet incredible, discipline.

Now, fifteen years later, I am a thankful person most of the time and I don’t even have to purposely try to think of things for which to be thankful. It’s part of who I am.

Gratefulness naturally flows out of my heart because I have trained my heart to be thankful in ALL circumstances.

This goes beyond optimism. This goes beyond happiness. This is a form of worship because you are continually recognizing God’s presence and His faithfulness all around you.

 


Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.[a]

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.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

— Philippians 4:4-9 NLT

This passage from Philippians contains SO much wisdom about how to live life, but I want to focus on these three things:

  • ALWAYS be joyful. We are commanded to be joy-filled (remember, joy isn’t happiness) at all times, in all circumstances (v.6).
  • Prayer – including thanking God for what He has done – will be followed by God’s peace (v. 7).
  • Focusing on things that are good, true, and pure (in other words, God’s character traits), and continuing to try each day to live as Christ did will bring peace (v.8).

Joy + gratitude + Godward focus = peace.


As I started to write this post I did some quick research and found a couple of great articles about this discipline, and you can read them here and here.

The first article mentions suffering and why we should be grateful even during those times:

Ingesting life’s difficulties and tragic events can be overwhelming. Having a heart of gratitude, therefore, is not about looking at the bright side of things. And it’s not even acknowledging that things could be worse. Our thankfulness is never to be based on a set of circumstances. It’s based on a Person…

…Practicing gratitude rests soundly in the assuredness that God will ultimately redeem every horrible situation in this life or the next. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

I loved this quote from the second article:

“When we discipline our hearts and our lives to see that all is grace we are filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for everything.” – Sam Luce

When you are grateful, you are more likely to be:

  • humble
  • joyful
  • generous with what you have been given
  • content with what you have been given
  • focused on God and His sovereignty
  • at peace

This discipline of gratitude is why Brennan and I can be so overwhelmed by God’s goodness and grace even though He allowed Tori to have Krabbe…even though He took her to Heaven at such a young age…

“…even so, it is well with my soul.”

“Your grace has overwhelmed my brokenness…”
– Hillsong

We have learned to focus on all the good He did in our lives and in the world through Tori instead of on her earthly absence.

We have learned to praise Him for the time we had with her, for the memories we made, rather than all that we won’t experience with her.

After all, what good does it do to dwell on the things we cannot change?

We are not perfect, we don’t live this out perfectly, and there is certainly nothing wrong with mourning the loss of her and the life she could have lived. We did that frequently while she was with us, mostly in unexpected moments, and I know that we will grieve her absence at times throughout our earthly lives.

But, the discipline of gratitude has brought us such peace even in the midst of a parent’s worst nightmare, because we are focused on the truth of who God is – a loving, gracious Father who loves us more than we can fathom, and who works all things for our good. He is a Redeemer, and He will redeem all of this someway, somehow. 

For now, we thank Him for all that He has done and praise Him for He is worthy to be praised.


Six years ago I had the privilege of going to São Paulo, Brazil, to observe and serve alongside missionaries there. One conversation starter they often use is this: Where did you see God this week?

It doesn’t require a super-spiritual answer. Wherever you see goodness, joy, grace, kindness, love, peace, etc. (Galatians 5:22-23) you are seeing God at work.

God IS love, and He is kind, gracious, and just, so whenever you see those things in the world, you are getting a glimpse of His character, and it gives you fresh reasons to be grateful.

We’d like to encourage you to cultivate the discipline of gratitude in your own life, in all circumstances. Look for God at work all around you and write a few things down each day. You won’t regret it.

A Night to Breathe

Last year (right after Tori’s diagnosis), I was invited to attend a beautiful evening for mothers called “A Night to Breathe” and it was such a refreshing event. It was hosted by author Sarah Mae and her friend, Amy Smoker. Both women spoke and it was as if the Lord has given them words just for my heart.

I was so excited when I heard that they were going to have another event this year!

Then, snowpocalypse happened and the event was postponed until March 19th – when we were supposed to be in California.

Since our plans changed, I contacted Sarah to ask if there was still room for me, and she said yes!

It was a lovely evening at a hotel downtown. Everything was perfect – the decorations, the cupcakes, the company, the worship, and, of course, the wise speakers.

I wrote pages of notes, as usual, but here are the highlights that meant the most to me from each speaker:

Amy: 

When our approval is from God, we can believe we are exactly the mom our children need. We don’t have to keep up with other moms or compare our journeys.

Travel/live at the pace of your children. Slow down and don’t be too busy.


Sarah:

Your job isn’t to fix what’s inside of you; your job is to follow God’s gentle leading and allow Him to fix it.

God is GENTLE and KIND.

Be gentle to yourself.

Don’t have a bigger view of your sin than you do of God. He is much bigger!

I’m so thankful that I had this opportunity to attend and to rest and be refreshed.

Thank you, Sarah and Amy, for sharing your hearts with us this evening and for making it possible for all of us to just “be” this evening. ❤️

What TO say and do for parents of terminally-ill children…

My friend Sharon has been living with chronically-ill children for eighteen years now. She, more than anyone I personally know, can completely relate to our situation, and she offered the following advice to me right after Tori was diagnosed. I read it again last night and realized just how right she is.

Since so many ask how they can help parents like us, I wanted to share her wisdom. We are so thankful for the support and help we have received from family, friends, and even strangers!

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Support is important, but the one thing I personally hate is pity – PLEASE do not pity someone – please do not. Feel the hurt that they feel, feel the pain that they feel;  but, my son is still my son — I would never give him back.  I have had him for almost 18 years – others I know (unfortunately too many to name) have lost their kids before they reached 18 – BUT they loved every minute of it .

Now – WHAT can you do – or what helps?

1. Extended family and friends play an important and big role in helping children and their immediate families deal with a serious illness.

2. Listen, really listen, to your friend or family member. It’s important for people to tell their story – it helps with processing traumatic situations. So let them talk. Be a good listener. Even if you have no clue about the medical terms they are throwing around – feel free to ask.

3. Send meals. Remember that while they’re in hospitals, the food they have available is usually not great OR healthy. Try to plan for fresh foods, easy to heat up, easy to clean up or have something delivered, like pizza or Chinese.

4. Offer to babysit other children during appointments or accompany them to the appointment if they need someone to sit with them. 

5. Be available to help out in the middle of the night for ER trips and other emergencies.

6. Everyone wants to help immediately, but in a long-term illness, help will be needed for the long term. People get burned out easily so spread out the help so you can be strong for them. Remember, she will still need you in a month, three months, six months, even next year.

7. Offer (don’t just do it) to do things for them that require clearer thinking: contacting school or work, or other friends and family, etc.

8. Offer to be the person to gather mail (either at their house or set up a post office box if they want to keep their address private) and deliver it to them.

9. Use common sense when visiting. If you’ve been sick or feel like you’re getting sick, stay away. If your kid’s been sick, stay away. Your germs can make a compromised child VERY ill.

10. Help set up a notebook/Binder/flash drive to keep important medical information in or scan them for her and put them in a file or flash drive (I do this). A copy of all the paperwork from discharges, diagnoses, medication changes is so helpful and can be taken to all appointments or travels. If they’re out of town and have to go to an ER or urgent care, they have all the information handy and treatment is easier and safer.

11. Research and summarize disease information available on support group websites or ask questions to which you do not know the answers.

12.Be calm and levelheaded for your friend, as at times they will not be able to think clearly, be it from being stressed or overtired…It is okay to be upset, but it helps them for you to be logical, orderly and levelheaded. It’s calming to them and helps them see things that they may not see with everything going on.

13. Offer to pick up medication at the pharmacy while you’re out. If you’re heading to the grocery store, call before and see if they need anything.

14. Gather folks to help clean and disinfect their home before they come home from the hospital, especially if there’s been surgery.

15. Offer to do an overnight stay and let them get some uninterrupted nighttime sleep. Sleeping in the day is fine, but there’s nothing quite like a good 6 hour stretch in the night to make a parent refreshed.

16. Make a gift bag of Lysol, Clorox, wipes, masks for the kid when in public, soaps, and hand sanitizer. When dealing with sick kids, you HAVE to be ultra clean all the time. A cold to you could mean death to a child with compromised immunity.

17. Offer to help with the household chores or pet care. Offer to pay for a cleaning service or dog sitter/walker.

18. Be willing to just sit in the waiting room with your friend. Just having another person present can be a huge stress reliever.

19. If you’re not local and want to help, gift cards are a great idea. Visa or AMEX gift cards can be used almost anywhere and are a good choice if you’re unsure of what stores are local. Starbucks/gas cards/Target/Walmart are also good bets. Mobile gift cards for apps on an iPad or iPod are good, too. If the kid is older, a basket of puzzles, word games, etc.

20. Cards. notes, are wonderful.  The person does not need to respond but they know you are thinking of them. A good gift is a pretty box or basket to keep the cards in. 

21. AND FINALLY, be there for the long term – not just now but several months and years – she will still need support then.

Now here are some thing that should not be done – my pet peeves. I know so many mean well – but try to avoid doing these things.

1. Remember that your friendship and support really matters – it may be a lifeline for your loved one. So, if you say you’re going to help, commit to it. Having someone back out when your child is sick can be more devastating than you can imagine (trust me, I know this all too well first hand – I lost way too many friends and learned who my “real” friends truly were).

2. Don’t visit without checking first, even if it’s something you’ve planned with them in advance. One rough night can lead to a day of exhaustion for everyone, and they might not be up to visitors.

3. Don’t visit if you’ve recently been sick, feel like you may be getting sick, or your child has been sick. Your germs can make someone with a weakened immune system very ill.

4. Don’t prolong the visit. Watch for cues from the parent or the child that it’s time to wrap things up.

5. Don’t say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” It implies that God had a role in the child becoming ill and may make your friend feel as though he or she is being punished. To be honest, this is a big one for me and I still have a hard time dealing with it. It does make one feel like you are being punished.

6. Do not send latex balloons to the hospital. Many people are allergic to the latex in balloons and almost all children’s hospitals are latex free – I know 2 of my boys are allergic to it.

7. Avoid sending flowers. Sure, they’re pretty, but the child won’t care. Worse, if the child’s immune system has been compromised, anything that could cause an allergic reaction or carries bacteria could be life-threatening.

8. Don’t take it personally if your friend doesn’t want to talk. The stress of being a caregiver is overwhelming. Sometimes the best thing to do is just sit there with your friend and let her vent, cry or just sit in silence. Often your presence is enough.

9. Don’t be afraid to reach out with thoughtful phone calls or e-mails, but remember the family is likely overwhelmed and may not be able to respond. But know the thought is appreciated.

10. Don’t give medical advice. You’re not a doctor and you’re certainly not familiar enough with the child’s illness to be making medical calls. Unless you have a chronically ill child you do not know how the parent is feeling. Unless you have been in the parents shoes do not say I know how you feel, as trust me, you do not.

11. Don’t tell them to “chin up” or “cheer up.” They are entitled to their feelings, which may or may not be comfortable for you.

12. Don’t tell horror stories and don’t compare your friend’s child to another who was seriously ill, too. It won’t make anyone feel better. Do not try to compare your child having tubes in his ears or the flu to an incurable disease. Sorry, but things like this will make me (or others) want to strangle you.

13. Unless your child has the exact same diagnosis or has had the same surgery or the like, DO NOT offer unsolicited medical advice.  

14. Do not offer unproven medical advice or opinions.  Do not say “if you do this it will cure your child! I know a parent whose kid was cured of cancer using this herb…” It is not helpful. The best advice you can give is offer to pray or help.

15. The phrases below are not cool. Don’t use ’em. Don’t say:

• “I know JUST how you feel.” (no, you don’t – unless you are in the same boat and, even then, EVERY child is different.)

• “I feel helpless.” (Imagine how your friend feels – exactly – rather be there)

• “You need to talk about it.” (NO I don’t – if we want to talk we will)

• “Here! This is what you should do. I heard about it on Oprah, Dr. Oz, the Doctors.” (who cares what they have to say? They are not my child’s doctor.)

• “I don’t know how you’re managing it all. I’d die if it were me.” (thoughtless! Again, it does not help. No, you would not die and yes, you would be able to deal – it is your child you would love them.  Just because my child has an incurable disease does not mean I love them any less – to be honest, I treasure every minute I am given with them.)

• “Everything is going to be fine.” (you do not know that – and usually not true.)

• “What’s the life expectancy with that?” (morbid! – yes, I may strangle you if you say this.)

Now what should you say instead:

• “Do you need to talk/feel like talking? I’m here to listen.” (doesn’t pressure them to talk right then, but the offer is there – often I would open up after a while. The parent needs to learn who is paying lip service and who really does care what happens to their child.

• How are you/child feeling today?” (since every day is different – and yes, things can change on a daily or hourly basis. As long as you are being sincere this is perfect and simple to do.

• Ask about the disease or diagnosis and maybe look it up so you know more – BUT, do not offer suggestions for treatment. Ask questions, remember the major issues and look them up.

• Talk about care and hope. Talk about how sweet and precious their child is and how much your love them. You should validate the seriousness of the illness by confirming that they are facing something very difficult.

• ” I am heartbroken you and your baby are going through this. Hang in there and know there are so many people who care about you.” Acknowledge that you know your friend is in pain without saying you understand what she is going through.

• Ask the parents how they are doing. After you ask “How are you?” and they respond “I’m fine.” – wait for the truth after they say that. I can tell if you really want to know how I am doing – like I am about to have a break down, or I want to cry or I want to go back in time, etc.

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Thank you, Sharon, for allowing me to share this here! I know it will help so many people!