Conversations in the New Crazy

It is cold and damp outside, but not cold enough to snow. I pull a fleece jacket in close around myself, as if to ward off the chill. But I am inside. It’s comfortably warm as I sit, laptop open, and scroll through screens. It’s the news on the screen that chills me.

There is an exodus happening, a turning away of a magnitude I’ve never seen since social media evolved. And maybe it’s not just social media. Even in the world of real people and real faces, the conversations are shutting down. We don’t want to hear any more. Too much contention. Too much anger. Too much fear where there once was friendship, or at least neighborliness. It’s as if the running thread has been pulled, and the fabric of community is falling away into tatters. It’s the era of “unfriending.”

How do we survive in this new climate? Beyond survival, how do we thrive? How do we recognize our neighbors in order to love them well? How do we respond as Christ to one another?

We begin by caring about the story — not the story in our heads, the one we’re formulating to make our points — but the story that each person we meet has to tell, the story that God is writing for us to read in each individual life. Stop talking into the fray. Start listening to the unique voices in order to hear a single person’s story. Don’t try to win the conversation; try to lean into the story and learn the life it holds.

Endeavor to have as many of these listening conversations as you possibly can away from the screen. Look into people’s eyes as you hear their words. You’ll find it’s much easier to understand their hearts. Create parameters so that instead of perusing your phone, you can occupy a few of those “reading” moments with a good book. Engage your brain for fuller and longer periods of sustained, careful attention. 

Then, push away from all of it and get outside, no matter the weather. Note how the bulbs are forcing up through the February ground. See and feel how damp the earth is beneath your feet. Watch the sun rise, or watch it set. Breathe deeply and exhale for a long, long time. Nothing in this natural world is here by accident. There is a God behind it all; He’s behind you, too. Remind yourself again and again how small you are and how big He is, by stepping away from a screen and out into His big world.

When you do engage online, remember that we are salt and light. We are the peacemakers. Rare is the person whose opinion was changed by the slam-dunk quote or the snarky meme. You are both a consumer and a producer of information online. When consuming opinions and arguments, be prudent. Don’t waste time on nonsense and foolishness. Fill yourself with genuine wisdom. You’ll be able to discern wisdom because, “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace” (Jas 3:17-18). Chances are good that you’ll have to sift through a lot of online garbage to get to the rare wise insight. True wisdom is scarce out there. Unfriend, unfollow, hide or click away. Do what it takes to ensure that you consume more of what is life giving than what sucks you dry. 

And when you produce, when you speak up or speak out, remember that we all need to know how to forgive more than we need to be right. Remember that life is complicated and you don’t have to agree with someone entirely in order to love him completely. 

You can change the world. Not the whole world, of course, chances are not even a big swath of the world. But you can change some meaningful component in your sphere of influence. Listen to all the stories and care deeply about them. Don’t ever lose your capacity to care. Then choose just one place in need and dig deeply there. Care with all your heart in just that one place. 

It seems as if new fires are ignited almost every day — new worries, new fears, new burdens of responsibility. They are not all ours to extinguish. The news of the world quickens pulses and causes knots to clench in our stomachs. Create wide buffers against the news at the beginning and end of each day. Begin your day in peace. Touch your Bible before your phone. Engage with God before Google. In the evening, turn off the television. Talk quietly with the people in your home. Lose yourself in a novel. Go to bed earlier and sleep more soundly because you cared about yourself enough to switch off the screens. 

The world is a little crazy right now, but we are not of the world. We’re merely transient sojourners on our way to the Kingdom. Stay the course. 


What's Saving My Life Right Now


On February 2nd, at the midpoint of winter, Anne Bogel asked what's saving our lives right now. I was going to answer, but, the flu intervened and I couldn't get to my keyboard. So far, I think we've contained it to one kid. That would be nothing short of a miracle, so my first lifesaver is 

Tamiflu. I have a love-hate relationship with Tamiflu. On the one hand, this is a brutal flu and he was so, so sick and Tamiflu turned it around, for sure. Three days later, he's still sick, but I know we dodged some powerful bullets. I have friends whose kids were hospitalized. I know people who had seizures. We were spared that. Tamiflu has some nasty side effects. It sort of reminds me of oral chemo back in the cancer days. Not quite as bad as the IV stuff, but definitely yuck. Still, Tamiflu probably saved us a small scale epidemic.

January was rough. Really rough. We had some very sad news about my dad. I struggled (and stumbled) through the end of an exhausting project. Our whole family was rocked by a neighborhood tragedy. Mike traveled for ten days straight. Good thing I wasn't counting on the turn of a page to make everything turn up sunshine and roses. But some things really are lifegiving. Even during a winter that doesn't even have a good snow day to redeem it.

Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club and my new Bullet Journal for Book Lovers.  The MMD Book club is a community of readers. It's a breath of fresh Internet air where I'm getting great ideas for what to read next, and I have some place to go when I've read something that's bubbling up and out of me and I just really want to talk about it. Anne recently hosted a workshop on using a bullet journal to keep track what we're reading. Often, I blog what I read, but not always. And I never blog bad reviews and rarely mention if I abandon a book. Also, I need a place to write down everything I want to read next. So, I dove into bullet journaling with gusto. A bullet journal doesn't appeal to me for everyday planning, but I'm kind of loving it for books. I'm loving it a lot. It inspires me and lets me dream and keeps me organized. I've never been a very organized reader. Since I'm organized about so many other things and because I really love the reading part of my life, this lack of plan is somewhat surprising to me. It's also a thing of the past. You can check out the workshop and book club details here.

She Reads Truth Subscription In early January, as I was melting down right around my birthday, my sweet husband gave me a year long subscription to She Reads Truth. I've so loved She Reads Truth since its beginning. Their journals have become especially rich and meaningful in the last year. Now, I don't stop and think and hem and haw and wonder if I should go ahead and get one. It just arrives. And I'm writing and writing and writing in them. I'm taking my own advice here. Soul food is comfort food in February.

My Day Designer A5 and PowerSheets As I mentioned, I don't use a Bullet Journal as a planner and a calendar. I like the concept, but there are a few things about an Day Designer A5 planner that keep me here instead of there. I like being able to remove pages and add pages with a click of the rings. I have categories similar to Bullet Journal ones, and I've tailored them just exactly to what I want in a planner. Life comes at me fast, lots of times, and I just download it all into the book. My notes save me over and over. Power Sheets are better than ever. Even though January looked nothing like I'd hoped when I sketched it out in December, February was bright and fresh and the prompts were ready and waiting for me-- winter weary and disappointed me. Picked myself up, dusted myself off, and now I'm good to go again. Power Sheets turn me into the ant with the rubber tree plant. We've got high hopes here, friends.

Long Walks. I really want a snow day. Really, really want a snow day. But I have to admit, it's pretty awesome to be able to go for long walks almost every day this winter. The fresh air and sunshine are glorious. The time out of the house, alone with my thoughts, is key to my sanity. I'm a lover of audiobooks. My current listen is Gods in Alabama, at the recommendation of Anne in the What Should I Read Next Podcast. It's a really well written story that takes all kinds of self-discipline not to binge read and the audio performance is excellent. I do think that the ending will send me to switching the category in the MMD Reading challenge, but I kind of feel like if I tell you why, it's a spoiler. Anyway, long walks with audiobooks: for 45 minutes to an hour every day, escaping into sunshine and story. Lifesaving.

You Are Free: Be Who You Already Are I've read this twice so far, from cover to cover. (Actually, that's not true. The first time I read a digital advance copy.) Sometimes, the right message lands in your hands at just the right time. This was one of those times. I'm going to listen to it on audio just as soon as it's released. I've ordered three  more: two for friends and one for my daughter. I've looked up every single scriptural reference and made notes about them relative to the book's message in the journaling Bible I'm creating for Mary Beth. Your mileage may vary, of course, but this one is saving me right now.

Bleach Spray. I'm not a lover of industrial strength cleaning products. I'm actually more an essential oils in a spray bottle of water kind of girl. But I am determined to defeat the germs this winter. Also, I clean when I'm stressed. I've been on a tear lately, and I have lots of bags of giveaway stuff, neatly stacked boxes of belongings for children who longer live here but left all their stuff here in a pile, and everything has been sprayed with bleach or Lysol or both. Everything.

Mike will be home in February. Two parents at home always lightens the load.

Looking ahead to Lent. In three weeks, Lent begins. I'm still eagerly awaiting my very own copy of the Blessed is She Lent journal. The early morning December hours I spent pouring words into this journal were very sweet and very fruitful ones. I'm looking forward to sharing my ponderings with you. I'm also looking forward with hope to the Repent and Restore community. The Internet is making me weary this season. Still, I see it as a tool and I'm pretty sure it can be used to encourage us and build us up in our work as wives and mothers and sisters and daughters and friends. I want to create a warm, intimate community of women committed to being salt and light. It's a dream, but it's a dream that's been a very long time growing and I've got some real hope invested in it. Three previous years of Restore make me believe that we can have that kind of soft place to land and safe place to grow. I'm looking forward to spending Lent digging deep into Scripture and investing in community with a group of truly beautiful women. 

My California Girls are Coming Next Week. Kristin and the girls will be here next week. They were coming this week, but we switched with their other grandma so that we can hopefully fully eradicate flu bugs from the house before the wee ones arrive. Really, nothing could make February better than to get to hug my girls. On that note, I never got around downloading Christmas pictures (rough January, right?), so let's have a little wee one happiness right now. 

Anne has created a collection of lifesavers here. Go check it out and see if we can all help each other get through until it's spring.

Something to Read Instead of Facebook

I found myself scrolling through Facebook the other night, looking for an idea for a writing topic. It had been an interesting social media day, where a particularly contentious post on my wall had unintentionally been posted publicly, inviting people of all walks of life to chime in on a topic that presses all kinds of hot buttons. I commented that this night was a particularly good time to be looking for topics outside of politics.

As friends offered ideas (the bonus here is that I now have column ideas well through Easter), someone wrote something that so resonated with me that I knew I’d write on her topic first. My friend Jenny Bales commented that I should write about “steeping ourselves in Scripture … the more I stay in Scripture, the more I'm able to know God and love God and serve God and be light. Our Protestant brothers and sisters are so good at living in the Word. As Catholics, I think we need to be taught and reminded of this. Peace and joy are found in His Word. Not my Facebook feed.”

I spent the better part of December writing a Scripture study for Lent. Every day, I wrote two or three essays about three or four Scripture verses each. I was steeping myself in Scripture. The result? Everywhere I turned, throughout the days, I could see that God had something to tell me about Himself. Scripture is God’s conversation with us. It’s how He makes Himself known to us in a dialogue.


Catholics receive our Lord in the Eucharist; we take Him into ourselves in a very real and present way. But do we ignore Him when He tries to speak to us? When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Mt 4:4). Do we try to live by bread alone? Do we try to sustain a relationship without conversation?

To truly know someone takes time. It takes careful listening and quiet attention. I wonder how many of us spend as much time wondering what God thinks as we do scrolling through social media looking for ideas, or opinions, or arguments. (After this week, I’m thoroughly convinced people go looking for arguments.) We have time. We can read what God has to say every day. Even if we gave Him a fraction of the time we give to other reading, we’d give Him significant time.

This time with an open heart and an open Bible is valuable time; it’s time worth prioritizing. It is the scaffolding upon which to build a peaceful day, no matter what comes. The days that start with Scripture are the days that feel firmly rooted for me. If I put myself in the presence of His Word and earnestly engage, He never ever fails to meet me there, to show me something. Reliably, predictably, He is fully present to teach me about Himself — and about myself.

Scripture is timeless truth. It doesn’t matter what’s whirling in the world. His Word is as relevant today as yesterday and as centuries ago, as fresh as a paper clean off the press. St. Jerome once said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” Ignorance comes when we ignore. Catholics hear so much Scripture at Sunday Mass. To truly know Him, it would be good to not ignore Him the other six days of the week.


You and Your "Different" Child? You're Not Alone

It is no secret that I count among one of my greatest motherhood blessings the extraordinary gift of my friendship with Sally Clarkson. She has mentored me through her books and her tapes (way back when) and then, through her personal words spoken into some of the darkest places of my doubt and frustration. So many good words have come forth from this beautiful lady.

This one is different.

This time, Sally has partnered with her son Nathan to shed light on a dark place that so many of us keep tucked into the shadows of our public lives. When you are the mother of a child who struggles-- to learn, to share, to be still, to speak up, to fit in--you quickly learn that the world of Christian women (and men) look upon such kids with disapproval. And they look upon their parents with smug superiority. Before you have a child like this, you know exactly how to raise a child like this. When you live with a different child, it feels like all you know is how much you don't know.

Sally knows. She's walked the walk of frustration and despair and anguish. She understands how powerfully we love the children whose gifts we see so clearly and whose pain we absorb into our very beings. She understands how lonely the experience of parenting a "different" child can be. I'm someone who has always tried to keep life "under control." But this experience of being the parent of a child who lives outside the box? There is very little that is under my control. I cannot control his emotions or his feelings or the way he responds to struggle. And I really cannot control all the things that happen outside our house to make life even harder for him.

Those lessons in recognizing what was under my control and what was not? They were hard, hard won. Actually, I'm quite certain I'm not finished with those lessons yet. 

In the process of learning of them, though, I've actually also recognized how little of life I control in general. That's a valuable lesson. And like most of the valuable life lessons I've learned lately, that's one learned first in the book of life volume labeled "Parenting Kids Outside the Box."  Kids like these are more. So they teach us more. All of of life stands out bolder with them. Everything that is true is more true with them. 

"Nathan's differences stretched me and challenged my own limits of wanting to fit in, to not bring more criticism and judgment, and my deep desire to have life be controllable. By loving him through the peaks and valleys of his own life journey in our home, I learned even more the meaning of the preciousness and value of each human being, who is crafted mysteriously by the hand of God. I learned to appreciate and celebrate difference (not just "cope with it') because all human beings are a work of the artist and have infinite value to the One who made them."

Sally reaches into the hearts of women who feel alone in meeting the needs of the children they love so much. And Nathan? Oh, Nathan, what treasure you give to mothers with this book.

Nathan holds in his words the gift of hope. Nathan tells us that we will love our way through this hand-in-hand, and on the other side of childhood, we will be stronger and better for the things we faced together.

Listen up, mama who is so tired and so worried:

From the first day a mother suspects that this child might not march to the same beat as the rest of the family, the first time he cries unconsolably in a situation where another baby could be comforted, the day the school calls and says they have no idea what to do with him, to the day he lifts his arms in victory because he's met a personal milestone, this journey beside a child who is different is a long one. It is not for the faint of heart. And we aren't all super good and cheerful and virtuous every step of the way. Some of us stumble and fall and wonder why God thought it was a good idea to put us in charge of the care of anyone at any time. Some of us feel tremendous guilt for things for which we wish we could have a "do over" ticket. Some of us are just weary in the waiting for clouds to part and the sun to shine again.

Sally understands all of that. She walks alongside us on the long journey and she offers tangible help for which many of us are downright starved.

Mental illnesses are not casserole diseases. Well-meaning folks don’t show up on your porch with a covered dish and a shoulder to cry on when your child is struggling with mental illness or a learning disability that makes everyday life a bitter struggle. But you wish they would. With this book, Sally Clarkson offers weary moms the nourishing feast for which they are starved. Nathan grants us unprecedented, invaluable insight into the mind of the child as he grows. With warm understanding, they give us tangible tools and healthy, hearty food for the journey.

If you love an oustide-the-box child, you need this book, and you have already waited too long to have it. 

I read the advance copy of Different in the autumn and its words filled me with hope. When the box from the publisher with the actual, real book arrived, I set it aside. (OK, well, maybe in the mix of Christmas decorations, I lost it for awhile, even before I opened it.) Today, I found it, and I opened it. I was delighted to discover a companion Bible Study! It's lovely! I hope to use this right away with my 14-year-old who could use some encouragement and a hero(ine) or two to inspire her as she becomes increasingly aware that she, too, is a square peg in a round hole world.

Repent and Restore

it's so funny to look at my blog and see that it looks like I write very infrequently. In reality, I've been writing like crazy! I finished up my work for the Blessed is She Lent journal just as the old year was ticking down. As always, the talented Erica Tighe at Blessed is She created something beautiful for you to hold in your hands. I cannot encourage you more to click on over and claim one of these for yourself today. They always sell out quickly and right now, you can get a presale deal. 

When I agreed to write the Lent journal, I knew that I would not be offering Restore this year. I wanted to be able to truly experience the Lent journal when all of you do, to take it in day-by-day and let the Scripture change me. Then I wrote the journal. I wrote and wrote and wrote, during Advent, what is inarguably the trickiest time of year for the is mom of a large and quickly changing family. 

As I wrote and as I researched, the Scripture changed me. I've seen shifts in relationships that I could not have imagined two months ago. The really interesting thing is that I'm the only one whose read it. The message in His Word is life-changing. I promise. 


As I pondered and prayed over this journal, I knew I wanted to share it more deeply with the women who have gathered in the Restore space for previous Lents. I learn my limits every day and I know that a full Restore workshop isn't what God is calling me to do this year, but...

What if I just opened the space? What if we we plumped the cushions and let a fresh breeze blow through the curtains, and what if we gathered there to do the Lent journal together? All the Restore materials will be there in a library. You can access the essays and the tutorials and the podcasts any time you need a little more Restore-- a full, rich Lenten experience in and of itself. But every day, as a community, we'll gather to talk about that day's Lent journal. Of course, our conversation will likely lead us back to the principles of Restore. We'll re-establish the warm friendship of women we grow to love every Lent. We'll even welcome some newcomers in and let them browse our beloved shelves full of memories from past visits. They can read and listen to what has made our Lent so restorative in the last few years. The additional Scripture in the journal that is just listed by chapter and verse? You'll find it all spelled out every morning in the Restore space. And, if after your own private time in the Word you feel like you just want to talk to someone (or shout or cry or even laugh), you'll find us gathered there and waiting. We'll hang out on Facebook Live once a week the way we did during Advent. And my guess is that we'll have a few surprise goodies for you, too;-).

Because it's not a full Restore workshop like years past, you'll find this Lenten community is very affordable. (Remember the cost of Restore has previously been more than $65. This year, all of those treasures and new conversation are yours for $35.) If you've done Restore before, be sure to visit the Facebook group for more details and a gift code for you before you purchase your membership. If you haven't done Restore before, you're in luck. You will get access to all those materials and to the ongoing conversation this Lent. All are welcome!

Click here to join us. 


You do need the Blessed is She Lenten prayer journal and it must be purchased separately. The bound version has sold out, but the digital version is an ebook this time and you can still get that!

If the cost of Repent and Restore is a concern, please don't hesitate to shoot me a note on Facebook and see what we can work out:-)