To Be Useless, To Be Used

Next week we begin Advent, which is almost impossible to believe. This has been the longest shortest year I think I’ve ever lived. With so much lost and gained this year and Advent upon us, I’ve felt very introspective.

…if you come in touch with the experience of being used or the experience of being useless, you might in fact be close to a true Christian experience, or closer than you sought.

Henri Nouwen

I read this Henri Nouwen quote the other day and began to ponder being used.

As a mother, it’s easy to feel used. Used for sustenance from the moment of conception all the way up to the current demand for another snack. Used for entertainment and education. Used as a bandaid, comforter, referee, and umpire. Used as personal assistant, personal chef, personal trainer, laundry service, life coach, and living jungle gym. Much of motherhood and parenthood is thankless. I’m told that I’ll get my thanks later, when their own children give them a taste of their own medicine, but that’s certainly not guaranteed. I know I have plenty to thank my own parents for that I haven’t ever mentioned to them.

Regardless of promised future gratitude, parenthood is thankless and selfless in a way that I had never experienced before my first baby was placed at my breast to tear my nipple to shreds, to make me blister and bleed, all the while demanding more and more and more of me until I almost broke.

You don’t have to be a parent to understand this deep feeling of being used. I have a dear friend who has no children of her own due to infertility and life being stupidly unfair. She may not be a parent, but she knows the profound experience of being used in equally deep and nuanced ways. A recent employment experience in education has left her stripped the same way I’ve been stripped by mothering. Used by students, taken advantage of by faculty, abused by administration, dismissed and disrespected, she’s poured herself out over and over and over again for a mission she deeply loves, only to have her work labeled unnecessary or expendable by the higher ups who clearly have a different set of priorities. I cannot speak for my friend, but I think it’s safe to say her soul feels as raw and ripped as my breastfeeding nipples. I realize how weird a metaphor that is, but I stand by it.

I read that Henri Nouwen quote and began to ponder what it means to be useless.

Which of us has not deeply felt smallness this year? Who among us has not felt useless to some extent? Unable to affect change, weak, powerless, unable to understand or regulate our own emotions let alone those of others, we’ve all floundered a bit with uselessness. Perhaps we’ve lost jobs, lost elections, lost followers, lost hope that our little lives are able to make much difference in this big world of hunger, hurt, and hate.

I believe deeply in the power of the human soul, that each of us does truly matter, that little actions have huge repercussions…but these feelings of uselessness are real and valid. Part of the human experience, the feelings of uselessness are side effects of living in a society that values productivity over people. If we are not of some use to others, what good are we? If we have nothing of value to offer, do we even matter? This explains our willingness to ignore the unborn, the alien, the elderly, the ill. They cannot contribute in the world’s valuable currency of usefulness, so we turn away and leave them to fend for themselves.


But what does Jesus tell us of being used? Of being useless?

Surely Christ was used by many. How many people were healed in scripture who never returned to offer their thanks? I can imagine that there were many more healings besides those mentioned in the gospels that went unnoticed by anyone other than the Lord and the one he healed.

And on the subject of uselessness, there’s nothing more “useless” in the view of the world than a baby. Babies have nothing to offer, no contributions to make. They just take what they need and scream when they’re uncomfortable. (Could it be that we are more like babies than we’d care to admit?)

Perhaps the only thing more quantifiably useless than a baby is having claimed to be God and then being unwilling to remove oneself from a cross. What use is being the Son of God if you refuse to use that power when it counts?

For Jesus, this uselessness is everything. For us, it should be everything.

Being useless in the presence of the Lord strips us of everything we think we bring to the table: all the skills, talents, gifts, all the accolades and lessons we’ve collected from the School of Hard Knocks that we think make us valuable, all empty. Being useless in our relationship with Jesus requires us to acknowledge that everything we’ve placed our hope and personhood in is nothing compared to the man clinging uselessly to the cross that costs him everything and grants us eternity.

Allowing ourselves to be emptied out, to become useless and used is the crux of the Christian experience. We must learn to accept that there is nothing we can do or bring forward, nothing we can lean on of our own creation that will make us more valuable. There is nothing we can make, do, or offer that will make us more lovable. Just like a baby who does nothing to earn the love offered it, we are cradled against the eternal breast of a God who willingly breaks himself open for us again, and again, and again.

When we recognize this inherent value in ourselves, we are better able to empty ourselves for the other. When we pour out from the truth of our identity, we are free to be used by others, not expecting anything in return, not requiring thanks, praise, affirmation, or acceptance to confirm our worthiness.

Let me be clear. I’m not advocating for us to stay in situations and relationships that are abusive or that don’t honor our innate dignity. Knowing our identity in Christ allows us to recognize those times when others don’t. Accepting our identity in Christ grants us the ability to set boundaries and walk away when necessary. The distinction I want to make is that so often we cling to the thanks, we cling to the affirmation, and the comments, and the likes holding them up to the light and admiring them as jewels that define our goodness, but they don’t define a thing. They turn to dust in our hands and leave us feeling emptier than before. We’ve twisted our identity so that we think we are useless without these jewels the world offers us, but in reality it is our uselessness that makes us worth loving.


My friend and I both recently gained a new nephew and niece within days of each other. We’ve been sharing news of our sisters, showing off the new babies to one another. They are two of the most beautiful babies that have ever been born and we are not biased at all, thankyouverymuch.

As I’ve walked through days of heaviness and worry, these strings of baby texts have been a joy. Sharing pictures of new little humans smirking in their bassinets, speculating on their long term hair color, and which parent they favor most has been such a precious way for me to escape my own glum days and be overjoyed with new life.

As conversations usually go with this particular friend, our texts rambled through the agreement that gosh we’ve needed these babies: “babies are exactly what this world needs,” wandered through sharing our current struggles and worries about upcoming holidays, and ultimately circled back to Jesus.

At the end of our conversation about holiday worries and postponed family plans my friend said, “Jesus is born no matter what. What this world needs is babies, and one specific baby most of all.”

Babies are exactly what this world needs.

We need the weight of them against our chests to remind us of the heaviness of Love that leans into us, just longing to be close not because of what we can do but because of who we are.

We need babies screaming in the night, reminding us to cry out for our Father, reminding us to keep calling on him with persistence, screaming into the darkness until we are held in the strength of his embrace.

We need babies in our lives to remind us that we can love someone simply because they exist.

We need babies to remind us of our own uselessness, of our own dependence, our own frailty. We’re all just one diaper change away from sitting in our own mess again, aren’t we?

We need babies to remind us that time is irrelevant and, in the big scheme of things, schedules are unimportant. Degrees, trophies, books sold, career goals met, cakes baked, toilets cleaned, spreadsheets balanced…none of it impacts a baby.

You know what impacts a baby? Being held skin to skin against the heart of the one who protects them. That’s what impacts a baby. Babies gain security from being swaddled up and held tight by the ones who broke themselves open, body and soul, to deliver them into the world.

As we enter into Advent, we need babies.

We especially need one baby.

We need the baby to remind us of our uselessness, of what it means to be used. We need him to point us back to dependence and humility, to sacrifice and surrender. And in the great paradox of our faith, we need this baby to save us from ourselves.

We must become like the baby Savior in order to love and be loved in this wild and wicked world. We must find ourselves worthy in our uselessness, offering ourselves to be completely used up, wasted, and poured out for love of a King who comes to us as an impractical infant in a no-name town, born to an unassuming family that became little and lonely, unremarkable and undistinguished in order to change the world through far-reaching, radically humble love.

Used and useless is the space where we must dwell this Advent, swaddled in the paradoxical love of a weak and useless baby in a manger, resting there until he is completely used up for us all.

Deck the Halls

Welp. ‘Tis the season to haul out some seasonal decor and succumb to the power of twinkle lights. I think this year those in the “Don’t Decorate Before Thanksgiving” camp are finally allowing the rest of us the grace to just follow our little elfin hearts without judgement. Perhaps this is a silver lining of *all of this* going on?

For those of you in the “Decorate for Christmas Yesterday” camp, this post is for you. You know who you are. The moment the calendar rolled over into November and you immediately heard the siren song of Bing Crosby jing-jing-a-ling-ing in your ears. You’ve already planned where the tree will go, plotted the arrangement of lights and tinsel, and are just filled to the brim with holiday giddiness. Some of you may have already decorated the shiz out of your house, no looking back, you’re in love, you’re in love, and you don’t care who knows it!

But if you’re someone who has been feeling the nostalgia of the season swell but haven’t yet pulled the tinsel trigger, I need you to listen unto me. 

This weekend may be the weekend and you’re making great plans to deck the halls and twirl and frolic through your living room while you blare holiday tunes like Kevin McCalister. That is good and lovely and completely allowed. Go forth and garland, girls and boys! Lord knows we need some tinsel up in here to lighten the mood. 

But.

However.

Hang on there just a minute, you cotton-headed ninny muggins.

I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer because clearly we don’t need any more of those. What I do want to be is Rhonda Realistic and remind you that decorating your house will probably not be fun. Or at least it won’t be as fun as you think and wish and hope it will be in your sweet little heart of Hallmark hearts. 

Here’s the deal, y’all. Decorating for Christmas usually involves some rearranging of furniture and therefore deep cleaning. Or at minimum some sweeping up of cobwebs. If you’re like me and you don’t want your house to look like you slapped Christmas on the crypt from the Mummy you’re gonna have to do some light dusting and/or run the leaf blower through the house.

Also, you’ll be forced to relocate Mount Laundry to a different room to be dealt with later. (And yes, I plan to just use Mount Laundry as a decoration and put a star on top, thank you to all my sweet readers for giving me that idea. God bless you, every one.)

So anyway, none of that is necessarily fun. 

Around here, decorating for Christmas feels like one of those stupid plastic tile puzzles you get from the cardboard treasure chest at the dentist’s office that’s supposed to make a picture. You can get, like, two or three tiles in place but you have to move them all again to get the next one and before you know it it’s a complete cluster that’s best left jammed between some couch cushions. 

If you’ve got kids, decorating seems like it will be a fun family activity. I mean, it ought to be. However, much like mini golf, what seems a guaranteed joyful afternoon with the fam inevitability morphs into a cornucopia of complaining, quarreling, damaged property, and possibly assault. (Yes, a cornucopia because Thanksgiving.)

What I’m saying is decorating for the holidays is awesome and twinkle lights make everything better and I am 100% for it all. But also, don’t be surprised if the lights don’t work in just the middle of the tree, and the kids bicker, and the dog is underfoot, and you start your period, and someone “helpfully” sprays festive spruce Febreeze on the trees until they’re literally dripping with the scent of chemical conifers. 

You may have to fight and get scrappy and forgive each other seventy times seven times. I just want you to know that these things are probably coming. Plan for chaos, broken ornaments, and broken hearts.

Also, you may be wise to plan for a six hour long power outage. Because that’s a thing that happened over here. Day two of decorating dawned sunny and windy, I went out and purchased a new TV (merry early Christmas to the grown ups in our house…but really the kids…and they’ll still get whatever rainbow unicorn baby glitter surprise pet it is they asked for, let’s be honest). The husband and I got the new TV in, arranged, and fired up. It was finishing it’s reboot process and we were jazzed to try it out, which is when the wind knocked out the power for six plus hours. Because 2020.

The good/bad news is that I was forced to tackle Mount Laundry. I’m happy/sad to report that I’ll have to revisit the decorating plans on that one because I folded it all in my dimly lit bedroom where it had been relocated due to Christmas. Don’t worry, though, I’ve already started another Mountain. It’s more of a molehill at this point, but I have great faith in my ability to ignore it until it either takes over the house or is lovely enough to place a star upon.

So, guys, when the power goes out and everything is unfinished, and all the batteries have died, and all of your candles have melted into one giant mass of hot wax on a plate in the middle of your table, take my advice: breathe deeply, look around, and take it all in. Look deeply at all of souls that have been left to your care. Gaze at the little hearts who spent the afternoon loudly playing with the Little People Nativity set (the one that inexplicably has 3 baby Jesuses) whilst listening to their father play his harmonica, something he doesn’t usually have time to do. Take it all in, in the candle light and the mixed up smells of sickly spruce combined with at least three other candle scents. Maybe pray a Rosary together since you’ve got the time. Take it in and appreciate it in all its imperfection and grubby goodness. Because that’s where the real holiday magic is, isn’t it? The twinkle lights will come back on. The ornaments will be hung in due time (and swept up when they’re broken). The holiday joy will happen in spite of all of the irritation, the ugliness, the inconvenience, and disappointment.

Somehow that’s just the kind of nostalgia you’ll need to warm the cockles of your heart while you secretly eat chips in the pantry. 

PS. The way we got the lights on the tree to work was that my husband literally punched the tree. He batted it around like a tabby cat, swatted it, and then buffeted it some more and the lights came on. So, you know…when in doubt, just punch things is what I’m saying. Hang in there, team. We’re gonna make it even if we have to punch our way to holiday cheer!

The Blind Will See

Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me. Have pity on me, a sinner.

The cry of the blind man in the Gospel of Luke is ringing in my ears today. Ringing in my heart, too.

Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.

The blind man was healed:

…”Lord, please let me see.” Jesus told him, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.” He immediately received his sight and followed him, giving glory to God.”

Luke 18:41-43 (excerpts)

Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me, a sinner. Lord, open my eyes. Relieve me of my blindness.

I realize now that when Jesus made the blind see, they weren’t just healed to see goodness and beauty, to be dazzled by sunsets and to see the faces of their mothers and to view the intricacies of the world around them, but that their new eyes would also see pain, witness injustice, view in an undeniable way the hurting of others. Their new eyes would see the blindness of others in an entirely new and nuanced way. The blind would see.

To whom much is given, much is required.

Today my prayer is that Jesus would break down all of my blind spots so that I might see and be converted by the suffering of others.

I pray that I would be granted the grace of vision, that I might see injustice and be moved to push back against it.

I pray that my faith would save me and grant me eyes to see poverty and to look at it with the gentle eyes of my Savior, gazing not with judgement, but with love.

I pray that I might be granted the grace to view these troubling times, this weight of history, the things that worry me, people who hold views that scare me, that I would be able to see it all through eyes that seek first the Kingdom of God and not my own comfort or my own understanding.

I pray that my heart would be transformed by the Son of David and from that transformation, that I would see, not only through my own lens of defensiveness and dismissal, but through eyes made clear by the One who sees us all purely and clearly in the light of eternal love.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart make my heart like unto Thine. Make my eyes like unto Thine.

A Spectral Dream

I was once awakened in the middle of the night by the unmistakable sounds of a child rummaging in the bathroom. Pillaging, if you will. I mean, it could’ve been legitimate bathroom usage, but my half-wakened state and grizzled maternal instincts told me there was skullduggery afoot. 

I got up to investigate. And also to pee because I’m an old lady and that’s what we do: investigate strange noises and pee in the night. 

What I discovered shook me.

My son was using the bathroom. 

The suspicious noises I had mistaken for shenanigans were, in truth, the sound of him replacing the toilet paper

That’s right. The kid who consistently leaves a trail of particulate and mayhem in his wake was up at 3 am putting a new roll on the toilet paper holder. 

Let’s let that sink in a moment, shall we?

He used up an old roll. Got a new roll. Put that roll on the actual dispenser. 

He put it on properly, too. I watched as he adeptly scrunched the springy bit and expertly threaded it through the new roll. He got it on the dispenser with nary a struggle, confidently releasing the spring which is known to flummox even the most veteran of toilet paper roll replacers. He quietly snapped the fresh roll into place. Then he turned to me, tipped his metaphorical hat, and was gone. 

Gone like a dream, or a spectre, or a spectral dream…

Upon further investigation, I realized that my son had placed the roll on in such a manner that the paper unrolled in the proper way. As I sat down to pee, I noted that the paper unfurled perfectly with the usable squares descending gracefully from the top. For a fleeting moment I considered that this might be proof, the very scientific proof I’ve been looking for to substantiate the theory that my children are not, in fact, barbarians.

What’s more, the lad disposed of the empty cardboard tube in the appropriate garbage receptacle. It was not laid to rest beside the trash can like so many fallen comrades before it. No, the battered little tube fell softly into the Walmart bag trash can liner clinging to its last three-ply fragments with the satisfaction of having achieved it’s purpose. The bag softly rustled as the tube landed, a gentle reminder that if a roll of toilet paper is replaced in the woods with no one around to observe it, the ripples caused by its replacement will make waves for eternity. Or something like that.


This happened weeks and weeks ago. To this day I am haunted by the remembrance of this event, routinely shaken to my core at having observed such a spectacle with my own mortal eyes. Every now and then, when I am gathering flotsam, and other sundry miscellany, and the scattered odd bits of refuse off of the bathroom floor, a vision of that night casts itself upon my mind’s eye and I think to myself, “Yeah, that did happen. Didn’t it?” 

Personal Litany of Truth

I stumbled upon an Instagram post the other day that was especially great, greater even than the posts of cats being scared by cucumbers or those people I watched doing a frantic mini trampoline workout, believe it or not.

The writer, Lauren De Witt, introduced the idea of writing your own litany of truths. Apparently she learned about it from a Moms in Peace workshop, which I know nothing about, but I’m determined to give credit where credit is due because girl power is a thing and I am here for it.

The basic premise is something that I preach to my doula clients all the time, but oooobviously neglect to practice in my own life. I’m real good at offering sage advice to others, but real sucky at taking it myself. C’est la vie.

Any time my clients are feeling worried, doubtful, or afraid I always tell them to remember what’s true. It’s so easy to let our worry and anxiety snowball until it gets bigger and bigger and buries us completely. But we can stop that shiz right in its tracks just by naming what’s true. Once you start naming what’s true, it’s amazing to see how many falsehoods you were starting to believe.

What reminded me of the idea of making a personal litany of truth is that yesterday I ill-advisedly watched an Insta-stories post by someone detailing their homeschool work load. Y’all, is there anything that’ll make you feel like crap more than accidentally stumbling upon someone who’s doing “life” better than you? (Clearly I need to take a break from Instagram, that’s what.)

Here’s the thing: the homeschooling mom I saw is doing an incredible job with her kids. She wasn’t even pretentious or ass-holey about her homeschooling success. She was really lovely and genuinely proud of herself for homeschooling for the first time ever during the time of Covid and ain’t nobody going to fault her for that!

But for some reason her post just hit me right in the most sensitive spot in my jealous gut, the place where I’m already predisposed to feeling like a failure or at least a fraud. Y’all, this woman could’ve chronicled her own clean laundry mountain and I’d have felt like mine wasn’t good enough (and we all know my mountain of clean laundry is the best, duh).

So, as I felt myself spiraling into a pit of comparison and negative self talk, I remembered the litany of truths! For once in my life, I genuinely took my own advice and that of wonderful Lauren from the internet and wrote down a list of solid truth.

I ended up breaking it down into sections because I can’t not be verbose. Here’s what it looks like:

Parenting/Home Relationships

  • My children and my husband are not my report card.
  • I am not responsible for making everyone happy, but rather I am responsible for loving well the souls left to my care.
  • My parenting and homeschooling are mine alone. I am not competing or comparing, not better or less than, just walking my own path.
  • I am not solely responsible for how my children turn out. I am a guardian and a guide on their way, but I am not ultimately in control of who they become.
  • My children are not a product I am turning out. They are people with their own free will.
  • I am not responsible for other people’s emotions. I can see their emotions and try to help them, but I am not responsible for the speed at which they process or whether or not they accept my offer of help.
  • Most things are not about me anyway.
  • I am one person. I cannot do it all. But I can ask for help and accept it.

Mental/Emotional Health

  • My body is the dwelling place of the eternal God. When I abuse it, I abuse His temple. When I protect and care for it, I am worshipping Him.
  • My anger cannot overcome or overpower me because it comes from me. Like a labor contraction, I can see it coming and ride it until it ebbs. It will subside just as quickly as it rises.
  • I do not have to give space to frantic, worried thoughts. When I feel them I can stop, be still, and know that He is God. I can do this through Christ who gives me strength.
  • Being a good steward of my gifts means I am allowed to devote time to my talents without feeling guilty.
  • Discipline is an act of faith.

Fundamental Faith Truths:

  • I need Jesus in the Sacraments to be whole.
  • When I am weak, He is strong. My growth is found in humility.
  • I am beloved, created by love, for love, with the mission to love while on this earth. Nothing I can do or accomplish can change that truth.
  • The forces of Resistance cannot overpower the One who is in me.
  • Every moment is an opportunity to choose love, to die to myself and my will, to step out in faith believing that while I am not in control, He is.

So, that’s my personal litany of truths. I’m going to keep it and maybe put it on my white board and probably sleep with it and tattoo it to my face. If you see me looking like Post Malone, you’ll know I just really need to remember what’s true, mkay?

I’ll probably add to and take stuff away, but I’m pretty jazzed about how good it made me feel to just write all that out. I highly recommend it as a simple, concrete way to feel better about life. This has been my PSA, please go write true things down and be good to yourself.

You can find Lauren De Witt’s original post on Instagram @thecontemplativehomemaker…she’s a real good follow and her own litany is just beautiful.

As always, I hope you know how wonderful you are, my friends. You’re really important and even more loved. So go put that on your own list of truth. That’s an order!

It’s Fine, We’re Fine, All Good, Definitely Great

Hey, gang! It’s been awhile…things are great here, why do you ask??

Look at this idiot. Just over here carrying the team, surrounded by piles of half packed away Halloween decor, shuffling through tangrams on the floor, blissfully unaware that laundry is falling out of the basket, just hoping that she’ll make it to Mount Unfolded that’s just out of frame.

Mercy, what a state.

Spoiler: Mount Unfolded consists of four other baskets of clean laundry that’s probably not clean anymore because of the amount of time it has been sat upon. And jumped upon. And stood upon. And rooted through. Pillaged and plundered, really. At this point, it’s just part of the furniture…like the pictures leaning against the tv stand that were taken down for a painting job and have remained leaning there for an eternity and will so remain until the Lord returns in His glory, amen.

So anyway, how are y’all, team? Everyone faring well? Are you fine?? Everything’s fine, I bet. I bet you’re great. You’re definitely not preoccupied with anything or carrying any tension in your shoulders at all. Probably not at all. You’re good. You’re great. Nothing to see here. Move along Mary Susan, we’re fiiiiine.

I’m just here to take a hot second to remind you that you really are great. Like, maybe not on the surface level, or even the mantle (that’s how it goes, right? Crust, mantle, core? Your girl needs to brush up on the layers of the earth, not gonna lie), but deep at your core you are truly great. You are. You were created out of love, to love, to receive and give love, and you are beautifully great.

You are great, especially in your smallness. You are good in your grubbiness and your anxiety. You are wonderful just as you are, just where you are, in all your fear, your hurt feelings, and your lumpy body parts.

You are great, do you hear me?

Let your identity sink in today, gang. Let yourself dwell for a little while in that space deep in your core that houses truth. Sit there and listen to the voice of truth reminding you that you are loved and you are good and you are wanted. Because, despite what the world may say, despite what the media is shoving down your throat and forcing through your eyeballs, that is the truth. You matter. You are precious. You are good.

And every mundane moment of butt wiping (your own or others’), or dish washing, or report filing, or shelf stocking, or paper submitting that you do today matters. It matters deeply because it is your opportunity to live out these little moments as acts of sacrifice, giving of yourself and your talents, offering the gifts you’ve been given to a world that may not understand or appreciate them. That is beautifully difficult, no? But it’s what Christ has called us to. He calls us not to be understood, but to be faithful. He calls us to love, not because others are deserving, but because they’re not.

Show up in faith today, darling friends. Show up even when you feel misunderstood, misrepresented, and miserable. Show up even though things are not perfect. Show up because others need your unique brand of light and beauty. Show up because we need your goodness in this world.

And if you’re really struggling to keep showing up, please know that you’re not required to show up in any one kind of way. Showing up can mean being a light on social media and it can mean quietly stepping back to tend to your own heart. Showing up can mean staying deeply invested in our world while establishing boundaries that protect you from people/profiles/media that prevent you from feeling peace. Showing up can mean retweeting and making calls and advocating and it can also mean watching cat videos and finding all the babies laughing on the internet. Gracious, we need all of that.

At the minimum, showing up means loving your neighbor and tending to the hearts that are entrusted to your care, not excluding your own. How that plays out in your own life is up to you.

Be gentle with yourselves, guys. Be gentle with the people around you. Rest in the truth that you were made good. You matter. I see you and I love you. And more importantly, so does He.

I believe in you and I’m rooting for you!

-Mary Susan

May Auld 2020 be Forgot

We’re on the cusp of the holiday season.

Don’t shoot the messenger, y’all.

I’m thinking we’re divided into two camps here: those who are burying their heads in the sand and avoiding all thoughts of holiday celebrations because they’re certain to be decidedly not normal and those who are chomping at the bit to get to the new year.

“Just get through the year” has been the rallying cry for so many as 2020 has dumped load after load of challenge, pain, injustice, and illness on us all. I mean, obv it has been a doozy.

It is completely normal for us to want to embrace that feeling of “just get it over with” and wish the rest of the year away. But I worry that this mindset is misleading us.

While I think it’s important to find ways to mark the passage of time in a dismal year, I also think that we can’t delude ourselves into thinking that the moment the clock rolls over at midnight on January 1, 2021 everything is going to be fine. I mean, it’ll be fine, but it might be this kind of fine.

https://www.theverge.com/2016/5/5/11592622/this-is-fine-meme-comic

So, what’s the game plan then, team? How can we avoid putting all our eggs in the basket of the new year and transition into 2021 with better(ish) attitudes?

Obv I have *all* the answers so here’s my official 2020 Holiday and New Year Survival Guide Trademark Forthcoming.


Acknowledge that we’re in now now.

It’s fine to look back and it’s fine to look ahead, but we’re in now now and that’s all we’ve got. Carpe diem, live laugh love, etc, etc, all we have is this moment and y’all should probably print that out and hang it on your bathroom wall.

Like it or not, this moment that we’re in is 2020 with all the trappings of chaos and craziness that come with it, but wishing our lives away will not change any of that. No new year is capable of providing the happily ever after we might be wishing for, so we’ve got to do our best with what we’ve got.

Decide how you want to handle the now that you’re in. 2020 has been hard. How do you want to spend the last months of it? How do you want to enter into 2021? Do you want to spend this time jumping into bitterness, envy, remorse, and fear like Scrooge McDuck jumping into his vault of gold? Or do you want to spend this last bit of the year cuddling up to gentleness for yourself and others? (I did a little exploring along this vein over at The Living Person if you’re interested in that little tangent.)

You’re not required to figure everything out, but I’d venture to suppose that the rest of the year won’t feel so empty and wasted if we circle the wagons and put forth the effort to guard our hearts. (Shout out to all my fellow bible college graduates who were told to guard your hearts in every chapel message ever of all time but kinda didn’t know what that meant.)

What this looks like is setting boundaries and identifying which things we want to give space to. I don’t weigh myself without checking in with myself first to make sure I can emotionally handle whatever that number says. (Haven’t weighed myself in months for this very reason.)

So, guard your heart. Check in with yourself before you look at the news. Are you willing to give head and heart space to the potential negativity you may find there? Check in with yourself before you read the comments, before you entertain that potentially intense conversation, before you head into that zoom call with that one person. Even if you can’t avoid the conversation or the meeting, you can set boundaries within it and make sure you’re giving space in your life to people and things that matter and respect you. It’s totally fine to say, “I’m sorry, I just can’t talk about (fill in the blank) right now. I’ll feel more peaceful if we stick to other topics,” and then you take a sip of your OceanSpray and move along down the road.

You’re not required to consume all of the media. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to read it or watch it or engage with it in any way. You’re allowed to step back. Odds are you’ve already developed your opinions and your mind isn’t going to be changed by a stranger on the interwebs. Odds also are you’re not going to change anyone else’s mind. (Insert cringy face and also please keep not shooting the messenger.)

I’m not saying we shouldn’t engage in challenging conversations and discourse with people who think differently than we do. What I am saying is that we’re not required to do that if we’re not up for it emotionally. If you walk away from a conversation, account, news outlet feeling furious, depressed, or hopeless, maybe don’t engage with that shiz in the future.

Curate your social media feed to be a place that fills you up and reminds you of the decency of humanity. Mute, block, snooze, unfollow until you achieve a peaceful scrolling experience. I suggest anything having to do with the Hebrides and/or following this guy. You’re welcome.

Don’t fall victim to the pressure of turning lemons into lemonade. I predict that there will be a ton of reflecting on “what we’ve learned from 2020” and “what the year from hell has taught us.” While I think it’s great to look back and see how we’ve grown, it’s also important not to put too much pressure on ourselves. It’s okay if all we accomplished this year is survival. It’s okay if we look at 2020, take stock of how we’ve coped, and realize that we struggled hard and are still struggling. We’re not required to come out of this year battered, bruised, but carrying earth shattering self-knowledge and a kickass sourdough starter. We’re allowed to come out just plain battered and bruised. We just are. The sooner we give ourselves permission to welcome the uncomfortable truth of our own unique experience, the better able we’ll be to heal.

Also I threw my starter away because sourdough is too much work and I’m not sorry.

Send 2020 out with a bang. Do something drastic and fun you’ve been wanting to do for no other reason than you can and it’s 2020 and I’m bringing YOLO back. Dye the hair, get the tattoo (Mom, don’t comment on that or I’ll send you a video of how far my eyes are rolling), run the race even if you have to walk it. Decorate for Christmas whenever the hell you want to and wear an old bridesmaid’s dress to eat Papa John’s on the couch and maybe also paint your front door orange? Surprise yourself by having a stupid amount of fun just because life is short and you should. Spontaneity is fun and it’s still a thing we can do even if things are weird or kind of hard.

It’s not about you. 2020 has been a year of isolation which has led a lot of us to do some serious introspective thinking. A little self evaluation can be helpful at times but can also result in us becoming a little too preoccupied with ourselves. We can all agree that we have been personally victimized by 2020 and if this year had a name it would be Regina George. But it’s super important to remember that it’s not about us. Anything we can do to draw ourselves out of our own self-focus is a win.

Make New Year’s resolutions, but not shitty ones. One way to remember that things are not about me is to make some New Year’s resolutions. Now, I’m no fortune teller and I’m going out on a limb here, but I don’t think 2021 is going to be the year that I start drinking all the water, or lose the weight, or whatever. But, it can be the year that I make it a priority to love others more! Here are some fun resolutions I came up with to remind myself that it’s not about me.

  • Adopt someone to love each month. Send them coffee money, mail a card, or text an inappropriate gif that will startle them into laughter when they’re hiding from their job in the bathroom.You don’t even have to know them! You could just pick a random residential address each month and send flowers to that house. Or send flowers to a nursing home with instructions that they be given to a resident who needs some happy. Whatever you decide to do, just pick one person each month to reach out to and remind that they matter.
  • Donate to a different nonprofit each month. Doesn’t have to be a lot of money, fam. Even $5 is helpful and will make you feel a little less helpless in this big bad world. I suggest checking out Beauty 2 The Streetz and Abide Women’s Health Services as good places to start.
  • Invest in a service industry professional. Maybe you feel guilty about getting a pedicure. Guess what? You’re allowing a person to provide for her family by paying for her services. That’s a gift. Maybe you feel weird about paying to have your house cleaned. Same thing. Perhaps you see the same cashier at WalMart every time you go. Guess what? Working there probably sucks some of the time (lots of the time) so do something nice for that person. Take donuts to the Aldi on a Monday morning. Bring coffee to the post office staff. Jump on public transportation just to pass out balloons to the driver. Challenge yourself to see the people who slip beneath the radar and show them some love.
  • Participate in the new challenge I just invented. I’m calling it Random Acts of Silly and I we’re gonna have a hashtag (#randomactsofsilly) and go around spreading silliness. I’m starting by ordering a giant pack of googly eyes to keep in my purse so I can stick them on stuff when I’m out and about.
  • Take up a new devotion. Set aside time to pray for others. This could look like making a list of intentions or just praying for general ones (local, national, and world leaders, those suffering in other countries, etc). I’ve recently been praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy (a devotion I’ve avoided because I’m too hip to do the thing that everyone else is doing please roll your eyes at me) and it 100% lives up to the hype.

That’s all I’ve got, gang. What would you add? How are you planning on handling the transition from 2020 to 2021? We didn’t really tackle the intricacies of holiday celebrations in this post, so if you’re at all interested in the ramblings of yours truly on the subject, just let me know and I’ll take a stab at it.

Either way, friends, you are loved. However you’re feeling about this last bit of the year and the idea of a new one approaching, you’re loved. You’re precious and important. You matter so much. We need you, just you remember that.

Tooth Fairy

Hey, gang, it’s been a minute. Lest you worry, all is well and I for sure still look like this:

Okay, so down to brass tacks. Can we talk about the Tooth Fairy for a sec?

Guys, I am so beyond invested in the magic of childhood. Beyond. Invested. We do all of the things.

I am a staunch believer in fairies of all sorts and we look for fairy houses on literally every hike we go on. I firmly adhere to the truth that fairies are responsible for the majority of magical things we see in nature. I want to be a Fairy Godmother when I grow up and I’m not even kidding.

We have leprechauns make a mess of our house every year on St. Patrick’s Day, which is a lot harder than you’d think, because they have to make it apparent that it’s their mess on top of our regular mess and that’s next level mess making is what I’m saying. The only way to know for sure is if they’ve dyed the milk green.

We get visits from St. Nicholas and Santa (same guy, different days, obv) and we have elves. But they’re not those evil elf on the shelf ones, they’re kindness elves who leave us treats and make happy mischief and challenge us to do good deeds for others. They don’t tattle on us to Santa because that’s just dumb and the antithesis of what Christmas is all about. I mean, we all get a little a-holey that time of year, so if receiving gifts is contingent on good behavior, then every single person in the world is SOL. Also, Jesus didn’t come because we deserve him, he came because we don’t. Boom.

But I digress.

What I’m saying is, I will 100% get on board with every single magical thing I could ever do to make childhood glorious and joyful for my kids.

But, y’all, I can’t get on board with the Tooth Fairy. I’ve tried. She sucks.

First of all, we’ve got four kids and zero dollars, so that’s problem number one right there. Also, I’ve got four kids and zero brain cells left, so remembering which person lost a tooth that day is real hard for me. I mean, kids all have like four zillion teeth apiece and they lose them at an alarming rate. On any given day, there’s like nineteen random loose teeth scattered around my house like somebody just had a ticker tape parade and I don’t have it in me to keep track of them. At all.

And can we talk about how tiny the teeth are?? Like, how the heck am I supposed to find those things under a pillow? My kids put all kinds of stuff under their pillows for safe keeping. How am I supposed to find a tooth hidden in a rat’s next of special LEGO bricks and rubber snakes?

Don’t even start to get on me about getting a special tooth pillow or cute little tooth box. That shit does not work in this home. You know what would happen if I had one of those? The kids would use it for a game of make believe or they’d break it or they’d somehow render it useless in any number of other creative endeavors. I don’t have it in me to squelch their creativity and make them respect dumb tooth pillows especially if they’re leaving me alone at that moment. Priorities. Duh.

I, for one, am classy so I make them put their tooth in a plastic sandwich bag so it’s easier to find under the pillow. Problem solved.

Except that I can literally never ever remember that I’m supposed to do it. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve forgotten a tooth and had to tell the kids that the Tooth Fairy must be really bogged down with work since she didn’t get to their tooth that night. Man. Must be a lot of kids losing teeth since she just can’t get to them all. Lots of red tape and processing time these days what with Covid precautions, too. It’s rough, but that’s bureaucracy for ya.

My husband is the number one Tooth Fairy in this house because he is a functioning responsible adult with an actual memory. Also, he folds the dollars into fun shapes because he’s the best.

But further circling back to the money thing. Y’all who even has cash or small bills these days? We are not a family that pays well for teeth. It is actual bull slaw to pay more than a dollar for a tooth. I just read a very interesting article regarding the going rate for teeth and I am appalled.

Well, kinda. I’m not surprised to report back that the Tooth Fairy is paying less these days for teeth. Apparently the average tooth gets $3.70, which is down from last year’s $4.13. This is the second year in a row that teeth have devalued and I still think you fools are overpaying.

Get a load of this lady.

While Priska Diaz, 43, recalls just finding coins under her pillow in exchange for her baby teeth when she was growing up, today the Eastchester, N.Y. mom has upped the dental ante by giving her son, 11, and daughter, 10, a whopping $20 for every lost canine and incisor. She estimates she’s coughed up $200 in the name of the tooth fairy so far.

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-rules-how-much-is-the-tooth-fairy-supposed-to-leave-your-kid-2018-04-12

What the actual hell was she thinking?? Now, I don’t want to be rude, but that’s a dumb amount of money to give someone for a piece of their body falling out like it’s supposed to.

Y’all, my kids are lucky if they get a handful of dirty change. Sometimes I’m nice and I pick the pocket lint out of it for them, but not always. And I never give them my Aldi quarter.

It’s not actually that bad, but I am not lying to you when I say that the kids get their Tooth Fairy money, carry it around for like a day, and if they don’t lose it somewhere in their trash pit of a room, they put it in the communal change jar for safekeeping. I never said they were smart. We’ve got a rumpled dollar bill that just keeps getting recycled over and over again and not once have they noticed that it’s the same one.

Back in the day when they could take their money to school, there was a bigger turnaround, for sure. But now that we’re homeschooling and we go literally nowhere there’s legit no way for them to spend that money anyway. I mean, I guess they could bank it and learn about internet shopping, but I’m not driving to the credit union for a dollar deposit. Sorry, pals, I’mma need that dollar later.

Also, I feel like the money isn’t really the point of the Tooth Fairy. The fun is leaving something and finding it switched out for a surprise. That’s fun. Moldy old dollars aren’t fun. Surprises are fun. What good is money if you can’t spend it? Mayhaps the Tooth Fairy should start leaving new toothbrushes or gum or something fun like that. I mean, in all reality if she’s in the business of collecting teeth, she should probably leave candy just to expedite the process and gross more earnings, but who am I to tell someone how to do their job?

But to ease your undoubtedly troubled hearts, I offer the following proof that the Tooth Fairy did indeed visit our house last night and (he) even folded the moldy dollar up so it looked cool. Our little jack-o-lantern was thrilled as can be.

And yes, yes that child did sleep in the shirt he wore all day and refused to take off. In fact, instead of putting on pajamas at bedtime, he added a Luigi hat and his trusty kazoo. Because there’s no better way to celebrate a visit from the Tooth Fairy than loudly playing “This is Halloween” on a kazoo at 6:30 AM. No better way at all.

Nothing New Under the Sun

When I was a young student bright-eyed and optimistic, naively reading my bible on the quad at the Baptist university I attended Ecclesiastes never did much for me. It was too cynical a view of the world for my nineteen year old taste. But as I’ve aged and gathered a more full experience of life (particularly this year), the famous words of Ecclesiastes are an absolute vibe.

All things are wearisome, too wearisome for words. The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor has the ear enough of hearing.

Ecclesiastes 1:8

What my younger self deemed too depressing a sentiment, my mid-thirties self reads and thinks, “That’ll preach!”

All things are wearisome, too wearisome for words. Amen and amen. The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor has the ear enough of hearing. Like, did they have smartphones in the Old Testament? Because I swear this speaks directly to our plugged in culture.

Obsessive scrolling, consumption of media, furiously worrying thoughts, search bars, Twitter feeds, deep dives into subreddits. It’s never enough to quench our thirst for more information, more proof that we’re right, more evidence condemning the other side, more statistics, more people agreeing with us, more proof of approval, proof that acquits us of being in the wrong and places responsibility on others. We are weary, but we won’t stop. We are worn out and worn down, but we will not rest. An unceasing quest for justice is necessary, but I wonder if our collective search is actually for justice or for more compelling proof to throw in each other’s faces.

What has been, that will be; what has ben done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun! Even the thing of which we say, “See, this is new!” has already existed in the ages that preceded us. There is no remembrance of past generations; nor will future generations be remembered by those who come after them.

Ecclesiastes 1:9-11

Immaturity or lack of experience leaves us surprised when we repeat the sins of our fathers, whether those our forefathers or the fathers of our faith. It’s depressing to think that we’ve made so little progress as humans that we’re still struggling with the same garbage that they were wrestling with in the Old Testament. Though our world has changed and morphed through history, human nature remains unchanged. We have always struggled with jealousy, greed, pride, and envy. The powerful have always exploited the powerless. The Man has always kept the little ones down, there have always been struggling minorities, the least of these crying out for someone to step in and change things.

There is nothing new under the sun.

In the midst of these reflections, my house is being worked on. The basement walls in our hundred year old house are crumbling from water damage, the slow movement of time and water taking its toll on the structure holding us all up. So there’s a guy named Pee-wee down there scraping away the old and reinforcing it, cleaning away the debris and strengthening our walls. It’s all very metaphorical I’m sure, but for a guy who goes by Pee-wee, he’s seriously lacking a sense of humor and in its place is the most Ecclesiastical attitude I’ve ever seen. Upon meeting him, you can just tell that Pee-wee has seen some shit. There’s nothing new under the sun and literally nothing could surprise him.

I feel so heavy under all my observations about the world, that there’s nothing new, humanity and original sin will be wrapped up together embracing and struggling until the end of time. Plus, it’s hard to get excited about teaching children math facts and grammar rules in a house full of extra noise and chemical fumes.

And yet, I found out this morning that Pee-wee is a poet of all things. He wrote a book of poetry for his children in the 90’s, self published it, and signed over the rights to his sister who used all the profits to go to medical school.

Lord, you have been our refuge through all generations. Before the mountains were born, the earth and the world brought forth, from eternity to eternity you are God.

Psalm 90:2-1

To be fair, Pee-wee’s story has undeniably cynical undertones. He is a poet…and also he is apparently a former Army ranger who was shot by the drug cartel in Columbia and then discharged under strict command to never speak of what he saw (but that was over thirty years ago, so Pee-wee says what he wants). Pee-wee is estranged from most of his family, it seems, and he curses like a sailor, but not around the kids. I really like him.

And Tom, who is working on the upstairs bathroom, poked his head in to ask if the kids and I wanted to place the first tiles in the shower. He gave us his pencil and had us write our names on the backs of the tiles, each of us leaving our little invisible mark that I’m sure will go completely unseen when someone new rips it all out in the future.

There is nothing new under the sun. Humanity is still grappling, frustrated and angry that there is still injustice, still abuse of power, still hurt, and lies, and abuse.

There is nothing new under the sun. People are complicated and complex. Their stories still surprise us, there is still beauty in the most unexpected of people and the most unlikely of places. There is still kindness, still goodness, still the gentleness of men giving of their time and talent in microscopic ways that give us a glimmer of hope when everything else feels awful.

No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide you a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

Pride Comes Before the Fractions

We’re deep into the weeds of homeschool around here. I mean, we’ve been at this for a week and a half, and it feels like a lifetime. Now obviously I’m a newbie and I’ll be the first to say that I’m no expert, but…like, at what point in this homeschooling gig will suggestions and gentle corrections not be met with eye rolling and/or aggression from the pupils??

Asking for a friend.

J/k, it’s me.

I’m the friend.

I’m trying real hard lately to pay attention to my strong emotions and trace them back to their roots. It’s this new thing I’m doing called self-awareness. I highly suggest it, but also it sucks.

The situations that get my blood boiling most these days (aside from medical atrocities being investigated at the border and general worldwide awfulness) stem from semi-regular moments in instruction with the kids. (I’m not naming names here because the team is getting older and I think they deserve their privacy.)

It feels like there are moments when literally everything I say is dumb and every gentle correction is a personal attack. It also doesn’t help that their father can do no wrong. Dad is brilliant! Dad is funny! Dad is cool! Dad explains so much better! Dad buys us fruit roll ups!

Dad teaches them the exact same math lesson that Mom attempted (but cut short due to tears and theatrics) using the exact same examples that Mom used and they listen to him as though his words drip honey and claim they’re hearing them for the very first time.

If I sound like I’m jealous, it’s because I am.

I admit it, I am horribly jealous of the camaraderie the kids have with their father, especially when it comes to school. If I’m not careful I start believing the lies my jealousy is telling me so the jealousy grows into anger, then resentment.

It hurts that they don’t listen to me the way I think they ought to. It hurts to feel misunderstood and second rate. It hurts when the message I’m receiving from the kids is that what I’m offering is garbage.

I recognize that this sort of thing is a completely normal facet of the mother/child relationship. I grated against my own mother when I was their age. Shoot, I still do it if she offers me a suggestion! It’s growing pains and tough transitions and I get that. The kids are stuck in a house with me all dang day. Of course a different voice is easier to listen to; it’s literally the only diversity in teaching they’re getting so it makes perfect sense. Of course they resent my criticisms. No one likes to be told they’re wrong, especially by their mother.

But I’m still resentful. I’m still jealous.

When I dig even deeper, I see that there’s a part of me that struggles with what I can only identify as the “moms are dumb” vibe. Culturally, it seems like moms are always the butt of the joke. Moms are the overlooked, overworked ones and it feels like dads get to sweep in and have the fun and be exciting. Dad is novel and Mom is humdrum and I resent that a lot. I want to be fun. I want to be exciting. I want to be the one that everyone is thrilled to see. I want to be special, and listened to, and loved.


Just writing that out and stepping back is so helpful. Again I’m tracing these feelings back to their root and remembering what’s true. Upon further reflection, it’s easy to see how hollow that “moms are dumb” argument is. It’s just as culturally acceptable to present dads as the useless, bumbling ones. I mean, watch any sitcom dad ever, right?

I also have to recognize the other side of the coin, to give weight to the fact that my husband sacrifices time at home to provide for us, purely so that I can stay home and have the opportunity to teach our children. He is a novelty to them precisely because he’s not able to be here all the time like he’d rather be.

And honestly there are plenty of times that the kids do prefer me. My sweet husband has endured literal years of babies refusing to be comforted except by me, fed by me, cuddled by me. They come to me with their emotional wounds and worries while they connect with him in different ways. It’s completely fair and right that there are times when I’m not the best person for the job.

He can have math and video games, I guess, and I’ll take my heart to heart bedtime chats and book reading snuggles.

The truth is, these children need both of us. I am not enough on my own because I was not designed to do this alone. I have been gifted a partner who loves us all and who shows up daily to do this soul wearying work alongside me without complaint. What an absolute gift he is.

So the problem is not the children or the husband, but my own disordered desires for control and approval. This thing that’s causing me grief, these little moments in my day that cause me to boil over in frustration are mirrors into my soul, opportunities for me to examine my motives.

Am I teaching my children so that I will be liked or so that they grow in intellect and holiness? Am I allowing myself to believe a lie that pits me against my children and my husband? Or am I noticing the places in my heart that lack holiness and taking these as opportunities to do better? Am I quick to anger when my children push back, or am I leaning in to learn a new way to connect with them? Do I receive their contrary attitudes with my own eye rolls and impatience or do I view their pushback as a barometer of where they themselves are feeing inadequate and vulnerable? Am I praying for my family as I ought to be?

I’m not going to nail it every time. I think the desire to be approved of and appreciated will always be a struggle for me. Yet, motherhood is sanctifying. My ultimate goal and deepest desire is to get my kids, my spouse, and myself to heaven. If that requires less of me, more of my spouse, sharing the spotlight, deeply appreciating the souls in my care, and heaping lesson upon lesson of humility, then so be it.

Yes, this vocation is sanctifying me, but only if I let it.


When I’m particularly struggling with the sin of pride, I like to go over the Litany of Humility. It is hard to pray and even harder to pray with true sincerity. I often find it necessary to add, “Lord, help my unbelief,” to the end. You can find the prayer here. You are so loved my friends, even in your pride and your jealousy, even in your less than pretty moments, you are indescribably loved.

No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide you a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.

1 Corinthians 10:13