Simple Joys



Candace Payne recently rose from relative obscurity to Internet fame by posting a video of herself wearing a Chewbacca mask she bought herself for her birthday at Kohls. It quickly became the most viewed video ever on Facebook, and brought millions of people joy as she expressed her unbridled mirth over her find. At the end of the video she says, “It’s the simple joys.”

That phrase has resonated with me ever since I watched the video.

The week before I left for vacation included a number of discouraging moments for me. The day before we headed out was particularly frustrating and sad. I found out some terrible news, and had a handful of annoying and expensive things get in the way of me getting ready for our trip. One of my tasks included making a stop at Walmart. When I checked out, the cashier asked me how I was doing. I replied that I was having a pretty crummy day.

“Do you like butterscotch?” she replied. I answered in the affirmative, and she reached in her pocket and handed me one.

“A man came through here earlier and gave this to me. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings and tell him I didn’t care for them. Maybe this will help you have a better day!”

“You’re paying it forward!” I exclaimed, as I teared up while checking out my travel pillows.

I walked away, and Candace’s words instantly came to mind. It wasn’t the butterscotch, and it didn’t matter that it didn’t even cost my angel disguised as a Walmart clerk anything. The whole idea was that simple acts can have a domino effect. Spreading joy often doesn’t take much…a hug, a kind word, letting someone cut in line, a compliment, and yes, even a butterscotch.

On one of our recent plane rides, I loved watching my youngest get so excited about the simplest things…a face mask or sleeping, a blanket, ear plugs, plastic purple silverware, and bright red socks just for the flight. His eyes got bigger with each new discovery.

austin mask

socks simple joys

What I loved most about Candace’s video was the light in her eyes, and I was happy to hear later that she is a Christian. If that is the faith you claim, then your joy should be contagious. I feel like I am a work in progress in this area.

I choose a word every year as a theme. This year my word is “fun.” Sometimes I need to take life a little less seriously. Maybe I need a Chewbacca mask, too, but last I heard they are selling out quick!
Search for the wonder. Spread some cheer today. You never know what a difference it might make!



P.S. Candace is selling the above shirts, and 50% of the profits goes to the “All in” Initiative. You can click the picture to take you to the place to order!


Community Carries Our Pain

ruins book_edited-1

“Often it seems that two-thirds of God’s song is the sound track to tragedy and ruin. And because the math doesn’t make sense to us, we either close up our hearts entirely or refuse to live in reality, hanging our theology on spiritual clichés. Or we write
God off as a liar, a cheat, or even nonexistent, the biggest scam of all time. But if we learn to live with the tension of God’s major and minor melody, we will find his beautiful refrain ringing out in our lives, which is his purpose for us—a song bigger than ours that identifies God alone.” Matt Bays: Finding God in the Ruins

During the difficulties of life, it is good to have others to spur us on and give advice. We can learn so much from one another.

I’ve talked about the value of mentoring and being mentored before. One of my life’s greatest blessings in this area is a sweet lady, Joanne. She was my mentor during high school. A few of us would meet her at a restaurant downtown and she would pour into us. Honestly, I can’t remember one specific thing we talked about off the top of my head, but I do remember wanting to model her character, her faith, and her depth of insight. She is one of those people that in her presence everything just feels like it’s going to be okay.

Our paths don’t cross often anymore, but when they do, I always know she will intently listen to me. During a recent interaction she recommended a book to me, but she didn’t stop there. She went out and bought me the book and gave it to me with a lovely card. Joanne has not been untouched by life’s struggles. What a gift it is when someone you admire is willing to say that life is hard, doubt is real, but God is ultimately good. I look forward to reading all of Finding God in the Ruins.

Today I spoke with Joshua’s teacher. I had previously asked her to keep an eye on him as our family goes through this clinical trial and we experience ups and downs. (Important note: if there is any kind of upheaval in your home, let your kids’ teachers know. They can often act out in school in unusual ways during this time and it’s good to give a teacher a heads-up. As a teacher, I found out too often after the fact about a divorce, illness, death, etc.). She recommended a book to me called Ida B, about a girl whose mother gets cancer and she becomes angry with many of the changes that happen in the family as a result. I think we’ll be reading that together to help process some feelings.

ida b

I’ve read many blogs about what not to say to someone going through a difficult time. Individuals have complained about well-intentioned suggestions for treatment for illnesses and unsolicited advice. In my experience, it is the community that surrounds me and their advice, thoughts, and prayers that help me to see God’s goodness to me. I would rather err on the side of saying the wrong thing, I guess, than saying nothing at all. I realize others might not agree.

Author Mary DeMuth wrote a memoir called Thin Places. In her words, “A thin place is a place where you experience the presence of God, where the veil between heaven and earth is thin.” I feel like it is his people who help me peel back the layers and see God’s faithfulness to me in a way I wouldn’t otherwise.

Life will present many reasons to doubt God and his goodness. I like this quote I read recently on Facebook by Brené Brown: “What’s spectacular about my life today, at forty-seven, is finally realizing that the prime of our lives is not about answers – it starts when we finally allow ourselves to soften into the mysteries and live in the questions.” What a joy to have people come alongside us in the midst of the mysteries of this life.

If there is someone in your life having a hard time right now, take a moment to send a card, a gift, or just let them know you are praying for them. Small acts of kindness can make all the difference!



Stupid, Pathetic Idiots


I don’t remember the circumstances, but I remember her words. At 14-years-old, I sat in my biology class for advanced students and heard my teacher call us all stupid. Here I sit, 28 years later, and I still remember the disbelief I felt in that moment. I was appalled that my teacher would dare say such a thing to any students, let alone students who clearly loved to learn and worked hard.

The other day I guest taught at a school. During recess duty, two students approached me who had switched into my room for a breakout time from another class for a brief period. “Have you thought about going back into teaching full-time?” one of them inquired.

“A little bit. Why?” I returned.

“We’d like you to come be our teacher. Our teacher’s really mean. She calls us pathetic.”

Ugh. Immediately, I remembered being that freshman girl again, reeling from the unkind and untrue comment of my teacher.

Now, having worked with kids for a long time, I know they have a tendency to exaggerate. I also know there is a difference between being called pathetic and being told one’s behavior appears pathetic in a given situation, although it’s still not the best choice of language, probably.

I talk quite a bit to my boys about not calling others names, so I was a little dismayed one day when my youngest burst through the door and declared, “Tommy is an idiot!” (Name changed to protect the guilty). He quickly launched into all of the reasons why. I reminded him his word choice was unkind. Later, after he had time to cool down, he asked, “Mom, would it be better if I just said he was stupid with his choices instead of calling him an idiot?” I agreed that he was much more on track with that comment, although, let’s be real, sometimes calling someone an idiot might actually be accurate.

I used to tell my students that it takes five put-ups for every put-down. Statistical research exists to back up that statement to some degree. Criticism of any kind can be tremendously difficult to overcome.

My husband sent me a link to an article called The Persuasive Power of Repeated Falsehoods. The idea behind the article is that people begin to believe something they 100% know isn’t true if they hear it often enough. That’s why words can be so damaging. If you’re told you’re worthless repeatedly, even if you know in your gut it isn’t true, you will begin to act as if the statement is indeed a fact.

C.S. Lewis wrote a book called The Screwtape Letters which is a collection of 31 imagined letters of advice written by a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, who is trying to win the soul of an unnamed young man. One of the comments Screwtape makes is, “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.” We often think of the Devil as tempter, but when we cannot believe the good truth about ourselves, it can be just as damaging to our souls.

Friends, we must be careful with the words we use to describe one another, but we also must use caution with what we believe about ourselves, regardless of how many times it has been repeated.

As Aibileen Clark says in the movie The Help to the little girl in her care: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” Those are good words for all of us to remember and dwell on.