“Did Jesus whine?” (And Other Questions We Probably Shouldn’t Ask)

Featured“Did Jesus whine?” (And Other Questions We Probably Shouldn’t Ask)

It started out as a perfectly good and pleasant morning.

I woke up in a good mood, with enough time to get ready and pull myself together before anyone (i.e. the kiddos) came to me with his or her most urgent and pressing needs.

Everyone was cooperative. Everyone was in a good mood. Things were running smoothly—perhaps too smoothly—for a Monday morning. There were no arguments at breakfast, no disgruntled appeals or impossible food requests. Everything was, as my mom liked to say, “copasetic.”

And then….*cue ominous music*…it happened. The whine. It came from out of nowhere, as it usually does for most three-year-olds. 

“I don’t wanna….[fill in the blank]…”

“Noooooooo……”

“I don’t wanna….[fill in the blank again]…”

Something hulk-like happens to me when I hear “the whine.” The nostrils start flaring, my fledgling biceps start bulking. The complete transformation to Parental Hulk however only takes full effect after I’ve asked the one question a parent should never ask:

“Why are you whining???”

We don’t ask because it’s not a good or appropriate question. We don’t ask because when said toddler is fully in the “whine state,” you will rarely, if ever, get a rational, coherent answer. 

You might as well tag on a few more for fun, like, “What is the meaning of life? Or, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

You get the picture. It’s a black hole. Just don’t go there.

Eventually, and without rhyme or reason, my son snapped back to his cheerful self and I apologized for going all green on him. As I began my personal debriefing to understand why I’m so easily triggered by whining and how I can respond better next time, a burning question entered my mind.

“Did Jesus whine?” And if so, “How did Mary handle it?”

I mean, if ever a parenting standard there was…Mary certainly sets the bar high as the mother of Jesus. What does it look like to parent the Son of God? Did she face the same challenges that we do? Did she have mom-fail days too? If you’re a dad, perhaps you’re asking, “Did Joseph ever lose his cool with Jesus in the carpentry shop?”

Truth is, we don’t really know if Jesus ever whined or what his childhood behavior was like until we catch a glimpse of him at age 12 having faith-filled discussions with the teachers in the Temple and amazing them with his wisdom and understanding (Luke 2).

And there’s probably a good reason for it. But I don’t have the answer for it and neither does anyone else. And that’s my point. 

It’s not the asking of the question that’s wrong here. But without an answer, the question itself becomes futile. Maybe for you it’s not so much a “why is my toddler whining?” question but more of a “why is this happening to me?” question. 

I’ve come to realize that both in parenting and life in general, there are just some questions that are better left unasked. The ones to which there are no helpful answers…the ones that drain your energy, leave you more frustrated than fulfilled, and keep you from moving on to better and brighter things.

Don’t get me wrong. I love questions. They are the gateway to knowledge and truth. What we need to be careful about is not allowing the answer—or non-answer—to keep us in a black hole of unproductiveness or perpetually stuck between the chicken and the egg, so to speak.

Ask your questions. Pursue the truth. But keep moving forward, friend. Whining and all. 

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Stop Trying

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Stop Trying

My friends, we’ve been hoodwinked.

For well over 160 years, we’ve been taught that “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” It’s an adage with the best of intentions, encouraging us to not give up just because we don’t find success in something the first go ‘round. The key is persistency.

I get it. And I believed it. 

This week however, that belief was called into question when I heard a DJ on the radio talking about the word “try” and pitching the question to listeners about whether we should consider removing it from our vocabulary. 

Her reasoning, she stated, was based on commentary that the word “try implies failure, or at the very least, a lack of adequate action.” To say we are going to try and do something leaves room for a cop out. The verbiage alone subconsciously communicates to oneself that you are not fully committed to whatever it is you are trying. 

By contrast, if you say you’ll “do” something that suggests 100 percent effort. No matter what happens, you are fully committed to your actions. It’s that do or die “I’m not throwing away my shot” kind of passion sung about in Hamilton the musical.

It’s what Master Yoda said to Luke Skywalker in his Jedi training: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

It’s what the Apostle Paul said countless times in his letters of encouragement to churches and fellow believers in the Christian faith. To the Corinthian church he said, “let all you do, be done in love.” To people of Philippi, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” [emphasis mine]. 

So it seems, in the battle of trying vs. doing, the odds are in favor of the doers and not the triers. How ironic that the very catch phrase “try, try again”, which is supposed to encourage us to overcome failure, is actually keeping us trapped in its cycle. 

Kind of like when I “tried” recently to not eat desserts or sweets as part of a church-wide fast I was participating in, but then crumbled in defeat one day when I handed out the fudge-stripe cookies to my kiddos for their after-school snack. 

The temptation was fierce and I succumbed. 

“Jesus fasted for forty days with no food, was tempted by the devil himself, and still walked away victorious. And here I just lost to a cookie,” I thought to myself.

Yes, I accept responsibility for my lack of discipline. But I also believe part of my fasting failure was because I kept thinking, “try not to eat that” instead of telling myself, “don’t eat that.”

There’s an empowerment that comes with believing you can do something that you don’t get when you simply “try” to do something. The first goes all in, while the second just dips the toes in the water before fully committing.

So back to the DJ’s question: Should we remove “try” from our vocabulary? Personally, I vote yes. 

I want to stop trying to be a better wife, mom, and friend and just be one.

I want to stop trying to hit snooze on my alarm and actually get up when it tells me.

I want to stop trying to be perfect and rest in the fact that my failures, mistakes and missteps do not define me—but rather refine me and help push me toward becoming the best version of myself.

Time to get off the “try” train, ditch the excuses, and remove the self-imposed limitations I declare over myself when I say I will only try to do something.

I can do better. And you can too, friend. If at first we don’t succeed, we’ll just get up and do it again. 

#stoptryingstartdoing #failureisnotanoption #checkforfries 

Fear Not: Finding Peace In A Pandemic

Fear Not: Finding Peace In A Pandemic

Never not be afraid. 

It’s one of my favorite lines from the animated movie, “The Croods,” which happens to be experiencing a revival in our home right now thanks to my three and five-year-old. Translation? We’re watching this epic flick about every five minutes. 

If you haven’t seen it, it’s the story of an endearing caveman named Grug and his family who are living in prehistoric times and doing everything they can to survive what seems to be the end of the world. Their goal? Make it to tomorrow.

Wait, are we still talking about the movie or 2020? The ironies here are not lost on me. 

Yet on the 21st viewing of said movie, I realized that Grug and I share the same problem: fear. 

“Never not be afraid” was Grug’s ongoing mantra to his family. Now if we can all get past the double negatives here (he’s a caveman, so we’ll let it slide), Grug’s solution to keeping his family alive was to fear everything. Fear the dark. Fear the beasts. Fear the unknown. Yet for all his good intentions to keep everyone safe and protected, he was essentially also keeping them from truly living. 

“You have to stop worrying for all of us,” protests his daughter Eep.

“It’s my job to worry. It’s my job to follow the rules,” replies Grug. “They kept us alive!”

“That wasn’t living,” says Eep. “That was just not dying! There’s a difference.”

As a parent, I too catch myself more times than not telling my children everything they can’t or shouldn’t do—all with the best intentions. But there’s a fine line between exercising caution and healthy boundary setting and becoming a living, breathing, fear monger. 

Add a global pandemic to the mix, and it seems like the fun police—or perhaps in my case, the fear police—have been working overtime. Like 80 hours a week, less than minimum wage, no coffee breaks, no comp, no time and a half, no benefits, kind of overtime. 

It’s not living…it’s just not dying. Who wants that???

Ultimately Grug had to learn a lesson that…spoiler alert…ultimately saved his family. He learned to look past his fears by taking a leap of faith. He focused on the possibilities in front of him instead of the obstacles. He chose to hope, even when the future seemed uncertain. 

And before you knew it, by the end of the movie he had dropped the double negative, encouraging his family to simply be this: not afraid.

Friend, if I could say one thing to you—and to myself—it’s this: don’t be afraid. Don’t allow fear to steal your joy, to stand in the way of your future, to take away your hope. If you give it permission, it will stay. But if you make room for faith, hope, and love, it cannot survive.

Maybe that’s why there are so many mentions of “fear not” in the Bible. Because if anyone understands humanity and our inclination toward fear, it’s God. He knows how easily fear and discouragement can overwhelm us, and so he reminds us over and over and over again: don’t be afraid. Have courage. Take hope.  

In fact, in this season of advent, I can’t think of a better message we need to hear right now than the one relayed by an angel to a group of shepherds some 2,000 years ago. A message to not be afraid…a message of hope…a message of glad tidings…for you, for me, for all.

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:8-11 (NIV)

#donotbeafraid #fearnot #hope #faithoverfear #noroomforfear #checkforfries 

Did Mary Have A Birth Plan?

Did Mary Have A Birth Plan?

Several weeks before having my first child, I painstakingly took time to write out a multi-page birth plan. It included everything from the oils I wanted diffusing in the labor room to who would cut the umbilical cord. I even translated it into French because my husband and I were stationed overseas at the time, and I wanted to ensure there were no missteps in communication. Continue reading “Did Mary Have A Birth Plan?”