“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 

A Message To Those Who Served

A Message To Those Who Served

It’s amazing what can happen in a Walmart parking lot.

I had just finished loading the back of my van and had already moved the gear shift into reverse when I was startled by a loud rapping on the front passenger window.

A woman who looked to be in her sixties and wearing a white face mask was frantically knocking on my window, her wide eyes looking at me with a sense of urgency.

“This can’t be good,” I thought. “Is my tail light out? Did I drop a bag?”

I rolled down the window, expecting to hear the worst. Nothing though quite prepared me for what came next.

“I just saw your license plate,” she said, “and I noticed the Operation Iraqi Freedom on it. Did you serve?”

“My husband did,” I replied.

“My son also served as part of that operation,” she said, “so I had to stop and thank you. He served two tours in Iraq, but he never made it back.”

I quickly threw the van back into park, put on my mask, and jumped out to embrace her.

We hugged each other tightly. Two strangers. In a Walmart parking lot.

My husband came home. Her son did not.

Yet through her grief, came also a profound pride for her son’s service to his country.

“If I had to lose my Timmy to something, this is how I would have wanted it,” she said.  

We chatted for a few more minutes about her son, my husband, and the silent scars of PTSD that many veterans still battle with long after their service. Then we thanked each other again and parted ways.

I never learned her name, but there’s one name I can’t forget after today: Timmy.

To all our nation’s veterans, thank you. To the spouses and parents of veterans, thank you for your service. And to the Timmys who never came home, thank you for your great sacrifice in the name of freedom. 

We are forever grateful.

#ThankAVeteran #ForTimmy #checkforfries

Is Your Cup Of Joe Turning You Into An Average Joe?

Is Your Cup Of Joe Turning You Into An Average Joe?

I love a good coffee mug. Not only does it need to be large enough to accommodate my daily intake (which happens several times a day) and have a nice comfy handle for endurance coffee clutching…but it’s also a major “perk” (pun intended) if it makes me smile or laugh.

The darker the better too—which goes for both my coffee and the humor.

The most recent gem I found? An all black mug with the following white text: “Good morning, I see the assassins have failed.” I left it behind on the store shelf, but dang if I didn’t cackle all the way out the door.

There is one mug in my collection, however, that has a semi-permanent place on my desk. It’s somewhat unexpected, unapologetic and, well, uninspiring. 

The message? “Today I’m going to give it my some.”

I laughed when I first saw it. And I loved it, mostly because it was the total opposite of all those annoyingly over-the-top motivational posters hanging up in offices across corporate America. You know, the ones that say “Excellence” with a photo of a bald eagle or “Make It Happen” with a man standing on the summit of a mountain.

Ick. Just the thought of one makes my productivity suffer. 

Not this mug. I sincerely appreciated its snarky nature. When everyone else is shooting for the moon and ready to crush some serious goals, I’m over here with my mug just saying with a chuckle, “Yeah, I’m not gonna give it my all today…maybe just a solid 47 percent.”

Maybe that’s because in part it accurately reflected my season of life—a stay-at-home, work-from-home mom with two kids under five trying to keep everyone fed, clean, laundered, and entertained. Even on my best days, giving it my “all” seemed an impossible feat, so why not just shoot for “some” so I too can have the satisfaction of feeling accomplished? 

It’s pretty much right on par with why I also prefer the medium level of Sudoku. Semi-challenging yet winnable. There’s no time in my life for multi-day expert level gaming—especially when as moms of “littles” we’re already playing Russian Roulette every time we attempt to take an adult bathroom break, knowing full well the odds are stacked against us. 

Crises inevitably and almost always hit while our pants are down. But I digress.

So what does this all mean? Does loving this coffee mug mean that I’m a champion of the under-achiever? That I’ve lowered my standards? That there’s just no more room for excellence in my life when average will do?

No, no it does not. I can assure you (as can my spouse and kids), that my expectations and standards are still well nigh into the rafters.

No, I love it because it makes me laugh. And because humor is almost always based on a bit of truth. And because the truth is sometimes raw—and in those raw moments—we need to give ourselves grace when we simply don’t have it all to give. Or when giving it our all still only gets us to “average.”

It’s in those moments that we need to laugh. Take a breath. Then shoot for better days ahead. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. Babe Ruth didn’t always hit home runs. We give it our all—and if that means we give all the “some” that’s in our tank—then so be it.

Celebrate the wins. Dust off the losses. And drink to the “Average Joe” moments that earned you that coveted participation trophy. 

I’m raising my mug to you, friend. Now get out there and go give ‘em some.

#checkforfries #giveityoursome #averagecupofjoe #mugsandmayhem

What Does Your Mouth Say About You?

What Does Your Mouth Say About You?

I have a belching problem—both literally and figuratively. On the literal side, let’s just say that carbonated beverages don’t do me any favors. My husband still shakes his head in disbelief (and perhaps some dismay), when his tall, slender bride delivers a deep, throaty belch that puts even his bass drum to shame.

I’m pretty sure that was a post-nuptial surprise he hadn’t planned on.

Bevvies aside, however, there’s another kind of belching I do that he probably didn’t bank on either: criticism.

Proverbs 15:2 says, “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing, but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness.”

I’m a belching fool, ya’ll. I often joke that I “comment” on things, but really that’s just a nice way of saying, I criticize.

Criticism, according to Merriam-Webster is: the act of expressing disapproval and of noting the problems or faults of a person or thing; a remark or comment that expresses disapproval of someone or something; a person strongly resembling that of Sarah Nguyen (hint: that’s me!).

“But wait,” you say, “that verse says a fool belches foolishness, not criticism.” True. Yet for me, criticism—in this context of speaking negatively or disapprovingly—is a kind of foolishness. Being foolish means “showing a lack of good sense, judgment, or discretion.”

Somehow, I’ve managed to mount a 30-plus year defense trying to convince myself and others that my commentary is not harmful. That me casually suggesting the right turn you just took was not smart because now we’re stuck in traffic. Or that perhaps you should have watched a “how to” video on YouTube before calling a technician over to the house to take $300 of our hard-earned money for flipping a switch on and off. Or that the assembly of said item wouldn’t have gone wrong if you had just read the directions more carefully.

Criticism. Criticism. Criticism.

It’s foolish to believe that such “commentary “ is helpful. It’s not. It slowly chips away at the value of a person and belittles them. And these little criticisms add up. When I really evaluate what I’m saying, each statement by itself is fairly innocuous. But when continuously linked together, they can do some serious damage. Much like eating a super spicy hot wing. The first one goes down ok. But by the third or fourth, what started as a comfortable heat has compounded into a raging inferno in your mouth.

I’m done taking Tums (metaphorically speaking). I’m done treating the symptom of my poor choices. It’s time to change what comes out of my mouth. To start replacing criticism with praise and to stop belching foolishness.

I know I’m not alone in this. Now more than ever our social media-driven society is big into belching foolishness. Debates and discussions quickly turn into browbeating barrages and attacks. Unnecessary and unwarranted criticism is rampant.

It’s time to change our discourse. To carefully consider what we say before we say it. To weigh the impact of our words. To put ourselves in the shoes of the listener and ask ourselves, “Is this helpful or hurtful?”

It’s time to focus on loving others well. To focus on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and praiseworthy. It’s time to step up our etiquette game, squelch the belch and instead be vocal in our encouragement for one another.

And if we can’t be nice, then let’s heed the advice of Thumper’s mother from Bambi who said, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.”

#tossthetums #silenceisgolden #speaklove #squelchthebelch #kindnessovercriticism

Aim For Progress Not Perfection

Aim For Progress Not Perfection

I was recently browsing in one of my favorite little boutique gift shops and admiring all the trendy sunglasses, beautiful handcrafted jewelry, quirky coffee mugs, and more that I would NOT be buying that day. Believe me, I wanted to. And I was so close to pulling out my wallet for a pair of red sunglasses that would have made me feel like a classy black-and-white film actress on par with the likes of Audrey Hepburn.

But I didn’t.

Why? Because this funny little voice in my head kept repeating the same two words over and over like ticker tape: responsible adult…responsible adult…responsible adult. Continue reading “Aim For Progress Not Perfection”

Control Is An Illusion

Control Is An Illusion

I have a guru…and his name is Marc. To be fair, Marc didn’t asked to be my guru. I simply took the liberty of labeling him that after he wrapped up one of the most amazing 90-minute massages I’ve had to date.

Somewhere between the foot reflexology and working out the knots in my right calf, Marc hit me with an eerily on-point truth about myself. Continue reading “Control Is An Illusion”