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Why Tragedy Makes us so Quick to Criticize Parents 

WHY are we so quick to criticize parents in the wake of tragedy? What is it about alligators, gorillas and car seats that turn rational human beings into armchair parenting quarterbacks moments after tragedy strikes?

WHY are we so quick to criticize parents in the wake of tragedy? What is it about alligators, gorillas and car seats that turn rational, compassionate people into cruel, armchair parenting quarterbacks moments after tragedy strikes?

When I hear about a child’s death, I immediately imagine the pain of losing my sweet girl. Even in the middle of the night, I’ll go scoop her up, kiss her face, smell her hair, knowing it is only by the grace of God my girl is healthy and alive.

It certainly isn’t due to perfect parenting. I fail daily.

So why are people so quick to criticize parents?

Because we’re afraid.

In the wake of tragedy, we see their pain and grasp at any straws to prevent our own losses. Just the thought of such grief horrifies us, clutches at our hearts, stops our breath.

Irrationally but passionately, we believe our love for our children would have been enough to protect them.

So we pretend.

Why so quick to criticize parents in the wake of tragedy? We want our illusions of control. Click To Tweet

We pretend our parenting is the difference between joy and grief, that our constant vigilance is completely responsible for our children’s health and well-being, forgetting split-seconds can bring disaster.

All we can do is our HUMAN best. And that scares the snot out of us, if we’re honest.

WHY are we so quick to criticize parents in the wake of tragedy? What is it about alligators, gorillas and car seats that turn rational human beings into armchair parenting quarterbacks moments after tragedy strikes?

Because we know how utterly flawed we are.

We criticize so we can pretend our parenting choices are the difference between joy and grief. Click To Tweet
We criticize parents because we want to believe it was their fault.

If it was their fault, we can believe we could have done something differently to prevent the tragedy.

Because we are terrified to acknowledge we are largely powerless to protect our children from every possible danger in the world.

Honestly, there’s no hope in believing it is all on us. We’re left manically trying to control everything.

My only real hope is God’s sovereignty and His love for His children.

Learning to trust Him with MY life is hard; it’s a daily letting go of my plans and hopes in exchange for His.

Trusting God with my daughter and stepsons means understanding bad or terrible things may befall them. It is scary.

But God has used even the most tragic circumstances in my life to reach, change, and use me. I have to pray for peace, knowing He won’t let anything be wasted in their lives either, even tragedies or my parenting failures.

Genesis 50:19-21 ESV /  But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good .  .  .  So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

God comforts and reminds us not to fear. He will provide for us and our children, even beyond our understanding.

Instead of being so quick to criticize parents, what if we recognized our deepest fears and just grieved with them, prayed with and for them?

Maybe, we could demonstrate God’s peace and grace to those facing the most unspeakable grief, losing a child.

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Go with the flow: My best tips for losing Control

Are you a control freak? I am in a recovery program thanks to Jesus & learning to lose control is messy, but a truly wonderful way to be a wife, mom, woman.


Are you a bit of a control freak? Do you like to control every.single.thing? I am. Well, I was until I began losing control and life’s so much better.

I’m in a control recovery program. It’s called Jesus. I’m learning that a lot of my control issues were really a type of temper tantrum about not wanting to trust God for my future.

Go with the flow would never have been used to describe my personality. NEVER. I still need five minutes for deep breaths after a surprise change of plans. I’m learning to embrace changes, but I’ve had a lifetime of practice with my control habit.

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I was strong-willed and controlling in preschool, maybe the womb.

Even at ten, I had a handwritten spreadsheet for when all my stuffed animals would sleep on my bed. I taped this chart to my closet door to keep everything fair and tidy.

I color coordinated textbooks and folders in high school. After creating a detailed catalog of songs, I alphabetized my cassette mix-tapes.

Now, balancing our budget and organizing the checkbook makes me happy in weird places inside my head.

Being a military spouse, taught me how much control I don’t have over my life.

This army wife life with little control has been a growth experience for me. We don’t get to plan where we are stationed; we often can’t plan family vacations or even date nights. Sometimes we don’t get Thanksgiving or holidays together last minute.

Learning to love my husband through the Army curve balls has taught me to let go of my ideas of perfect and see the greater gift of God’s perfecting me: gentleness, forgiveness, and humility.

Sometimes growth brings growing pains, but I’ve learned so much about flexibility being a gift to my family and myself.

One thing I’ve learned is that my desire for order and cleanliness is often more about trying to control my life than good housekeeping. Having my house clean, plans made, and neat little budget gives me this feeling of having control over my life.

But it’s really an illusion . . .

Control is more than an illusion. It's a lie we use to avoid trusting God. Click To Tweet

…or more than an illusion: it’s a lie I use to avoid fully surrendering to God and accepting His plan for my life.

At any second the illusion can be shattered: the car breaks down, someone gets sick, the army moves my best friend.

I'm in a control recovery program. It's called Jesus. And I'm learning that control was really a temper tantrum about not wanting to trust God for my future.

All of my planning and preparation have value, but they aren’t a real source of security. Even a huge bank account could be wiped out by a national banking crisis. Even years of healthy eating won’t stop cancer. I never had real control over my life.

The weird thing is learning to lose control was a relief.

No one was expecting me to keep the world spinning. Even with all the practice I have being neurotically in charge, often the best I can manage is damage control and survival mode.

Frankly, I only looked like I had everything together when life was smooth sailing. The minute crisis struck, I would be shrill and harsh trying to keep everything together.

After a few years of hard heart work, I’m occasionally able to hurdle some speed bumps without face planting, but I’m still battle my desire for my happy little illusion of control.

But I had to learn that I can only control my reactions to what happens around me. And I am so glad I stopped taking responsibility for things I couldn’t control in the first place.

Are you in that hard place of struggling with an inner control freak?

It feels like you’re responsible for everything? When you miss something or hurt someone you beat yourself up? You expect perfection from everyone around you, but yourself most of all. You don’t give yourself grace and don’t know how to offer it well to others.

And you’re exhausted, emotionally and spiritually. God wants you to lay that burden down.

Matthew 11:28-30 ESV / Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I can’t explain how losing control is a lighter burden. For years I believed my life would dissolve into chaos if I stopped micromanaging, but it hasn’t. It’s better taught me to live.

I have a few beginner tips for losing (the need for) control:

  1. Spend time with God. He really IS in control. Knowing His voice in my head gives me direction and peace. Letting Him be the master of universe if pretty freeing. I can have more reasonable expectations for myself.
  2. Accept what you can control. Hint-hint, it’s mostly your reaction to the rest of what happens to you. Be gentle, be humble. Breathe. Very few things are emergencies even if our emotions suggest otherwise. It’s ok to wait to react. See #1.
  3. Make choices that please God: be a good steward of the money, time, children, and seasons of your life. You’ll be better able to deal with emergencies after wise decisions over time.

Losing control and having more ‘go with the flow’ abandon, accepting life’s roller coaster ride – isn’t Hallmark movie perfect. Now, I don’t get everything done. Christmas cards don’t get mailed on time. When you let your kids take over washing the dishes, they can chip the dishes (or leave the forks dirty).

But, I’m starting to be able to see that the real chaos was trusting in my human frailty and sinful nature, believing the lie of having control in the first place.

Now, my house is less organized, but my new, messy trust, flying into the Father’s arms is so darned beautiful.

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Growing Pains

Growing pains are a part of growing up, but we have to trust that what is coming is better than what we have.

Growing pains are a part of growing up, but we have to trust that what is coming is better than what we have.

Yesterday, my sweet little girl had her third very wiggly tooth. It was so wiggly that it moved when she talked and poked between her lips when she kissed me. Beyond wiggly.

But when Daddy grabbed his forceps to help it along, our joyful little girl turned into a puddle of tears.

This is loose tooth number three. She “knows” it only hurts for a second. She feels so much better when it is out, but couldn’t get over her fear of the pain.

Holy smokes. The hysteria. Screaming, crying, refusing to open her mouth to let us even look at it.

We had been letting it come out on its own; however, she was struggling to eat and complaining it hurt to bite down. Upon closer inspection, we could see the larger front tooth growing underneath it was almost all the way in. She couldn’t keep this old tooth any longer.

She was so terrified of the pain that she might feel, she was willing to live in the pain that she knew.

The goal was to remove the tooth, but not at the expense of the relationship. She has to know that she can trust us to help her handle a little bit of pain.

Brainstorm – Anbesol! I squirted the gel around the base of her tooth. As her mouth grew numb we tried again.

She squeezed my fingers and looked in my eyes as daddy popped her tooth out easy peasy. I don’t know if the Anbesol actually made a difference or just made her think it made a difference, but she was finally – peacefully, loose tooth-free.

Growing pains are a part of growing up, but we have to trust that what is coming is better than what we have.

As she made her tooth fairy preparations (an adorable note “i beliEve in tooth fairys” with a procedural diagram for clarity), I couldn’t get over the idea that her reaction: drama, tears, hysterics over this tooth that was causing her pain was so much like how we respond to God with our sinful pasts.

Are we so afraid to trust Him that we cling to the pain we know? #transformation #growingpains Click To Tweet

As we are transformed into new creations, pieces of our old selves start to die. Like her tooth, they start to feel not quite right, then get uncomfortable before they reach the point that they are almost completely ready to be thrown away, just hanging onto our lives by a tendril.

Sometimes in that moment, we cling most fiercely.

But God, I don’t want to let that go . . .

But God, what if . . .

Do I really need to end that friendship?

It’s just . . . it’s not THAT bad.


We fuss and cry and refuse, while our sweet Father stands over us, knowing that dead piece of our past is hurting us. He wants to take it away, not to hold us back, but to give us freedom.

He is changing us by degree, but only when we trust Him.

Proverbs 3:5 ESV   Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

She couldn’t understand how much trouble that dead tooth was causing. Even as it hurt her with every bite, she held on for dear life. But the second it was out, she was so relieved.

Like when I learn to let go of the things I know aren’t pleasing to God, aren’t refining me to be more like Christ. I pry my knuckles off their grip on me, then realize how much they’d been hurting me, dragging me away from Him.

I’ve learned that my own understanding asks ‘why should I let go?’

His understanding writes on my heart, ‘To stop letting it keep you from ME.’

Don’t let a fear of growing pains stop your transformation.

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Divorce him for the Dishes by the Sink?

Divorce him for dishes by the sink? He leaves his dirty dishes sometimes & doesn't pick up his underwear. He thinks dusting is a waste of time. But divorce?

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Divorce? He leaves dishes by the sink occasionally. Sometimes, he doesn’t pick up his dirty underwear and believes dusting is a waste of time. He rolls his eyes when I disinfect the kitchen. He gives it a lick and a polish when I would use bleach and a flamethrower.

And my personal pet peeve – If I give him a ‘to do’ list, my husband will find the one thing he’s been meaning to do that is NOT on my list, and do that.

These things can drive me crazy or hurt my feelings. Sometimes, I feel disrespected and ignored . . .

but divorce him?

Not even kind of.

Can I unpack this viral post written by a man whose wife was apparently driven to divorce by dishes by the sink? In the end he understood how he could have better loved his wife, but I was left wondering if she ever learned how to better love him?

He leaves dishes by the sink sometimes and doesn't pick up his dirty underwear. He thinks dusting is a waste of time. Should I divorce him for that?

I have had many days my heart was broken over something he said or did. I’ve said goodnight in a huff wondering how I could be married to this selfish man for the rest of my life. I’ve cried myself to sleep.

But truth really is often about perspective.

Those same nights, he went to bed defeated, wondering why he married me, feeling disrespected and unloved. He wondered if I could ever think he was good enough just the way he is, if I really loved him or just the man I wanted him to be?

Ladies, I get it.

I see those dishes and underwear on my ‘to do’ list that never gets done. I’m child rearing, blogging, homeschooling, homemaking, friendship building, small group leading, Bible reading, part-time working. I need three of me on our slowest days.

When he adds to my list, it is the mic-dropping-straw on the proverbial camel’s back.

But, I’m the one reading into those choices. Dirty dishes by the sink really say I’m too tired to do one more thing. The dirty underwear shoved into the corner screams it’s 3 a.m. and I haven’t had my coffee.

His Army job is long and hard, but he comes home to me everyday. He kisses me goodnight even when we’ve been snippy. He brushes our daughter’s hair and flies her around the house, even when she is getting too big, even on his bad shoulder.

I can choose to see it his way. If it only takes 4 seconds to move that dish to the sink, can’t I just do it? Even if I hate folding his stupid Army socks, better to be folding them than wearing them 16 hours a day.

Because he just wants my respect and love and to make me happy, even if he sometimes has no idea why things are important to me, even when I don’t really either, but really, really just like it my way.

I’ve learned that if I really don’t have the energy to wash the dishes by the sink, they’ll wait until one of us makes it a priority.

In fact, when I stop trying to keep every spinning plate spinning and some drop, he sees my need and picks up the slack. When instead of nagging, I just said, “I can’t, I’ve got nuthin’ left,” he’ll get out paper plates and frozen pizza.

Again, humility and broken realness win.

When I said, “I know it’s just a cup, but I work so hard to keep the house nice. I would feel so loved if you would just put it away.”

He replied, “I’ll try. But it’s just a cup. I’ll forget.” I said, “Thank you for trying. If you forget, it’s ok.”

Then he didn’t forget often because I made it about being a team against the chaos, not me versus him.

I am really saddened to see Christian women sharing this viral post because it doesn’t take a faith-based view of marriage at all.

I vowed for better or worse in a rose-colored fog, but that was the promise: for worse.

“WORSE” was this vague undefined something like a tragic accident that might happen to other people, but probably not to us. I didn’t picture dirty underwear, empty toilet paper rolls, arguments about dishes and countertops, parenting squabbles – the boring mundane worses that make marriage hard.

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I read the entire post, I know he was exaggerating to demonstrate how he hadn’t really respected her and his callousness pushed her further away. But oh, how I wish I could interject into every woman letting these little molehills become mountains.

Don’t let dishes by the sink destroy your marriage!

My marriage isn’t perfect, but we’ve come a long way since I stopped seeing everything from the world’s perspective. Marriage is part of the refining fire that makes us more like Christ.

Mark 8:34 ESV /  And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Deny myself. Deny the human parts of me that say, “I deserve.” Deny that I deserve anything except to serve God with all that I am everyday. With ALL that I am.

Jesus carried a cross. I can pick up dirty dishes by the sink. Real marriage takes grace. Click To Tweet

God gives me grace and forgiveness when I fall down. When I yell at the kids or gossip or ignore His directions. Over and over.

Forgiven people forgive people. We don’t say divorce.

It isn’t easy, but that means when I’m tired or sick, I try to do one more thing, take one extra second to think before I speak, to honor my husband by respecting what he does and thanking him for everything he gets right and the hearty attempts, and choosing carefully when, how, or IF I approach those things I wish were different.

Learning how to talk with him is a work in progress. We are learning a common vocabulary of patience and grace. And divorce isn’t in it.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness….” 2 Corinthians 12:9

I’ll be honest, sometimes the chaos wins these days, but happiness does too. The house is dustier but the laughter is louder. Because I quit seeing dishes by the sink as a failure of his love and just there waiting for one of us to clean them .  .  .  eventually.

Communication is a work in progress. We are learning a common vocabulary of patience and grace. Click To Tweet

There is a difference between ignoring dirty dishes and abuse. If you're being abused, get help.

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Bloom in Any Season

I was crying, running on vapors, trying to do it all myself. Why do I keep forgetting I didn't get this far alone? I need Him to bloom in any season.

Last Sunday, I held this beautiful rose in my hand as it bloomed defiantly in November. I heard God’s quiet whisper,

“Even this rose can bloom in any season.”

What wonderful encouragement! I have been truly relying on God during this difficult season in the Army, tired but coping.

And isn’t that when the bottom falls out? the minute we think we have it all together? the minute we try to do it ourselves .  .  .

God was encouraging me after the month we’ve had.

My husband has been gone 18 hour days, 6-7 days a week, most Army related but some hunting, and selfishly, I get tired of being ‘all the adults.‘ I was on vapors, holding on desperately for a break. When making frozen pizza seems overwhelming, I’ve hit rock bottom. I thought I had no more to give.

But God was also preparing & instructing me for the week to come.

Monday, the text message came, “Don’t expect me home.”

At all, for at least 72 hours, maybe a week. No warning, no planning ahead. Just gone. Not in war, not deployed. Yet, tiny heartbreaking nights that he just isn’t home.

I was crying, running on vapors, trying to do it all myself. Why do I keep forgetting I didn't get this far alone? I need Him to bloom in any season.

A piece of sensitive equipment (read expensive) went missing and the entire unit was put on lockdown. It wasn’t done appropriately. Soldiers were left with no food, denied necessary medications, while others were let walk to the convenience store or go home to tend to pets.

My husband was stressed and furious. If there was a way to make this situation more disastrous and less compassionate, they found it. Helplessly watching it unfold via text message was so incredibly difficult. Knowing how this would ripple through every inch of our next weeks, I could feel my anxiety building.

But I tried to push it down, jump those hurdles without breathing hard. We can do this! I’m not who I used to be. I’ve totally got this  . . .

. . . but the pressure built inside. I could feel God mentally tapping me on the shoulder, trying to get my attention.

“Even this rose can bloom in any season.”

But I didn’t want to bloom. I wanted to BE MAD. I mean had a good reason to lose it, right?

By day 3, I broke my #30DaysWithoutComplaint challenge. While I tried to be strong and calm, I ran out of steam. I cried. I complained, launching into the unfairness of it all, but I didn’t feel any better.

I was cooking  two separate, multi-step meals for a friend whose husband was having surgery, cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner for my house, making a week’s worth of meals for my husband, plus packing a suitcase, trying not to forget anything since we live 45 minutes from his training facility.

Meanwhile I was trying to parent, home-school, check in with family, fellowship with friends, deal with accidental Facebook drama, and take care of my personal needs, like eating. And deal with a 5-year-old who was having her own missing daddy breakdown. When I would look up from the chaos, all I could see was the dust, dog hair, and general filth and clutter taking over my house.

I was running out of steam because I was trying to do it all. I. Me. ME.

Ephesians 2:8 ESV  “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,”

Where was God in there? Yeah, I was giving Him a nod, keeping my exterior calm, but I wasn’t giving Him the anxiety in my heart, not asking Him to guide my emotions or attitude.

NOT MY OWN DOING. I didn’t change and grow through my own will, why can’t I remember this?

Why can’t I remember I will never outgrow needing Him?

I was trying to multi-task, poorly, trying to avoid burning down my house literally (I do have a nicely browned potholder now) and figuratively, not destroy months of work I’ve done living some big changes Christ is working in me.

And God whispered, you can bloom in ANY season when you live by faith. #BloominAnySeason Click To Tweet

Again seeing the rose in my mind, I heard God calling me to bloom in THIS hard season. I opened my bible app and let it start reading to me while I worked.

James 1:3 ESV For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

Just last week, I wrote about the beauty of our marriage through the testing we’ve survived, the way we’ve learned to rely on each other. So did I mean it?

When I wanted to cry, I said, God “let me put down my agenda for this week and pick up YOURS.”

My prayers changed from bring him home to ‘how can I be calm despite the storm, help me prioritize,  and be a blessing and encouragement to my husband and friends.’

Why can't I remember I will never outgrow needing Him? Can't do this life on my own. #BloominAnySeason Click To Tweet

It was draining and emotional, but I managed to focus on one moment at a time and to be a blessing when my husband finally came home frustrated and exhausted.

Instead of demanding he talk, I let him work through his feelings. When he was sharp, I took a deep breath instead of firing back. I offered whatever support he needed and let him set the tone for the weekend, so he would have the fortitude to face the new week, including a 24 hour duty on Thanksgiving.

One way I learned to bloom in any season was to realize that sometimes messy can be beautiful because the house doesn’t get our attention – when we give it to people instead.

We are in the last years of his career, but the constant trials of Army life are surrounding us. We can focus on the difficulties or know that we’re being shaped and pruned to face every struggle, beautifully able to bloom in any season.