I’ll Try This Instead

It’s November 1st. Again.

That means it’s the beginning of NaNoWriMo. Again.

I had good intentions of actually giving it a go. Again.

I came up with nothing, and chickened out. Again.

The truth is, I’ve been in a pretty low place for the last few months. My inspiration flew out the window right along with my motivation, and, as is evidenced by the date of my last post, I’ve written absolutely nothing for a very long time. But writing is a curious little creature. While I use my sadness as an excuse for not doing it, it’s the very thing that usually helps drag me out of the depths and back into my happy place. Quite the conundrum.

The thing about NaNoWriMo, however, is that it presents massive opportunity for failure. Failure, as we all know, is not something I handle well, and is definitely not what I need at the moment. So forget that.

What I can do, or at least try to do, is blog every day for the month of November. I may fail at this, too, but I feel like my chances are better.


I’ll try this instead.

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The things you need to know…that no one will tell you.

In quite possibly the coolest news of the year, my niece is having a baby! A baby BOY! I’m so excited that she’s having a baby, but I’m ecstatic that she’s having a boy. Baby boys are a rare thing in our immediate family, and I had two of them. Since my mom had two girls, and my sister had two girls, there were certain things that no one prepared me for, so I had to learn them the hard way. The kinds of things that don’t show up in parenting books. The things they don’t even talk about on the all-knowing baby sites across the internet.

So, my dearest Tiff, since you’re halfway across the country and I can’t be there to warn you of these things in person, this list is my gift to you.

  • At the hospital, they’re going to hand you a sweet, contented little bundle of joy, perfectly swaddled, (in a way you will never be able to replicate at home, by the way, no matter how hard you try. Don’t feel stupid. Nobody does it as well as a nurse who has done it for 20 years), and happy to sleep or just stare at the lights. Then, a day or two later, they’ll take him away for his “surgery” and he’ll return as a screaming banshee. I promise it won’t last long, and it wasn’t a horrible decision.
  • After that “surgery”? Things will look gross inside that diaper. Don’t call the doctor 100 times. I promise it will heal properly and he’s not going to be grotesquely deformed in a way that will prevent him from ever finding a woman.
  • One day, when he’s healed and happy, you’ll go to change his tiny little diaper and be greeted by the fact that, yes, a 2-week-old wiener can stand at attention. You’ll be shocked and turn 1,000 shades of red. Daddy will be proud. (I don’t know why. I can’t explain it either. It’s a man thing we women can’t understand).
  • Everyone warns you about covering “it” up when you open his diaper to keep from getting pee in your face. No one tells you that when you open his diaper and “it” is standing at attention, your kid will pee…in his own face. (This is where I remind you that urine is sterile, and he’s not going to contract some flesh eating bacteria because he peed on his own face).
  • After you have a baby, all that glorious thick hair you’ve acquired over the past 9 months will start to fall out. By the handful. No big deal, you won’t end up bald. But this means you’ll be shedding like a sheep dog in the desert. No matter where you go or what you do, you’ll be leaving hair behind. That includes when you’re changing diapers. Though in hindsight it’s obvious, what no one points out is that a single strand of hair left in a diaper can wrap itself around the family jewels in a matter of minutes and cause serious problems for your little man. Inspect those diapers before you close them up. (Trust me, it’s better to hear it from your aunt than from the doctor who is scolding you when she discovers it during a check-up. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…)
  • There is some invisible force that draws a boy’s hands to his willy as soon as you set it free. I’d tell you this goes away, but you and I both know they never outgrow that.

And for future reference:

  • Boys stink. Boys stink really really bad. Your friends’ daughters will play in the park for hours and come home smelling like roses. Your son will step outside for 5 minutes and come back in smelling like a sweaty pair of socks. There’s no explanation for it. There’s no way to avoid it. Just pray that the little guy loves taking a bath.
  • Fuzzy bath robes may seem like a great idea when they get older. You know, something warm and snuggly to keep them from dripping water all over your floors. But fuzzy bathrobes + no underoos = wieners pointing at the ceiling, uncontrollable fits of giggles and a never ending stream of bathroom jokes. Unless you’re ready to explain some things earlier than you had planned, avoid the fuzzy robes at all cost.
  • Most importantly, no one really wants to admit it, but boys are way cooler than girls. They’ll play with dirt instead of expensive Barbie dolls. They’ll love animals and Diego instead of a talking map and Dora, with her complete inability to use her “inside voice”. They are born with an involuntary love of Star Wars instead of Disney princesses. And finally, the number one greatest thing about boys? The majority of the time, totally drama free.

There will be plenty of other surprises to discover on your own, and you’re going to love every minute of it. I love you, Tiffers! Can’t wait to meet your little guy!

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What are these “goals” of which you speak?

Is it really already January 18th? I’m not sure what happened to the first half of the month. Heck, I’m not even sure what happened to October through December for that matter. I’m sure I was busy. Doing what, I’m not sure. Clearly it wasn’t blogging.

With January 1st came the usual flood of resolution references everywhere I turned. I’m not sure how I feel about resolutions. I do feel like the first of the year is a great time for a fresh start, and I’m usually more successful with something if I start then, but you know me and my unreasonable fear of failure. Making resolutions seems like a sure-fire way to set myself up to fail miserably. You can understand my apprehension here.

On the other hand, a person has to have some direction, some motivation to make this year better than the last, something to work toward. So this year, I’m finally taking the advice of some of the most successful people I know, and I’m setting goals. Not just setting them, I’m putting them in writing. Sure, I may not reach every one of them, but if I’m at least a step closer to each of them at the end of the year, I’m already better off than I was before I started.

So without further ado, my goals for 2012:

  • Blog more consistently. See the date of my last post. This needs no further explanation.
  • Lose 100lbs. Yes, that number is astronomical. Yes, it’s unlikely I’ll reach that in a year. But I’ve done it once, and I believe I can do it again. As long as I’m trying, I’ll be healthier than I am now, and that’s really what it’s all about.
  • Finish my book. I wrote a children’s book over two years ago. I am so happy with the story itself, and I have grand visions of the illustrations, but I’ve been afraid to start drawing, in case I can’t do it well enough. It’s time to buck up and do it anyway.
  • Decide what I really want to be when I grow up, and promote myself.think I know what it is I’d like to do, but I absolutely have to find the confidence to put myself out there and see how far I can take it.
  • Read the Bible in one year. This should say finish the Bible in one year, because I’ve started it three times and failed every year.
  • Use my backbone. I’ve only recently developed one, and I’m still learning to use it, but I’m determined to stick up for myself and my family without the fear of what others will think.
  • Focus on the friends I have and let go of the ones I’ve lost. Pretty self-explanatory. It’s just time to move on and stop dwelling on the past. It’s better to surround yourself with positive people anyway, and I don’t like the way those others make me feel.

I don’t know where this list will take me, but I’m going to do my best. I’ll take all the prayer and encouragement I can get along the way!

What are some of your goals for 2012? I can’t be the only one with this much to work on. If I am, please don’t let me in on it. 😉

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Elmo Loves Cupcakes!

I decorated my first cake about 12 years ago. It was a Scooby Doo cake for The Canadian, made from a Wilton character pan. You know, the kind where you decorate the whole cake with eleventy billion tiny piped stars? It turned out really well, it actually looked like Scooby, and my obsession with cake decorating began.

I started decorating so I could make my own family’s cakes. I wanted to be able make my kids really awesome cakes so they wouldn’t be stuck with the nasty grocery store cakes that taste like chemicals and food coloring. And I did that. I can pull off just about any theme those little guys throw at me each year, and they are usually satisfied.

But somewhere along the way, I started taking orders and the perfectionist in me went off the deep end because I stressed so much over every last detail, terrified I would mess up on someone else’s cake. I forgot it was supposed to be fun, and it became a chore I muddled through instead of a hobby I enjoyed.

So this weekend, I did my last cake order. It just happened to be in the form of cupcakes. Elmo cupcakes to be exact. Nothing like a beloved character that everyone in the world recognizes to put my sculpting skills to the test! But it was a fun challenge and I actually enjoyed doing it.

For my fellow decorators out there, Elmo and the scalloped red discs under the numbers are modeling chocolate, the rest of the details are fondant and they all sit atop classic vanilla buttercream.

And now, in honor of my last order, lots and lots of pictures! Enjoy!

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The Search

I’m sitting in my car outside my boys’ school. I’m 30 minutes early to pick them up. I’m here early most days, and more often than not, it’s because I’m working. I work 100% faster during these 30 minutes than I do at any other time of the day, simply because there’s nothing else to distract me.

But today, I have no work, I have no phone calls to make, I have nothing I can do here from the car. No, today I’m here early because it’s raining. There’s a chill in the air, the sky is a beautiful shade of gray, and there is a steady spattering of tiny raindrops on my windshield. I’m here because I can sit in the quiet peacefulness of my car and be refreshed by the break from the painfully persistent heat that we’ve had to muddle through, day after day after day, for the past three months.

I think I’ve needed to be refreshed for a good long while now, but not because of the heat. I’ve fallen into the deepest rut, I find myself doing the same things every day, making the same mistakes, mucking through things just to get them out of the way.

Somewhere along the way I lost my joy, and no matter how hard I look, I can’t seem to find it.

I’ve tried to go back and pick up the things I used to enjoy. I used to be crafty. I used to enjoy making things, coming up with craft projects for the kids at church, coming up with new projects simply to entertain myself. My inspiration has run dry.

I used to scrapbook. I loved the creativity, the brainstorming of ideas, the sketching, the photos, all of it. It was fun in theory, but when I tried to make the ideas come to life on paper I was so anal about making it perfect that I missed the fun that was supposed to be part of the process.

I used to love making cakes. I loved the challenge of pushing my abilities to see what I could create. I loved sculpting, I loved baking, I loved seeing the look on someone’s face when the cake I delivered far exceeded their expectations. But I was so terrified of disappointing them, so worried I’d make a mistake that I couldn’t correct, that the stress ate me up inside from the time I took the order until the moment I delivered the finished product. The happiness it used to bring me is hard to even recollect.

Somewhere along the way I lost my joy, and no amount of retracing my steps is going to bring it back.

I realize now that I can’t go back. I can’t find my joy in the places it used to be because it isn’t there to be found. It isn’t in the hobbies I did just for me, and it most certainly is not in the things I continued to do to please other people.

I assume my joy will be found when I let the old things wash away, allow myself to slow down, be still and be refreshed to start again. Perhaps my joy will come when I discover my gifts and start putting them to use. Maybe my joy will only come when I finally find my purpose and my calling. The problem is that I’m 33 years old and I haven’t found it yet, I haven’t even caught a glimpse of it, and I’m so afraid that I’m looking for something that isn’t out there to be found.

I can’t be the only one who feels this way. I know there are others out there who struggle with this and just won’t say it out loud.  But I don’t believe God creates anyone without a purpose. I refuse to believe it. The day I allow myself to believe that is the day I might as well give up.

I’m not giving up. I’m going to keep looking. I may not be sure of the outcome, but I intend to enjoy the search.

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That Monkey Had My Answer

This is another post I wrote for Testify several months ago. I find myself right back in this state of mind today, so I thought it would be a good time to repost it. Sometimes I wonder if this is a lesson I’ll have to learn over and over again for the rest of my life, or if I’ll ever really get it and learn to live like I believe it.


I’m just going to be totally honest with you.  Right now it’s 11pm and I’ve been sitting in front of this computer for 2 hours trying to come up with something to write.  I have a lot on my mind these days.  Many people I love are struggling with big things right now, and whether it’s finances, grief, or illnesses, there is really nothing I can do to make it better.  My mind just swirls with all of the problems, all of the worst case scenarios, and the desperation of wanting to help with things that are totally beyond my control.

And then there’s the everyday…stuff.  What I need to write about, the work I need to get done, the lunches I need to pack, the homework I need to help with, and the baseball game we need to get to on time.

There’s never a quiet moment in my head anymore.  It’s just a never-ending stream of noise.  I put on a good show, I keep a smile on my face, but I can’t possibly handle it all on my own, and more and more I find myself feeling hopeless.

As I sat here procrastinating on this post this evening, I was glancing through the pictures from my day at the zoo this week with my 6yo and his class.  It was a great day and we took a lot of silly pictures, but as I clicked through them, this one really grabbed me.

I know it’s just a monkey sitting on a hill, but he looks exactly how I feel.  Everyone expects the monkey to be having fun, putting on a show and making the people laugh.  And while his buddies are doing just that all around him, he just sits in silence, looking as though he’s deep in thought, and refusing to play the part anymore.

As silly as it sounds, it brought tears to my eyes when I realized that monkey had my answer.  Part of me envied him being able to just sit quietly and be alone, with nothing expected of him.  His silence looked so peaceful.

So I started reading, searching for scriptures about silence, rest, and peace.  And the very first one that jumped out at me was Psalm 62:5, “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.”

I realize now that the constant noise in my head is because I’m trying to solve everyone’s problems on my own, and getting angry when the solutions don’t come fast enough or on my terms.  The outcome of that can only be the hopelessness that I have felt so often this past year.  I desperately need to learn to wait quietly before God, because my hope can only be found in him.

My prayer for all of us this week is that, no matter our circumstances, we will find our rest and our hope in Him.

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One Mile

I have a confession. I find it very difficult to write when I feel like I’m failing. So, the date of my last post should be a good indication of how I’ve been feeling lately. I feel like I have lost all control of my health. Even though I know how to lose weight, I know what works, and I know what I am capable of, I feel like I get fatter every day. I have a good week, I lose a couple pounds, I follow it up with a bad week and gain them back, and repeat the same cycle over and over and over again. As a result, I’m not gaining any ground so I get more and more discouraged and it gets harder and harder to try.

The distance between me and my ideal weight is enough to make me want to crawl in a hole and die. It’s so overwhelming that it seems impossible. But a friend, the one and only Patrick Allmond, has asked me more than once over the past couple of weeks what my fitness goals are. At first it was what my plan was for exercise last week. This week it was a suggestion to blog my goals and revisit them at the end of the week. Don’t tell him, but he has really had my wheels turning ever since that first question, and I have come to a very important conclusion.

I have no attainable goals.

That doesn’t mean that my ultimate weight loss goal isn’t attainable at all, but it isn’t attainable right now. What I need are smaller goals, reasonable goals that I can meet and feel as though I’m accomplishing things that are leading me in the right direction, little things that, in the end, will culminate in me reaching that ultimate goal that seems so unreachable now.

Exercise? I had no plan. I haven’t exercised in months. Mostly because I am not able to walk the brisk three miles I could when I was at my lowest weight. I don’t want to be reminded of my failure. Fitness goals? Duh. To lose another 100lbs. That’s what I did the last time I succeeded at this, so I haven’t allowed myself to see any point in between.

No wonder I keep blowing this.

Patrick already had my thoughts swirling, when my accountability partner (Thank God for her!) said to me today that she didn’t want to obsess over past mistakes or the fact that she has so far to go, or that she’s not as far along as she’d hoped to be at this point. I realized that is precisely what I’m doing, and it’s the very thing that’s keeping me from moving on. Everyone in this town watched me walk my way to a 110lb weight loss just a few years ago. I’ve been so ashamed about gaining it all back that I didn’t want to walk again and let them see how fat I am. The Weight Watchers leaders I had back then watched me lose that weight in exactly one year, with only one minor gain during that entire process. I quit walking into those meetings as soon as I gained a few pounds because I was embarrassed for them to see I had failed. I have literally gone into hiding because of my own shame, and, in turn, have actually made the whole situation worse.

I can’t do that anymore. So today, I started fresh. It doesn’t matter that I have lost and regained the same pounds 5 times, it only matters that I am on a journey to lose them again. It doesn’t matter that everyone in town who sees me walk down their street may be inside discussing how sad it is that I’ve let myself go again, it only matters that I am out there walking.

It doesn’t matter that I can’t power through a quick three miles. What matters is the one mile I did power through today. Because it’s one more mile than I conquered yesterday, and it’s one mile in the right direction.

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The Ones That Stick With You

(Totally unrelated photo, I just needed something to get my mind off this heat)

Sunday was business as usual this week. We rolled out of bed and managed to have the whole family dressed and somewhat conscious in time for our regular 8:30 experience (that’s “service” for all of you non-Lifechurchers). The message was on community, doing life together, surrounding yourself with the right people, etc. Sounds great, in theory.

Something has been eating at me for a while now, and up until this point I have been able to push it aside. But there was a part of the message this week that focused on friends who’ll be with you “heart and soul”, through thick and thin, good times and bad. That did it.

I recently noticed I had lost a couple of friends from my twitter followers, friends that I had met in person several times, friends that had, perhaps unknowingly, played an integral part in improving my self confidence and making me feel like I not only belonged, but was actually wanted as a part of a great group of people. I asked another friend about it, and the explanation I got for their sudden disconnect was that I had become a Debbie Downer and had one too many negative tweets of late.

I was thankful for her honesty, but it hurt me to the core. If you know me at all, or even if you don’t, it takes all of five minutes to figure out that I am a happy person. I am never very serious, I see the humor in everything and I enjoy laughing and making other people laugh. It takes a lot to knock me low enough to let people see that I’m hurting.

But in the past year, my mom has been diagnosed with breast cancer and gone through all the necessary treatments it takes to beat it, on top of that she basically went blind for several months, our family lost two of the most incredible people I have ever been blessed to know, and we had a school year full of bullying, confrontation, and frustration.

It was just more than I could handle, and my “all happy all the time” facade came crumbling down. I guess that was enough to send people running in the other direction. I lost numerous friends in the process, and not just online.

Here’s the thing about me. When I finally reach a low enough point that I am willing to let you see my hurt, it also means that I am willing to let you in. It means I need your help, I need a shoulder to cry on, I need to know it’s okay to be real and that it won’t scare you away. But i’m supposed to be the entertainer, the one who cheers everyone else up. Thats what most people want me around for, and if I can’t be that person, they’d prefer I not be there at all. I don’t open up to people for that very reason.

There is a silver lining, though. There usually is if you look hard enough. In this case, now that I am settling back into my happy place, I am left with those friends who truly care about me. I know who I can be real with, I know who won’t go running when I let them see me cry or on those rare occasions when I get down and depressed about life in general. Those are the kinds of friends that will stick with you for a lifetime. They are also the ones you may take for granted unless life deals you some trials and reveals those people for the irreplaceable treasures they really are.

For that I am thankful. Not for having to go through the pain of this past year, but for what it has taught me, and the friends it has brought me closer to. And above all else, I hope that it has taught me to be that kind of friend when someone needs me, through thick and thin, high and low, “heart and soul”.

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Frustration and the Fat Frog

I guess this house is some kind of critter magnet, because they just keep showing up in my back yard. The latest visitor, however, was someone I could really relate to.

That, my friends, is the fattest toad I think I have ever seen.

Also? That is pretty much how I feel every morning when I look in the mirror.

Now before you start thinking this is some pity party where I want you to leave comments telling me a) I’m not fat, b) I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, or c) I’m beautiful “on the inside”, let me assure you I don’t want to hear any of those things. Ever. Those are the ultimate “yes, honey, you’re fat but I don’t want to hurt your feelings” remarks and they don’t really serve any positive purpose. Whether or not I’m fat is not the issue here. If I didn’t know it before, I knew it the day my 4-year-old smacked me on the rear and said, “Hey mama, why’s it so BIG back here?!” (You know you really love someone when they say something like that and still live to see another day.)

The issue, rather, is that I am tired. Tired of being the “funny fat” girl, yes, but mostly just tired of dealing with it. I’m tired of having to obsess over every calorie I put in my mouth, tired of feeling guilty for eating what I want, tired of shopping for fat clothes, and tired of being ashamed of the way I look and hiding away in my house. I’m tired of brats at school telling my son how fat his mom is, tired of “friends” who used to invite me to dinner when I was skinny, but are ashamed to be seen with me now.

I’m tired of it being the main focus of my entire life. Every.single.day.

But guess what? It doesn’t matter if I’m tired of it. It’s my reality. And it’s not going to take care of itself. If I ever want to be a skinnier healthier mom, I have to obsess over it. Every bite of food I put in my mouth matters. Every minute spent exercising, or not, matters.  Every choice, every minute, every day matters.

I think the hardest part of this, for me, is the fact that it takes time. I’m a procrastinator, I work well under pressure and I like things I can complete at the last minute. But, try as I might, I can’t shed half my body weight overnight. Oh I’ve tried those things that promise to make you lose it fast, but I just ended up very sick…and still fat. The cold, hard, truth is that I have to work on this daily and it’s going to take a lot of time. And it will never be something I “complete”, because I’ll have to work at it for the rest of my life.

Maybe you can relate to my weight-loss struggle. Maybe you’re a size zero who eats a Big Mac for lunch every day and can’t understand it at all. But the truth of the matter is, we can all relate to the struggle of having to work at something longer than we want, having to face difficult choices on a daily basis, and having to learn to love where we are, at any given moment, while we work toward a painfully distant goal. Maybe you’re overcoming an addiction, making sacrifices to get out of debt, saving for your first home, or working on a degree to better yourself or your family. None of it happens overnight, and none of it comes easily. The best things in life rarely do.

What matters is that we continue to work at it. Even when we’re tired of it. Even those mornings when you wake up and want to forget it all and give up. Even when it feels like you will never.ever.ever reach your goal. We have to keep trying for it, one choice at a time, one step at a time, no matter how tiny the steps. As the saying goes, you’re either moving forward or sliding back. I, for one, want to keep moving forward.

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A Promise Out Of Context

Repeat alert! Today’s post is another of my posts from Testify. I think for most of you, it will be the first time you are reading it. If not, it’s something we all need to be reminded of from time to time. 



When you’re 8 years old, there are few things more exciting than getting a new pair of shoes.  I remember being so anxious to get home from the shoe store so I could rip them out of the box and take them for a test run.  I’d make the whole family stand there and watch as I raced across the yard, certain that I was flying faster than ever before.

Now, I have an 8-year-old son of my own, and this weekend we bought him a new pair of shoes.  They aren’t just any old pair of tennis shoes, they are Vibram Fivefingers.  A “goofy looking pair of shoes,” as The Canadian puts it, that have holes for your toes just like a glove has for fingers.  The idea is that they mimic going barefoot while protecting your foot the way a normal shoe would.  They are certainly different, and they come with a lot of claims about their “barefoot technology”.  My 8-year-old is one for reading every detail about anything he comes across, and he latched onto those claims, just as he does with every informercial he sees.  He was excited, so I wasn’t about to burst his bubble.

The problem came when he went to school and began telling his friends about all the amazing things his shoes could do.  He got more excited and his stories got bigger, until he had convinced himself those shoes would make him run faster.  Inevitably, one of his friends finally told him, “You’re just as slow as you were yesterday.”  He was angry and frustrated when he got home, insisting that the shoe box said those shoes would make him faster.  It was a claim which, of course, the good people at Vibram never made, but he had convinced himself that it was real and he was expecting the shoes to live up to that expectation.

You can chalk it up to him being a child, but the truth is, there is a nonexistent claim that I hear adults make all the time.  Adult Christians are the worst offenders, and if you look hard enough on twitter or Facebook you’ll find at least one example of it daily.  It’s my biggest pet peeve, and I cringe every single time I hear someone say it.  The claim?  “Just remember, God will never give you more than you can handle.”

It’s the go-to line most people use to comfort someone in the midst of crisis or tragedy, when we have no way to make it better, and we just want to give that person a ray of hope.  The intentions are good, but as great as it sounds, that is a promise God just never made.

It most likely stems from the promise He give us in I Corinthians 10:13 where it says, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”  But we have taken that promise out of context and changed it in such a way that it provides false hope.

The truth is, God will absolutely give us more than we can bear.  We have a tendency to think we can handle life on our own, and there will be times when God allows the trials to pile up until we are forced to admit we’re in over our heads and hand it all over to him, to lean on him and let him carry our burden while he brings us through it.  By telling people anything else, we are causing them to expect something from Christ that He just never claimed He’d do, much like my son expected those shoes to live up to a claim their creators never made.  We’re setting them up for anger and frustration with the one source that can provide them peace and comfort.

We are all probably guilty of using that line at some point in our lives, but the best thing we can tell someone in pain is the truth.  While it may not be pleasant to hear that things might, in fact, get worse before they get better, teaching someone to lean on the Lord while they go through the worst of it is the greatest gift we can give.

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