Kitchen Corners and Unlabeled Spices

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6

I have a secret that I am going to share.  Until my kitchen flooring was recently replaced, once a week, I would get down on my hands and knees with a bucket of hot, soapy water and scrub my dingy, twenty-year-old linoleum.  Three buckets later, my floor would be clean, except one corner.  Out of steam, I would grab my mop and quickly finish that corner, recognizing the job was not perfect.  The following week, I would start cleaning my floor in that corner, alternating the unfinished corner on a regular basis.  Some would say this was lazy, while others might just laugh at my honesty.  I share this story to make a point: my corner is a reminder that it’s okay to be imperfect!

To be fair, I am not a perfectionist by nature.  It doesn’t bother me if my lines are crooked, my stamp is off center, or my pillows are not fluffed.  Still, I have struggled with wanting to have a spotless house, a comprehensive home education schedule, and well-balanced meal plans!  In essence, I have struggled with trying to be super at everything I do.  This need to feel accomplished has put undue pressure on me, my family, and those I lead!

I understand we should always do our best.  I am not advocating letting your house go completely to the dark side, or to eat Chick-Fil-A at every meal!  I think we can find a balance between being a super woman and just letting it all go.  I have found balance in my life by three simple principles: recognize your season of life, prioritize what is important, and let go of unrealistic expectations.  Kendra Adachi, author of The Lazy Genius Way, says it best, “Be a genius about the things that matter, and lazy about the things that don’t.”

Yes, this is a real picture of my spice cabinet.

God gave us the seasons to help illustrate some principles in our lives.  Birds don’t build nests at the end of fall, and squirrels don’t gather nuts in the middle of summer.  In the natural world, each season has its blessings and disappointments.  I love summer, but with warm evening walks also come the not-so-occasional mosquito.  We need to apply these seasonal principles to our lives as well.  When I was in the season of raising toddlers, I cooked simple dishes with ample leftovers.  This way, during their nap time, I was not spending all my “free” time prepping for dinner.  Instead, I used that time to read an occasional book or close my eyes for a much-needed nap.

In some seasons, you need to show yourself grace.  I loved planning theme-based birthday parties for my children from “Knights of the Round Table” to “Candy Land”.  One year, I was struggling with a major RA flare with no energy to put together my son’s 8th birthday party.  This was a season where grace was needed to accept that it was necessary to simplify his birthday plans.  We opted for a roller-skating rink party with a store brought cake.  My son had a great time celebrating with his friends, not missing the elaborate themed party.

Even within seasons, you need to learn to prioritize what is important.  Right now, God is leading me to finish my book.  Therefore, my husband has taken over some of the household responsibilities, including making some meals.  I have also decided that having elaborate meals on a regular basis is not going to happen.  Instead, I plan easier menus because I care more about finishing my book than about making Harissa Chicken!

I think it is important to regularly examine my priorities because they can change, over time.  Last summer, we knew that we wanted to do more hiking and traveling.  As much as we loved the fresh tomatoes from our small garden, it was no longer a priority in our life.  Instead, we purchased our tomatoes from local farmers, giving us the freedom to hike more often while still being able to enjoy farm-gown tomatoes!

Finally, I have learned to let go of unrealistic expectations, instead choosing to invest in what is important to me.  Both my daughter and daughter-in-law love organizing and finding clever storage solutions.  They even have their own label makers!  On the other hand, I love the “illusion” of organization, but find myself always skipping those aisles at TJ MAXX.  I put things in particular spots but making everything look like Martha Stewart’s pantry is not important to me.  Instead, my spice baskets have different size bottles spilling out the top, sometimes labeled and sometimes not.  If my Pinterest boards are an indication of what I care about, it has never occurred to me to create a board on home organization!  What follows next is that I should not spend lots of time and energy trying to create systems of organization for me.  It is just not that important, so I will continue to play the game of guessing my herbs by their smell, unless I can induce my family to make labels for me!

I know I am not alone in the pressure of being a super-accomplished woman.  In the past few weeks, I have had three different conversations with women expressing angst by saying, “I should be doing ______” but finding it difficult to fit that desire into their already busy lives.  Instead of trying to squeeze more into our lives, we would be better served by asking ourselves, what season am I in, what are my priorities right now, and what do I really need to let go?  Answering these questions will give us more clarity in what we should be doing, and what we should not be doing!  Maybe that means tonight is Chick-Fil-A night, or maybe it means you perfect your lasagna-making skills.  And maybe you just get off your hands and knees and simply mop your kitchen floor!


“O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted:you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.” Psalm 10:17-18 ESV

In October of 2017, the #MeToo movement was making headlines.  Women everywhere were showing solidarity with one another in response to systemic sexual harassment and abuse throughout society.  This simple hashtag, along with criminal investigations, finally ended the reign of terror of some powerful men across many industries, including Hollywood, the USA Gymnastics organization, news media outlets, and political circles.  Decades of sexual abuse and harassment implicated men like Bill Cosby, Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, and Bill O’Reilly.  These men have been accused, and in some cases convicted, of assault, abuse, and harassment of countless women.  Yet, they were able to silence victims because of their positions of power and influence.

I read Rachel Denhollander’s harrowing account of sexual assault by convicted offender Larry Nasser in her book What is a Girl Worth?  It chronicles her desire to be a gymnast and how an injury provided the opportunity for Nasser, an Olympic doctor, to assault her right in his office.  This assault continued for a few visits, until Rachel ended the supposed “treatment”.  Shamed and humiliated, like most victims, Rachel kept her story silent for years.  Over a decade later, Rachel finally found the strength to confront him, paving the way for other victims to come forth, and eventually bring him to trial.  At his sentencing hearing, more than 160 victims read impact statements to the judge.

In addition to these organizations and industries, sexual abuse and harassment have impacted the Christian community as well.  Within the past two years, headlines have reported major mega church leaders forced to resign, not only for infidelity, but also for sexual abuse and harassment.  The latest headline implicates Ravi Zacharias, one of the most well-respected apologists of the 21st century, with years of sexual misconduct.  Just this past summer the Christian community mourned his death with tributes made by the likes of Vice President Michael Pence and Dr. James Dobson.  Yet, within a few months, his organization appointed an independent investigation into allegations by several women.  Last month, the results of the investigation lent credence to the accounts of many women claiming sexual abuse by Ravi Zacharias.  This man’s double life shocked the Christian world!

The part of all these stories that strikes me is how the perpetrators were able to silence their victims through their powerful positions.  Even though in most cases there were whisperings of questionable activity surrounding the perpetrator, through slander and fear, they were able to shut down any opposition that arose.  In the case of Ravi Zacharias, he destroyed one woman’s reputation and settled out of court with an iron clad non-disclosure agreement to keep her case sealed.  I can only speculate as to why she signed the agreement, but my best guess is that it was her only avenue of some sort of justice.

I find these situations troubling and have been wrestling with how to respond.  It is easy to look at things and come to obvious conclusions such as “there should be more oversight”, or to shrug your shoulders in disbelief at how this could have happened.  But in the case of Zacharias, who always had a personal assistant in attendance, oversight is just not the answer.  Obviously, complete disbelief and moving on as if there is nothing we can personally do is also not the answer.

I want to share a few thoughts as I continue to process my opinions on these cases.  First, I think it is important that I share my own story of abuse.  By no means do I think this is the case for every woman, or man, who has been raped, assaulted, abused, or harassed, but I have reached a place in my healing journey where I feel safe and confident in my ability to be vulnerable in front of others.  I think sharing my story, although it is different from others, helps remove some of the shame and isolation that other victims feel.

Second, I need to help create communities that are open and willing to address hard issues.  In a lot of these cases, there were people inside the organizations that questioned some of the activities going on but were later shut out for voicing their concerns.  This attitude always indicates an unhealthy organization.  For an organization to be healthy, the environment needs be open, with all leaders and members humble enough to hear criticism and concerns.  This means I need to posture myself with humility.

Third, I need to have compassion for all victims involved, including the perpetrator’s family.  One of my favorite authors recently wrote a response about the allegations against her father, the senior pastor of a mega church.  She apologized for not responding earlier, but also indicated that she was experiencing her own trauma in trying to process the disconnect between the father she knew and the man that abused other women.  My heart went out to her, and I realized at that moment that all these men had families who have also experienced this same trauma.  I do not think I have ever actively chosen to have compassion for these families.

Finally, I recognize that in our judicial system, all people are innocent until proven guilty.  I am in no way advocating that we change that fundamental principle.  At the same time, we must be careful not to dismiss these claims with the narrative that “some women bring false accusations”.  This attitude hinders victims from feeling safe and validated.  There is a balance and we just need to work on finding it.

I know that this is not typical theme for my blog.  Although I have purposed not to be another voice spouting out views on hot trendy issues, I believe this response fits into my blog’s mission.  It is important that I grow in aligning myself with God’s way of thinking!  Often in scripture, God expresses the importance of taking care of those who are oppressed.  The systemic abuse in some Christian circles is a form of oppression that should not only concern me but spur me to action!

Community and Dew of Mount Herman

“Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the the mountains of Zion For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.” Psalms 133: 1,3

Nine months before Covid-19 hit, my daughter advised me to consider ordering my groceries online.  Her reasons were valid: it would free up my Saturdays and, at the time, our local grocery store was offering some financial incentives.  After picking up my first order, I was hooked, loving the convenience of it.  Later, a well-meaning relative remarked, “What does it mean when people can’t even take the time to shop for their own groceries?”  I sheepishly acknowledged that I ordered groceries and tried to explain my reasoning, but to no avail.

My relative’s slightly judgmental remarks were no different than what I have done on a larger scale.  As a single woman, I judged others on how they were wasting their time on frivolous activities.  As a newlywed, I felt superior to other wives when they criticized their husbands.  As a new mother, I looked down on how others parented.  As a homeschooling mom, I judged others by how they educated their child.  And as a Christian, I evaluated others on their Christian journey.  I judged in a way that, from the outside, it might have remained undetected, but inside, it was an ugly, snarly attitude that crept out with phrases like “I would never”, “if only they would get some perspective”, or “they will regret their choices.”  I justified my attitude because I had put principles above compassion.  This attitude continued for years, until God revealed to me my sinfulness, and allowed situations to humble me, bringing me to repentance.

Besides being the judge, I, too, have been judged unfairly.  I was judged as being a lazy, undisciplined person because of my obesity.  As I lost weight, I was judged as being vain and self-involved.  My motives have been questioned by other women, and my visible failures defined my value in some settings.  These “judgmental” attitudes stole my joy, pushed my fear buttons, and hindered me from being the woman God intended me to be!

Mount Herman in Israel

When I pondered what issues to write for Women’s History Month, hot button topics like self-image and gender discrimination came to mind.  Despite the importance of these issues and the need for discussion, I kept going back to the issue of community and what prevents it.  One of the conclusions I have drawn is that judgmental attitudes, whether we are the givers or receivers, hinders community.  In addition, these judgmental attitudes are a prevailing problem among women.  We judge other women and ourselves by impossible standards.  These judgements can be cloaked in subtle phrases like the ones I used, posts on social media outlets, or, worse yet, how we include or exclude others from our lives.  It strikes every place and platform where women exist, including ministry, motherhood, and marriage.  It affects women of every social status, from royalty to the single mother.  It tears down, destroys, and prevents us from being the women God has called us to be.  Finally, it prevents us from being effective together as the body of Christ.

Throughout the Bible we see the festivals and celebrations that God set in place for Israel, the early church breaking bread from house to house, and Paul’s reminders that we are the body of Christ.  By this, it is evident that God created us to live in community.  At the same time, God also recognizes that we are flawed humans and often act in ways that hinder community.  This, too, is evident in scriptures with the reminders to be unified, not to judge, and the proper way to handle conflicts with others.

Recently, a side effect of my Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) disease, called a Baker’s cyst, has recurred.  This cyst is a pocket of inflammation that develops behind my knee.  It makes sitting with my legs elevated on an ottoman challenging and sleeping difficult.  Overall, it is generally painful with the occasional sharp pain shooting up my thigh.  Like all problems in our physical bodies, I must treat this condition tenderly.  It would never occur to me to stab a knife into the pocket of inflammation to relieve the pain.  I have no intention of cutting my leg off above my knee to sleep better.  Only in life-threatening situations do we remove limbs or organs.  My Baker’s cyst, although it is uncomfortable, does not require a drastic measure.  Instead, it requires some care, rest, and diligence in managing the pain.

Humanity lives in the diseased state of sin.  This disease is symptomatic in our lives. Even Christians, including myself, sometimes treat others unkindly, react in anger, or make poor choices that lead to additional problems.  In response to this sin state, I must choose to treat others with as much gentleness and kindness as I do my Baker’s cyst.  Paul, in Ephesians 4:1-3, urges believers “to walk worthy of the call…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  I am called to love others, especially when they are struggling, and to help bear their burdens.  This means that I should not judge their motives or attitudes, but instead love them with patience and understanding.  Paul emphasizes the importance of this by telling us to be “eager”, or in some translations, to be “diligent” in maintaining unity.  By loving other women well and not judging them, I can demonstrate God’s grace, mercy, and kindness.

On the flip side, when I judge others based on their diseased state, I can convey a message to that member of the body of Christ that they are not valuable.  This can result in “spiritual amputation”, potentially separating that person from Christ.  Furthermore, the Bible is clear that I will be judged by God with the same standard of judgment I have used for others.  Conversely, if I want to be shown mercy, I need to demonstrate mercy towards others.

As a woman, I blossom and grow best when I am surrounded by other women who encourage me.  When I feel judged or belittled, I struggle to find my identity in Christ.  If I want that kind of environment for myself, I need to do my best to create that environment for other women as well.  I love how David says it in Psalm 133:1, “How good and pleasant is it when “sisters” dwell in unity.”  In the same Psalm, he later relates this to the dew on Mount Hermon.  This snow-capped mountain provided much needed run-off for the Jordan River.  This made the land especially fertile and full of potential!  By choosing to encourage and uplift other women without judgment, I am choosing to create a fertile land where other women can grow and reach their potential in Christ!

Celebrating She-roes in My Life

“So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” Psalms 71:18

It’s March and I am so excited for many reasons!  For starters, this month begins to thaw not only the frozen ground, but my soul from the dark heaviness of winter.  It is the month when Peeps appear, I surprise my husband with Shamrock Shakes, birds start chirping spring music, and I lighten up my wardrobe with bright colors and thinner fabrics.  This year, my excitement is even more elevated because, through my “Graceful Transitions” blog and social media pages, I am going to celebrate Women’s History month with you!  I will share with you about some women who have influenced my life.  Each Saturday of the month, I am going to feature some of my favorite women-owned small businesses.  Finally, all my writings will either feature women, or talk about issues that directly impact women.  As always, my goal behind the blog is to be authentic and point others towards God.

For many of us in my age bracket (yes, I am now in the 45-55 age bracket), Women’s History month is a relatively new calendar event, only recognized on a national level since 1995.  I do not recall any high school classes emphasizing women, or the library displaying books featuring women.  I certainly don’t remember Target merchandising Women’s History Month products in March!  Yet, my experience with Women’s History Month predates the official national declaration by a few years.  During my sophomore year in college, my hall director raised awareness about women and some of the struggles they had for recognition.  She also created an atmosphere where we could discuss issues facing women in the early 1990’s.  This awareness has carried on throughout my adult life.

Mayo Angelou once said, “How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes”.  In essence, that is the point behind Women’s History Month, to honor those women who have contributed to society, making it a richer place not only future generations of women, but for the whole of humanity.  It is easy to name some of the great women who have influenced history, women like Jane Austen, Susan B. Anthony and Marie Curie.  I could have written tributes to some of these women, but I want to start this month a little closer to home by honoring two women who have impacted my history and are she-roes to me.

My sisters and my Aunt Debbie and I three years ago,

The first woman I want to honor is my Aunt Debbie, my mom’s younger sister.  Being only nine years older than me, Debbie was the “cool aunt” who bought me my first albums, took to me to the movies, and introduced me to Rocky Rocco pizza.  Even as a busy college student, she always made time for me by including me in her everyday life.  Spending the occasional weekend with her in Milwaukee made the idea of being a grown-up so enchanting.  But her impact was far more than just pizza, weekend getaways, and movies, it was also the words she penned on cards to encourage me.  Throughout my teens, Debbie would send me beautiful cards with inspiring messages urging me to reach for my dreams.  She would also point out my talents and congratulate me for my successes.  In addition, she would encourage me to go to college.  These cards were a lifeline for me during the years of my hidden abuse.  Whenever I felt hopeless or depressed, I would pull out my stash of cards and reread the words she had written.  They empowered me to see past my circumstances and envision a future life that could be beautiful.  Thirty-five years later, I still have her cards in my box of treasures.  Today, Debbie still inspires me.  While raising her children, she went back to school to complete her dream of being a teacher.  She now teaches kindergartners, inspiring future generations to dream big.  Her passion for education motivates me, today, to continue to learn.

This is picture of my Aunt Brenda and I at my wedding twenty five years ago, I need to take a trip to Texas and get an updated picture.

The second woman I want to honor is my Aunt Brenda.  Southern and artistic, with a remnant of California hippy, Brenda walks into a room and instantly fills it with breath and vitality.  Her enthusiasm is contagious, her stories inspire, and her energy motivates.  She impacted a generation of young women in my Wisconsin church through her Sunday school classes, sleepovers, and her cat-washing extravaganzas.  Brenda might be the only person alive who could convince a group of young women that it was a privilege to help wash and dry her Himalayan show cats.  She genuinely listened to your problems, encouraged you with scriptures, and pointed you in a positive direction.  Two pieces of her advice stick with me today: “Keep your eyes on God, not on people”, and “If you are feeling stressed, get at least seven hours of sleep and then reassess your situation”.  Brenda had the ability to speak truth into my life, inspiring me to want to be more like Christ.  In addition, my love for pops of color were influenced by her artistic flair for design.

Both women invested in my history, helping me to become the woman I am today.  They chose to be an active part of my life by pouring their time and words into a broken young woman.  This came at a cost for them, and I am not talking about the price of a stamp in 1987.  They had to set aside their own lives to make room for me.  I am sure Debbie could have found other things to do on a Saturday night than eat pizza and listen to music with me.  I am sure Brenda could have been working on some of her design projects or artwork rather than carving out time for me to come over on a Sunday afternoon to talk.  Yet, they both set aside their lives to make a place for me.  These precious moments made a huge impact on my life, helping me to overcome obstacles that seemed insurmountable.  And by their very lives, these women taught me to be compassionate and caring.  They are my she-roes!

I have thanked them both many times throughout my life, and, in essence, this is another way to express my gratitude.  Years ago, I realized that the best way to thank them is to pay it forward.  I have looked, and will continue to look, for other young woman in my life and actively make a choice to encourage and uplift them.  I, too, will make a choice to invest in their lives.  Just maybe, in some small way, I can impact others the way I have been impacted.

I would love to hear about your she-roes.  Subscribe to my blog and leave a comment about who that inspiring woman is in your life!