All Kinds of Crazy

What a strange new world.

The rhythms and routines of daily life – once barely noticed – came to a screeching halt a few weeks back. And now the world as we knew it is suspended… indefinitely.

I don’t know about you, but my schedule looks vastly different than it did before March 13th. Except for showering and sleeping. Well… some days.

(Today is not one of them.)

It’s tough to get your bearings when you can’t see anything but the backyard or balcony. If you don’t have either, I pray for the preservation of your sanity. (Seriously.)

This is our new normal.

Personally, I’d like to get back to the old one. (Maybe with an extra helping of perspective. And heaping sides of gratitude and compassion.)

But I guess that isn’t an option. Not entirely anyway. Because this virus is taking a heavy toll.

I remember how different the world seemed after 9/11. Then – like now – most of us really came together. We cared… gave… grieved. We comforted and consoled.

And we counted the cost.

And here we are… counting again.

41,000 lives lost. (And by the time you finish reading this, it’ll tick even higher.)

That’s a whole lot of bereft families and broken hearts.

And that number doesn’t include the other victims of this crisis. The collateral damage, if you will.

I’m not minimizing the death toll. Not one iota. But I think maybe it’s time to acknowledge our other losses too. To say it’s ok to feel dazed/ disoriented by the far-reaching effects of this pandemic. It’s normal to feel discouraged/distressed about how different the future looks from just a few weeks ago. It’s understandable if you feel distraught/devastated… even if none of your loved ones have died from COVID-19.

This. Is. Hard.

And this “virtual” reality feels… well… unreal.

Trying to outlast this virus seems like a lost cause because folks are dropping every day. Not only those who die from Coronavirus but those who succumb in other ways.

To slashed income. Or domestic violence. Or burnout from working 12-hour shifts. Day after day. Week after week. (No relief in sight.)

There’s other unsettling fallout too. Like the shocking and sudden realization that there isn’t much you/I/we can control.

Like job security… financial security… food security.

There’s more than a little desperation going around. And nobody coming around. That’s a profoundly negative equation. (Isolation + desperation = unmitigated disaster.)

I think it’s high time the people who deliver the news start reporting (loud and clear) that we’re smack in the middle of another pandemic.

A mental health emergency.

This crisis has followed right on the heels of the contagious disease and even those who’ve outrun or recovered from Coronavirus are starting to feel the effects of its ruthless twin. Regardless of where we live, more and more are finding ourselves in…

An acutely SAD state.

(As in… Stressed. Anxious. Depressed.)

And who can blame us? Coping skills – in unprecedented global crises – can be scarce. And when there’s no place to go…

We go all kinds of crazy.

Relationships come unraveled. Sobriety is shattered. Suicides (and attempts) skyrocket.

How do we dig up some hope in all this wreckage? Where’s the steady calm when the whole world’s spinning out? Who’s got answers? And antidotes?

Anyone?

Human beings are pretty resilient and resourceful. But we’re not invincible. (We’re not infinitely clever/creative/capable either.) We don’t have enough willpower or prescience or inner zen to anchor ourselves (when we’re adrift) or find our way (when we’re lost) or develop a cure (for all that ails us).

Not one of us.

We need someone a whole lot stronger and smarter than our so-called best and brightest. We need a superhero.

A savior.

We need a hope-provider and healer. One that specializes in bodies, psyches and spirits. One that can fling stars and split atoms and soothe troubled souls.

Pretty sure every single one of us could use a good doctor/therapist/holistic healthcare provider right now.

Let me introduce you to a great physician and wonderful counselor.

His name is Jesus. And he can see you anytime.

He’s the answer and the antidote.

And he will carry us through.

You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times… So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does. (1 Peter 5:9-11, The Message)

Wendy

P.S. Please know I’m not trying to put a spiritual Band-aid on a severed artery. Stress, anxiety and depression are complex mental health issues with physical, emotional and spiritual causes and effects. (And God has given us amazing doctors/therapists/holistic healthcare providers to help us in times like this.) If you’re experiencing ongoing symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, please, please schedule a Telehealth appointment.

Stat.

Spread This

I hope by now everyone is following directions. (Meaning… doctors’ orders.)

If you’re not working on the front lines fighting this pandemic, kindly imitate your dog.

Sit.

Stay.

Good boy.

If however, you can’t stay home because your work is essential (s/o to all the brave, beautiful souls working in healthcare, pharmacy, scientific research, food prep/packaging/transport/stocking, medical equipment manufacturing, warehouse distribution, supply chain)…

Godspeed.

We can’t thank you enough. (Because no amount of gratitude is sufficient right now.) Please know that we are with you, for you, behind you.

Every day.

Every (double) shift.

Every step of the way.

As dark as these days have been, the past couple weeks have shed a lot of light. You can learn alot about people in times of crisis. Some freak out. Some shut down. Some bully. Some blame. Some wail about the seemingly insurmountable problem we’re facing. Others work around the clock trying to solve it. Some cower under the covers. Others run into burning buildings/emergency rooms/nursing homes/ICU units to rescue whomever they can.

It’s heartening to hear stories of devoted workers who – at great risk to themselves – continue to do their life-saving and life-sustaining jobs. They are real-life heroes, every single one of them.

(How beautiful would it be if each one of us found ways to “show and tell” the battle-weary pandemic warriors we know how much we love, admire and appreciate them?)

And then – sadly, always – there are the antiheroes.

For every inspiring story of tireless courage or tender care, there’s a disheartening one about some idiot/inciter/narcissist/nitwit making things worse for everyone.

(Don’t be that guy. ^)

We’ve got to stop the spread of this virus. Absolutely. As soon as possible. But can we stop spreading false information and unfounded rumors too? Can we quit the fearmongering and finger-pointing and foolishness?

Where can we get personal protective equipment to stop the spread of that s#*t?

Scare tactics and death counts and divisive politicizing – while plentiful – aren’t helpful. Ever.

But especially at a time like this.

Finger-pointing isn’t a cure. (I’m not a nurse, doctor or medical researcher, but as far as I know, assigning blame doesn’t alleviate a single symptom of any infectious disease.)

And fear?

It’s a killer.

In the past week, hundreds of thousands of Americans have been tested for COVID-19. We’ve all heard about the dire shortage of hospital beds and ventilators and PPE. But those aren’t the only things in short supply around here.

With a long way to go, we’re seeing an alarming increase in the number of patients… but very little…

Patience.

We have one job to do – #stayhome – and some folks just can’t seem to follow directions. People are getting antsy. And anxious. And agitated. And it isn’t helping our collective cause. When people freak out/flake out/go out… they put others at risk. And that isn’t OK. Being bored/restless/stressed is not an adequate defense for manslaughter.

(Read that again. If you are an asymptomatic carrier of the virus, your selfishness – venturing out unnecessarily, hosting a get-together, taking that trip – could kill somebody.)

We’ve got a whole lot of brain power and creativity and generosity and tenacity teaming up to tackle this runaway problem and arrest this pandemic.

But one by one, hour by hour, it seems…

We’re losing heart.

Despair is in the air.

Just like this virus, diminishing hope is contagious… and dangerous.

Yes, it’s ok to feel sad/scared/lonely right now. (Especially if someone you love is sick or dying. Or if you’ve lost your job… or your bearings.) But we’ve got to hang in there. We need to keep doing the hard thing that has to be done.

Stay home.

Stay hopeful.

And wait for the storm to pass.

It’s tough, I know. My crew is experiencing noticeable symptoms of stir crazy/cabin fever/delirium and all that.

Next to my grandmother’s Bible, my favorite book is an old-school, leather-bound weekly calendar. (I’m currently detoxing from my addiction to scheduling.) I’m a perpetual planner… and a girl on the go. And I currently have nothing to plan and nowhere to go, so…

(Solitaire?)

Nobody said it would be easy, this business of being still. It drags us straight into the face of our angst, fear and discontent. It forces us to confront our own dismay and dread. It’s an undeniable, unsettling reminder that we have very little control.

Virtually none.

But maybe that’ll turn out to be a good thing.

If we want protection, peace, patience, perseverance, we’re gonna have to look outside ourselves. (Because clearly, there’s a global shortage of that kind of PPE.)

Only God gives inward peace, and I depend on him. 

God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe, and he is the fortress where I feel secure. God saves me and honors me. He is that mighty rock where I find safety.

Trust God, my friends, and always tell him each one of your concerns. 

God is our place of safety. (Psalm 62:5-8, CEV)

How about we spread this?

Peace that’s impenetrable.

Hope that’s unyielding.

Love that’s relentless.

When this is all behind us – and it will be one day – those rare, chronic conditions will remain. And we will be better, stronger, healthier because of it.

Please… don’t be an April fool.

Hold the line.

And hold onto hope.

Wendy

P.S. We can do this. We can. But we’ve got to stick together… and stay apart… and spread only the good stuff. #staystrong #stayhopeful #stayhome

 

Viral

There’s a very real problem plaguing the human race. And it isn’t Coronavirus.

It’s something more insidious. There’s no test for it. And no vaccine.

Fear.

(Which causes symptoms ranging from mild anxiety to sheer panic.)

So far this week, I’ve received a dozen emails with Coronavirus warnings, updates and “responses” – from city government and school officials, insurance companies, healthcare providers and financial planners. (And CostCo just sent a link to purchase “everyday essentials” like Lysol, SoftSoap and Kleenex… while supplies last. Coincidence?)

While there’s certainly cause for concern (and precautions – especially for the elderly and those with already compromised health), widespread fear seems to be the ailment that’s preceding all the other symptoms of COVID-19. The fear factor is growing and multiplying like bacteria in a petri dish. Fueled by the news media, the financial markets, doomsday prognosticators… and frantic parents.

(Who are currently suffering Daylight Savings sleep deprivation… and stockpiling nonperishables and Purell.)

The nonstop news cycle features sensationalized stories and unsettling images of hazmat suits and body bags. Schools are closing, markets are tanking, and businesses are bracing for the worst. The only ones profiting are the makers of protective masks. And hard liquor. (I know some of you DIY-ers are mixing up Tito’s Homemade Hand Sanitizer in your kitchen.)

Panic is… well… pandemic.

We’re easily unnerved by all the “what ifs” and the whens/whys/hows.

And we dread the inevitable:

Death.

Yes, Coronavirus can kill you. But so can lots of other things. Cars, cancer, heroin, venom, botulism, bees, bullets.

Not to mention tornadoes, like the one that just killed 24 people in Tennessee on Tuesday. And garden-variety flu, which claims the lives of roughly 25,000 Americans every year.

In the US, 21 people have died from Coronavirus. Meanwhile – daily – 6500 people die as a result of Alzheimers, heart disease, diabetes and depression. And you know what that means?

It’s not sinister-looking microorganisms killing people by the thousands every day.

It’s stress.

Otherwise known as dis-ease.

(You know… fear, anxiety, worry, panic, despair.)

Sometimes it’s sudden onset: crisis, catastrophe, terror, trauma. And sometimes it just infiltrates (and permeates) over time.

According to the American Psychological Association:

Chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death… and more than 75 percent of all physician office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.

Stress kills more people each year than MERS, SARS, Ebola and Coronavirus combined.

And most of the time it happens slowly… invisibly.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t take preventative measures against Coronavirus. We absolutely need to. Deadly viruses need to be quarantined… and eradicated. But so does debilitating fear. (Which tends to spread further, faster.)

Thankfully, there are brilliant, tenacious scientists, physicians, psychologists and researchers working night and day (around the world) to treat these maladies. But there’s only one care provider with a 100% cure rate for both.

Jesus.

His antidote for the pandemic of panic is…

Peace.

(There’s no co-pay and no prescription necessary. And Jesus offers an endless supply.)

After Jesus died, was buried and then defeated death – and before He headed to heaven to get things ready for us – He said this:

I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace.

In the same breath, He quelled our fears and reassured all of us who are prone to worry.

So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. 

God knows we’ve got plenty to fear. We’re afraid for ourselves, our children, the planet and its people. Our only hope is a Heavenly Father who’s ready, willing and able to take care of us – every second, in every circumstance.

Jesus loves you/me/us… and He’s the greatest Physician. He doesn’t practice; He’s already perfect. And His treatment plan includes physical, emotional and spiritual healing.

For eternity.

The truth is, I could die from COVID-19. I have very little control over that. But if I do, I know where I’m going. I’m good… because God is.

(And He gave His Son to prove it.)

We’ve got to stop spreading germs… and fear… and start spreading the good news.

Prayer works. And so does soap.

So wash your hands.

And remember that you’re in God’s.

Wendy

P.S. I hope this goes viral.

 

Spooked

Everywhere I look, there seems to be a desperate lack of calm.

When did everybody become so tense/uptight/frazzled/frantic? Why the rapidly-mutating lack of tranquility? How did our collective stress level reach such dizzying heights?

We recite mantras like magic words:

Keep calm and carry on.

Too blessed to be stressed.

Just breathe.

But the knee-jerk reaction to anything unexpected, out-of-the-ordinary or beyond our comfort zone seems to be…

Panic!

(At the disco. Or anyplace else we happen to be.)

Even when all seems well, undetected stress simmering beneath the surface threatens to bubble over. Mild irritation turns to minor frustration… which becomes moderate agitation… which morphs into major aggravation…

Which inevitably spirals into a monstrous meltdown.

(Sometimes in a matter of minutes.)

Just watch the nightly news, and you’ll get a sneaking suspicion that our country is coming untethered; our communities are coming unhinged; families are coming unraveled… and people are coming unglued.

A smattering of this week’s headlines includes criminal sexual assaults, opiod overdoses, active shooters, adolescent suicides and road rage incidents. Scary, huh?

Mental health crises are commonplace. Depression is sharply on the rise. Anxiety is pandemic. And researchers are assigning some of the blame on the poison…

In the palm of our hands.

(And our children’s.)

One internet safety specialist wrote a book specifically addressing the pitfalls of smart-phones-for-all. It’s title? The Boogeyman Exists: And He’s in Your Child’s Back Pocket.

Spooked yet?

A former assistant to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “I am convinced the devil lives in our phones and is wreaking havoc…”

Hmmm…

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying smartphones are altogether terrible/awful/evil. (I’m also not saying that handheld devices cause chemical imbalances. Of course not.)

I’m simply saying this:

Fingertip tech is – like so many other things – a blessing and a curse.

It’s a useful device and a terrible distraction. It connects us… and isolates us.

It gives us directions… and causes us to lose our bearings, somehow.

It gives us a sense of control… and makes us digital addicts.

Every-waking-hour data druggies.

(And sometimes when we’re trying to sleep too.)

Ding.

Buzz.

Zzzzz…

The truth is, most of us rarely unplug or power off. (Heck, we bristle at having to switch to “airplane mode” for a couple hours.)

*gut check*

We spend our days “drinking from a firehose” of digital data. Our brains are besieged by constantly-streaming information, ideas, images.

So.

Much.

Input.

The deluge of information in modern times by the media and other information sources has led to daily “bombing” of the average human brain with such a large volume of information which could overload even a powerful computer, according to information scientists. (Source: Tech 21 Century)

A study done by researchers at UCSD found that Americans took in five times as much information every day as they did in 1986 – the equivalent of 174 newspapers. During our leisure time, not counting work, each of us processes 34 gigabytes, or 100,000 words every day.  The world’s 21,274 television stations produce 85,000 hours of original programming every day, and on average, we watch five hours of television daily, the equivalent of 20 gigabytes of audio-video images. That’s not counting YouTube, which uploads 6,000 hours of video every hour. And computer gaming? It consumes more bytes than all other media combined including DVDs, TV, books, magazines, and the Internet. (Source: Telegraph UK)

I find these numbers astonishing. And a little unsettling.

But the really crazy thing?

This study was done 10 years ago. I’m guessing we far exceed those numbers in 2019.

And I can’t imagine it’s good for our brains. (My head hurts just thinking about this.)

So much media. So many messages. Some informative, some inflammatory. Some uplifting, some devastating. Some delightful, some dreaded.

Alerts come 24/7/365.

Some are smiley-face-heart-eyes-confetti-and-cake happy texts. Birthday messages and pizza promo codes and cute puppy videos.

(But then you throw in the can-of-worms commonly known as social media. The running commentary on FB/Twitter/Insta definitely doesn’t offer much insight. It mostly just incites. If you’re looking for a heaping dose of harsh criticism, complaints or judgment, you’ve come to the right place. Public humiliation… available to all… in the comfort of your own car/cubicle/condo. We’ve all been forewarned about the bad boys, mean girls, cyberbullies and predators. But what we’ve done – unwittingly, of course – is invited them into our daily conversation. Oh joy.)

Then there’s the garden-variety hassles. Notifications about bad grades, late fees, product recalls, cancelled meetings.

Most of us file these notifications right where they belong: the trash bin.

*delete*

*delete*

*delete*

But others strike fear in our hearts:

Biopsy results… Emergency alerts… Subpoenas.

Our constant connectivity is creating a sense of urgency (and yes, anxiety) that we struggle to shake.

Ding.

Buzz.

Gasp!

And in an effort to minimize our panic… some of us just completely disengage. We scroll, sigh, shrug. We watch from the sidelines and remain uninvested and uninvolved.

Are those the only options?

Perpetually panicked or utterly apathetic?

Sunday (and M/T/W/Th/F/Sa) Scaries… or Zombie Apocalypse?

(Cue the eerie sound effects… and the wicked laugh: Mwahahaha!)

Maybe this is a nightmare.

STAY WOKE, PEOPLE.

Put the freaking phone down.

Listen. Engage. Respond. Relate. Face-to-face… in real time.

Get your groove back.

(And your LIFE too.)

In the words of the uncannily clever Anne Lamott:

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes… even you.

Power off and power nap. There’s a handy little setting on your phone:

Do not disturb.

(Perhaps you haven’t discovered it yet. Well, today’s your lucky – lifechanging! – day.)

Activate that sucker.

Or  better yet…

Unplug altogether.

Quiet the clamor and soak up some stillness.

There’s a powerful scripture that begins with two little words.

Be still.

It’s not a friendly suggestion or self-help step. It’s an explicit instruction from your Maker.

Be still…

(There’s more. It’s a two-part directive… feel free to keep reading: Psalm 46.)

Be still…

Linger there awhile. It’ll do your body, mind and spirit good.

Be still.

Do you hear that? It’s the rare, sweet sound of silence.

Do you sense it? Peace.

Soak it up, friends.

All will be well.

Wendy

P.S. Thanks for reading. Now… unplug, for heaven’s sake.

 

Confessions of an Impatient, Imperfect, Nit-Picking Parent

(This one’s for all the mommas who reached the end of their patience before the end of the summer.)

Anyone who’s been a parent for more than 72 hours knows this…

Parenting is not for the faint of heart.

You’ve got to be tough and tender, flexible and firm, instantly responsive and exceedingly patient. And that’s just for starters.

Last week was one of the worst in my parenting career. And I’ve had some doozies, believe me. After 28 and a half years on the job, I still haven’t mastered it. Not even close. (To be fair, though, the job description has changed… weekly.)

Recently – regrettably – I stooped to a new low. I did the underhanded interrogator/ overbearing drill sergeant/uppity church lady routine. And my 20-something was having none of it. So I let it go.

(In my dreams.)

No, the truth is… I didn’t let it go. I dug in deeper. I scoffed, scowled, and scolded. Meddled, muddled, manipulated, and just generally made a mess of things. Thankfully, my kid is the forgiving type. (If he were a grudge-holder, I’d be toast.)

The devil didn’t make me do it. It was all me.

Yeah, sometimes you just fall flat on your face… and suck mud.

I sucked.

I’ve always wanted to be the mom who’s willing to play the game, read the story, stack the blocks again (for the eleventh time in a row). The one who starts the ticklefest, the water war, the pillow fight. The one who throws impromptu cupcake/fingerpaint/Play-Doh parties for the littles and French press/film fest/Fortnite parties for the bigs. The mom who’s attentive and affectionate, wise and witty, playful and prayerful, faithful and FUN. I want to be the welcoming committee, sounding board, prayer team, and biggest fan.

And on my best days, I am.

But…

I can be lazy, short-sighted, selfish, impatient, presumptuous and downright b!#<%y too. (If not for coffee and Jesus, there’d be no survivors.)

When I feel stressed, exhausted, overwhelmed, I get irritable, inflexible, unreasonable. And the more I say, the more I sin.

I overstate, exaggerate, manipulate. I assume, accuse, cajole and – (wince) – judge.

Thank God for this:

Love covers a multitude of sins.

(Can I get a “Hallelujah” from all the other humans with offspring?)

A mom friend once said to me: Little kids, little problems. Big kids, bigger problems. At the time, I remember thinking, Have you ever tried to extract a Polly Pocket playset piece from the itsy bitsy teeny tiny nasal cavity of a writhing, hysterical toddler? That’s a very small, VERY BIG problem.

But now I get it.

Instead of spilled milk, mysterious rashes and choking hazards… it’s speeding tickets, sexting and cyber bullies.

(It’s excruciating… waiting for the whole “cause and effect” concept to take hold.)

Lord, have mercy.

I do think it’s pretty great that God chose to make newborns stationary. You plop them down someplace and – miraculously – they stay right where you left them. I believe He did this to give new parents a chance to acclimate to having a very small, very needy human being in close proximity, one who’s incessantly hungry/thirsty/sleepy/poopy. At least they stay put. But not for long. Soon, they get rolling… and “sit, stay” rarely happens again. Their inclination is to scooch, crawl, walk, or ride their bikes as far from us as possible. Next thing you know, they’re 16, 17, 18, 19… and they’re asking for the keys so they can drive away. Far, far away. Into the big city. Or the mountains. (In Colorado.)

From the time they take their first steps, we encourage our kids to seek and savor independence. But what we don’t realize is that the more independent they become, the less control we have. And the more terrifying it is. And, well…

Desperate mommas do desperate things.

When it comes right down to it, most of my parenting failures are a direct result of my own anxiety and insecurities. Though it pains me to admit it, I often parent from a place of fear, pride, or a pretty anemic notion of love.

Let’s face it: parental fears are persistent… and plentiful. Injury, illness, insect bites and infestations. (If you’ve never had to wield a fine-toothed nit comb and lice-killing cream rinse, you should drop to your knees right now and give thanks with a grateful heart.)

The world is a perilous place to grow up. Not only do we have to worry about mean girls, bad boys, bullies and predators; we now need to issue urgent warnings about opiods, active shooters and texting/driving fatalities.

Worse yet, even when my kids manage to steer clear of the danger zone, I turn and fall headlong into another “parent trap.”

Pride.

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made is parenting by popular opinion. (It’s a minefield, littered with high horses, haughtiness, blame and shame. Don’t go there.)

Another biggie was openly (and smugly) stating all the things I’d never do if my son _______________ or when my daughter ________________.

Pride goes before destruction and haughtiness before a fall.

Yep.

Invariably, that very thing you swore you’d never do… you’ll do it. And discover you’ve tumbled headfirst into the pit of despair (with all the other demoralized, defeated, derelict parents). You’re facedown, eating crow. And there’s only one thing to do.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

(He’s got strong arms.)

But the thing I most regret in all my years of parenting is this:

Conditional love.

I love you if you…

I love you when you…

I love you… but…

Not only am I guilty. I’m a repeat offender.

I dole out love in meager doses… or with a laundry list of prerequisites.

Why can’t I just love him freely and fully just the way he is? Why don’t I love her lavishly even when/if/though… Why can’t I just pour out love like there’s unlimited free refills? Splash it all around? Drench my kids in kindness and mercy and grace?

Maybe because I haven’t steeped long enough in Love and Living Water myself. Maybe because I don’t often enough go to my Father for advice. Maybe because I’m inclined to keep wandering far, far away. Which is pretty foolish… because I’m lost without Him.

The only perfect parent is the One enthroned above. His love never fails.

He’s a good, good Father.

And His mercies are new every morning… Before the alarm goes off and the lunches are made and the backpacks are loaded. (Even before the coffee is done brewing.)

What a relief!

Wendy

P.S. One last confession: I was not (and never have been) the momma who shed a few tears on the first day of school. I was the one doing the happy dance all the way home from the bus stop.

Entanglements and Race Results

img_4903
My dear reader,
Today, I’d like to make a few comments about… hair.
Specifically, Chloe’s. My daughter has long, lovely, thick hair. It’s the color of chamomile tea – with a spoonful of spun honey – and it’s approaching the length of a jumbo Willy Wonka Pixy stick. (Remember those totally tubular treats from the 80s? Pretty much a powdered sugar buzz in plastic pinstripes.)
We always say that Chloe is our princess, and her hair is quite literally her crowning glory. And did I mention that it’s thick?  It’s wavy and windblown and voluminous. That girl’s hair is BIG.  All the time. And most of the time, it’s tousled and tangled too. Knotted, gnarled, and in desperate need of detangling spray and a boar bristle brush.
When she was young, I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to untangle that beautiful, brutal hair. It was incredibly frustrating (for me). And excruciating (for her). Wince, yelp, scowl. Those detangling sessions would invariably end when she started to cry… and I would raise the white flag (ok, it was a Tinkerbell towel) in surrender. And Daddy would finish the job. God bless that kind, gentle man. Seriously, God, please bless him… and empower him to continue his mane-taming mission and ministry. Amen.
Up until the arrival of our little girl, Steve and I had a houseful of boys. With buzz cuts. No tangles. Ever. (Unless you count that one unfortunate wad of Big League Chew firmly affixed to Trent’s toddler noggin.) We were blissfully free of gnarls, knots and dreads. Plenty of dirt, grass, grape jelly, and an occasional bug or fruit snack. But no tangles. Until Rapunzel joined Team Holtz. And 486 bottles of conditioner later, we are still battling troublesome entanglements.
In her hair. And… in the daily grind.
Whether we know it or not, we’re all in the thick of it. Every dang day. Right smack dab in the middle of the muddled, matted messes of life. Entanglements are everywhere. In our global landscape and our local schools. The public forum and (most glaringly of late) the political arena.  Our workplaces and, sadly, our places of worship, too. They gnarl our thoughts and knot our stomachs and produce… well, dreads.
Sticky situations. Scattered minds. Twisted words. Life is full of those. And these: career snags, relationship snarls, financial messes, and family disarray. We need not even venture out into the world to witness these. We can see them “up close and personal” every morning. In the mirror. Most of us don’t even notice these tangles and troubles until they’re so vexing and virulent that we think we must cut them (or ourselves) off. Completely.
That’s the thing about snags and snarls. When they’re few and small, we can comb through them, work them out. But once they start compounding, we have to untwist, tug, and then tug some more. The tangles become tougher to tackle. Our lips (and hearts) tremble. Tears are inevitable. And so are tatters and tears. Sometimes irreparable ones.
It’s a lot easier to just keep it clean and comb through things daily, rather than letting gunk build up and tangles take over.  Then everything winds up muddled and matted and messy. And pretty soon, we’ve got a whole lotta dreads. They weigh us down, slow us down.  And we end up… well… down. Discouraged. Depressed. Defeated. We’ve surrendered the battle.  We’ve lost the race.
Scripture talks about this very thing.
“Therefore… let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2a)  
Sin – anything that falls short of God’s good way – is like a bola. Ever seen one? It’s a throwing weapon used by Argentinian cowboys (and ninjas :)) to capture cattle or game. Made of braided leather fastened to small but heavy weights on each end, it’s a surprisingly effective weapon. Just like a bola, sin trips and traps.  It tethers and tangles. And pretty soon we find ourselves wrapped up in it, about to be strangled to death by Lust or Lies or Slander or Envy or Rage or Pride. Eventually, and always, sin destroys.
But God, through Jesus, swoops in to disentangle and carry us to safety, unscathed. Jesus offered Himself to be bound, so we might be unbound. He was lashed, so we can be loosed. He was slaughtered, so we could be spared. He sacrificed Himself. To save you and me. He was nailed to a cross, so we can run free.
And He wants us to live that way. Every day. Disentangled and unencumbered. Freed… to flourish. And finish.
There’s a race to be run. A race to be won. And it’s an ultra-marathon. We need to be steady, strong, fueled and fit. We need to be loose and light on our feet. Not weighed down by sin-burdens or dragging baggage. Not fettered by nagging doubts or high anxiety. Not distracted by the “shiny things” along the race route. Or the media covering the action.  Not tripped up by the other runners. (Or their cheering sections.) We just need to run our race. Clean, clear, fair…  Fast as we can toward the finish line. To win the goal and gain the prize.
But here’s the crazy thing: we can’t do it. Any of it. We can barely spring out of the starting blocks, let alone run the race. And we’re completely incapable of laying aside encumbrances. Or disentangling ourselves from our own incessant sin and selfishness. Our endurance wanes. Our pace lags. We stumble. Again, we need God. We need His Spirit to fuel us. We need to inhale His Word and fill our lungs with the breath of Life. We need prayer to pace us and protect us. We need living water to keep us hydrated. And His training program to get us race-ready. And keep us so.
The course is long. The terrain is tough. There are potholes and pitfalls. Aches and pains and palpitations. Spills and chills… and cheaters. We’ve got to keep our eyes on Jesus, the Light of the world, or we will stagger around in the pre-dawn dark. We need to focus on Jesus, the Way, or we will wander off course. We need to gaze at His beauty or the ugliness of the world (and our own propensity to criticize/condemn/scoff/scorn) will overtake us. And then trample us.        
As this unprecedented, unpredictable, painful presidential race finally draws to a close, instead of disseminating the candidates (and every other voter venting or lamenting on social media) let’s simply reexamine our own race. The one we’re still running. It’s not over. If we’re still breathing, we’re still racing. And none of us knows when we’ll reach our finish line, because we can’t see it ’til we’re there. Sometimes, we round a curve and come upon the home stretch, far sooner than we ever expected.
So, let’s sharpen our focus and shift it back where it belongs. On Jesus. No matter who won the election, He has already won eternity. No matter who sits in the Oval Office, He is enthroned above. Regardless of your politics or preferences or position, only One can meet every need, solve every problem, heal every hurt, and fill every heart. Only One holds the entire human race in His gentle, strong grip. Only One can give us clean, clear, smooth, straight PEACE. No tangles and no dreads.
Because He Himself is our peace. 
Let’s pray and press on. Let’s work out the gnarls and knots daily… and throw off the things that are weighing us down. Most of us have miles and miles to go. Let’s run – each our own race – with endurance. Finish the course. Keep the faith. Don’t know where to turn? Look to Jesus. Unsure which way to go? Follow Him. He is the Way.
And sooner or later, we will realize…
He is the prize too.
Finish strong,
Wendy
P.S. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”  So let’s drop the labels and stop the madness.  Let’s ditch the divisiveness and disparagement. And let’s pray for healing in our land… and in our hearts.  Let’s link arms and work together for peace and unity, so that we truly do become one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.