10 Tips Toward Making Resolutions that Stick

resolution list

To this end we always pray for you,

that our God may make you worthy of his calling

and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 

so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you,

and you in him,

according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

So. Here we are. One week into 2016, and I’m wondering: Did you make any resolutions this year? If so, how’s it going? Are you standing strong? Finding success? Or have you already jumped ship?

According to a study out of the University of Scranton, 45% of us usually make resolutions. Our resolutions most commonly involve losing weight, getting organized, and saving money. Other frequent goals include getting fit, learning something new, and falling in love.

Honorable goals, all of them.

Unfortunately, though, the same study reveals that a measly 8% of us are successful at changing our lives in the desired ways. Hmm. Well, that gives us pause.

Last Saturday Peter and I had the opportunity to discuss New Year’s Resolutions on Julie Roys’ radio program “Up for Debate.” (You can listen to our knock-down-drag-out fight here. Brace yourselves.) Peter took a position against New Year’s Resolutions. But I said that I still believe.

I believe in a God of new beginnings (Isaiah 43:18-19).

I believe in the Spirit’s power to effect deep life change (Romans 8:12-17).

I believe that such change involves both our commitment and a supernatural work (Philippians 2:12-13).

I believe that the New Year can be an important time to draw a line in the sand and begin again.

And I also believe that—in order to be effective—resolutions need to be made in a very particular way.

So here are 10 tips toward making resolutions that actually stick…

  1. Resolutions should be specific. When we vow to “spend more time with family,” our intentions are noble, no doubt. But it will be hard to measure whether we have been successful or not. And we will have a hard time knowing exactly what to do differently on a day-to-day basis. Rather, let’s give ourselves a target we can hit. Perhaps we will leave work by 5 p.m. every day to be home for dinner. Or maybe we will reserve every Sunday as a family day. It’s much easier to aim our attention at a clear and precise objective.
  1. We should write our resolutions down. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, did an interesting study on goal-setting with 267 participants. She found that we are 42% more likely to achieve our goals just by writing them down. Apparently, the act of putting our intentions on paper forces us to articulate our goal and increases our commitment.
  1. We should establish a plan of action. This means we need to attach a specific when and where and how to our goal. If our resolution is to “run three miles, three times each week,” we need to schedule that run for every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday as soon as we drop the kids off at school. We need to lay out our running clothes and shoes the night before and put them on first thing in the morning before we lose our resolve.
  1. We should gather the necessary resources. We must make sure we have what we need to set ourselves up for success. If we resolve to spend 30 minutes in Bible study each morning, we may need to download a reading plan or purchase a new cowhide journal whose blank pages invite us to reflect. If we resolve to remove sugar from our diet, we will undoubtedly need to clear out our kitchen and buy healthy alternative foods.
  1. We should replace undesirable behaviors with desirable ones. It helps to frame our resolutions as a challenge, not a threat. It helps to focus on the positive that we want, rather than the negative that we’re leaving behind. It helps when we resolve TO DO such-and-such, rather than to NOT DO something else. For example, if we want to stop gossiping, let’s focus instead on speaking words of encouragement and support. If we want to stop drinking caffeine during our afternoon break, let’s try replacing that fix with a walk around the block.
  1. We should create a strategy for dealing with potential disruptions. Goal researchers call it our “if/then” plan. It’s our pre-determined approach to the obstacles that we will undoubtedly encounter. If we attend a party where there are too many treats, then we will reach for the healthier alternative we have already packed in our purse. If we receive a bonus from work, then we will put it straight into our savings account where it is less accessible and less tempting to spend. If someone invites us for a coffee date during the time we had committed to clean our house, then we will offer to meet them on the following Tuesday instead.
  1. We must commit. We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of good old fashioned “grit.” Researcher Angela Lee Duckworth studied young cadets at Westpoint and students at the National Spelling Bee. The question she sought to answer was this: What is the difference between those who meet their goal and those who do not? She wondered: Is it raw intelligence? Resources? Something else? “In those very different contexts, one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success,” she said in a popular TED talk. “It was grit.” Plain old persistent perseverance.
  1. We should celebrate small success. Michael Hyatt says it this way: “If we’re going to be brave enough to set big goals, we must also be brave enough to redefine failure.” If we have a setback or don’t make progress at the rate we might hope, we needn’t throw up our hands in despair or call the whole thing off. Change often happens slowly, and any movement in the right direction is growth. Let’s see it and celebrate it as such.
  1. We can offer ourselves a reward. Much of human behavior happens because there some sort of payoff as a result. We drink that cup of coffee because it gives us the buzz we need to get through the day. We buy that new (but unnecessary) device because it offers more features than the version we currently have. Sometimes the new behavior we are resolved to implement doesn’t come with the same measure of immediate gratification. So we can spur ourselves on with a dangling carrot of our own design. A new outfit when we lose the weight. An overnight trip if we save the money. Attendance at a conference if we meet our writing goal.
  1. Finally, we should invite accountability. Growth often happens best in community. So we needn’t try to go it alone. We should tell at least one other person about our goal. Better yet, can we find someone who has a similar resolution and work toward our desired outcomes together?

Remember that study out of Scranton that I mentioned? Although the 8% success rate might put us off the resolution idea, the same study found that “people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t.”

So if you haven’t made any resolutions yet for 2016, it’s not too late! Begin with this prayer, “How can I see You glorified in my life this year?” He’ll show you something. I have no doubt. Then—using the guidelines above—just dive in. Any day is a good day to grow.


4 Characteristics of God’s Call

photo (4)

I don’t know if it’s the impending New Year or my current life circumstances or just my general penchant for new projects and plans, but I’ve been thinking a lot about “calling” again—mulling over the concept, talking with students and friends who are straining to hear theirs, as well as reevaluating my own.

So, because I have “calling” on the brain these days, I read with great interest Dee Ann Turner’s November 4 Relevant magazine article “4 Keys to Discovering Your Calling.”

The four keys she gives us are this:

  1. Your calling is the thing that gets you up in the morning.
  2. It’s what others tell you that you do best.
  3. It’s the way you use your energy to make an impact.
  4. It’s the moment and the activity in which you feel God’s pleasure.

And I do agree—to a certain extent. Certainly it is wonderful when God calls us to something that lights a fire in our soul. Certainly people occasionally acknowledge our strengths, and I enjoy pointing out the abilities I see in other people. God gave us those skills, no doubt, and He doesn’t intend for them to go to waste. Certainly, too, God sometimes allows us the satisfaction of seeing a project succeed or a problem solved, and it is certainly rewarding when this is the case. And certainly there are seasons when we sense His great pleasure in the process.

Certainly these things are true.


I’m concerned.

I’m concerned that—more and more—we are searching for something that is self-satisfying, and we are encouraging the next generation to do the same. I’m concerned that—less and less—are we willing to make the necessary sacrifice to follow God’s call to the hard places. Less and less are we willing to stay in that space for as long as it takes.

Because sometimes.

Sometimes our calling won’t work out like Turner says. Sometimes it’s more about a fight, than fulfillment. And sometimes the following things are also true.

  1. Sometimes our calling causes us cower under the covers. Sometimes we respond with uncertainty and fear when we hear Him speak our name. Sometimes, we respond with dread. Because sometimes God calls us to do crazy things. Sometimes He calls us to build a great big boat when there is no sign of rain. Sometimes He wants us to go to Nineveh and risk our very lives to share His good news. Sometimes He calls us to care for people who seem downright impossible to love. Sometimes those unlovables live in a distant land across the sea. Sometimes they reside right under our own roof. So we love, not because we feel compelled. Not because the prospect propels us out of bed at the first light of day. We love simply because He loved us first.
  1. Sometimes our calling doesn’t make sense. Sometimes when He blinds us with His brilliance and we fall to our knees—ready to obey, others will dismiss us and doubt our place. Sometimes our calling seems far beyond our reach. Sometimes we feel shockingly ill-suited to the task. Sometimes when the burning bush beckons, we think of innumerable excuses to explain why we are not the best person for the job. But we get up and go. We march into Pharaoh’s court with our knocking knees and our stuttering speech because He who calls will also equip. He promises His presence and His power. And these things are more than enough. After all, it is His project, not ours.
  1. Sometimes we won’t get to see the results of our work. Sometimes we may not see any measurable effect. Sometimes we will labor for years and see not one soul saved. Sometimes we won’t get to build the temple or enter the Promised Land. Sometimes our prophetic cries in the wilderness seem to fall on deaf ears. Sometimes our witness will land us behind bars. Yet we keep our eyes on the eternal prize and strain our ears only to hear the ultimate “well done.” And we trust that the harvest is in His capable hands.
  1. And sometimes we don’t feel His pleasure. Sometimes we sense only silence. Sometimes we sit in the slimy belly of the fish. Sometimes we may beg for the cup to be taken away. “My God, My God!” Sometimes we feel forsaken. But we take up our cross and we follow Him.

So, yes, sometimes God’s calling looks like the miraculous parting of the sea. And sometimes it looks more like a wander in the wilderness. Sometimes it looks like a nail scarred hand. And sometimes—blessed Sunday—it looks like an empty tomb.

As we head into another new year, may we have courage to face the furnace when necessary. May we have the tenacity to circle the city for the seventh time. And may we have keen ears and willing hearts to hear and to heed God’s call—regardless.

We Have Seen His Glory!

Caorls banner

If you had been in Chicago on December 4th or 5th, you could have joined me (and over 10,000 other Chicagoans) for the Moody Bible Institute’s Candlelight Carols Christmas program, one of our biggest events of the year. In the setting of the majestic Moody Church, you would have seen and heard our three college choirs, the symphonic band, a few other musical ensembles, a multimedia display, and our drama team—all performing so beautifully for the glory of God.

Carols Rehearsal

For fifteen years or so, I’ve had the privilege of being involved in the production. And every year—though it can be hectic and hard—Candlelight Carols ushers in the Christmas season for me in a powerful way.

Back in 1999, when I was still new to my professorial position, a colleague asked me to help her direct the drama. And though I was intimidated by the high profile nature of the production, I agreed. The following year I was asked to write the script as well. I guess I rose to the occasion because for many years following, I did both—the writing and the directing.

Finally, five years ago my talented friend, Lindsey Branson, joined the Carols team and took over the directing reigns. And since then we’ve collaborated on each dramatic script.

For Lindsey and me, Candlelight Carols planning starts in May. We meet in a Starbucks with our laptops open, and we brainstorm…because here’s the thing: though every Carols is, of course, about Jesus’ journey to the manger, too many of us get numb to the nativity. It gets lost beneath the tinsel and the traditions and the turkey dinner. For this reason, every year the Carols team and I want to approach Jesus’ birth in a new way. Every year we want our audience to be struck afresh by the miracle of His coming. Every year I want to remind Chicago just how much they need Him.

This year’s drama idea was sparked when Lindsey and I Googled historic events that happened at Christmas. And we discovered—well, I’m sure I learned about this in school at some point but I had no recollection—that on Christmas Eve 1968 the Apollo 8 astronauts read Genesis chapter 1 during their telecast from the far side of the moon.

I dare you to not be awed by THIS!!

earth from Apollo 8

You can only fully appreciate the importance of this event when you understand the context, when you understand how much our country needed that expression of hope.

First, there was the Space Race with the USSR and the fact that the Soviet Sputnik had beaten the United States to space.

Second, there were the horrific events of 1968. Some call it the worst year of the last century with the Tet Offensive and the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the resulting riots in Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington D.C. It was a time of racial tension and international conflict and fear.

A time not unlike our own.

So on Christmas Eve 1968 Jim Lovell, Frank Borman, and Bill Anders gave us our first glimpse of our globe from the orbit of the moon. And in reading the creation narrative from that astonishing vantage point, they reminded us just how small we are. And how great is He.

In 1968 the United States needed the Apollo 8. But far more than that, we needed to be reminded of our Creator God.

And His Son, our Savior, who came to redeem.

In 2015 we need these very same things.


“In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

We have seen his glory,

the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father,

full of grace and truth.”

John 1:1 & 14

When We Say “I Will”

P&K Wedding (2)Sixteen years ago I walked down the aisle of a 14th century church in Plympton, England. I was wearing a blush-colored dress and a homemade veil, and I promised to Peter, before God, “I will.”

“I will serve you and obey you. Love, honor, and keep you. In sickness and in health. I will forsake all others and be devoted to you alone, as long as we both shall live.”

Like most brides, I had no idea what I was getting into. But I’ve spent the last sixteen years trying—and repeatedly failing—to figure it out.

When I was in my twenties and single and contemplating love, one of my favorite books was A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. It simultaneously inspired and intimidated me.

Sheldon Vanauken (Van), a twentysomething son of privilege, was apathetic and disengaged and entering adulthood in an America still reeling from the Great Depression. Like most young adults, he was longing for something to live for. Then, one snowy night on a university campus, he quite literally collided with Jean Davis (called Davy), a rebel soul running from her own past of poverty and family pain.

While the world around them descended into war, Van and Davy escaped into a love affair that was nothing short of idyllic. They determined to build a bond that could never be broken, so they erected what they called the “Shining Barrier” around their love. To construct this Shining Barrier they resolved to share every memory, every experience, every idea (every shared thing was another cord of connection), and they determined to keep out whatever could possibly separate them.

“The killer of love is creeping separateness,” they said. And though they took matters to an extreme (even they came to see their love as obsessive and even idolatrous after they converted to Christianity), I still think they knew something of love that many of us lack.

Peter and I didn’t know each other very well when we put our heads together for the very first time.

We were dating. Sort of.

At least I thought we were.

We met in September of 1998 over lunch in the college cafeteria. And one Saturday just a few weeks later, he surprised me by riding the commuter train from his grad school dorm in Chicago to my suburban apartment in Wheaton so we could hang out. I was thrilled, but swamped. I had a mountain of laundry to deal with and a freelance writing project to complete.

So off we went to the laundromat for a romantic afternoon. I stuffed three machines with my whites, darks, and reds. Then I suggested we head to the coffee shop next door to wait and to work.

Obliging as he was, Peter settled in across the table from me, his handsome head buried in a thick theology textbook, while I took out my yellow legal pad (I didn’t yet own a laptop) and started to scribble—rather unsuccessfully.

Partly, I’m sure, I was distracted by Peter’s presence. But partly, I was simply fresh out of ideas. I was trying to create a curriculum product for junior high kids, but none of my teaching methods seemed engaging. None of my approaches felt innovative or right.

I knew Peter had an education degree. I knew he had a creative streak, and I knew he had taught fifth grade for four years. So after I shifted my laundry to the dryers, I mustered up the courage to ask him for help.

And a bond was formed. The first brick in our own Shining Barrier was laid. Thus, we had our first glimpse of how God might be calling us to work side-by-side.

A couple of months ago Peter and I spoke at a marriage retreat at Conference Point in Williams Bay, WI. Thirty or so couples joined us—some married for decades, some for just a few weeks. And together we took a close look at God’s intent for marriage from Genesis 1—3.

We were reminded that man and woman were created in the image of God—a plurality in their unity. Then God gave them tasks to complete together, tasks best fulfilled in the context of marriage. Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it.

In Genesis 2:15 we read that God put the man and the woman in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it. It was that word for “work” that particularly captured our attention. For while it is commonly used for labor and tilling the soil, it also speaks of service to another and is often used of worship.

Our work is our worship. And in marriage we are designed to do this together. Side-by-side.

Peter and I spent the summer of 1999 working at a day camp. Side-by-side. Peter was the leader of the junior high program. I was one of the counselors. It was hard work—serving fifty middle school kids, teaching them, refereeing for them, subduing them. I don’t remember thinking of it as “worship.” But I suppose it was.

Surely it was a bonding experience for Peter and me. Another brick in a Shining Barrier of sorts. Another opportunity to see how God might use us as a couple, how we are better together than we are apart.

Near the end of the summer, after a particularly intense week of junior high camp, Peter and I were recovering and debriefing and marveling at how God was beginning to move in some kids’ lives.

Then I suggested, “Let’s go for a run.” Peter agreed, and we headed out.

After our first lap around the neighborhood, Peter suddenly stopped running and dropped to one knee.

“Will you marry me?” he asked. He told me later that, in that moment, he could envision a life of working side-by-side, and he had to get the question out while he still had the nerve.

And after I recovered from the shock, I said, “Yes. I will.”

At the marriage retreat in October, we gave the couples several assignments.

The first was to write a mission statement for their marriage. We asked them: what do you want your relationship, your family, to be about?

A second bit of homework was to illustrate their relationship using a Venn Diagram. You remember Venn Diagrams, don’t you?

They were conceived by John Venn in 1880, and they are used to teach elementary set theory. They show all of the possible logical relations between a finite collection of sets. They show what two or more entities have in common.

Adam and Eve’s Venn Diagram might have looked like this.

Adam and Even Venn

Van and Davy’s Venn Diagram might have looked like this as well.

Adam and Even Venn

However, I think too many marriages in 21st century America look more like this.

Common marriage Venn

Spouses more like roommates. Living together but not pulling toward the same goals. Not working and worshipping together on a daily basis.

Creeping separateness. The killer of love.

Many times throughout 2015 Peter and I have been asked, “What is it like to write a book together?” Interestingly, this question is often followed by the comment: “My spouse and I could never do that.”

And actually, we understand. At various periods in our marriage, we would have said the same thing. At times we’ve lived our separate lives. At times we’ve pulled in opposite directions, dreamed different dreams, even allowed resentment to reign.

Thankfully, God can heal these things. He’s eager and committed to doing so. More committed than we could ever be. He is the true Shining Barrier. When we say, “I will”—before God—He says, “I will” as well.

“I will guide you and grow you. Love, cherish, and keep you. In sickness and in health. I will pursue you determinedly and be devoted to you, for as long as you both shall live.”

So—back to the question—what’s it like to write a book together as husband and wife? It’s an interesting collaboration process, for sure. A new type of partnership. And we’ve slowly established our own methods and means. When we begin a piece, we brainstorm. This is where Peter takes the lead. He can quickly generate a constellation of ideas. I offer a few of my own, and we cross off any unworkable ones. Then based on our rough notes, Peter drafts the essay or chapter. (He works fast.)

When he finishes, he submits it to me for crafting. (I am slow.) Graciously here he gives me full reign. Sometimes I gouge out huge sections of Peter’s work to make way for my own thoughts. Sometimes I leave his content relatively unchanged, and I just edit for structure and voice. But perhaps the best pieces are a true and miraculous amalgamation of our individual perspectives that forms an unforeseen third view. Plurality and unity. Our work and our worship. And by the grace of God alone, something surprisingly good.

Of course, writing a book together isn’t the calling of every couple. But—dare I say—working and worshipping together is.

What is your mission for your marriage? Are you building a Shining Barrier? What is the work He has for you to do?

It’s World Adoption Day!

In honor of World Adoption Day, I’m re-posting this piece called “Island Time” about the long, yet necessary, process of adopting our daughter Amelia.


“Time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels;

only when the clock stops does time come to life.” –William Faulkner

Chebeague Island Inn

Our official wait for our daughter Amelia began on an island. The island of Great Chebeague, off the coast of Maine.

In the summer of 2006 we mailed our thick dossier to China. Then, just a few days later, we packed my parents—weary and wary—into their big ol’ Buick, strapped our bikes onto our Mini Cooper, and caravanned south from Chicago, through Indiana on Interstate 65. We cut across Kentucky, drove down into Tennessee, and eventually dropped Mom and Dad at my brother’s house in Knoxville for a three-week stay. The next morning Peter and I took a sharp left and headed northeast.

We needed this vacation. Badly.

We had barely begun to heal from infertility and our first two miscarriages and a few adoption disappointments. We had been sharing a home with my parents for almost a year, helping my mom through surgery and chemo and radiation. Making sure my dad was fed and bathed and cared for as best we could while Mom was sick. Peter had just finished his second master’s degree. And we were spent.

Certainly, we wanted to finally move ahead with our new adoption dream. Wanted to turn the page and look ahead and begin again. But somehow we felt stuck. We were each—still—bound up so tightly in our individual fear and anxiety and exhaustion and pain that like two mummies, side-by-side in our coffin of a car, we began that trip.

We were only thirty minutes from my brother’s house when we stopped for brunch at a little French-inspired café. And we lingered, trying to let the reality of our three-week respite soak in just a bit. Trying to peer through the tangled bandages that had for so long covered our eyes. Trying to see one another again. Trying to remember how to breathe.

Then—for the next few days we took our time—traveling up through the Appalachians and over to the coast. Meandering through the mountains. Riding often in silence with the windows down. Sometimes singing along to some CD. Occasionally venturing into cautious conversation. And with each twisty mile, God began to tug away at our canvas coverings. Little by little, we began to leave behind some of our layers of linen and come back to life.

Three long and leisurely days later, we finally pulled into Portland, Maine. For a few hours, we poked around the Old Port section of town until it was time to take our suitcases and our bikes and board the Casco Bay ferry for the island of Great Chebeague.


Almost two hundred islands pepper the Casco Bay off the coast of Portland, though only a handful of them are inhabited. Stretching almost five miles long and one-and-a-half miles wide, Great Chebeague is the largest. And with 360 year-round residents, she is also the most populated. She boasts one main road that rounds her perimeter, one museum, one elementary school house, one little library, one church, one basic market, one clam shack, one 9-hole golf course, and one grand hotel—The Chebeague Island Inn.

I discovered the island and the inn on the internet a couple of months before our trip.

One evening in May Peter and I had discussed again how and where to spend our time away. He wanted cheap and rustic and spontaneous; I wanted quaint and comfortable and relatively calculated. And after a particularly difficult disagreement, we had resorted to our too-often-practiced pattern for dealing with conflict: Peter retreated and went to bed while I took control and got the thing done. I stayed up very late, plotting and planning a vacation that I hoped would satisfy us both, and I surprised Peter the next morning with an apology and a folder full of printouts. Google maps. Campsites. Theater tickets. Random, “spontaneous” things to do all along the way. Hotel reservations. And—to seal the deal—some pictures of Chebeague. Thankfully, he was game.

The island itself certainly intrigued me. The ocean—on all sides. The solitude. The slow, slow pace.

Chebeague side view

But it was the inn that really captured my imagination. A Greek Revival hotel built in the 1920s, the Chebeague Island Inn was completely restored in 2004. And with her freshly whitewashed rooms (free from telephones or TVs), her stone fireplace, her broad porch, and her views of the sea, she seemed like the perfect place to purge our souls of some of our past pain. The perfect place to reconcile my heart to God’s. The perfect place to reclaim hope and rekindle our dreams. Of family and parenthood and the imminent arrival of our baby girl. Eighteen months, we had been told.


When we awoke on our first Chebeague morning, the sheer curtains were dancing in a cool island breeze and a heavy blanket of fog hid the sea from view. When we went down to the inn’s dining room for breakfast, we were surprised to find that—because I had made our reservations for the less-expensive middle of the week—we had the place largely to ourselves.

As we enjoyed our egg soufflé and perfectly presented fruit, and as we peered over the broad lawn through the milky air, Peter looked over at me and asked me how I was.

“Grateful,” I said. I had been up early that morning, journaling these prayers while Peter still slept, so I shared. “I’m grateful that we made it through this far. That our marriage is intact. I’m grateful for God’s grace. For the healing that has already begun. And I’m desperate to follow Him forward and see what He has for us next.”

After breakfast we decided to take our bikes and explore. So with map in hand, we peddled down North Road to the southern tip of the island and a place called Indian Point. The beach was deserted that morning, and the tide was out—which meant that a long, wide sandbar lay exposed—seemingly leading straight off the edge of the earth.

Sand bar

According to the map, at low tide, that sandbar connected Great Chebeague with her uninhabited tiny sister island, Little Chebeague. A tempting adventure. And in spite of the fact that we didn’t know the exact rhythm of the sea and didn’t know how far we had to go and didn’t know how much time we had to get there and couldn’t see our destination—we decided to take the risk and make the cross. And little by little, as we moved out away from shore, we were able to catch a glimpse of her through the fog. Fuzzy at first, but becoming clearer with each step. Little Chebeague.

Little Chebeague in Fog

We moved much more quickly on the walk back to Indian Point, the water creeping up the sand on either side. The salty air filling our lungs. I was thanking God for His goodness and for the gift of this trip, and I was praying—for continued healing for Peter and me, for our daughter who was not even born, for the courage and patience to continue to wait—when through the haze I noticed a family on the beach. The only other people we had seen all morning, apart from the staff at the inn. But there they were. A mother and a father and their little Chinese daughter.

She toddled around, that precious little girl, in her rolled up jeans and tiny bare feet, picking up stones and tossing them down. Squishing the sand and squealing with joy. Her mother followed her all around, all smiles and laughter, rescuing pebbles from tiny teeth. And her father captured it all with his camera. “Smile, baby,” he called over and over. “Smile!”

Peter saw them too, of course. And we looked at each other—dumbfounded and amazed. And that familiar pang of longing—which had for years sunk to my gut in the form of grief—now filled my chest with something fresh. Anticipation. And hope. What were the odds? That in this remote place, at this exact moment, we would receive such a clear vision of what could be. Of what was to come. A flash of light to spur us on. We sat on a driftwood log for a few minutes and tried to (subtly) take it all in.

Portland Head Lighthouse

At the end of our island week, we stood on the ferry’s deck for most of the ride back to the mainland, wanting to soak in every last bit of the Casco Bay. But it was another foggy day, and it was difficult to see. Eventually, though, our captain directed our attention a mile or so down the coast to the Portland Head Lighthouse. And sure enough, even before we could see the lighthouse herself, her beam was visible through the mist—rotating, pulsating, warning ships of the rocky coast, and guiding them home.


I didn’t know—when we left the island of Great Chebeague that day—that rather than eighteen-months, it would be six years before I would see that face.

I didn’t know all of the life events that stood between us and her. The sorrows and joys. The death of my parents. The arrival of her big brother D.

Nor did I know how God would grow us through all of those things. How He would prepare me to love my daughter in ways I wouldn’t have known to love before.

I didn’t know that waiting sometimes feels like a fog. Other times the black of night. But that sometimes, just when we need it the most, a light breaks through to lead us on.

Darkness. Darkness. Darkness. Flash.

I didn’t know how much I would need that light or how many different sources God would use over the years. A timely sermon. Or a song on the radio. An adoption support group. A well-written blog. A life-giving conversation. And even an authentic Chinese New Year celebration with a family from church.

I didn’t know when we left Great Chebeague that God often works on island time. That what feels like a waiting room to us may seem like something else entirely to Him. Perhaps He sees a classroom or an operating room or a deeply sacred space. Perhaps where we see sterile walls and stiff sofas and endlessly ticking clocks, He may see a wide porch and wicker chairs and the perfect chance to chat.

 “Waiting is an invitation to intimacy” –Jerome Daley

Peter came home from a doctoral class last night, and I read him the beginnings of this post.

“It’s the difference between Kairos and Chronos,” he said. “We talked about it today in class. They are two different Greek words for time.”

He’s right.

Chronos is what we think of as time. It’s the ticking clock. The ripping off of the calendar page. The need to rush to the next event.

But Kairos is something completely other. And Kairos is how God works. In due season. In the perfectly opportune moment. At the divinely-appointed time.

Sometimes the Adoption Process Feels Like This


Oh, how I have missed writing here in recent weeks! For the month of October, our time has been focused on launching our new book (20 Things We’d Tell Our Twentysomething Selves) and our new website (www.peterandkelli.com). We’ve been interviewed on a variety of radio shows and written guest columns for various websites and blogs. I look forward to sharing more about this experience when the dust settles a bit.

But today. Today I’m thinking about adoption. November is National Adoption Awareness Month after all.

I started the day by listening to a precious student of mine give his informative speech about his own adoption from Kenya. And I’ve been walking around ever since with misty eyes–recalling our adoption journey and my own adoption as a child of the King.

I’ve written about adoption here several times before–but it’s been a while. So today I’m pulling this one out of the vault.

It’s not an easy one. It’s not about the joy on the other side. (I’ll re-share some of those writings later in the month.) Rather, this one is about some of the blows most of us endure along the way.

Adoption is not for the faint of heart. But I can’t quite imagine anything more worthwhile or anything more reflective of the heart of God.

 When We Want

(or “Sometimes the Adoption Process Feels Like This”)

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed” (2 Corinthians 4:8).

I grew up watching the Road Runner cartoons—the two-minute mini-episodes, in which the big-nosed, big-eared Wile E. Coyote obtains ridiculous gadgets from the mail-order company, the Acme Corporation. He uses these devices to try to catch the quick-footed Road Runner, but they invariably backfire. Wile E. always ends up fried to a crisp, squashed completely flat, or stuck with his head through a boulder.

Yet—driven by desire and fortitude—he always rebounds and chooses to come back for more. Creator Chuck Jones has rightly said that Wile E. is a “living, breathing allegory of Want.” As an outside observer, though, his seeming stubbornness always troubled me and garnered little empathy.

That is, until we tried to adopt.

We started the Chinese adoption process in January of 2006 and were told that we would be united with our daughter within a year and a half. But we chased paper longer than most, since Peter was born in England and we were married there. Because my parents were living with us and had to obtain clearance as well. My mom’s chemotherapy erased her fingerprints, which the FBI found suspect. My dad’s cerebral palsy made his fingerprints unreadable by the USCIS computers, so we had to take him into downtown Chicago to prove he didn’t have a secret life of crime.

But finally, in the summer of 2006, our paperwork was sent to China.

There to sit.

For almost six years.

As you have likely observed, the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote follow the laws of “cartoon physics”—meaning that the regular laws of physics are bent and twisted for comic effect. Sometimes Wile E. will hang in the air until the moment he realizes that he is defying gravity. Then he will plunge to the ground. No amount of frantic airborne running will save him. He might even fall past a rock that he himself has dropped only to be squashed by it. And when Wile E. paints the image of a cave on a sheer rock face, the Road Runner can run right into the cave as if it were real. Wile E. cannot. Wile E. will run full speed into the wall of stone and will be flattened.

The laws of “adoption physics” seem similarly designed.

In May 2007 the China Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA) tightened its regulations on adoptive parents in an effort to loosen the growing logjam of paperwork in their office. New applicants must have a body-mass index below 40 and a net worth above $80,000. They cannot take medication for anxiety or depression or be over 50 years old. In other words, they must be young, trim, financially secure, and happy. As best I could tell, on a good day and for the time being, we still qualified. But we were hanging on by our fingernails.

Then in November 2007 the CCAA made another policy change. It reversed its longstanding No Concurrent Adoptions Rule to allow families stuck in their logjam to pursue a second adoption while continuing to wait. So in December when our case worker, presented us with the concurrent adoption option, we dove head first.

We chose Ethiopia. Started decorating an Ethiopia nursery. Researching Ethiopia travel. Reading Ethiopia books.

But when our agency was finally ready to help us with the Ethiopia paperwork, it was July 2008, and our case worker dropped a new bomb in our laps. A risk statement for us to sign. Peter and I read in silence the three page list of possible-horrible-things-that-could-happen-if-we-adopted-from-Ethiopia. The main one being that China could throw our paperwork out the window. For race reasons.

“I think this is a deal breaker for me,” I said. Peter agreed.

When the case worker came back, Peter explained, “We still believe we’re meant to adopt from China. And we don’t want to rock that boat.”

“Do we have any less-risky options for a concurrent adoption?” I asked.

“Domestic would be the easiest and most foolproof,” the case worker said.

I had researched domestic adoption as well. I knew that it is neither easy nor foolproof.

But we dove in anyhow. Head first.

In another episode we find Wile E. Coyote buried in the thick text: Karate Self-Taught. Finishing his study, he peeks over the book and his brow furrows in determination. He dons a white karate suit and black belt. Then he bows to his first opponent, a tall cactus, and hops toward it—boing, boing, boing—arms poised to attack. With one swoop he chops it clean in half, amazed at his own power and strength. He turns to the camera with a grin. Ready to try again.

“Beep, beep,” he hears and races to hide behind a rock. His actual target is on its way.

“Beep, beep,” he hears again. And Wile E. leaps from behind the rock and karate chops the front of the Acme truck. The screen is filled with brightly colored stars. Then back to Wile E., hand still stuck in the hood. His face registers all the pain, shock, and horror of a coyote betrayed yet again by his own longing.

And as the truck passes by, we see in its rear the perky, grinning Road Runner who gives a taunting, “Beep, beep.”

One Thursday shortly after my mom died, I checked our voicemail, and our friend Kathy’s animated voice was the first I heard. “I’m sorry to leave a message,” she began. “I know this is a painful topic, but it’s urgent.” I grabbed a pen and started jotting down the particulars—started painting the image of a cave on a sheer rock face—as Kathy explained that a friend of hers took in babies when the mothers are in crisis.

“Last week when I was at her house,” she went on, “she had this adorable baby and the fifteen-year-old mother wanted to place the baby for adoption, so I told my friend that I knew the best possible parents ever—you guys, of course—but she told me that the baby’s father wasn’t sure, but then she asked me about you because she has lots of contact with birthmothers. Then on Tuesday she called and told me that her friends…”

Beep, beep.

I pressed “9” to save the message and went on to the next.

“Me again; your machine cut me off; anyhow, I was saying that these friends of hers adopted domestically, and the birthmother of their daughter is pregnant again. But the family can’t take the new baby, so the birthmother still needs to find a family. I’ve been praying about it all weekend, and I have a really good feeling about this. Call me!”

“Peter!” I yelled down the stairs.

“Yes?” he called from the kitchen.

“We need to call Kathy!” I yelled. “She thinks she found us a baby.”

At that point, she was our third friend to think so.

Over dinner, Peter was apprehensive. “I’ll call her, but we can’t get our hopes up.”

“I know,” I said.

“It most likely won’t come to anything,” Peter said.

“I know,” I said.

“I’m just afraid that you’re going to…”

Of course, he was concerned that I would trip and fall over the cliff again. That I would be flattened by a rock that I myself had dropped. I had before. Throughout infertility. After three miscarriages. Each time the China delay grew longer. After our dinner with Debbie. After another unsolicited adoption call lead to nowhere.

But I assured him, “I’m fine. Just call.”

We huddled over the speaker phone and listened as Kathy repeated her story with even more enthusiasm and more heavenly assurance that this was the baby for us. She gave us the phone number of her friend, Cheri.

Cheri confirmed Kathy’s story and gave us the number of her friends. “Let me do the talking this time,” I said to Peter. “It might be good if they hear from the potential mother.” He agreed, and I dialed.

When a man answered, I explained, “My name is Kelli Worrall. My husband Peter is here too. We got your number from Cheri Boyd. We are hoping to adopt and Cheri told us about the situation with the birthmother of your daughter…”

“Oh, yes…um…” Long, heavy pause. “…that situation has been rectified,” he said.

I was stunned. Frantic airborne running ensued. Peter gestured at me to say something. But gravity was kicking in.

“I’m sorry,” the man said.

Peter jumped in. “Ok, thank you. Good bye.”

When he hung up, I just kept staring out the window.

“Are you ok?” Peter said.

“‘The situation has been rectified?’ Really? What is that supposed to mean?”


“I don’t know if I can keep doing this, Peter,” I said. “I feel as if—over and over—we are the butt of the same…bad…joke.”

And—true story—as soon as those words came out of my mouth, I thought of Wile E.

And I did “keep doing this.” Even when months later a birthmom did choose us. Took our $3000. And disappeared without a trace.

Even when for six weeks we provided a safe home for a precious baby girl, who was “probably going to be adoptable.” Then got the call, days before Christmas, that her fourteen-year-old birthmom, also in foster care, had changed her mind. Wanted her baby back.

Even when we were on our way to the hospital to pick up a newborn. And got a call that this birthmom decided to tell this birthdad about the baby after all. And he was on a plane from Memphis to sort it out. And we turned around and drove home with a still empty car seat in the back.

But why? Why get up and try again?

Because Want that deep drives us to do daring things. Because it is possible, if difficult, to be both desirous and submitted—to hold both longing and contentment in our heart—at the exact same time. Isn’t it? Can we say, “I would like things to be different, but by Your grace I am okay”? Didn’t He say, “Take this cup, Father; yet not my will, but Yours be done”? Because learning to live in that tension is what being human this side of Heaven is about.

And because it isn’t only about obtaining the prize. If it were, we wouldn’t keep watching poor Wile E.

It is also about the pursuit. It is also about the free fall and the karate chop and the boulder to the head. It’s about seeing stars and dissolving into a puff of dust and all of the other lessons we learn along the way.

Our Whole30 Report

chicken and sweet pot

photo credit: Whole30 meal prep

Roughly sixty days ago our family began our first Whole30 nutrition challenge.

A few days later, I wrote about it here. I explained why we decided to give this a try and what hurdles we encountered right out of the gate (“The Worralls on Whole30”). Since then several of you have asked me how it’s going, so I’m here to give my long-anticipated dietary report.

If you aren’t familiar with the Whole30 plan, it begins with this key premise…that “The food you eat either makes you more healthy or less healthy.” Those are your only two options. I used the book It Starts with Food (by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig) to guide us through the month, and it now lives on my kitchen counter. We’ve gotten to be very good friends.

Here’s how the Whole30 works. It asks you for one month of your life. One month to clean out your system. One month to do a complete nutritional reset. One month to eat only foods that promote healthy psychological and hormonal responses, only foods that support normal digestive function, and only foods that minimize inflammation. Practically speaking, that means eliminating all of the following from your diet: Sugar/Sweeteners, Grains/Gluten, Legumes, Alcohol, and Dairy.

And…we did it! For the most part.

True confessions. Daryl’s birthday was August 17, and we ate pizza and cake. There was also a friend’s birthday party and a restaurant visit or two where we just did the best we could. But we persevered, and we have found this Whole30 promise to be true: It does change the way you look at and think about food. It changes what you want to put into your body. It changes your taste and your tolerance for the “unhealthy stuff.”

The Whole30 made good on this promise as well: We do feel better. Peter’s stomach inflammation is greatly reduced. I no longer have my giant crashes in the late afternoon. My energy levels are more consistent and my thinking is more clear. (At least I think it is. Peter might beg to differ.) When he is eating clean, Daryl is more present and self-controlled. (And I can now often tell when he’s had something roguish to eat.) An unexpected benefit is that food just tastes better. (You should have heard the yummy noises the four of us made over a simple rotisserie chicken.) And the weight we’d tried for a long time to lose just disappeared–almost by accident.

Bottom line: we’re hooked. And we’re going to stick it out for the long haul—with a few simple modifications. After your official Whole30, the book gives you advice for reintroducing some foods—slowly and deliberately— and gauging your body’s response. We’ve reintroduced Greek yogurt. I’m back to putting cream in my coffee—still sans sweetener. We will occasionally enjoy a bit of gluten or sugar, but defining and sticking to “occasionally” is the key. (I should also say that we’re back to supplementing with Reliv products as well.)*

So, the question I’ve received most often has been this: Is it hard?

My answer has been, “Yes. And no.” Here are a few of my observations:

Eating out is hard. Sometimes impossible. At many restaurants—especially fast food establishments—there is nothing on the menu that we can eat. So we’ve learned to plan ahead more. We pack more lunches (and dinners, if necessary). And we eat out even less than we did before. (An added financial benefit.)

Cravings are hard. For the first two weeks, my craving for sugar was crazy. I knew I had a thing for sugar, so this didn’t surprise me too much. But pressing through those two weeks without ice cream or chocolate or a sweet Starbucks something from the drive thru was the hardest part of the whole month for me. That, and learning to drink my coffee black. Blah!

Social events are hard. While I’ve grown in my own ability to say “no” to the brownies our friends might bring to our house, I still usually cave when my kiddos are surrounded by chocolate-lipped friends and they look at me with such pitiful longing.

Grocery shopping is easy. Okay. Another true confession. I had already been using Peapod (a service that delivers your groceries to your door) for over a year when we started the Whole30, and this was perhaps my saving grace. It’s much easier to resist all the Ghirardelli’s milk chocolate chips when they aren’t staring me down, face-to-face.

Cooking is easy. I enjoy cooking, so before the Whole30 I would typically prepare recipes with a long list of ingredients several times each week. So compared to what I used to do, Whole30 recipes are simple. Just pick a protein, add some vegetables, cook in a healthy fat, and season with spices. We’ve tried many combinations of these basic four elements. We’ve like every one of them. And we’re not bored yet. (Though I know I will probably need to find some additional options soon.)

Re-training our kids was surprisingly easy. Amelia used to beg for candy several times a day. Of course, I said “no” most of the time. But I must have said “yes” enough to make it worth her while to plead. Now—two months in—she begs for frozen mango chunks and cashews. Daryl used to ask for McDonalds sometimes on the way home from school. Today he asked for a Starbucks “Protein Box.” And while the answer was still “no”—those things aren’t cheap—I like his new taste in fast food.

And that is, I think, the biggest payoff for me—knowing that I’m doing what I can to give my kids, my husband, and myself every edible advantage.

I know it isn’t the Holy Grail. And I know it isn’t for everyone. But if you’re thinking about trying your own Whole30, I would say, “Go for it!” I’m here to cheer you on.

*Our Reliv distributor is Kim. Contact her at gkcskinner@comcast.net if you’d like more information.


Have any of you done a Whole30? 

Tell us about your experience…

Any of you thinking about it? 

Let us know how it goes…

For All the Freshmen

photo credit: Dave Lampenin

photo credit: Dave Lampinen

They arrived today.

With their baskets of bedding and their neat stacks of notebooks and their brand new jeans. They came to our campus with their snarled up stomachs and their wide wet eyes and all of their hopes and dreams.

They arrived with their siblings and parents and friends, who filled up their fridges and helped settle their stuff. Who gave lingering hugs and some last words of advice and finally waved goodbye.

I watched them come. For the eighteenth time. And I am always moved by the sight of them. Moved with gratitude at what God has done. Moved with excitement over what He will do. Moved with a certain measure of awe.

On the sidewalk I greeted a few of them today with a handshake, a smile, and “you are welcome here.”

On Monday morning I will meet many more. I will show them a syllabus and learn their names and begin my specific task of helping them read, think, and write.

But knowing what I know—that these next four years will be full of all manner of things—I feel compelled tonight, before I turn out this light, to offer a simple prayer…


El Shaddai,

Walk with them. Reveal Yourself—in ways old and new. Please be near.

Fuel their passions. Strengthen their resolve. Fill their hearts with peace and love.

When loneliness comes, be their Friend.

When fear overwhelms, be their Rock.

When the path seems hidden, be their Light.

When they are broken, heal their hurts.

When they doubt their calling, be their ever Burning Bush.

When they doubt You, show up big.


May they fall in love with learning.

May they discover new gifts.

May they steward well their money, their talents, their time.

May they discern Your truth and cling to it. Tight.


I pray for a church home where they can find community and be fed.

I pray for a mentor who will challenge them and cheer them on.

I pray for some life-long, life-giving friends.


Build into their being tenacity and resilience,

Patience and compassion,

Boldness and gentleness,

And a deep dependence on You.


When they trip and fall, or when they run headlong in the wrong way, be their Father. Pursue them relentlessly. Pierce their soul. Lift them up. Dust them off. And bring them back.


You are God.

They are Yours. Not ours.

We commit to serving You and them, to the best of our ability and by Your grace alone.

We lay this year on the altar. Do with it as You will.



Freshman, what are you praying for this year?

Parents, what do you pray for your freshmen?

So Long, Sweet Summer

 D & A on beach

Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.

Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth;

Your right hand is filled with righteousness.

Mount Zion rejoices, the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgements.

Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers,

Consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation.

For this God is our God for ever and ever;

He will be our guide even to the end.

Psalm 48:9-14

Like it or not, it’s transition time.

Tomorrow Peter and I head back to our teaching jobs. Next Monday our kids start back to school. We’ve been cruising along in 3rd gear for the past three months, and we’re about to kick it straight into 5th.  I can already feel the jerking and the grinding of the gears. This transition always shakes me up.

You would think I’d be an old hand at this by now, having been on one side of the syllabi or the other for just about every year of my life. But I’m here to admit that I still feel sad every time summer and I have to say good-bye. Sad and anxious and resistant. Like I just want to stomp on the brakes, screech to a halt, and throw the whole world into reverse.

This year, though, I’m longing to make this shift more smoothly—gracefully—gratefully—if not for my own sake, for the sake of my husband and my students and the two pintsize passengers who are unwittingly along for the ride. I can’t stop the seasons or the spinning of the globe. Clearly I don’t have that power. But what I do have is a choice and a God who will be our guide.

So this morning, while the rest of my family enjoys a final opportunity to wake at their leisure, I’m sitting in our breakfast nook, sipping green tea, pouring over an unlikely Psalm, and praying for peace.

I’m counting towers and considering ramparts.

I’m remembering waterpark escapades and late night family time around the fire and a successful septum surgery and picnics with friends and all the ways He has shown us His unfailing love.

I’m choosing to trust and to tell the next generation that this same God will be our God into the fall and for ever and ever. Even to the end.

What about you? How are you handling the summer-to-school-year shift?

The Worralls on Whole30

whole 30 meal

photo credit: Good Cheap Eats

Here I am, sitting on a pile of pillows in a bathtub at The DeSoto House Hotel, Galena, Illinois (circa. 1855). We’re in room 203, with its soaring ceiling and grand windows and slanted floors. It is 4:30 a.m. I’m sipping black decaf coffee that I made in the little hotel pot. And the rest of my precious family is sound asleep just outside that door.

Our annual China Adoption Travel Group Reunion is coming to an end. We’ve spent a long weekend here in Galena with five other families, whom we adore. I’ll share more about this wonderful tradition in a later post…

Because this morning what I really want to talk about is food. Probably because I could eat my right arm, right now.

Back in June I shared that we Worralls had adopted three core summer values, three standards that we would use to guide our summer of 2015. They were (1) Good Health, (2) Relational Connection, and (3) Eternal Value. Well, now that the summer is all too quickly coming to a close, I’m here to report that we have prevailed on some fronts and lost ground on others and learned,well, a few lessons along the way.

For the first half of the summer, much of my “good health” energy was aimed at giving our home a much-needed overall. Walls and ceilings and fences needed painting. Closets and cupboards needed sorting. The basement needed a major purge. And it was time to get rid of some things that I had been hanging onto for way too long. (There’s plenty of fodder there for future blog posts as well. Stay tuned.) This giant clean-out culminated in last week’s massive, multi-family garage sale. When we get home later today, I’ll start donating the leftover piles. And I can (just about) cross that project off of my list.

So now I’m turning all of my “good health” attention to another major and much-needed overhaul. The way we Worralls eat.

I’ve known for a long time that our diet needed some attention, but I kept convincing myself that it wasn’t terrible. We’ve fiddled with things here and there over the years. Tried gluten free for a time. Cut back on carbs and sugar. And so on. But in recent months Peter has suffered from chronic discomfort and pain. Tests have been inconclusive. One doctor labeled his problem “inflammation” and medicated him to no good effect. Last year Daryl struggled with focus in first grade. Amelia consistently asks for candy fifty times a day. And who am I to talk? My own sugar crave has gotten completely out of control. My energy levels (and moods) have fluctuated—sometimes drastically. My back pain has returned with a vengeance. I haven’t slept well since I can remember. My own inability to focus sometimes frightens me. And I just haven’t felt as well as I know I could.

I did some research and stumbled upon the best-selling book It Starts with Food. When it arrived in the mail, I devoured it in two days and shared sections with Peter (in particular, the whole chapter on inflammation). He agreed that we should give it a try.

If you’re not familiar with the Whole30 plan, it’s pretty simple really. At least the concepts are. Put into your body what makes you healthy; leave out of your body what doesn’t.

It’s the execution that’s a bear. The Whole30 invites you to strip your diet back to the basics for thirty days. Take out all of the “psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups” and let your body heal. This means no dairy, sugar, grains, or legumes. Instead, build your diet around proteins, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats. Then, after thirty days, you can start to reintroduce some of the other stuff—slowly and carefully and with great attention to the effect. Figure out what your body needs. But the Whole30 program promises to forever change your relationship with food and even your life. We’ll see.

So last Wednesday we Worralls started our first Whole30. All four of us.

The timing was not ideal.

In fact, with our China Travel Group Reunion falling on days 3-6, the timing probably could not have been worse. It’s hard enough to eat this way when it’s just you and you’re at home and you’re in maximum control of your surroundings. It’s a whole other story when you’re out and about with a large group of friends, eating at restaurants and trying to include your kids.

I considered this when we began. Really, I did. But I decided to dive in anyhow. There is always a good reason not to start something like this, right? And I knew I needed to get us over the hump of the Whole30 before school starts up again. They warn you that the first two weeks are the worst. So we went for it and decided to just do the best we could “on the road.” We ordered eggs with onions and peppers off of the a la carte menu for breakfast. When everyone else was enjoying a sub sandwich picnic, we stopped at a grocery store and picked up some rotisserie chicken and carrots and fruit. Thankfully, the kids gobbled that up without too many complaints. And surprisingly, apart from a few comments at the breakfast buffet—“I want a muffin! Everyone else has a muffin!”—we were doing pretty well.

Until last night.

Last night our whole gang gathered at the local Culver’s for our final meal together. It was impossible to order Whole30 compliant food off of the Culver’s menu, but we did the best we could—opting for the dinners of meat and sides, rather than the sandwiches with fries. But, of course, many in our group were getting custard for dessert.

And our kids wanted some. Of course, they did.

So in honor of the special occasion, we decided to let them “cheat.” Of course, we did. As long as they ate their giant pile of green beans first.

Poor Daryl. He ate every last bean and a good helping of meat, and he was so excited to have his first serving of sugar in five days. But when his cup of custard arrived, he stuck in his spoon to get a bite and flung the whole scoop onto the table. Splat! And poor Daryl began to cry.

A Culver’s employee witnessed the incident and brought him a second scoop with an added cherry to make up for the mishap. Daryl wiped his eyes and stuck his spoon into his replacement treat, only to somehow slide this second cup onto the floor where the lump of custard slid across the rug.

Cue. Meltdown.

I cleaned up the custard as best I could and whisked Daryl outside. When he caught his breathe, I asked him what was going on. I hadn’t seen him this upset in a good long while. “I’m embarrassed,” he said. “And sad.”

As I listened to him there on the curb of the Culver’s parking lot, I realized that I had set him up for just this sort of struggle—putting him on a restrictive diet in the company of so many of friends, taking him to Culver’s on Day5 of the Whole30 (the day they say you will want to “kill ALL the things”), asking him to eat differently from everyone else when he already feels different enough.

So after he apologized for his outburst, I apologized for my part in the problem. And I tried to explain again that, as parents, it’s our job to make the best decisions we can for our kids. That it’s our job to teach our children how to take care of their bodies, their brains, and their souls. That what we eat can affect all of those things. But that we don’t always get it right. That these things can be complicated. And that we’ll have to be patient with each other as we work our way through.

We’re heading back to McHenry in just a few minutes, and we’ll be continuing on this Whole30 journey through the end of the month. I’ll let you know how it goes and what we discover. If anyone wants to join us on the plan, let me know. We’re only a week ahead of you and would love to cheer you on!

p.s. Here’s Dinner Day 1. Mmm, right?

Summer 2015 050

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