Why Are We Telling Each Other to Breathe?

The first time I remember telling someone to breathe I was following the teenage son of a friend being wheeled into the emergency room several hundred miles away from his family.

I was on staff at a camp and Wesley was playing 3 on 3 basketball. The competition was physical between the older teens, all of them 6′ and more. Wes and an opponent went up for the ball when the other guy fell down on top of Wesley’s foot. His 6′ 3 frame crumpled to the ground.

The hospital was in a nearby town. It was an agonizing ride for Wesley. He was placed on a cart to wheel him into the ER. He bent over his foot holding it in silent agony. I realized in his pain he was holding his breath and I said firmly, yet as calmly as I could, “Breathe, Wesley”.

Today we see that word on memes, mugs and T-shirts. We have it on our phones. We choose it as our word for the year. Breathe

My cousin gave me this necklace as a reminder

My cousin and I have been texting it, writing it and saying it to each other for a few years now.

Why do we have to tell each other to do something we’re already doing? We are all breathing or we wouldn’t be alive.

Just like I noticed Wesley holding his breath when he was suffering we hold our breaths in a figurative sense.

Grief cripples us and our breath becomes shallow. We are trying to hold back the pain.

A hurricane demolishes a community and the effects continue long after the rest of the country has forgotten. Our breathing becomes angry gasps.

Divorce, job loss, miscarriage, empty nest…..they take our breath away. We gulp for air to stay alive but we aren’t breathing in real life-giving breath.

And we say to ourselves and to one another, “breathe“.

To do this we have to loosen our grip around the pain.

Wesley’s pain didn’t go away until he got medical attention. Some of us might need to start with appropriate medication to help us loosen our grip on what’s holding us.

When Beki tells me to breathe I know the she means slow down. Be in the here and now. Stop thinking about the what ifs and what was and what should be. Stop thinking about the unknowns and start with slowing down my mind. When I do that my breath follows and they are in rhythm together. 

The thing I’ve learned is I have to repeat this day after day. My mind is ready to race away with anxiety and worry. When it became overwhelming I sought professional help. While that has brought some relief, it doesn’t release me from needing to create practices that will help my mind and breath find a healthy rhythm.

I often find that healthy pace in the creative process. I read, journal, spend time with people who are healthy and not afraid to remind me to breathe when they see me gasping. I have faith in a God who loves me and restores my breath.

As my son has reminded me, let people help you. It’s how God has always worked in my life – through the hearts and hands of others.

Breathe, friends. Breath in deeply and exhale peace.

Let’s do this!

The tea kettle whistles. I’ve let it go too long. I try to catch it before that point. Now I’ll have to let the tea cool longer. I don’t know how others can drink theirs scalding hot. No, this will take some time to cool.


I’ve fumbled my allergy pills and the vitamin bottle and the thought flashed through my mind, “it’s going to be one of those days.” NO followed just as quickly. No. I won’t let it. Why am I so quick to give over a whole day to fumbling because of this?

Have you done that? Do you do that? You give over to less than because it’s Monday and you know, it’s Monday, it’s not suppose to be good.

Traffic is slowed, you get caught by a train, then it starts to rain slowing things down more and now you’re late. What next? you wonder aloud.

Some days we give in to it. Some days we don’t. Today, let’s don’t. 

Don’t give in to the critics in our head saying we aren’t smart enough, thin enough, young enough.

Don’t give in to the negative voices that threaten to drown your joy. Smile in the face of their gloom.

Don’t let circumstance determine your mood. You get to choose. Choose joy. Choose purpose. Choose determination.



Some days are daring us to give in. And some days we can. Some days we retreat and give our souls time to rest. But not today. Today we do this. Today we do this together because we need each other cheering us on. You can do this. I know it. We’ve got you on this. On this day that wants to win, we’re cheering you on to be victor.

Put on that playlist that makes you dance. 

Smile at strangers.

Let someone go in front of you in traffic. You’ll feel like the winner. Trust me on this.

When the storm clouds gather, and they will down here, dance in the rain. [But respect the lightning ;)]

YAY YOU! You’ve got this I know it.

Always and again, enough.

It seems to happen this time of year. I didn’t realize it at first, not in the midst of a week that was getting worse by the day. It’s not always the same pattern but after the holidays, when the days are good and full and people are joyful and we celebrate losing few men from the program, when we slow to catch our breath at the start of a new year and think “Whew! we made it”, it happens. The “bug” gets shared and one by one people are sick and coughing and you keep the hand sanitizer close. Then the unexpected loss comes and one is grieving and another numb and a relapse after two years of recovery and it’s a friend and the week just sucks.

Yeah, that happens every year ’round this time and it will happen again. Income tax returns will start to arrive and men will leave with that bit of money in their pockets, money that won’t pay child support or a good haircut but money that will turn into a serpent hissing to them that they can do it just once. Just one drink, one hit and then they can stop. This time.

As a young co-worker said to me “It’s recovery. We deal with that on a weekly basis.” I’m the one who should tell him that. I’m the one doing this for 10 years but he’s the one living with addiction. He’s the one who really knows.

So I railed against it. I whined to a friend and shook my head in despair but that’s not how God saw it. That’s not how he answered my tender heart.

You did it: you changed wild lament
    into whirling dance;
You ripped off my black mourning band
    and decked me with wildflowers.
I’m about to burst with song;
    I can’t keep quiet about you.
God, my God,
    I can’t thank you enough.” Psalm 30:11-12

near Ponte Vedra beach

My friend had these words on her blog and the despair started to lift. Another friend had them on her Facebook and God often has to repeat himself to get my attention.

I drove to Sunday morning service with expectancy in my heart but who can ever expect what God pours out?

It was a Sunday where men would be invited to share a testimony. We sang a verse of a familiar hymn and they were invited to share and twenty minutes later men were still testifying of God’s goodness. Of His provision, of a new life, new perspective, of a way through the hard times. Their words flew to my heart like arrows and struck that spot that only God can pierce and turned my lament into whirling dance and together a sermon was preached through them. God’s spirit living in us and spilling out – He is enough. Always and again, enough.

Difference Maker

We’ve been in St. Augustine at a conference this week. It’s called Officer’s Councils as it’s a gathering of Salvation Army officers, specifically officers that are ARC administrators. Everyone officer in the room represented an ARC from Baltimore, MD to San Antonio, TX. Twenty-four ARC’s throughout the southeast. Twenty-four facilities offering shelter and grace to men seeking refuge from life’s storms.

I’ve unpacked and washed a load of laundry while Henry went to get milk and eggs before I get to the store tomorrow for the rest. We’re settling our bodies and minds from a week that felt like full tilt some days. Meetings in a hotel ballroom that offered no natural light stifles my being. Fitful sleepless nights for both of us unable to still our minds from questions raging inside of us. Questions about the future. Something we can’t control but still it weighs down on us.

Hurricane warning flag

Catching up on emails and checking in with Adam, updating the ARC Facebook group letting others know how he’s doing and I’ve been listening to the reports on Dick Clark’s death and the retirement of the most winning coach in NCAA basketball, Pat Summit. What struck me about Dick Clark is the role he played in featuring black music artists on his show, American Bandstand. The report said showing black and white dancing together was ground-breaking. Clark was a difference maker.

Pat Summit a difference maker too. Every woman who played on her Tennessee Volunteers team left that school with a degree. All of them. Over 150 young women. Eight national championships won and over 150 women earned degrees. Summit is the winningest coach in NCAA basketball. Ever. Not even 60 she’s been diagnosed with early onset dementia. A diagnosis she is facing as if it’s an opponent on the court. She’s out to win.

I checked Adam’s blog today. Was moved by the comments strangers have left. Words of encouragement for him. More than one person started with, “I’m the mother of an addict…” Henry was driving and I was reading him some of the comments. Reading them through my tears. More difference makers. Unknown faces from unknown places reaching out to encourage another. Offering words, prayers, making a difference.

And you, so many of you, are difference makers to me. You’ve left a mark on my heart with words that have made me laugh and cry. You’ve given of yourself as you’ve said prayers on my behalf. Prayers for strength and grace while not even knowing why I’ve needed these prayers so desperately. You write blogs that are honest and hopeful and in turn, share your hope with me. Keep writing. I need that difference in my day.

Henry - my personal difference maker 🙂

I’ve written in my “heart shines on” notebook this week. Looking back over the few pages I’ve filled these words stand out: “But I trust your unfailing love.” There is nothing that has made more of a difference in my life that God’s unfailing love. Not only do I trust His unfailing love, I’m clinging to it. Holding desperately to a love, the love that never fails. That’s what unfailing means. Never. What a difference He makes for me.