I’ve been learning a few things about raising humans, while working on growing plants.

One year ago we decided to start a big garden project at our house here in Thailand. The soil around our house is mostly hard red clay, with a very thin layer of composted plant matter on top. It’s a less than ideal environment for many plants. The first things we planted came up quickly, and died just as quickly, wilting in the heat without enough water, and then rotting as they flooded when the heavy rains came.

Before the land can give us enough produce to eat and sustain us, we need to heal it, and build the soil. We have to be intentional about planting things that the land needs, that give it life.

This is mostly Aaron’s project. He’s been researching permaculture, restoration agriculture principles, biology, how plants grow. Whenever Aaron learns something he dives deep, and learns everything he can about it.

Just this month Aaron told me something he’d just learned about plants that I’d never heard before, and I’ve been pondering it ever since.

You have to get a seedling into the ground before its roots hit a boundary. The plant decides how big it can grow based on the limits that its roots encounter in the very early stages of growth, and those limits become embedded into the genetic code of the plant. Once it has decided how big it has the room to get, it will not grow bigger. For a plant to thrive, it needs the structure of the soil to dig deep into, but that structure needs to be in a way that doesn’t impose limits on the room it has to spread out and grow.

So we’ve been racing to get suddenly large seedlings out of their tiny starter pots and into the ground for the past few weeks, spending evenings and weekends planting them out, and the whole time I’ve been thinking about how this applies to people and parenting.

Children need structure in order to thrive, like baby plants need the soil to send their roots down deep into to help them grow strong. But children also need wide horizons, a big enough limitless mindset that allows them to go out into the world and aim for whatever they dream of achieving.

Our parenting needs to give our children the structure and safety they need to sprout and send out roots, without imposing limits on what they can accomplish. These things are rarely taught by words, but by action and experience. Many times we pass on our limiting beliefs to our children without realizing it. They come to accept mental box that we have put around our own lives and possibilities as true for them as well.

I’ve been investing a lot of time the past few years examining my own limiting beliefs, things I have inherited from my family of origin, or concluded from my own experiences. There are so many places in my life that I have found where the only thing that prevents me from doing something is the belief that I can’t actually do it.

Once that belief is changed, it becomes possible. Though, in practicality, sometimes it’s experiencing that my limiting belief is wrong, just by trying something and seeing it work, that shows me the falseness of the story I have been telling myself.

The story we tell ourselves is a powerful thing, and it’s hard work to change it, or find the falsehoods in it.

This is why I have learned to challenge the voice I hear that says it can’t be done, to push against it to see if that boundary really exists outside my own head. The more I do that, the more I realize that I am the main obstacle in my path. Or, my thoughts are, anyway.

Far wiser people than me over the years have said this, and I’ve even read their quotes before, but I didn’t understand them. I thought I did. But I didn’t have the necessary experience to see the deep truth in what they said.

So I work to push against my self imposed boundaries,and try to keep my children from running up against one. Challenging them when they limit themselves to try, to test, to see if that boundary is really there. 

I work to place my children into the good spacious soil of the world they are part of so they can root themselves deeply, and stretch their limbs wide. My job now, after so many years of nurturing, is to help them them move from the sheltering place they once needed in order to be able to sprout, and prepare a welcoming, nourishing place for them in the wider world that they can take root in, before their growth is stunted.

I work to give them a growth mindset by living out of one myself.

all content © Carrien Blue

Today we’re going to talk about fear. This show is about being brave and choosing strength so of course we’re going to have to talk about fear at some point, or a lot. So why not today?

If we never felt afraid, we would never need to be brave. 

So, a few thoughts. Fear is not the enemy. Fear is trying to keep you safe. Sometimes fear is the most healthy and rational response to something. Fear can move us to protective action, run away, or fight.

Sometimes though, fear paralyses us. Sometimes we freeze, and can’t do anything at all. It tells us that if we stay perfectly still, and don’t move at all, then we’ll be safe. Sometimes, that’s true. Most of the time though, that’s not true, and those are the times when we need courage to help us move past the paralysis and do the thing that needs doing.

See, the view of the world that fear shows to us is never true. What your mind makes the thing you’re afraid of into is always bigger and scarier than the actual thing itself.

Just look at a child who is afraid to go outside because it’s dark. All of my kids have been afraid of the dark at some point. The dark makes it possible that all sorts of things that they fear might be there, lurking, simply because they can not see clearly that those things aren’t there, as they do by the light of day. One by one, each of them moves past that fear, by bits and stages, and they do that by facing it head on.

We don’t force them to do it. Though we encourage them to be brave. But bit by bit they gather courage, and go out into the dark, the literal dark, and come back triumphant, having faced their fear and experienced that the dark is not as bad as their minds made it out to be. My 4th child, when he was about 8, started asking me if he could go outside in the dark just before bedtime. We live in the country so it gets quite dark around our house. “Can I go outside and face my fears of the dark mommy?” He would say.

“Of course you can.”
He would come back in after 5 or 10 minutes, glowing. “I faced my fears mommy! I sat outside in the dark, and it was fine! Nothing bad happened! Now I’m not so much afraid of the dark anymore!”

He did this for several months until the dark was no longer a thing that he feared. 

When I was a music major, way back, right after high school, we had these things called master classes. I majored in two different instruments, voice and piano, so I had to go to 2 of these each week. In the master classes we took turns performing for each other, in the recital hall, with the lights on, in front of every other person in the voice faculty, or the piano faculty. Once a semester we each performed in front of the entire faculty of music. 

For a first year music student, this was a terrifying experience. Most of us had performed on stages before, we had auditioned to get into this university. But masterclasses were not that same as performances. Your audience was all people who knew your craft better than you. Second, third, and fourth years, the professors, they were all listening to you sing. Not to be entertained, but to critique your performance and give you feedback. 

So after I sang my song, I would have to stay up there, the bright lights shining down on me, sweat running down my back, everyone looking at me, and listen to people tell me how I could have done better. Sometimes they would even make us try it again, but different. This time try and hit the high note, not the alto variation. It was not fun. Some of my classmates did shots beforehand to work up the courage.

But, by the time the year was over, we were not afraid to be on a stage anymore, or we dropped out. The stage became our home. That was a very valuable experience for me, even though I’ve ever become the professional opera singer I once dreamed of being. I’m not afraid of public speaking, I’m not afraid of receiving public feedback, or, I’m less afraid anyway. That experience taught me some things about what to do when you’re afraid.

The only way I know to overcome fear is to lean into it, to do the thing that scares me often enough that it loses its power to paralyze me, and keep me from the thing that I want, or need to do.

One of the most helpful books I read last year is called The War of Art, by Stephen Pressfield. If you haven’t already heard of it, go find it and buy it. It’s one of the main reasons I actually finished the first draft of my book.

He says that anytime you try to do something that takes you up a level or makes the world a better place, or you a better person, in any way, anything to try to create or accomplish that is worth doing will meet with Resistance. And he personifies resistance as a force that opposes all of these things. Resistance will use fear to try and stop you. His theory is that you can use that as a guide. The thing that you are the most afraid to try or do, that’s probably the thing that it’s most important that you do do, and set your hand to. That is the gift you need to give to the world.

Resistance will try and stop you by making you afraid. If it’s worth doing you have to accept that you will never not be afraid. You just have to do it anyway. Step into your fear.

For me, that’s starting this channel. I’ve thought about it for years. It took me a long time to figure out exactly what I wanted to say, and focus on, and do with it, but I have known for a long time that this is a thing I should try. And one of the reasons I know it’s important, at least for me, that I give it a chance and commit to doing it, is because it scares the snot out of me. What if it sucks? What if I don’t actually know anything about any of the things I think I’ve learned and could share that are helpful? What if no one watches or listens? What if a lot of people watch and listen? I can’t really decide which is more terrifying. 

Making this next episode took me two months of working up the courage to do it, and finding the words I needed. (Well, I did have COVID in there, so part of that month I was just sleeping and coughing.)

But if I waited until I stopped feeling afraid to do this, it would never get done. The only way to get past this fear, or any fear, is to feel the fear, and do it anyway, and keep doing it, because that’s what courage is. 

I want to leave you with a quote I love. Because it’s kind of the flip side of the decision making matrix presented by Stephen Pressfield, which is you need to press toward the thing that most scares you. In other words, 

make the most courageous choice that you can think of to make.

Nelson Mandela once said, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” (I misquoted this in the recording.)

Fear is a bad decision making matrix. What it tells you to worry about isn’t true. It amplifies all the bad that can happen, and makes it bigger than all the good that is possible.

So if there is one thing this week that you know would be good to do, and the reason you haven’t done it yet is because you are afraid. I encourage you to take at least one little step in that direction. Look at it carefully, and see if you can see that there are no actual monsters out there in the dark.

all content © Carrien Blue

Part 1 – Time to Leave the Comfort Zone

Part 2 – On Being in the In Between Place

We left the nation of Israel too terror stricken in the face of obstacles to take hold of opportunity, to enter the land promised to them. They are thinking that a relatively safe captivity in Egypt was a better idea than risking everything for the sake of their children’s future freedom. Which sounds familiar. We’re all afraid of the risks involved in moving toward something worth having, something worth doing.

Let’s revisit Numbers 14 for a minute and see what the fallout of that is. They have lamented, “If only we had perished in this wilderness.”

God’s reply is basically, “Ok, wish granted. All of you will die in the wilderness.”

 “‘As I live, says the Lord, I will surely do to you just what you have spoken in my hearing. 29 Your dead bodies will fall in this wilderness…But I will bring in your little ones, whom you said would become victims of war, and they will enjoy the land that you have despised.” (Numbers 14)

Then he tells them they will wander in the wilderness for 40 years, they will all drop dead there, and once they are all dead, he will give their children that land that he promised. 

So, on an individual level, that’s pretty harsh, but practical. God’s long-term plan is for a whole nation to be free. Not all of them are able to enter the land of promise. They are too afraid, and too untrusting. So he will wait for them to die, and bring their children in. 

In the case of the nation of Israel, all the adults had to die, all the people who just straight up said, “No God, we don’t trust you. We would rather be slaves.”  What does that look like in me? In us? 

What has to die before we can stop wandering around in the wilderness and take hold of God’s promises, and the desires of our hearts that we are currently afraid to fight for? 

Until my comfort loving, fearful, unbelieving, “not even God can do that” ways of thinking, can drop dead and get out of the way, I will wander in the wilderness, on the outside of that promise, unable to take hold of what God has given me. Unable to be free.

But as the fearful, doubting, unbelieving, slavish parts die off? What grows up? The children, who know nothing but relying on God and his amazing provision, become the generation that has the strength to come back 40 years later and fight the battles that they need to fight in order to enter into the promised freedom they sought. The next generation was tough, they didn’t despair when the thing they wanted wasn’t handed to them on a platter.

What needs to grow up in me is the same: trust, strength, resilience, and lived EXPERIENCE of God’s faithfulness! God was with Israel every step of the way, patiently waiting for them to be ready. He fed them in the wilderness, took care of their needs, and never, never, abandoned them, even when He wanted to. 

God is there on the journey. 

He’s there when you hesitate in fear. He’s there as you take baby steps toward faith. He’s there giving you small battles to fight so that you can get strong enough, and brave enough, for the bigger battles ahead.

Even if you feel like you’ve missed your chance and you’re stuck in the wilderness, he’s with you. Even if you’re paralyzed with fear, he’s with you. Even when you weep and ask, ‘Did you bring me here to kill me?’ he is with you saying, “How long will they not believe in me, in spite of the signs that I have done among them?”(Numbers 14:11b) Believe. Believe. Just believe. 

Even with bread from heaven, a cloud of smoke, and a pillar of fire, and mighty wonders, they struggled to do this.

In the New Testament some people came and asked Jesus, “What must we do to accomplish the deeds God requires?” 29 Jesus replied, “This is the deed God requires—to believe in the one whom he sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what miraculous sign will you perform, so that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the solemn truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but my Father is giving you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread all the time!” 

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But I told you that you have seen me and still do not believe. 37 Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never send away.” (John 6)

In the wilderness, the bread of heaven comes down and give life. In the place of growing up and learning to believe, even after their rejection of the good gifts of God, he still feeds them. He never leaves them.

Here is the whole point of Sukkot. God was with Israel. God is with us. 

Even when we are foolish, afraid, and have already decided that we will lose, he is with us. 

He keeps his promises even when we are faithless. He never sends us away. He is patiently waiting for us to believe, and trust, and grow strong. 

Sukkot is a physical, visceral, lived reminder that God dwells with us in the liminal spaces, the in between,  beyond our comfort zones, and teaches us again and again through his faithful care to believe.

all content © Carrien Blue

Part 1 – Time to Leave the Comfort Zone is here.

So, what are we remembering when we celebrate Sukkot? It’s not a feast for remembering the mighty deeds that delivered them from Egypt, from Pharoah. That’s what Passover is for. It’s not a feast for remembering forgiveness, that’s Yom Kippur. It’s not for the giving of the law and Torah (Shavuot). It’s not a feast of gratitude for the harvest. 

It’s a festival remembering the in between place. “You must live in temporary shelters for 7 days… so that your future generations may know that I made the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out from the land of Egypt.” (Lev. 23:42a & 43)

Sukkot is about the journey itself, and the things that died, and grew, along the way. The more years I have spent with this story, the more I see how the Israelites’ wilderness experience is a mirror to see myself in, a metaphor for our own journey toward freedom.

They are the redeemed people, the set free people, the people for whom God has worked wonders. But they don’t act like it yet. They don’t know how to be that yet. 

After the great deliverance in Egypt, after the wonders at Mt. Sinai, and the giving of the law, and the instructions in how to be the people of God, they take a pretty straightforward route to the land that God plans to give to them. They have already had a bunch of problems on the way, and made many mistakes, but God takes them straight to the land of promise. Moses sends in spies to check out the land, and that’s when things start to go terribly wrong. (I encourage you to read all of Numbers 14 for yourself. It’s so full of dramatic story details.)

The spies come back full of fear and dread. “The land is good,” the say. “But the people are giants, the cities are fortified, there is no way we can conquer it. We felt like grasshoppers compared to them” (My paraphrase of Numbers 13:27-33) 

The whole community cries and weeps. They actually say, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had perished in this wilderness. Why has the Lord brought us into this land only to be killed by the sword, that our wives and our children should become plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” (Numbers. 14:2b – 3)

Being set free doesn’t automatically translate to courage, or strength. They are still thinking and acting like slaves, like victims. They are taken to an amazing land full of good fruit, and they can only see the giants. They weep out loud because they are terrified of the work in front of them that they must undertake in order to lay hold of the promise they have been given. 

They automatically assume they will lose

Before even trying they decide it would be better for them to never have left Egypt, never left that old place where they every day cried out to escape the whip, and the beatings, and the forced labor, and their children were taken from them and massacred. “But better the devil that you know…”

Only two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua, say, “This place is amazing! We can totally conquer it and live here. God is with us.” (Paraphrasing Numbers. 14:7-9)

The people are so angry at them for challenging their assumptions, for trying to encourage them to take the necessary step forward, that they threaten to stone them to death.  

So, sometimes when I read this story I think that the Israelites are just so ridiculous, so stupid, not to trust God and take the land. Whiny, scared, wanting everything handed to them on a platter and never having to work for it. Joshua and Caleb show them the giant grapes, the huge opportunities, and they still say it would be better to go back to Egypt. 

Then I pause, because here’s the mirror, and it’s showing me myself. How many times have I paused at the edge of something I wanted, a destination it would have been good to go toward, to fight for, because the obstacles loom so much bigger in my mind than the opportunity. 

How often do I ignore the grapes, get overwhelmed by the giants, and want to run back to the safe familiar bondage that I was just set free from?

There have been many studies done now that show that we as humans are incredibly loss averse, or risk averse. We will work harder to keep from losing $10 that we already have, than we would to gain $100 that we don’t already have. Our preservation instinct is strong. 

I know it’s strong in me. Fear of losing something is a much higher motivator for me, than the chance of gaining something. 

I imagine those Israelites clutching their children and thinking about might happen to them if they lose the battle. At least as slaves, their children may live, while growing up to become slaves themselves. They are too afraid to take the steps needed to actually secure for their children a free future in a land of their own. 

I can tell you that there have been plenty of times I have talked myself out of doing something, taking important steps forward, because I was afraid, because it felt like too much a risk. I can guarantee that at no point was it over anything as risky a fighting an actual series of battles where my life or the lives of my children were the stakes. I clutch my most closely held hopes for the future in my hands, the things I love the deepest, and I can’t take the steps forward to make them happen, because I’m too afraid to lose them completely if I fail.

I stand there, right on the edge of my promise, and I can see that it’s good, but I already know that I will lose to the giants in my way. Even before I try.

I make assumptions that aren’t necessarily true, and based in fear, and I start organizing a retreat, all the way back to that place I once couldn’t wait to leave, the old, the familiar, the comforting bondage that I have not yet found the strength to stop wanting to go backwards to. 

Joshua and Caleb had a growth mindset. I am constantly struggling to train myself out of the fixed mindset I grew up with and learn to have growth mindset too.

So, every Sukkot I sit in a temporary shelter, and think about how much longer I wander in the in between places than I have to. Simply because I’m afraid. 

I think about how often I don’t trust in the saving work of God, in redemption, in the story of hope that says I am free, and I don’t have to take the scary brave steps alone.

There are things that have to die, in my heart and mind, before I can ever step into and take hold of those promises. 

That’s part three.

Part 3 – You Are Not Alone
all content © Carrien Blue

Our family has been celebrating Sukkot*, and other biblical fast and feast days, since my oldest was 3. That makes this year the 17th year that we have celebrated this feast. When I remembered this morning that Sukkot was about start, I did not feel the joy and excitement of my younger children, who ask me all year, “When is Sukkot?”

The first thing I thought about was the discomfort of eating and sleeping outside in a booth. “I don’t want to be uncomfortable.” I thought to myself.

A moment after that I realized, “That’s the point. That’s the whole point of Sukkot. It’s not supposed to be comfortable. It’s supposed to be happy and joyful. But it’s not meant to be comfortable.”

Every so often something will happen that reminds me that our home is not actually ours. We have lived here a long time, but we are just tenants. Our landlord is the one who has the final authority. This week he cut down trees, most of which needed trimming, but some seemed to be trimmed too harshly. I loved those trees, for their beauty, for the shade they gave, and the way my children climbed in them, tied nets across the branches to lay in them, and swung on tire swings from the bottom branches. When they came down, I cried.

Underneath the immediate sadness about the trees, which will grow back, but maybe not before my older children stop wanting to play in them, is the way it reminds me that we don’t own this house that we live in. I have never owned a house. Every place I have ever lived as an adult has been a temporary shelter. As comfortable as I try to make it, I know I won’t be able to stay there forever. There is no point in investing heavily in improvements to a house that isn’t mine, that I won’t get to enjoy long term. There is little point in planting trees, at least, not for my benefit.

I have in my heart a deep longing for a permanent home, a place to call my own, a place that I can settle in, invest in, and plant flowers and fruit trees that I can expect to sit under later in life.

Every time I get deeply sad about this, I have to remember that this world is not my permanent home. I am not meant to settle here or get too comfortable. This is all a temporary shelter, and I’m just passing through. “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” Heb. 13:14

Getting comfortable makes it so easy for me to forget what is important, what is eternal. I would love to own a home someday and be able to claim a space that is mine. Maybe someday I’ll get to, but I know that if that happens I’ll have to be careful that it doesn’t take up real estate in my heart that is meant for other, more lasting, better things. I hope it won’t make me complacent.

Israel also longed for a homeland, a permanent home, a place where they each could “sit under his own grapevine, or under his own fig tree without any fear.” Micah 4:4 But God knew that once they got there, and got comfortable, they were also in danger of becoming fat, lazy, proud, and turning to evil, forgetting that they were only there because of God’s mercy and compassion on them. So, when He brought them into the land he promised, he gave them Sukkot, and the other feasts, to remember what it took to get there to their settled place of comfort now. Sukkot was to remember the journey he led them on through the in between places.

So, here’s to getting outside of our comfort zone, to taking the long journey toward being the free people Israel learned to become in the wilderness.

More on that in Part 2 – On being in the in between place. Happy Sukkot.

*Sukkot is also referred to in the Bible as the Feast of Tabernacles. See Leviticus 23:33-44 for the basic description.
all content © Carrien Blue

I am thankful for makeup tutorial videos. They show me that with a little every day wizardry, and some choice products, I too could look luminous. They show me that no one wakes up looking that way. If I wanted it enough, I could invest time and money, and practice until I was good at making my face look flawless every day, or, at least, enhanced.

I love it when people show their process and let you in behind the curtain, so you can see how much work went into them getting to where they are.
Donald Miller, in a webinar I watched last year, estimated that he rewrote Blue Like Jazz 72 times! He goes to bed early, gets up every morning at the same time, and spends 2-3 hours at his desk before he does anything else, including coffee!
Jennifer Fulwiler once shared the spreadsheet she used to track laughs per joke when she was starting out as a comedian and trying new material. Her success isn’t magic, it’s the result of hard work, practice, and time invested.
For me this is really freeing. It helps me move out of my fixed mindset, believing that “You either have it or you don’t. Some people are just lucky, and some aren’t.” It helps me see that that isn’t true. The people who succeed are the people who invest their time, their money, their sweat, and tears, they say no to other things and make sacrifices in other areas in order to get where they want to be.
What that means is that if they can get where they are as a result of their focused efforts, then maybe I can too. I can get where I want to be if I am willing to put in the time, the sweat, sometimes the money, and sacrifice other good things for the thing that’s more important to me. A fixed mindset asks, “Why does she have that and I don’t?” A growth mindset asks, “What is she doing that I’m not?”
I am not at present willing to invest the time and money it would take to present a beautifully made up face to world everyday. But I like knowing it’s an option for those times when I may want to look extra nice. Maybe one day I’ll invest the time and learn how. Today I’m comfortable sharing my unedited face with the world instead, while I work on sharing my process in the areas where I have invested time, sweat, and tears, in the areas where the work may not be visible at first, only the result.

all content © Carrien Blue

If you’ve ever been responsible for the care of small children, you know how important it is to stay ahead of what those children might need. You probably learned the day goes better if your children are well rested, well fed, have a chance to run around and play, and don’t spend too much time on screens. You don’t expect them to behave well when they are tired, hungry, or restless.


(If you don’t already know that, bonus tip, try it. If you anticipate your child’s needs and meet them quickly, you will all be happier for it.)


But here’s the thing. When was the last time you did this for yourself? Often we grind through our days without proper rest, or nutrition, or exercise, and then get down on ourselves for not being the person we expect ourselves to be. You don’t expect your child, or maybe even anyone else, to do well when their needs aren’t being met, but often we forget to give ourselves the same gift. Or we don’t even believe it’s possible.


Maybe right now you are rolling your eyes at me and thinking, “Really lady? You’re telling me to meet my own needs first? You obviously don’t know my life.”


There was a time when I would have said the exact same thing. I have 6 children. I remember when my first 4 children were all still quite little, and a well-meaning person would roll out that oxygen mask metaphor, “Don’t forget to put on your own oxygen mask first, so you can help them.” I’d roll my eyes and think, “Yeah, maybe in a decade I can do that. How about you hold this baby for a second so I can use the bathroom?” Even when I did have time, I felt so unproductive and far behind that I didn’t use it to meet my own needs, but to catch up on tasks, because crossing something off the list at least made me feel like I wasn’t a total waste of space. 

When people told me to take care of myself I didn’t usually feel helped, or loved, even though they meant well. It felt more like one more item dropped on top of my never ending heap of things I “should” do. It felt burdensome, like just one more place where I was failing to do things the way I should be doing them. Add to that that most of my mothering examples were not showing me what it looked like to take time to fill up my cup, and I just spent years struggling through, barely surviving, and always feeling guilty about all the ways I was failing, including in taking care of myself.


It took me such a long time to understand that my busyness wasn’t the reason I COULDN’T fill my own cup, it was actually the reason I HAD TO fill my own cup first. You’ll have to maybe trust me on this until you experience it, but until I did that, made sure my own needs were met, every task, every thing, and every person around me suffered. I was not helping anyone by putting my own needs last. You are not helping anyone when you put your own needs last! And let’s be clear, I’m talking about needs, not wants or desires right now.


In his book 12 Rules For Life, Jordan Peterson, who is a Canadian psychology professor, devotes a whole chapter to the statement, “Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.”

Then he delves into the strangeness of the fact that often people will take better care of others, and even pets and houseplants better than they do their own selves. If we asked ourselves, “What would I do for myself right now if I was my own mother,” for example, we often see the areas where we are neglecting to care for our true health and wellbeing. Peterson delves into shame and how that is part of why we neglect ourselves. (Which is a whole other conversation I plan to have in a later episode.)


What I’ll say today is that, if right now your to do list feels like it keeps multiplying itself every minute, and you feel tired all the time and overwhelmed, and trapped underneath it all, and maybe even like you are failing at everything, because how could just one person possibly keep so many balls in the air? I’ve been there.

I constantly felt so far behind that taking time to care for my own needs only added anxiety. I felt like I would be even farther behind if I did that. I didn’t know how much better I would be able to do All The Things, if my cup was full. 

Maybe, like I used to, you are telling yourself that you can’t take care of your own needs until all of the other things are done. 

The problem is, you will never be finished. There will always be something on your plate, some urgent task demanding you pay attention to it, someone who needs you.

I know, I still have 3 children under the age of 10 at my house, and 2 teenagers, all of whom I homeschool, and I work full time from my home office. If I didn’t set boundaries around my time, and make sure to schedule filling my own cup, I would run myself ragged from morning to night.


Even if the circumstances of your life shift, there’s a good chance you would still feel as behind and overwhelmed as you do now. That’s how it worked out for me, anyway. It wasn’t until my thinking shifted that anything began to change for me. When I stopped putting myself last, even though nothing else changed, everything got better.


I had to experience how much better things became when I put my needs up near the top of my list, instead of so far down they kept getting pushed off until tomorrow, or next week, or next year, before I was able to make the mental shift and understand that the very best thing I can do for anyone I love, any work I care about, is to get my own self together first and be as strong as I can be.


I encourage you, this week, for just one week, to try this. When you are having a hard time dealing with whatever the day throws at you, stop and ask yourself the same thing you would ask about your child. “What need isn’t being met right now? Am I hungry? Am I dehydrated? Did I have too much caffeine? Am I tired? Am I over stimulated? Did I nourish my body today? Have I had too much screen time?”


As much as you are able in the moment, give yourself what you need. Eat a meal, rest, move your body, go outside and breathe fresh air. Maybe even leave your phone inside. Bonus points if you can anticipate your own needs and plan ahead for them. Bring yourself a healthy snack too. Put yourself to bed on time, or early, so tomorrow has a better chance of being a good day. Even if someone wakes up in the middle of the night, you’ll have at least gotten a few extra hours in beforehand.


Be so, so, gentle with yourself. Don’t turn this into another thing you use to beat yourself up with.  Be at least as kind to yourself as you are to your children.


You are strong. But just because you are strong enough to manage things while running on empty, doesn’t mean it’s optimal. Imagine what you could do with a full tank, if you could bring your full capacity to the problems you and your loved ones face every day. How much better would the world be, if you could do your life with a full tank?


This world needs that. You need that. The people you love need that. Today, try this one simple way that you can be brave and choose strength, by making sure your own needs are met.


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all content © Carrien Blue

At the fruit stand across the highway from my turn off I see an old man sweeping every day, sweeping, until the lot is clean. Every day the trees litter, the leaves blow back across, and he sweeps it clean once again.

His once tall back is curved now, in a never-ending stoop, and his white head bobs in rhythm with his arm.  I wonder how many days he has done this, restored order to his corner of the world, fought back the chaos and encroaching entropy with his broom.

How much courage does it take to wrest order from chaos, day after day, never letting it win?

We come home, after a week away. I see signs of how much we fight against chaos, day by day in all the places that it has taken over in just one week. The balcony is piled high with fallen leaves the drainpipes clogged with them and the mud backed up behind. Bat guano litters the sidewalks. I’m ankle deep in fallen tamarind leaves outside the kitchen door. In the kid’s bathroom the ants have moved in, excavated the foundations around the doors and left huge piles of black dirt and sawdust on the floor to make room for their new home.

The weeds, the weeds taking over the garden. Without us here to hold it back, this house would be swallowed up by chaos. That’s how it was when we found it. Only our presence and diligent tending keeps it orderly.

Every day I fight the long slow slide to oblivion that is within myself also. I hold back the darkness and fight the monsters in my mind. When I was younger, they often won. “Meaningless”, they whispered. “Everything is meaningless and chasing the wind. Why bother? You will only have to do it again.”

It’s when I accept that it will have to be done again, and again, that I start to win. But with that is the understanding that just because I will have to shoulder my burden again tomorrow, and the next day, doesn’t make today meaningless. Today’s work may have only built the endurance I need to defeat tomorrow’s monsters. I may have nothing to show for it. But when I am facing down a monster, I will find myself reaching deep down and gathering into my center all those days when I didn’t quit, when I gave my future self strength, and I will be able to stand and face the monster, because I know I can.

I think that’s why it takes so much courage to live well. It takes courage to decide that keeping my part of the world clean swept and beautiful matters. It takes courage to do it every day. It takes courage to seek to be strong enough to hold firm when the storms of life try to blow us down, to pick up our broom and hold back the things we can, to endure the things we can endure, and clean up after the storms of life blow through.

Because it’s not meaningless. I finally know this. It is not a waste of time to bring order and beauty into a chaotic world or to stand for something, or to work to make things better. It’s hard, and tiring, and often discouraging. But never meaningless.

all content © Carrien Blue


Scenes from our Sukkah

It’s the time of year when those with an eye to keeping ancient feast days are finding a way to live outside for a week, in remembrance of the time when God dwelt with his people in the wilderness.

Usually, when our family does this we go through an oral retelling of the times God has lived with his people.

In the beginning He would walk with Adam in the cool of the day. Until the serpent talked Eve into eating the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and she gave it to Adam. The next time God came out for a walk with Adam he, newly aware of his own nakedness, inadequacy, and vulnerability, was too ashamed to meet God and walk with him. He hid. And the future of all mankind was changed. We were doomed to know, and be intimately acquainted with, our own weakness and shame, and our capacity for evil. We knew things and we were not brave enough to walk with God. Not most of us, anyway.

The next time God dwelt with his people it was after leading them out of slavery and bondage in Egypt. He brought down the greatest empire in the world, asserting His dominion as undoubtedly higher than all the Egyptian pantheon of gods put together. He led them to freedom, showed them Himself in glory and power on the mountain, and then brought them to the borders of the land He promised them. AND THEY CHICKENED OUT! 

They decided that because the people of that country were super tall, and some other guys were scared, that they would rather go back to Egypt. They, like me, often enough, preferred the suffering they were familiar with, than the risk of something new, and the possibility of failure. They forgot that God brought down Pharaoh himself to bring them to freedom. They almost riot and say, “We’re not going in there! It’s too risky!” 

God gets angry at them. “Ok, die in the wilderness then,” He says. 

“Your children will suffer for 40 years, and you will all drop dead in the desert, and only 2 people who are older than 20 right now, Joshua and Caleb, are going to get to see the land I prepared for you. Because they wept and shouted and tried to convince you to come to your senses and trust that I could do this thing for you. Especially considering all the other things I’ve done for you up to now.” 

Yeah, I’m paraphrasing God. In my parenting mind this goes down exactly like a conversation with my kids would go down, on a nation wide level. Except, the level I’m usually dealing with is more like, “Oh, you’re going to kick and scream because I said no screen time before lunch? Grand. Now you don’t get any screen time today. At all!” So then my child stops kicking and screaming and starts cajoling and begging for a second chance and assuring me that they won’t have a tantrum again if I just let them have a turn on the computer. I say, “Nope, no more chances for you today. You’re all out of chances.” At which point they, predictably, kick and scream some more. (The good news is, if you keep this up, eventually they learn to stop having temper tantrums when told to wait. The Israelites sort of figured that out too, a little. Just like my kids, and me, they still had their moments.)

So, the Israelites do the nation scale version of this. They are super sorry and sad that they didn’t trust God and rebelled against him and NOW they’re gonna go try and do what he told them to do. You know, after he’s already pronounced his punishment. They say, “We will go up against the Amalekites.” And Moses is all “Dude! NO! God is not with you on this. Don’t do it. You will fail. You heard him. You get to die in the wilderness now.”

Maybe they thought it might be better to give fighting for the promised land a shot, even without God’s help, if the alternative was turning around and wandering the desert until it killed them. Anyway, they tried. It didn’t work out. They died faster than the other guys, who were gonna die, some time, in the next 4 decades. Those guys at least got to see their children grow up though, and turn into some bad ass warriors who were pretty sure that God was on their side.

Here’s the thing about God’s promise to Israel. They had to fight for it. The closer they got, at the end of those 40 years, the more battles they had to fight. By the time they crossed the border into Canaan, the people there were trembling in their boots! Because the Israelite army had beaten every army they had faced in between the wilderness and here. They had spent 40 years in the wilderness growing strong on the bread of heaven daily laid out for them, and they were battle hardened. The generation that took the promised land were not slaves, trembling in fear. They were warriors!

For 40 years, even though they made Him angry so many times, GOD. HAD. NOT. ABANDONED. THEM!

Which brings us back to Sukkot. God told them that when they entered the land, when they got comfy in houses, when they enjoyed the good things he had given them, they were to spend a week living in booths outside, just as they had to in the wilderness. It was a celebration, to remember the time when God lived with, and led them, in a cloud of smoke by day, and a pillar of fire by night. To remember that things hadn’t always been as comfortable and good as they currently were. It was a time to recount the story. But it occurred to me this year how sobering this remembrance is. 

They went into the wilderness because they did not trust God to take them into the land of promise right away. God didn’t leave them. He made them into the nation they needed to be to enter the land while they were in the wilderness. But they were there because they were afraid to trust in the promises of God at first. They were there because they were not ready.

I wonder how many times God has brought me to the border of a land; an opportunity, a relationship, a project, and I’ve turned it down because of lack of trust. My assessment was all about my own ability to handle the situation on my own. It left God, and what he could do, completely out of the equation. I wasn’t ready to fight for the thing that he had promised me. I wasn’t ready to step out in faith against opposition and claim what could have been mine.

So, I found myself in the wilderness, wondering why so many others were getting opportunities when I wasn’t, were making their dreams come true, while I wasn’t even brave enough to try fighting for mine. How many things have I shut down in fear that could have been thin places where the Kingdom broke through, if only I trusted instead?

Perhaps the wilderness is the only place where certain things can drop dead. My pride, masking itself behind the sneering accusation that others are sell outs for being successful. My fear, masking itself as common sense, or reasonable caution, or even, honest assessment of my limits. My ignorance, telling me it can’t be done, just because I haven’t thought of how it could be done yet and don’t want to try to learn how. Maybe the wilderness is killing those things. Maybe the wandering has started to make me see that those things aren’t very good travel companions and I should drop them out here, in the dust, and move on without them.

Every day, God offers me the bread of heaven, the manna that sustains me, sweet, and falling right outside my door. And many days I whine about how much I miss meat instead. God is with me, and I live as if it isn’t true. God sustains me, and I complain that it’s not the flavor I prefer. I worry about whether the new place he takes me will have enough water to keep me alive, even though he’s split the rock before so water could flow where there was none.

I too am afraid to walk with God. I feel my vulnerability, shame, and mortality to be bigger and more true than the possibilities that surround me. I don’t trust Him to not destroy me, once he gets a good enough look at the naked beggar I know myself to be, and so I question. I think of Egypt, where everything was predictable, and I didn’t have the great burden of choosing my own course. I don’t want the responsibility of choosing, and the consequences of having chosen, the exile of dust over the land of milk and honey. I’d rather go back to Egypt than be out here in the middle of nowhere, reliant on a guide to lead me forward into the unknown. I want to blame someone else for my circumstances, as Israel wanted to blame Moses. “My feet hurt and I’m thirsty and why did you bring me out here to die?”

I’m afraid to go forward into the promise. I’m too afraid of the giants. They are nothing to pharaoh and his armies. But my memory is short. I’ve already forgotten that here, where I already am, is something I only dreamed of back before, when I was there. I’ve forgotten already what he’s done for me and so I am afraid to move forward.

Which brings us back to feasts. Because remembering is SO IMPORTANT.


We must mark the days and years. We must make holidays around the things he has done for us.

So, we sit in a booth, or at a campsite, we eat our meals there, and sleep there and experience the inconvenience and hard work that characterize wilderness life. Most of all we remember that God was faithful when we were faithless. He brought us to the present day, the moment we once only longed for in our wildest dreams. Even though it took  us some time to learn how to be people who could possess it. He built up our capacity with long walks alone with him with no where else to be or go. 

If we don’t remember, if we don’t mark each moment and occasion with a feast of sorts, we won’t be ready to follow him when he moves forward again, deeper into the promise. And our children will not know him, because these stories will not be their own to remember.


all content © Carrien Blue

 This approach is something every parent can do.

I’ll never forget the day my mom stopped helping me with my homework. It’s a lesson that has stayed with me my whole life.

My mother was one of the most natural teachers I’ve ever met. Never the kind of person to just give you the answer, homework time in our house usually went kind of like this.
“Mom? How do you spell ______.”
The response was always, “How do you think you spell it?”
And then we would roll our eyes and try and sound out the word, knowing that if we got too hopelessly confused mom would prompt us.
For years she helped me with my homework. At least, that’s what I thought was happening. I’d sit down at the dining room table with my schoolbooks, usually while she was making dinner in the nearby kitchen, and call out questions to her when I couldn’t figure out how to do the work.
From the nearby kitchen she would respond. “Well, what did your teacher say?” “Did you look in your text book?” “Try looking at it again.” More often than not, this would be enough to help me figure out the answer and continue on.
When I would get so frustrated with something I didn’t understand, to the point of tears, mom would say something like, “I’m almost finished here. You keep looking at it and see if you can figure out how to do it. I’ll make some tea.” (My Irish mom always had a cup of tea in her hand.) “If you still need help when I’m finished I’ll come sit down with you and see if I can help.”
This was encouragement enough to have another go at whatever was defeating me, and often I did figure out the answer before mom had her tea ready and came to sit down with me. (If you’re paying attention you may have already noticed, as I did much later in life, that this was a deliberate delay on her part. It kept me from quitting, and encouraged me to keep trying on my own.) She would arrive at the table, mug of tea in hand, and say, “Good job. I knew you could do it.”

My mother still didn’t have a high school diploma.

If I was still struggling when she finally arrived to help she began by saying, “Explain this to me. What don’t you understand?”
She would have me explain the lesson to her. Or she’d ask a question that had me going back to my textbook to find the answer. Mom never fed me information. She always made me find it myself. She was the pointing finger, reminding me that it was there to be found, if only I would calm down and look for it.
Almost always, with mom’s guiding questions pointing me in the right direction, I would figure out how to answer the questions and finish my homework. As a child I didn’t understand any of this. I just knew that homework was easier when my mom helped me with it.
I was a straight-A student, most of the time. I was the kid who begged to start kindergarten a year early. I was top academic in my class in 3rd, and 4th grade. My parents were my biggest cheerleaders, congratulating me on every report card, every piano recital. They were the present kind of parents that children need to succeed.
Fast forward to high school. I was taking advanced classes (IB). I was no longer top of my class. But, I was still keeping my average well above 80%, even though I was doing challenging course work. And I was still asking my mom to help me with my homework, at least weekly. (She was the best editor. I always asked her to read my essays before I handed them in. Her input always made them better.)
I struggled most with math. Humanities were easy for me, but trigonometry, pre-calculus, they weren’t my favorite. I was getting As, but I had to work for them a lot more than in other subjects. So, I would sit down with my homework and ask my mom to help me when I got frustrated and couldn’t solve my equations correctly. She’d bring her tea, sit down beside me, ask me to explain what I was working on, and go over it with me, line by line, until I found the mistake.
The day my mom resigned as my homework assistant I was already in 12th grade. I’d asked her to come help me with something super complicated in my math 12 homework. I don’t remember what.
She sat down with her tea, glanced over the notebooks and textbooks that I had strewn all over the table, and said, “Carrien, its time I told you something.”
“It’s been about 3 years since I’ve been able to understand your math homework.”
At that point in time, my mother still didn’t have a high school diploma. She’d been so frustrated with her final year of math that she had dropped the class, and that incomplete on her transcript kept her from graduating.
I knew that. But I hadn’t really thought about it.
Mom proceeded to show me that all this time, when I thought she was helping me do my homework, what she had been doing instead was pointing me at the resources I already had in front of me, and prodding me to think. She had been turning me into an independent learner, and I had been oblivious to it.
“You are in your last year of high school,” she said. “Next year you’ll probably go to university. It’s about time you realized that you’ve been doing it yourself all this time. You don’t actually need my help. You just have to remember to slow down and look at the information and keep trying until you figure it out.”
After I went to university my mom went back to community college, completed her diploma, and went on to become a teacher’s assistant, working in classrooms with special needs children. To no one’s surprise, she was really good at it.
But before that, before she had any formal training as an educator, my mom had turned me into a life long learner, capable of learning almost anything with the right resources.
I tell this story fairly often. One of the things I do in my current line of work for The Charis Project is to write curriculum for community education classes. The goal of these classes is to equip uneducated, often illiterate, parents to help their children succeed in life. We teach lots of things, from hygiene and disease prevention to how to support a toddler’s cognitive development. I work to take the things I know, and make them as simple as possible, to equip these families with what we would consider the barest essentials in order to help them thrive.
They worry about what they will say when their child asks them a question they don’t know the answer to. So how do you tell a parent who can barely sound out words in their native language how to support and encourage their child’s education and help them succeed?
I tell them this story. I tell them how I grew up relatively poor, for my culture. I didn’t have a lot of the advantages my peers had that cost money, like tutors and extracurricular activities. I tell them how I passed my mother in knowledge, but because she had always pointed me at the information I had and asked questions that prompted me to learn, not only did I not know that she didn’t have the answer, I also became far better at learning than I could have if she had just told me what I wanted to know.
I like watching the expressions on their faces as they realized how clever this is, and that this is something they CAN do for their own children.
You can do this for your children too. This coming school year is weird for everyone. It doesn’t matter if your children will be back in a classroom, or doing online learning, a combination, or if you have just decided to opt out and home school this year, this will work for you. You have what it takes to equip your children to be learners, and to do well in school, even if you don’t understand what they are learning. I know. I’ve used my mom’s techniques for the past 18 years of homeschooling my 6 children.

The 7 Essential Components

So let’s breakdown what my mom did, and why it worked. Because this is something any parent can do.
1. Presence
Mom, and dad, were nearby. Never underestimate the power of a parent who is present. We know that one of the biggest factors of a child’s success, in school, and in life, is an adult who is invested in them, is there for them, shows interest in them, and who encourages them.
2. What do you already know?
She asked us to consider what we already knew. “What do you think?” Or, “If you already know that 5 x 5 = 25, can you figure out from that what 5 x 6 = ?”
3. Look at the available resources
She directed us to the resources available. “What does your book say? What did your teacher say?” Today I would say, “How can you find out? Where could you look? Who could you ask?”
In both 2 and 3, what she didn’t do was jump in to help us right away.
4. Express confidence in your child’s ability to work independently.
She expressed confidence in our ability to do it ourselves. “Have you tried this? Well, see if it works.” She didn’t rescue us from the struggle, leaving space and time for us to find the right answer on our own.
5. Allow the learning process.
Without the work of finding answers on our own our brains don’t get the opportunity to grow stronger. Without the struggle, there is no gain. Finding our own answers without help built into us the confidence in our own ability. Mom respected the learning process. She let us grapple with the questions long enough to find the answers on our own.
I’m sure part of this was because mom really didn’t want to cope with helping me do 3rd grade math homework without a cup of tea nearby. I definitely find it easier to sit next to my early readers as they sound out letters if I have a cup of coffee in my hand. I also tell them things like, “I have to go help your brother for a second, try and finish as much as you can before I get back!” I set the tone of my voice to make it a super exciting game to see how many things they can do on their own.
Part of respecting the process of learning is allowing failure to happen. It’s part of the struggle. You have to let a person try, and then fail, and try again. Let your 8 year old try to get the math answer right in his own way. Maybe he’ll succeed. If not, he will have tested his theory and be ready to try a new one. He will also have a much more sound understanding of how it works than if you just show him how to do it and didn’t let him try it his own way.
6. Define the problem
Mom had us define the problem, and explain what we didn’t understand, which helped us clarify what we needed to find out.
Then she pointed us back at the resources again, this time with much better questions to ask of them.
7. Celebrate success, but also celebrate effort.
Mom cheered us on when we succeeded, which is really important. And she gave her time and energy to support us as we learned. Both my parents did.
Even more important than celebrating success is praising effort. “I see you working hard on that. It’s tough, but you haven’t quit yet. Great work. You’re getting stronger.” Those aren’t words I specifically heard as a child. But those are words I use now.”
By always resourcing me, pointing me in the direction of the information available, and encouraging me to keep going even if it was hard, my mom taught me how to learn, and gave me the confidence to do it. Natural aptitude was a factor, but mom’s presence, calm questions, and constant reminders that I could solve the problem myself were a huge factor in my development as a person. They laid a foundation for the way I approach learning that has served me my whole life.

Resourcing your children is easier now than it ever has been before.

We live in the information age. When I was a kid, if I wanted to learn something, I had to go to the library and sign out books on the subject. If my children have a question they can type it into a search engine and find hundreds of articles on the subject and even more videos. They don’t even need to be able to read yet to figure out what they want to know, most of the time. If they are able to type the word into the search bar at the top of the Youtube site, which they can find by looking up the icon in frequent searches, they will find videos that explain everything to them, from how electric circuits work, to the best way to grow rice.
Mom’s lesson to me was, “You already have everything you need to do this. You just have to believe that you can.”
You already have everything you need to help your children learn this year, and to equip them to be learners for the rest of their life. Perhaps the one thing lacking is the confidence that you can do it. So I’m here to tell you that if my mom could do it, without a high school diploma, if the functionally illiterate migrant parents that I teach can do it, you can definitely handle the challenges that this school year is bringing you. You’ve got this.
all content © Carrien Blue