Christian Living, Finding Peace, Grieving, Healing Season, Surrender, Uncategorized

You’re Not That Strong (and why that’s good)

“You’re gonna be so strong after this thing, honey,” her eyes were locked on mine. Her heavy hands giving my shoulder an affirming shake.

“How strong does someone need to be?” I asked. I don’t think I want…sob…I don’t think I want to be…sob…that…sob…strong.

I was young.

I was wise!

You should not be as strong as I am.


I’m not talking about gains in the gym, I’m talking about lifting the crushing weight of hopelessness.

20 years ago today my parents, Lee and Jacque Cook were killed by an F7 tornado in Montgomery, Ohio.

emt workers carry out mom or dad

I know. Ouch. So ouch.

At the time I received a LOT of help, so help people with their “ouches” now.

My friend was right, I became “so strong through this” but I’m still no convinced that is a good thing. It’s been suggested that my strength is often detrimental and creates imbalances in life. I bet that’s true.

Guess why?

It’s fake news.

I’m not strong. I am carried by the King and He strengthens me.

If all of a sudden you’re like…ope…I’m out.


And speaking of peace…Jesus…He gets a crummy wrap sometimes, but He is actually known as the Prince of Peace. 20 years ago today, I became a witness. I know that heaven fell on me like honey from a comb and once I get a taste, I was like freaking Pooh Bear.

20 years ago, I was walking around the wreckage where my family and house used to be.

And I was looking to two things a)treasures-anything that proved we existed and b)answers-like why?

At the time, I believed in reincarnation. I thought that in each life we had a lesson to learn in order to progress forward and eventually attain Nirvana. I don’t really know what combination the “all you can eat buffet of faith”, I’d stacked on my plate to think that way. But…there it is. I wandered the ground asking “why, God” and “what are you trying to teach me” as my born-again brother was on the t.v. news saying stuff like “God is so faithful. He’s so good. He took them together. They would not have wanted it any other way.”

I was entirely carried by friends, civic and church people who I didn’t know. You can read the whole story in my book The Healing Season: How a Deadly Tornado Wrecked and Reshaped My Faith. It’s everywhere books are sold (and there’s a small group DVD and audio book, too)


I was not strong. I was carried. I was weak. The community was strong and carried me.

I “have  some “strength”. I may even be strong.Or, maybe I’m weak and trying to keep you at arms length by flexing mine. I’m in therapy for my “strong ” because like I said, it’s fake news. I am needy. I need my friends, family, church, counselor. I need my workouts (but to burn off the crazy as much as build muscle).

For at least 20 years I wore I black pleather jacket. It was bad to the bone and looked killer on me.

But but God is doing a new thing. Think about it: do the words “bad to the bone and killer” best describe who I am and who I want to be?

I threw the jacket away. It does not make anyone think I’m tough. It’s not going to stop someone from mugging me (or worse).

I am covered by the King and clothed in His mercy and grace.

I know…so much Christianeese.

But, dude, it’s Him. He’s my strength. He carried me then and now and always. And that’s enough for me. My God strength is my good strength. Not my real strength. Not my black pleather jacket. My Jesus.

So, 20 years now.

20-years with a yucky title, I didn’t pick “orphan”or want “tornado girl.”

We all have those, right? “Divorced guy” “Cancer mom” “Unemployed boy”.

Is there anyone in your life saying, “this is going to make you so strong”…sure.

It is.

But I really hope it also makes you weak. Weak enough that you need someone and reach out and feel them clutch your hand.

We can’t do it alone.

We are not made to.


Plus those titles, “orphan” “looser” “failure” are also lies. I’m calling them out.

You are not those names. You are a God-breathed and divinely inspired movement of heaven on earth. Put that on your next job application! Right next to “emergency contact: Christ”.  Like the t-shirt says, we need a little bit of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus. But we also need people. Not just our tribes either.

Part of my “so strong problem” is this lie: I don’t need anyone. I can do it myself.

Again, so much fake news.

We need each other and we are needed.

Taken to it’s natural extreme for this tornado girl looks like isolation that is justified by introversion, which is probably instigated by a scary freaking world where tornadoes kill parents and kids get shot at schools, and planes fly into buildings sometimes. Not always. Not usually. But sometimes. At the mall. Or movies. So maybe I’ll stay home.

But there’s a problem there.

It was not ME who held me up back then, it was YOU. It was them.

It was God (of course) and the community. I worry about the unity in commUNITY.

Today, 20 years later that worry is wasted energy.

I was not worried a tornado would come. And most of the “tornado” we worry about only swirl in our minds. But there is one who calms the storm and in our weakness, He is very strong.

Plus…biggest bonus prize ever, because of Him I know I for sure get to see Mom and Dad again. It’s a done deal and it’s makes me so bold in the soul I could trash talk a tornado: what you got windbag? It only LOOKS like you won.

But there I go, being strong again. Today, I’m being gentle with myself.

I’ll sit with a coffee, and blanket and dog. I choose the little way to remember: plant a flower, read devotions.

Maybe I’ll bake a cake (angel food, of course.) and share it with someone.


Shannyn Caldwell is a Traditional Naturopathic Doctor and Founder of The Healing Season: Holistic Wellness Community.




Christian Living, Finding Peace, Healthy Living

the “why” that makes me cry

about a month ago,

46 days ago to be exact,

i started doing a workout program called p90x.

it’s a fierce, very very intense at home dvd system from the evil geniuses who bring us



the asylum.


i started doing it because i’m what is called a “beach body coach”.

 it means i can help you find a fitness program you’ll love

 and encourage you when you feel like quitting.

first, i agree with you if you hate the name “beach body”.

feel ya.


they make the best, and most effective systems and they’re really good ethical people so…

beachbody it is.

the jewel in the crown of beachbody is something called p90x. it’s nuts and long and hard and every time i do it i think i’m gonna puke.

(great salesman aren’t  i)

anyway…it’s fierce. it’s not joke and i only decided to do it so i could have some street cred with the beachbody people.

it’s a 90 program and you work out 6-7 days a week.

i smoke through days 1-30 and am feeling like a boss.

then comes

day 31.

i push play and realize i cannot do this workout.

i can not do what he’s asking of me.

it’s not even that i don’t want to…i full blown can’t.

my arms will not do that.

i’m beat. i work full-time.

i cook and clean and do homework with kids and say prayer and tuck them


do this vicious workout?



why am i doing this?

i’m i doing it to have a six-pack?

not. (although i’m getting one which kinda rocks)

do i want this to be my career?

no. i host a christian radio show and i love love love it!!!

why am i doing this thing?

i’m literally saying this out loud and i’m struggling to do push up.

is it because my college friend did it?

no…i love them. remember them fondly but this is not for them.

and now i’m starting to cry and do push ups and the only thing i’m saying is

“why am i doing this?”

am i doing it for my kids? to be strong for them?

yes and no. i do need to be fit for them, but not this fit.


and now my husband hears me crying like a baby or more like a pussy

and he comes up stairs and i push pause and go sit on the coach and weep my damn head off.

for real.

and i ask him, “why the hell am i doing this? i can’t do everything. i can’t do everything”

and now i’m all like “is p90x actually giving me a breakdown? really? cuz i’m not cool with that either.”

and i stop and really really pray.

“god you show me why i’m doing this. if it’s not for you, lord. if it’s not for your glory then show me and i’ll stop right now, because if it’s not healthy or it’s not for you then it is pointless.

i’m overcome by this desire to get stronger, lift more, withstand more. is it a good thing?”

and i stop and be still and listen like i used to as a kid

when you’re walking in the woods and someone tells you that the indians used to put their ear to the ground to hear people

who are far far way walking toward you.

and you try it and it works.

i listened for the lord like that. like a kid with my ear to the ground.

and i did hear him.

are at least i hear him echo.

and the echo, well it sounded like a memory.

the memory of a story i heard.

if you know me, you know part of it.

it’s weird and true and the best way to share it is just to rip it off like band-aid

and just

spit it out.

my mom and dad were killed in a tornado.

as far and anyone knows, my dad was killed instantly but, as it turns out, mom lived for a little while.

in the first few years after the tornado, i didn’t really know the details of the after math.

so my brain made up details and the details it made up were so awful and full of screams and blood and gore, that i just went ahead and scoured the records for names and number of people who were actually there. who knew the truth. and i called them and interviewed them.

the neighbor who found mom and covered her with a blanket, the neighbor who spoke with her and realized her voice box was broken,

“what did she say?”, i asked.

this was my block

“she said, “this is how i sleep.” he answered and her voice was so low it was barely human sounding”, he replied, “she was like a rag doll”

strangely this  account gives me comfort, because if she was in pain she would have said something like, “help” or “my back”

she said, “this is how i sleep.” which were probably here last words.

i interviewed the e.m.t. who saw her in the rubble and passed her by.

i couldn’t believe it when he told me.

“what do you mean you passed her by? she was dying!”

“exactly. she was dying. there was no way to save her and that was obvious. we are there to help people who have a chance of surviving.”

“couldn’t you have just sat with her? prayed with her or something”

emt workers carry out mom or dad

“no . there was a baby trapped in the debris of the house down the block. we had to find that baby.”

this was the conversation that came back to me

 when i was falling apart on the couch

 and wondering why i’m pushing play on this torture chamber of a workout.

and it hits me.

i am doing this because i want to be able to lift the beam.

if i’m ever called upon to, i want to be able to do it.

to lift it, push it, carry it.

it’s important.

it’s important to me.

and then, i think about the cross-the beam that christ lifted for me, so save me from the wreckage.

and now i want to do it for him.

for real.

the kid, by the way was 10 months old.

move that wall

                                              his name was nicholas stein and according to the local newspaper he was ” found blissfully playing beneath a door in the ravaged house and suffered only bumps and scrapes.”

i tried to find nick on facebook.

i didn’t find him.

i guess his parents are wise enough not to allow the now 13 or 14-year-old onto the site.

i’m not sure what i’d say to him, if anything.

i think, i’d just pray over his picture.

and then…

well….i’d pop in my darned dvd and push play

and lift.

i’d lift heavy.

Christian Living, Finding Peace, Grieving

there must be something good.

it is, as they say, “tornado season”, again.

for those who’ve lost a loved one today, know that i,for one, am praying hard hard hard for you

and i’m not the only one.

in the chance that someone is reading this

who’s had your life blown up

either by a literal tornado or

something like it:

divorce, foreclosure, job loss

today-i weep with you.

i am one who’s been there. been in those shoes.

when i went to clean the wreckage of what used to be my home-my parents home

it was 1999 and i was a brand new orphan.

i was a single mom, too.

i was scared.  terrified.

lost in the debris.

friend, church people where everywhere helping and i didn’t even know why, because i didn’t really know god.

not well, anyway..

today you may shake your fist at the sky and ask


“why them, god? why me, god why now?”

and in honesty,

you may not ever ever know. not here anyway.

but i know in my bones a couple of things are true.

god’s big enough for your questions and we wants you to ask.

god is good all the time-even when i doesn’t look like it to us.

god will always use every single last thing for the good!

i can promise this because he promises this.

and so in your weeping today, friend

i bring a challenge:

i dare you to praise him.

i dare you to lift your hand and voice and speak of his loving kindness.

that is



miracle, friend.

psalm 30:11

“you have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. you have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,