The greatest crisis moms are facing today

I still remember the feeling I had when I walked through the doors of my first newspaper job, a fresh college graduate. 

As I took my seat in the lobby, waiting for my editor to lead me to my desk, I wasn’t nervous or intimidated or uncertain. I was bursting with excitement, eager to jump in and get started, ready to face the challenge of racing against a looming deadline with the goal of producing a published work.

For as long as I could remember, I had been preparing for this moment.

Seriously though. As a third-grader, I had created and published my own newspaper, “The Old-Fashioned Press,” which was then printed and distributed in my public elementary school. 

Yes. I was THAT kid.

From that point, my career path was extremely focused–and I worked very hard to make my dream a reality, from entering writing competitions in high school to serving as yearbook editor my senior year. I never hesitated when it came to deciding my major; it was always going to be journalism. In college, I had three media internships before graduation and during my final semester, I was the editor-in-chief of the school paper. 

So before my first byline as a full-time staffer ever hit newsprint, I was as prepared as I could possibly be.

It seems a bit crazy, right? All those years of work to lead up to this role?

But I soon found why this meticulous–and at times arduous–preparation was worthwhile. When breaking news happened minutes from deadline, tearing up the front page to write and edit fresh copy with notonesecondtobreathe was no problem. When the two top editors of one of the magazines in my group quit within days of each other, only to find barely any work had been done on the next issue due that week, no worries. When I found myself accepting a publisher role I never saw coming, it was OK. 

I just looked at the challenge square in the face and quickly got to work because I knew what to do. I had been trained for this. 

And no momentary setback was going to stand in my way.

That, my friends, was then.

Years later, I was now in a new role. My most important one yet. 

Mom.

And as I stared into my toddler’s tiny face screaming so loud I couldn’t even think, I had NO IDEA what to do. I didn’t know how to deal with my white-hot reactions triggered by some of her tantrums. I had no clue how to cope with what can be a mind-numbing monotony brought on by a repeating loop of diapers, dishes, and discipline.

Bumps in my parenting road sent me on detours full of isolation, frustration, and discontentment. I was sidelined by the obstacles. I lost sight of the end goal.

baby and mom

I wasn’t prepared for how exhausting these little lives can be.

It wasn’t till earlier this year while reading the book Desperate, written by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson, that a lightbulb went on.

I had spent nearly all of my 30 pre-parenting years focused on doing well in MY life, and yet, I had invested comparatively very little of my time on how to guide and mold a future generation.

After listening to other women over the past few years–even those whose only desire was to one day be a mom–I know I am not alone. 

You want to know what I think may be the greatest feminist crisis of our generation? I don’t think it has anything to do with politics or the current president and his policies. 

The crisis we are facing is this: Increasingly, we as women are not adequately prepared to be moms. 

I’m not talking about developing a birth plan or pinning the perfect nursery to your board or reading baby books or even reviews about what products to buy (though I was pretty clueless about those things as well). 

I am talking about preparing our hearts and minds for the long haul. About forming a foundation to do the work of eternity. About being ready for the soul-shaping job that doesn’t get deterred by the crisis of the day, brought to you only as little ones know how to do best, in a way that keeps your eyes fixed on 18 years down the line and addresses the challenges you know you will face–not with annoyance or anger but calmly and confidently and with Christ.

sick baby and mom

The cries of sickness and sighs of sleepless nights are not as challenging when viewed through an eternal lens.


I think anyone would agree that parenting is a job of utmost significance. So why are we not better prepared for it?

Because, as Sally writes, we are not looking at it that way.

“Unfortunately, many moms have entered the battlefield of motherhood and are totally unprepared, untrained, and ill-equipped for the job. I know I was. And many have not understood that the home is a battlefield where sin and selfishness must be overcome, and that the taming, subduing, and civilizing of a home will be to a woman’s honor,” Sally writes. “I believe that if moms understood how strategic their roles were in this battle for the hearts and minds of the next generation, they would grow in excitement about this great job God created them to fulfill …”

She continues: “For me, it changed my whole perspective to understand that this was a job for which I was designed before the fall, and that I played a key part in God’s plan of redeeming this world back to Himself … Had I captured earlier the great call to train godly children, who would live righteously and invest in God’s kingdom work, I would have been much more prepared and excited to face the challenges along the way.”

Her words pricked my heart.

In every other job I can think of, it would be incredulous, and foolish even, if you took it on unprepared. Imagine a reporter entering a newsroom without first learning how to write an article. Or a nurse treating a patient without knowing how to administer medicine. A teacher standing before a class without ever forming a lesson plan.

Then why would it be ok to enter into parenting without much more than a box of diapers and some onesies? With the thought that we would merely figure it out along the way?

Why aren’t we treating the preparation for this job with the urgency and importance it deserves?

Maybe you have always loved babies and with your eagerness to cuddle a squishy bundle, you thought child-rearing would come naturally. Or you focused solely on the fun parts of playing in parks and having someone to love and love you back.

squishy baby

There’s much more to being a mom than just a desire for a squishy baby to hold.


Or, like me if I were to be completely honest, you viewed parenting as secondary to something else in your life, whether it is a career or talent you possess. That it was an asterisk to who you are, not quite as worthy to spend as much time developing it.

I’ll agree, at times, being a mom isn’t always as thrilling as chasing a big story. Its inherent selflessness may not be as rewarding as holding a finished product in my hands.

But with these little fingers laced in mine, I am holding an eternal product-in-the-making in my hands.

Before I was a journalist–before I was a thought in my own mother’s mind–I was designed by God to be a mom.

Moms, we were purposed for this work.

So what can we do to get ready to face our roles with the proper focus? Particularly if you lacked examples of biblical parenting in your own childhood?

I think we as the body of Christ could be doing a better job in helping other Christ followers along in this area, through both pulpit instruction and discipleship. The authors of Desperate encourage moms of young kids to find an older, godly mentor–someone who has faced the same struggles and can provide Scriptural solutions and support. I think this is a great idea and have been praying about finding such a mentor myself. Or if you as a mom are past the stage of raising littles, maybe you can seek out a new mom in your church and offer to help guide her from God’s Word and advise (not tell) her about how to do a Christ-honoring job.

Personally, since I have been striving to view my daily functions in light of the greater work taking place in my children’s hearts and minds, many of the challenges haven’t seemed so … well, challenging.

So when they disobey, or whine, or scream “No!”, with the long-term view in mind, I’m better equipped to step back and take a deep breath and say to myself, “this is part of the process–you knew this would happen–this is why you’re here.” And then ask the Lord to help me with my response.

Now I still have much to learn, and I fail more than I would like, but with this focus, I can gratefully say God is allowing my work to become more satisfying. He is expanding my view to show me how important it is what I am doing. And it is my prayerful goal that through my actions I can in turn raise my daughters with the knowledge and experience that if God also has this role for them, it can be the most fulfilling work they will ever have–even better than seeing your name in print.

girl and dad at sunset

baby reaching at sunset

My treasures–my greatest work.

Because my newspaper clips will continue to yellow and fade. But my most exciting work … well, they are growing a little bigger each day.

“Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.” (Ephesians‬ ‭6:11-13‬)

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How to tackle Whole30 and other life changes for the struggling mom

I was desperate.

For more than six months, I had been clawing my way to the end of each day, fighting the pain of throbbing headaches, stumbling through brain fog, and pushing against a brick wall of fatigue. I had bounced from specialist to specialist, who ran test after test, trying to figure out why I felt this awful. I had some answers, but no relief yet from my list of symptoms.

So when my naturopathic doctor became the third medical professional to recommend a radical elimination diet, I threw up my hands, defeated. Fine. It was worth a shot.

I really didn’t want to do it. I was so overwhelmed, barely treading in the deep end of daily living, that the thought of changing what I eat–even for a limited period of time–seemed like it would be the anchor that would pull me under. I didn’t think it would solve my health problems. I thought I already ate pretty well. And I really, really didn’t want to give up brownies and ice cream after the kids were in bed. That just sounded like pure torture. Needless pain and sorrow. Agony upon agony.

But I was already suffering, and the medical professionals thought that though changing what I ate was unlikely to completely resolve my issues, it could potentially treat or reduce some symptoms, particularly the aches, fatigue, irritability, and brain fog. And it wouldn’t hurt to try.

As my doctor went over the list of food groups that she wanted me to eliminate, I realized it was very similar to a plan I had recently read about in a college friend’s tumblr post.

“You mean like a Whole30?” I asked.

“Yep, this is very similar to that,” she said. “In fact, doing a Whole30 is a great way to go, because there are so many resources out there on how to do that.”

I left the appointment with orders that she wanted me to complete it before my next follow-up visit. Since we had a vacation coming up in about six weeks where I didn’t want to be finicky with my food choices, I decided if I was going to do it, the time was now. Or most likely never.

So what exactly is the Whole30 program? For 30 days, participants cannot eat any dairy, grain (wheat, oats, corn, rice), soy, or legumes (peanuts, beans). No added sugar. No alcohol. And you must avoid certain preservatives, including MSG and sulfites. (You can read more about the program specifics here.)

At first, I thought giving up sugar would be the hardest part. I mean, a couple Dove dark chocolates or Ghiradelli squares were an essential pairing with my afternoon coffee during the kids’ naptime. But as I started assessing my eating habits to see what I would need to change, I realized I ate a lot of dairy. Like, a lot. Greek yogurt first thing in the morning. Cheese several times a day. Milk in my scrambled eggs and as an ingredient in many recipes. And grains. So many grains. Bagel or English muffin almost daily. Oatmeal. Sandwiches or quesadillas for lunch. Pasta for dinner. Ugh. Sugar now seemed like an easy loss.

So I decided to focus on what I could eat instead of what I couldn’t. Mainly think of it as protein + veggies + fruit. Thankfully, I love food, so I knew I wouldn’t hate what I was eating … I just hoped I wouldn’t harm someone I loved if a craving for something on the naughty list took over.

Bottom line: It wasn’t that hard to do, I learned tons about food and cooking, and I found doing a Whole30 had many benefits. Here are my tips for making it a simple, worthwhile, and dare I say enjoyable experiment … even for the struggling mom.

Planning to succeed was way easier than I thought. One of my biggest hang-ups about starting a Whole30 was that I was in such a state I barely had the energy to put together a grocery list for my husband to take to the store. Meal plan and prep? That seemed impossible. As I mentioned before, there’s tons of info out there on how to do a Whole30, from books and blogs to Pinterest boards and podcasts, but even that was overwhelming. 

Somehow, I found Mel Joulwan’s Well Fed blog, and that was my saving grace. She has meal plans, straightforward explanations of how to prep, and even better, shopping lists with everything you need on them to eat the entire week, down to the spices. Like, I could just print off her grocery list and head to the store. I didn’t even have to think. (BONUS.)

I spent the majority of my planning time reading her methods and covering the basics on the Whole30 website. I’ve been asked a lot if you have to read one of the best-selling Whole30 books by the Hartwigs before starting. My answer is no, I did not find it necessary. There is TONS of free info–step-by-steps, recipes, FAQs about ingredients–on the site. I did end up buying The Whole30, but I didn’t reference it that much. Instead, I do recommend buying all three of Mel Joulwan’s Well Fed cookbooks, including her just-released Well Fed Weeknights: Complete Paleo Meals in 45 Minutes or Less. However, I don’t think you have to run out and buy her books before you start, because she has plenty of free recipes on her blog and more than enough resources to help you navigate the process. But I think it’s a good investment, because I (and my pretty picky hubs) have grown to love her recipes and style, and I use those cookbooks as pretty much my main source of cooking now.

full fridge

What my fridge looked like after my first stock up: packed full of produce for the week.

After I reviewed the first week’s meal plan and downloaded the shopping list, I headed off to stock up on specialty items I would need. For me, I found Trader Joe’s to be the best and most economical spot, though unfortunately, the closest one to our home is about 30 minutes away. But if I planned it right, I found I only needed to go once every two weeks. Nearly everything else I purchased at my local Meijer or Kroger. So if you have a Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods or another market that specializes in natural ingredients in your neighborhood, lucky you.

Also, it is helpful to carve out one bigger block of time at the start of your week for prep. The more cooking you can get done at one time, the easier it is to resist temptation, because you have compliant foods already prepared and are less likely to get yourself in a hangry situation. I modified Mel’s cook-up plans to work for my lifestyle (stay-at-home-mom in poor health) so I didn’t spend an entire afternoon or evening prepping, because that’s just not realistic. (Hello. Kids.) I broke it up into two or three cook-ups a week, making several meals at once, mostly taking 1-2 hours after the kids were in bed.

Before you think that still sounds like too much time, I found I actually spent LESS time in the kitchen overall during the week. I mean, I regularly took more than an hour a day making even quick meals for the family. Instead, in about 2 hours, I was making almost all meals for several days. When it came time to eat, you just pull your prepped stuff out of the fridge, reheat, saute your fresh veggies, and that’s it. Any mom who’s dealt with the “witching hour” before dinner can appreciate cutting that trying stretch of meal-making down to mere minutes. Plus, I found I was not as stressed and frazzled when we sat down to the table, because I wasn’t fighting off kids while trying to not burn food for the last 45 minutes. There are some meals I made without prior prep, but those mostly involved grilling and roasting, so still very little hands-on time before they are cooking.

I ate lots of coconut. And eggs. And cauliflower. And guac. I found that coconut is a staple in the Paleo/Whole30 kitchen. Coconut oil. Coconut cooking spray. Coconut milk. Coconut aminos. Coconut creamer. And so on. Also, I easily blew through a dozen-and-a-half eggs in a week, so I learned to buy 3 dozen at a time just to be safe. (I would often hard-boil a half-dozen at a time and have them ready in the fridge for a protein-fueled snack.) I used cauliflower frequently too, both fresh and frozen, for “rice” substitutes (Trader Joe’s actually makes a pre-riced cauliflower that is amazing) or “mashed potatoes” or in soups. And guacamole was great as a topper on breakfasts or salads. Or by itself. Because it’s guac.

Other ingredients or foods I found helpful:

  • Larabars (there are several compliant flavors) for snacks on-the-go.
  • Aidells or Trader Joe’s chicken sausages–high in protein, ready in minutes.
  • Cashew butter (Trader Joe’s is my favorite, but Kroger’s Simple Truth version is pretty good too)–I found I like cashew butter better than its counterpart of almond butter as a peanut butter replacement. And it is great as a fruit dip for a little “treat.”
  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs–I would roast or grill 2 dozen a week. Done in 30 minutes when roasting and then you have a base protein ready-made for lunches or many dinner recipes.
  • Tessemae’s compliant dressings–their balsamic is great on salads or as a quick marinade.
  • Coconut aminos–this replaces soy sauce and is used in many of Mel’s recipes, and I went through a few bottles. ALERT: this was my hardest-to-locate ingredient, but they do sell it on Amazon if you can’t find it elsewhere.
  • Trader Joe’s dried fruits, especially their mangoes–just enough to satisfy a sweet craving.
  • Trader Joe’s frozen Chile Lime chicken burgers–these are so, SO good. Meal in a flash.
  • Frozen salmon fillets or shrimp–more protein in a pinch.

But besides these specific, simple foods, I followed Mel’s “stock up” methods pretty closely for buying and preparing my weekly protein and veggies.

chicken salad

Simple, delicious lunches were easy to throw together once I knew what I was doing and had plenty of healthy ingredients on-hand.

I spiced up my cooking habits. I realized somewhere in the second week of Whole30 that I didn’t really know how to cook before starting the program. I mean, I could plod my way through a recipe decently enough, but I never really knew how to season meats or veggies without following a plan. In fact, I had to buy many spices, because I rarely ventured outside of salt, pepper, and garlic. Suddenly, foods seemed to come alive in ways I didn’t know possible. David decided foods he had previously turned up his nose to (brussel sprouts especially) were actually quite tasty with the right seasonings. And I now was equipped with what to quickly do with that chicken instead of having to consult Mr. Google. (Salt + pepper + garlic + paprika, throw in oven.)

One of the biggest take-aways was Mel’s steam-saute method for veggies. David has declared he never wants me to make broccoli or green beans any other way. It is so simple and flavorful. I could eat piles of veggies prepared this way.

I also learned making foods from scratch really wasn’t that difficult or time-consuming nor is it only for crunchy or CrossFit people (no offense if you fall into either of those categories, but it’s just not me). Make my own mayo? No problem. Cut and roast a spaghetti squash? Piece of cake. Special spice combinations? I try to keep four whipped up in my pantry that I can sprinkle on a variety of foods. (My favorite for breakfasts is Mel’s Sunrise Spice.) I found myself regularly pulling out my Ninja without fear. (A couple tools that I didn’t have at the time that would be useful are an immersion/stick blender, which I got for Christmas, and a noodle spiralizer or Kitchen-Aid mixer attachment.)

meatza pizza

Meatza instead of pizza? It’s actually really good.



Overall, Whole30 changed me. While I set out on the program for health purposes, I found many other reasons why it was a beneficial experience. It taught me to read labels more closely. (I had no idea how often sugar is hidden in prepared foods!) My skin improved. I lost 5 pounds. I learned to make wiser choices with what I put in my mouth and that I could indeed make healthy yet convenient meals. I noticeably had more energy.

It wasn’t all puppies and rainbows though. It didn’t solve my underlying health problems, and I continued to have headaches during it. (In fact, on Day 3, I was sick as a dog, most likely from detox, so be prepared for this if you try the program.) I did have to fight back cravings, but it wasn’t impossible. It can be more expensive than your normal food-buying habits, but you don’t have to buy organic and grass-fed everything if your budget doesn’t allow. (Just focus on the most natural ingredients you can get for the price.)

But it fundamentally altered the way I have eaten moving forward, because I found it was easy to implement. Instead of cereal or some other grain for breakfast, I usually make quick omelettes and scrambles full of veggies (my favorite go-to is three scrambled eggs mixed with half a diced pre-roasted sweet potato, reheated in coconut oil and seasoned with a teaspoon or so of Sunshine Spice). Rather than a sandwich with the kids for lunch, I make tuna or chicken salad or eat leftovers. I no longer fix my coffee with half a packet of Splenda and a pour of Coffeemate; I now drink it without sweetener and only a splash of coconut creamer or black. Almost all of our dinners are now Paleo or Whole30 (though I am not strict Paleo right now by any means–I still love Friday night pizza). And for the first time since I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia after a glucose tolerance test confirmed it in college, my blood sugar was stable. I no longer regularly felt periods of shakiness throughout the day, which I used to experience despite eating frequent, small, protein-filled meals. 

Along with the Whole30, I made other life changes. I began taking a daily probiotic and a couple other supplements recommended by my doctors. During the toughest period, I said “no” to anything that was non-essential to caring for my kids. I purposed to get outside every day that I could. I slept at every opportunity. I said “yes” to help from my husband, family, and friends. I listened to worship music. And though Whole30 by itself didn’t cure me of my health struggles, about a month after I finished it, God allowed my daily waking headaches to stop. I started feeling normal again.

Many of you have prayed and asked about my health. We are overjoyed that I have felt as well as I have for the past few months after I struggled for much of 2016. This month, I plan to have another MRI to follow up on my cyst, but I do not expect any negative change, based on my symptoms. And after the … er, decadence of the holidays, I am ready for a fresh start and plan to do another Whole30 again.

It most certainly can’t hurt.

Or at least it is temporary pain. Because a lifetime of lacking a little afternoon treat with my coffee is just not a sacrifice I am willing to permanently make. I have toddlers, after all.


“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭10:31‬)

When this year wasn’t what you hoped for

This wasn’t the New Year’s Eve I had planned.

When I thought about the start of another year, and the days leading up to it, a visit to our family from The Most Dreadful Stomach Flu Ever just wasn’t on my agenda.

We had things to do. Projects to accomplish. My husband had specifically taken vacation days during this time with the hopes to tackle them.

But at 6:15 a.m. the day after Christmas, my alarm clock jolting me awake was a sudden urge to run to the bathroom and stay there for quite some time. Oh, the sickness.

On top of the nausea and stomach cramps, a strange, pressing, hot pain started creeping into my chest, rising under my ribs, filling the space in a consuming way. The pain grew so bad that by the afternoon, I couldn’t take it any longer. I couldn’t escape it no matter how I tried. It got harder to breathe. Something seemed really wrong. I told David we need to go to the hospital. I felt like I was going out of my mind from the pain.

At the ER, the medical team found my heart was beating far too quickly, and I was dehydrated. After some IV fluids, along with nausea and pain meds, my heart rate started to come down and the worst was over.

I spent the next couple days recovering in bed, sapped of energy and my intestines still in torment, though the meds kept everything in check. By Friday though, the bug had spread to my youngest daughter and then David, who also got a fever and back pain to go with it. This was not your average stomach flu. This was the Grand-daddy of All Stomach Flus. (It also dropped in on many other Scally family members, making love and joy not the only things we shared on Christmas.)

I have to admit, besides feeling sick and in pain, I was frustrated as the days dragged on, and disappointed–and truthfully, a little bit angry–when we had to cancel our annual New Year’s Eve plans. This was not how this week was supposed to go.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. I mean, this wasn’t how this year was supposed to go. As was the case for many people I know (some with far more significant reasons), for us, 2016 left a lot to be desired. I was ready to ring in 2017, with its unmarred calendar and a starry-eyed optimism that this was going to be The Year that we take on our list of goals with gusto and get things done. This year couldn’t possibly be as lousy as the last.

Yet here we are, ringing it in with Gatorade and chicken soup, the four of us quarantined by ourselves within these four walls.

Wah. Wah. Wah.

Then, that still, small voice whispers powerfully in my head, “When are you going to realize that your plans may not be MY plans.”

sick babe

A closer look at my full hands reveals a full heart.


Sigh.

This seems to be the lesson of my life that I struggle so desperately to grasp.

I mean, let’s take a look at my list of what I hope to accomplish in 2017. It tends to be full of temporary things. Organize the office. Finish the basement. Clean out the garage. Decorate the great room. Pick up more work. Write more. Read more. Travel.

But what if His plan for this year has nothing to do with my well-meaning checklist? What if it is, in 2017, to simply grow closer to Him, however that may be achieved? To be a godlier wife. To be a more Christlike mom. A more humble servant and a more proficient sharer of the Gospel.

Why is it so easy to get so short-sighted?

(I’m blaming the nausea. Kidding! Sort of.)

A few days ago, a post on Facebook caught my eye, about how to remember the blessings of the new year by writing down something you enjoyed or were grateful for on a slip of paper and put it in a jar at the end of each day. And then next New Year’s Eve, open the jar and be overcome by the joys experienced.

It’s a great idea I realized I don’t need to wait till tomorrow to start. As I look back on 2016, though kind of blah at first glance, it’s actually filled with ways My Lord met us in the darkness, took care of our needs, and continued leading us by His light.

With nearly nine months of health challenges for myself, we have never worried about paying one single medical bill. And that’s saying something, considering we lost nearly all my income due to not being able to work during those struggles, and MRIs, CT scans, ER visits, blood tests, and specialists aren’t cheap.

Though currently dirty, unorganized, and unfinished, we live in our dream home.

Though we get on each other’s nerves at times, I am married to my dream man.

And though they have added more gray to my head than I would’ve ever imagined I would have at 33, I am privileged to parent the daughters of my dreams.

Still, there’s more:

We have been honored to find new ways to serve at our church.

We are surrounded by family and friends, who have held us together with prayers and sustained us with support.

And one of the most notable as 2016 closes out for sure: since August, for whatever reason, I have not woke with daily, debilitating headaches.

I take that “whatever” back. He is the reason.

Suddenly, 2016 is not seeming so bad. Instead, I am feeling so blessed.

Christmas tree

May your reflection on the beauty of another year find more blessings than you can count.


He has met our every need. And He knew exactly what we needed and when we needed it to draw us closer to Him. I can say this with confidence even if my health hadn’t improved or if my year had been marked by even harder, more painful circumstances, because I know from His Word (and He has proven it repeatedly) that He is for me.

Bring on 2017. Count down the clocks and drop that ball. As long as my main goal this year is to pursue Him, nothing can go wrong.

And that’s truly something to celebrate.

“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” (Jeremiah‬ ‭29:10-11‬ ‭from The Message‬‬)