Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Maybe a little EW isn't so bad with your Yule

 I had to explain this concept  of the virgin birth to a seventh grade boy last week. It's hard to put into words the what and the why, and of course his response was "EW", just like Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show character, Sarah. Who could blame him, it is weird and gross this concept of Spirit pregnancy and a barn birth. It is awful, really when we stop and contemplate the details, yet it's result was something so beautiful, so miraculous, so life changing. We want things in our lives, to be so orderly, comfortable and hassle free, yet reality is, life is far from those things, our holidays are far from those things. It's in the midst of the yuck though, that God shines through the brightest. He can take even the most broken of situations and fix it in fantastic ways, all be it with some EW along the way.

There was a lot of EW for Mary. So much EW. She ran the risk of being stoned, rejected, having to turn to begging or prostitution to support herself and her baby, when she signed on for this. Her response though was, let it be so. God delivered her from that fate, and Joseph married her, but her EW times were not over, she had to deliver in the midst of animals and poop. This was God's favored woman! Yet she had to endure hardship, shame, loss of the life she probably dreamed of and all so she could deliver in a barn. How is this possible? Because of her faithfulness, because of her willingness to trust that God could bring her through the brokenness, we have Jesus.

Our God who loves us unconditionally, who shed heaven for the hurts of earth, so he could be here for us, came from EW. He came from EW, so he could take our EW and turn it into something more beautiful, more lovely than we ever thought possible.

We read that Mary treasured that birth experience and the first visitors in her heart. Did she at times, probably wish that it hadn't happened that way. I would bet so. Yet she was able to treasure some of the outcomes in her heart. God's amazing Christmas love of baby Jesus is redemptive, it takes the EW and makes it awesome.

As we tread through our own baby adventure with surrogacy, there is a lot of EW. The family we are serving has walked through an ugly road of cancer and loss. They have endured more than good people ever should have to. In small ways, it's EW for us too and it's just beginning. There are shots, and medications and tests, and there will be lots more grossness down the road. Yet, there is something so cool happening, as our two families combine, hopefully a baby will grow, but a friendship is already growing. Our family is already extending, even though my belly is not yet. Yes, we would rather the mother, get to nurture her baby to birth, but even in the midst of that loss, something good is coming. God is turning EW into opportunity, as only he can.

Often we want our Christmas season to be perfect, tidy and lovely, but always there is EW. It's okay, EW happens, but God is all over it. He takes the EW, and through it he changes us, he changes the world. After all, what's more EW than childbirth in a barn, but that turned out pretty good for me and you! Hopefully we can see, the nativity in the midst of EW , and have some peace, that as awful as it may be, it can be an opportunity for redemption, miracles and mischief even, that we never saw coming. It may not lessen the loss or the pain, but maybe it can bring anticipation instead of anxiety and hope instead of despair.

Here is Mary's amazing response, pre barn birth, but probably before she knew her life would be spared and Joseph would marry her in her knocked up state:

Luke 1:46-55The Message (MSG)

46-55 And Mary said,
I’m bursting with God-news;
    I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
    I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
    the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
    on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
    scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
    pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
    the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
    he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
    beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

May we all be so hopeful, thankful and full of anticipation in the midst of our EW

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why we are getting knocked up

Our family is on a big adventure, and things are getting serious in good ways. We have let people in on this adventure along the way, close friends and people in our community, but we hadn't really told our church. It may seem like something you don't tell, this journey, but Val and I have learned that keeping secrets isn't helpful, it's hurtful. Our church community is different too, they are connected to our family in a way, a normal workplace would not be. As someone that has grown up in a pastor's family and now is a pastor-ish person, I know that my life in some ways is of church public interest. Our church community invests in us, and I have influence over them, I am a figure in their families too. As such, I give over some rights of privacy in this community. Though this adventure is ours, our church family will be along with us on the journey, watching the changes take hold of me, and unlike other pregnancies in our community, they won't get to gold this baby when it's over. So it was decided that we needed to tell them about this journey and invite them into it, to pray for all of us. I am not normally nervous about sharing anything with our church family, but this had me quaking in my boots. Here is what I shared on Sunday: 

Our family is starting a new adventure it won’t take us away from you, but we would appreciate your prayers. I am now officially a gestational surrogate for a family in Seattle. I am not currently carrying their child, but we are in the process and on track to do that.

This isn’t something we have taken lightly, we have been thinking about it, talking and praying about it for over a year now, and we are working with a very reputable agency and some of the top reproductive doctors in the country.

This decision comes after years of watching friends struggle with infertility, with one friend asking and not needing me to carry. I joked that the compensation we will receive for pain and suffering is my Dave Ramsey get out of debt faster pizza delivery job. Honestly though the more I considered this, the more I realized I was uniquely suited to do it. I am healthy, have always been drug and smoke free, and had two easy pregnancies and deliveries. I also care for students all the time, have very powerful experiences with them and then they grow up and move on, and we have limited contact.  I am not their parent, but I am a part of their lives. I know how to love, and nurture, while not being the parent and let go when I need to.

I will say I was fearful at first and nervous about what would happen to my body, but it was then that I read Jesus words on loving others and going the extra mile. The law in his day said that if a Roman soldier asked a Jew to carry their pack, they had to carry it one mile. Jesus said as his follower, you had to carry it two miles. He demands from us sacrificial love, just as he showed in giving his life for us. I challenge you all the time to give of yourselves and be the hands and feet of Jesus even if it carries you out of your comfort zone. The truth is though that a lot of the stuff we do here together is totally in my comfort zone. So I feel called to do this, to follow Jesus in this way and help this family in a way that I can and in a way that really challenges me.

They are a great family. She battled cancer and it left her unable to carry a child to term. They have one son through surrogacy already and they would love to have another child. They are lovely people raising a great kid, and we are excited to help them have another child that will be raised to be a loving, member of society. We have had so many of our own dreams come true, and now it is a blessing to be able to help them with theirs.

We are excited to see God continue working through this adventure. He has already taught us a lot in the months of testing and evaluation we have gone through to get here. I am going to start medications this week, and more in the beginning of December, and then in early January, will be our first attempt at pregnancy.

I am willing to answer any questions you might have, this is a fascinating process and part of a journey God is taking us on, and as you know I am not shy about sharing those things. The goal is for me to be pregnant, and at some point that will be very obvious, yet a baby won’t come to our church family, which may be confusing for some of our younger members. So I also have a children’s book that very beautifully and simply explains this process for kids, with a kangaroo carrying a baby in it’s pouch for another kangaroo, and I would be happy to share that you with you if your children have questions as well.

We appreciate your prayers and understanding as continue on this journey and we look forward to sharing the joy and anticipation of helping this family with you.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Being a chick really sucks sometimes

I don't live in a country where I am considered property or a transaction. I work in a field where my options are limited due to my gender, but I still have more opportunities than millions of women all around the world. Even in these great circumstances though, it still sucks to be a woman. Today an acquaintance called me sexy,no one else was around, it was not a good friend, not my husband, just someone I see from time to time, and it creeped me out. It came with a hug, that involved a hand partially on my butt too, and it left me feeling bad for being creeped out by it.

This is something most women can identify with, and I have been struggling with for a long time. As a young girl I looked anything but young. I was five feet ten inches in middle school with curves in all the right place, as Meghan Trainor says, after I grew out of my skinny twig phase. This made me appear much older and more available to guys. So I dealt with a lot of comments, got groped on the school bus by adolescent boys and even dealt with more than a few dirty old men at church. There were comments about how I was built like a brick sh#t house, how I was sexy, how developed I was, there were hugs that lasted a long time. I was objectified often and so I started thinking of myself that way. There was an older boyfriend who asked a much too young girl if she was ready, and I didn't have the sense or understanding that my body didn't need to be that objectified sexual thing, so I didn't say no. Thankfully, my experiences were tame, I wasn't raped (I did consent), I wasn't molested, but these things were uncomfortable and they weren't things I felt like I could or should speak out about. All of these experiences formed me into this person that had a lot of my identity tied into being that sex object. Later, I learned a lot about who I was and where my value was and thankfully things did not get out of control, I have great parents, a faith that is not shame based and met good guys, so I was able to shed most of that, but not all.

It was hard and still is at 36 to understand what is and is not okay when it comes to comments from guys, and sometimes even the way they touch. Is that hug, where your hand is probably technically not on my back, and a bit on my butt, just a fluke, or an intentional inappropriate touch. Is telling me I am sexy, just your old man unfiltered inappropriateness, or is it really not okay?

You are probably reading this going, "Duh Heather, that's not okay!" But my brain doesn't do that. My brain says that grope on the bus in junior high was not great, but it wasn't that big a deal, and it didn't happen again. And that older boyfriend, that was my fault because even as a fourteen year old, I still should have just said no. These things just happen right? The one that really gets me, really makes me uncomfortable, and feel bad is the older guys. They are sweet and nice, and these comments are only a small part of what they say, right? And their hands slip right? They are just from a different generation, and they don't mean any harm when they say I am sexy. I don't want to hurt their feelings and tell them it makes me feel uncomfortable.

But then my brain says what if it happened to one of my girls, my students, or as someone pointed out, my daughter. Would it be okay? Then my brain says hell no! I would want them to be able to say, hey, that's not okay, and not make excuses. I would want them to have a voice, and feel totally okay using that voice and not worry about hurting someone's feelings.

I don't want my daughter to grow up thinking it's okay for guys that she is not in a relationship with to tell her she is sexy and she has to just accept that. Sexy isn't an okay compliment. Even if it's tossed around in the media and silkscreened on t-shirts. It is a loaded word. I don't want her to feel like someone touching her and it making her uncomfortable can just be swept under the rug. I want her to have the power to say no, to feel like her body is not a sex object and her value is not in any way tied to her sexual attractiveness.

So I am writing an email, I am letting one "sweet" older man aquaintance, know that he cannot call me sexy anymore. It is hard, and I worry about hurting his feelings, but I am not going to let my feelings be messed with just because I have boobs and a butt. If it makes me uncomfortable I can say that.

If I can't stand up in these smaller situations, how can I expect girls to stand up to the big ones?

Why, why is it still like this? Why do we as women have to deal with cat calls and inappropriate comments and just take them as "compliments"? Why do guys feel like they can do that? And why do we feel guilty when we call them on it? It's so messed up.

Why do I have to worry about what I wear and how it affects men? They don't have to worry about me. Why is it still hard to get equal pay as a woman? Why can't I preach or lead in everyone's church? Why does my anatomy define my role in society and the way it can treat me?

We may have it better than most women around the world, but ladies, it still sucks sometimes to be a lady.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I'm actually a jerk

Confession time: it turns out that I am not a very nice person after all. If you know me well, you are probably aware, this isn't a news flash. I suck.There are a lot of reasons why I am not a good person, but the big ones are,I am selfish, judgmental, quick to anger and slow to forgive. Maybe you can relate, or maybe you have somehow reached a higher plane, grown some bigger fruits of the spirit, are closer to Jesus than me. I probably shouldn't admit this as a leader in a church, but I have to be honest, I am a mess and in the worst ways.

Yesterday I got pictures from my sister's wedding across the country. One I wasn't invited to and wouldn't have attended if I was. Both she and my mom texted me pictures from the wedding. I could barely respond. I didn't congratulate her. I rolled my eyes, and got sick to my stomach. Now, I can be a very encouraging person to others, but not my sister. I love writing notes to students, friends, people who have helped me over the years and been a part of my life, and letting them know how much they mean to me, and that their impact is great. I don't write often but when I do, I love to do it. I love to remind people that they are valued and what they do matters.Yet I couldn't type a simple congratulations to my sister on her wedding day. I couldn't, and what good are all the encouragements I give to others if I can't even give words of love to my own sister?

Now there are lots of seemingly good reasons for this. Lots of hurt, lots of mistakes made, things that I don't think have been repented for. Things that aren't going to be remedied soon. On paper it would seem reasonable to feel so yucky about this whole thing. But the paper doesn't matter. It really doesn't matter what she has done, and who am I to assume where she is at with those things and with God. It's what I continue to do, by not letting go of those things, that is really crappy, because I claim to follow Jesus and I teach other people to follow, to love and forgive, so I am held to a higher standard.

Jesus calls us to forgive, to not condemn, to reach out with love even if we think someone is unlovable. Jesus calls us to push outside our comfort zone. I am willing to do that for some people. I am willing to stay up all night so my students can stay up all night. I am willing to carry around small, booger dripping kids, and get sick from their pestilence. I am willing to stretch out my body and make myself sick and tired to birth a stranger's baby. But I can't text my sister. What a hypocrite!

My parents showed amazing grace and love, by attending the wedding. They flew across the country to help serve food, and my dad officiated. They are such amazing examples of Jesus' love, compassion and grace. They display the qualities I should, but can't.

I am the prodigal's brother. I am the pharisee. I am the judgmental Christian I want to distance myself from. I suck. Whether I can make space in my heart for awkward middle schoolers, or strange fetuses, I still can't extend basic kindness to my own flesh and blood. I try, I think I can for a day, and then something reminds me of the pain, of the problems, and I return to my bitterness. When I manage to get past that, all i find is indifference. Not love, but indifference, and that isn't right either.

Thank goodness, God doesn't hold my paper of sins against me. Thank goodness he sees me was worthy of his love. Thank goodness Jesus doesn't look at me like I look at my sister. And hopefully she can forgive me, forgive me for not reaching out to her, forgive me for not taking an interest in this new life of hers, forgive me for hurting her with my indifference and my hypocrisy.

"But there's also this, it's not too late-God's personal message- 'Come back to me and really mean it! Come fasting and weeping, sorry for your sins! Change your life not just your clothes. Come back to God, your God. And here's why: God is kind and merciful. He takes a deep breath,puts up with a lot, This most patient God, extravagant in love, always ready to cancel catastrophe. Who knows? Maybe he'll do it now, maybe he'll turn around and show pity. Maybe when all's said and done, there'll be blessings full and robust for your God." Joel 2:12-14 MSG

Now if I could just see her that way, if I could have the eyes of Jesus, and the thumbs to send that text...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Judgement, humiliation and baring it all

There is a story in the Bible, about a woman caught in adultery being brought to Jesus. A crowd has formed and they are heaping judgement upon this woman, and are quite literally ready to heap stones of judgement upon that woman. To add insult to this injury they bring her to Jesus, using her as a pawn to test him. She must be so broken, so torn, so sad in this moment, so humiliated. Everything is laid out there in public for all to see. Is she worthy?

I can't begin to imagine the depth of awfulness she must be feeling in that moment. Nothing I have ever experienced can compare to that,but right now I am getting a taste. A small taste of what that looks like. Each week a new part of me is laid bare and judged, then this judgement is turned into an official document and given to a group of strangers. Each week a new part of me is deemed worthy, as I sit and wait and wonder if I am. It started just with me, basic me, and then went onto a psychological evaluation, next a home study, where a social worker will look through my house, then a medical exam, where every intimate part of me will be exposed, next a detailed report of my sexual history going all the way back to high school. The next time I see the strangers whose baby I carry, I will be half naked in an exam room. So not nearly as intense as that woman in the story, but pretty in depth.

Her decision led her to that place, and so does mine. Mine isn't really hidden away, and is different for sure, but the results are similar. Judgement. And the more I share my decision, the more it heaps on me. The more criticism I get, the more "words of wisdom" and warnings. The more I hear how hard it will be, and what a risky, crazy decision it is. Yesterday someone even asked me if it was too late to back out of it, and urged me to do so. With each awkward stare, and shift in the conversation I feel it, that judgement. I am grateful though, that it isn't hidden away, I am grateful that it's at least out there. I know that if I get to the point of round belly, it will only get worse. People will ask, and they will judge, and they will make assumptions and form ideas. I get it, I do that too.

I am seeing in a new way though, how hard that is, how unhelpful, unnecessary. No one knows how crazy my decision is better than me. When we got the email saying we had been chosen and that the home visit and attorney meetings needed to be set up, I was hit with a rush of panic and emotion. I began to worry about being tired and sick and the toll it would take on my family. I looked at my body in the mirror and wondered if it would ever be the same again. Every doubt, every regret from every bad decision I had ever made came flooding forward. I judged myself and my decision a thousand times more harshly than anyone else ever could.

So as each new person was told and questioned my decision, told me how sick and tired I would be, how crazy this was, it didn't help, it just made me feel like less of a person and more deserving of any trouble I heaped onto myself. I started thinking about how i would just have to suffer through any negative affects of my decision in silence, because I didn't want them to see that they were right, that I was stupid for doing this. I wondered how as such a vocal person, I could pack it all away, and if I could just keep my mouth shut.

But then this morning I saw this story, and I saw Jesus' response to the woman. He diffused the situation, he sent away her attackers, by showing them their own inadequacies and he showed her love, compassion and freed her to live a new life, with no condemnation. He showed her she is worthy.

Now, I know my situation is different. I know that my decision isn't the same as hers. There is good to my actions, to my choice. Though it will bring pain and struggle to me for a time, and some to my family, it will also bring joy to all of us, and love to a whole new family. That is what my focus needs to be. That is where my head needs to go, to this new life. Jesus sent her off to a new life. That is where his focus was, to who she was and could be.

I need to focus on that. I need others to focus on that part of this journey with me. I don't need to hear the negatives, I don't need the judgement, I have enough of that, and a stack of papers in some file I will never see, but many others have. I am excited about this journey, and I am more than happy to share that with others, to answer questions. This is weird and fascinating and unknown, and  I get that. So ask away, but please, don't tell me how painful, how hard, how tiring it will be. I get that, I have thought that. Don't stare at me with concern or pity. Instead lets think about the great things that can come of this. Think of this new life, that could come. , and when I am tired and sick, reserve judgement, suspend the I told you so, and remind me of the good, because believe me, I will be aware of the bad.

I hope this experience helps me to see people more clearly with the eyes of Jesus. To understand the pain of judgement and condemnation, of the shame we heap on ourselves, and see how badly people need to be loved and encouraged, even if it's their own choices that led them to that place. I hope I understand what it means to help someone be free to see new life, and new possibilities in the midst of pain and humiliation. I hope it makes me slower to speak, slower to anger and quicker to love. The more judged I am, the more I realize  just how much I have judged. I am so grateful that Jesus' love and grace for me, is not equal to what I have shown to others, and I will take more seriously his words that as I have judged so I will be judged, than I have before. I want to see others as worthy first, before I see anything else. If nothing else, comes of this, at least I have that. At least I have a better understanding,at least for a bit.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What's too uncomfortable, too hard when it comes to helping others?

What is a good reason to not do something to help someone else? I mean really, what makes something not do-able. What risk is too big, what discomfort is too much, what fear to insurmountable?

Hundreds of thousands have been willing to dump ice cold water over their heads and post it online to help with ALS. Whether or not it is raising a ton of money or people are actually looking up what ALS is and learning, I like it. I like it because it's forcing people out of their comfort zones to help someone else. Comfort can be stifling. It can make us forget about those around us, and it can make us desire more comfort to continue to be comfortable. So this is great.

I haven't had a chance to respond to my challenge yet, because for the past few days we have been preparing for, and processing, a big step in helping others as a family. We are exploring those questions about what is too much to risk for our own comfort as a family a lot lately, as we get closer and closer to entering into a surrogacy contract. If things continue to work as they have, I will be a gestational carrier for a couple unable to medically carry their own child. In the winter, I will be implanted with an embryo, that is someone else's genetic material and of no relation to us as a family. This will involve a lot of medical appointments, medications, procedures and nine months of all the stuff that goes along with pregnancy. Add to that a birth, the healing after the birth, and the biggest thing, a long term relationship with a family, previously unknown to us. It is something my whole family will be a part of, even if it's happening in my body.

We have thought of and heard a lot of reasons not to do this.

· there is a risk to me

· I could end up on bed rest

· this will make me tired and grumpy thus stressing my family

· my kids will have to deal with pregnant me

· it will be harder this time because I am older

· my body won't come back the way it did before

· it will be hard to let go of the baby

Those are just a few of the reasons that have come from us and well-meaning friends. They are valid points. Those things will happen.

But are they reasons not to do this? Should those things stop us from helping a family's dreams come true? Should we refuse to bring a person into the world that will be loved, and raised by great people to hopefully become a loving person, because I am worried I will get fat, or have stretch marks, or be grumpy?

Maybe they are, but maybe they aren't. Maybe it's time for us to get uncomfortable, to put our fears, and my vanity on the line for someone else. Maybe it's time to get to know a whole new family and through awkward first dates in doctors’ offices, get to know each other and allow our lives to be connected in a very intimate way. Maybe...

I should say it's not without reward. We will get some compensation for our pain and suffering. But I have never been part of helping someone, when there wasn't reward, even if it was just a knowing you helped. There is always some kind of reward, and there is always some kind of sacrifice.

Right now we sit in discomfort, wondering if after meeting us, this family will choose our family to do this for them. Are you good enough, can they trust us enough to carry this precious life, and care for it, before they can? Will we experience rejection in the next few days, will we not be chosen? It's uncomfortable, it's a risk, and it’s awkward and could be painful. Again, though was that reason enough not to try, not to but ourselves out there, not to make ourselves available?

I don't know. And maybe I am horribly naive to think this way, caught up in the emotions and possibilities of it all. I just can't turn off the voice that says we should try. That prompting from my studies of scripture and Jesus that says if you can do for someone, you should, even if it means giving up part of yourself.
the last time my body housed a baby, the outcome was pretty awesome!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

lies, lies, everywhere the lies, blocking out the scenery...

My heart is broken today and my stomach in knots, like so many, as we mourn yet another death to mental illness, another person that seemed to have it all, and seemed so happy to those on the outside. Another family left grieving and heart broken, alone, with thoughts of the overwhelming sadness that this loved one felt, and the despair and loneliness that filled their last moments. I have sat with those families. I have loved those friends, and I live with the threat of mental illness. Everytime my husband who suffers with major depression fails to return a text for too long, or comes home too late, I see those families. I wonder if the faces of those children will match the faces of my own kids. I worry about how much despair he might be feeling, what he might be doing. I worry that his body might succumb to the very real disease, that threatens him. Like those that have recently passed from mental illness, people look at my husband, and have no idea the torture he lives through. He is so fun, so creative, he lights up a room. His art has inspired and brought joy to many. They don't know the depth of pain that fuels that creativity. They don't know how his mind lies to him over and over again, telling him he is worthless, and the world is better off without him. They don't know the chemistry in his brain that makes it impossible sometimes to turn those negative thoughts off. They don't understand how the lies crowd his brain, and make rational thought a struggle.

Those of us who are lucky enough not to have our brain biology be out of whack, only experience a piece of the anguish. We hear the lies all the time from our own minds and from the advertising and culture around us. We don't have everything, everything we do have can be better. We aren't successful enough, we don't have enough followers, no one cares, for us, no one knows who we are, we aren't making a difference, what we do doesn't matter. Those thoughts gnaw at the back of our minds, threatening to take over, and sometimes they do. Sometimes. Sometimes we can't be satisfied, we see what others have and we feel like we have failed, for not having the same. We wonder where we went wrong. We give into those lies, and we get depressed. But soon enough, we are reminded of our blessings, we are encouraged, we are pulled out of our self pity, our anxiety, our failures and reminded of our successes. We see the truth, that our lives our good, what we do does make a difference and we are loved. And that is enough, at least for a little while to keep the lies at bay. We are the lucky ones. 

For those that suffer with major depression, it's not so easy. The lies crowd out the truth, they are relentless and unforgiving. They overcome, and they sap what little strength they have left. Just as cancer eats away at the body, the lies of the brain's whacked out chemistry eat away at their souls. They pray, but feel God is not there, or he hates them. They struggle to get out of bed, to walk into work, to make it through a conversation. They try to find joy in others, but just end up feeling irritated with them and even more upset with themselves. They hurt the ones closest to them, and believe a lie that says they need to distance themselves, and spare their loved ones more pain. Everything turns into another lie, another awful feeling and it compounds, until the only joy they can find, is in putting it all to rest, and removing themselves, unburdening others even from the pain they might cause by continuing to live. The lies overtake them, they block out any possibility of truth. 

It seems too hopeless and helpless. So what can we do? In the wake of one tragedy after the other a young mother and a gifted artist, how do we move forward and try and prevent more? I wish there was a simple answer. How do you combat the lies in someone's head, or in your own? 

I think, and i am by no means an expert, part of the answer lies in some simple things. I think it starts with all of us suspending our judgement of others and ourselves. Quit measuring our value and their value on the have and have not, the did and did not, and find the beauty in everyone. Celebrate and encourage the people around you. Even if they look like they have it all together, I think we have seen, that often they do not, they may be hurting too. The Bible is pretty great at giving wisdom on how we should interact with others and it says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful to others to build them up according to their needs." Ephesians 4:29. I think sometimes we need our own inner monologue to follow this advice, as well as what we say to others. We need to quit beating ourselves up and focus on being an encouragement to others. We need to remind those we love, just how much we appreciate and love them. When we start believing the lies around us, we need to call ourselves on it, and then remember that someone else is probably struggling with the same thing, and reach out with encouragement. With social media we have all of our friends literally at our fingertips, it only takes a minute to reach out and message someone, and let them know how much you value them, and love them. You can build them up, even if it's just a little bit, you have no idea the impact it might have. 

If someone tells us they are struggling with mental illness of any form we need to be very liberal with our listening and compassion. It may not make any sense to us, what they are doing, or how these things are manifesting in their lives, but we need to understand that it is hard for them and they are trying their best to live "normally". Encourage them to share the lies they are hearing, and don't necessarily jump in with the truth, listen first. Try and understand where they are coming from, the battles they are struggling through. Encourage them not to hide those things or feel ashamed, but let them out. We all have something we struggle with, and there is no shame in that, that's reality. So let's be open about those struggles. Hiding those things is very dangerous. 

We need to have compassion, and we also really need to support them in getting help. We can't just offer to pray it away, we need to help connect them with counseling, we need to support them if they need to use medication. We need to help them see that self medicating is not the way to go, and that seeking professional help is not a sign of spiritual, physical or mental weakness, it's a strength. We need to compassionately hold them accountable in that process too, making sure they are following through, finding ways to be an encouragement. Unlike with other physical illnesses they have a lot of responsibility for choosing to continue treatment and choosing to make healthy choices, but like cancer, sometimes treatment is not enough. So we need to be there to bring encouragement, accountability and love as they get the help they need. 

We who are battling the littler lies, need to make it easier for those in a death match with the big ones. We need to make the world a safer place to express the pain of their illness. A place where talking about mental illness is as safe as talking about your sore throat. Where you can share your real feelings, doubts and insecurities, and not have to worry that you look like less of a person. We need to make treatment for mental illness as normal and noble as treatment for cancer or diabetes. Those things are awful, but we often, look at people battling through them and think, how strong, how brave, and we readily hand out encouragement (or at least I hope we do). So why can't we do the same for those people who struggle to go to therapy, who take medications for mental illness? 

We can't save them, but we can help. Let's all do our best to clear away the lies...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sermon: Lighthouses- Some things will suck but God will get us through, and through us get others through too.

Lighthouses, especially in today’s times when they are mostly obsolete, are still a source of much inspiration and beauty. There is so much technology for boats to find shore and safety these days, as lighthouses were originally meant to do, the technology even allows us to find fish, and steer away from hazards. Yet we love lighthouses don’t we. You can find inspirational lighthouse pictures in any store, we love to visit them. I am not a morning person at all, but I got up very early on a dozen occasions to go to one of my favorite lighthouses in Santa Cruz and photograph it in the sunrise. And then I have to admit, I turned those photos into matted pictures with Bible verses underneath. There is just something so encouraging and inspiring about lighthouses, standing strong along the coastline, ready to help people find port, or steer them away from danger. Their strength, their potential even if no longer in commission stirs something in us.  Maybe it’s that need for security that we all have.

You know we started this summer talking about Moses, and in Vacation Bible School and the Alaska mission we just returned from, we explored the story of the Israelites. Moses was this guy that lived through these crazy life events, because God got him through them, and then after murdering a cruel Egyptian and running away, God called him in his loneliness in his darkness and asked him to lead the Israelites out of Pharaoh’s enslavement. Moses felt inadequate and under-qualified, but God called him anyway. God equipped him. Moses may not have found much security in safety, in God’s call for him to come home, but God helped Moses do amazing things, to show God’s own power, and love for the Israelites. So in the Old Testament reading from today we see Moses leading the Israelites into the wilderness.

The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night. Exodus 13:21  

The Israelites have just seen God do all these crazy things to get Pharaoh to back off, plagues of all kinds, rivers turning to blood, invasions of insect and amphibians. Perhaps the most shocking, was the killing of the firstborn, but God spared the lives of the Israelites. God has made it pretty plain that he is with them, he wants to free them, but as they start walking the Israelites start freaking out, they start doubting God, and what he wants to do with them. They can’t see God right in front of them. They start asking to go back to slavery. So God helps them out, he gives them a cloud and a pillar of fire to guide them. It is literally in front of them. His presence is right there, showing them the way to go. It is scary and the journey is hard, but there is hope, there is a huge tower of fire, guiding them through the darkness. It’s a mobile lighthouse; it’s showing them the way to the Promised Land.

God promised land, he didn’t promise an easy journey. He promised freedom and provision, he didn’t promise first class accommodations. Yet if we follow that story to its conclusion, he kept his promises and got them there, or their children there at least, and guided them all the way. When they lost sight of God, they got themselves into trouble; they added a lot of years to their journey, which is why some didn’t make it. God always bailed them out again and got them back on track, called them back to himself, back to his safety and love.

God stepped into the dark situation of the Israelites and brought them to freedom, and he steps into our own darkness as well. He literally stepped into humanity in the person of Jesus. He left heaven and dwelt among us in a fragile human form.  He did so, so that he could be a sacrifice for our sins, for our mistakes, for the darkness that is in all of us. He walked through the darkness of a horrible death and hell itself, but because he was God, he was able to bring light and life, as he resurrected. He brought grace to us in his forgiveness, love, amazing mercy.

We see the image of God as light over and over again in scripture in Jesus and in other places, in Psalms we see him as the light going before us to guide our steps, just like the Israelites wandering in the desert. We see the image of him again going before and guiding us through. We are not given a promise from God that things are going to be easy, ever. Instead we are given a promise that we won’t be alone, that he will be with us, that he won’t ever leave us. We are promised that all things will work together for the good of those who love God. Like the Israelites, we will find ourselves in hard situations, with hard things to overcome. We will have things in our life, that seem like they will never be overcome, challenges, health problems, family members that never change, friends that leave, relationships that crumble. Some of those things will never get better. Some of the Israelites never made it to the Promised Land, Moses didn’t, their kids did, but they didn’t. They didn’t make it there, but they were free, and they were protected, they had food from heaven. It might not have been their favorite thing, it was mana after all, it means what is it. But it was food. Their clothes and shoes never wore out. They wandered and they struggled but as a people they made it through. God didn’t leave them alone, he helped them conquer enemies, and he helped them figure out how to survive this wandering life in the wilderness. He does the same for us. He gets us through. Some things won’t get better until we get to heaven, and that is hard, but we aren’t left alone to deal with those things. We have hope that there is more to life than the darkness, that Jesus’ love is there for us, that he is caring in the midst, and that he can shine through our weakness and the brokenness of the world.God gives us his word to help us get through, there are sixty six books that show his love for us, and his power to work in our lives, just as he worked through the crazy life of Moses.  And while they may be old books, unlike lighthouses, they aren’t obsolete; there is power there, for more than just an inspirational quote.

There is a lot of darkness in our world today. Gosh, four boys were playing on a beach in Gaza and were killed, a plane with nearly three hundred people was shot out of the sky, and those were just two of the things that happened this week. This week!! The world needs more light. People need to know that God is there, that he is ready to help them, to bring them through the worst of the worst, to show them love and forgiveness. They need to see the love of Jesus, and guess what, God isn’t the only lighthouse. He gave us the job to be his lighthouses in the world. He gave us the responsibility to be light bearers. We see that in the New Testament reading today.

You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:14-16

We are the light in that lighthouse that is supposed to show the way to everyone. We are supposed to help people see through the darkness of the world, and understand who God is and how much he loves them. We are supposed to provide that light, that hope for each other that God showed us. We are supposed to allow God to work through us to bring heaven to earth. It says people will see our deeds. In the Message it says, we will show people the God colors, and they will open up to us and then open up to God himself. When the world thinks that God and his word are obsolete and technology is such that we no longer need him and his word, we are supposed to inspire them with his love, through us.

We aren’t supposed to bicker over things and get political, stand around waving signs of condemnation, or use God’s own words against each other. We are supposed to show people Jesus, reflect his light to the world. We are supposed to be a source of his light. Jesus showed us how to be a light. He spent time with people, getting to know them, showing them love, showing them a different way to live, with love and compassion, and he told us very specifically that the most important thing we could do was love others. We are supposed to get out in the world and show God’s love to others.

We are great as a church at showing love to each other. I know that, I have benefited from the amazing light filled love of the people in this church. A few years ago we had one piece of loss and misfortune after another. It started with the death of one of our students, which was awful, but so many rallied around our youth group family, and you helped us get through Vacation Bible School just a few days later. Then other things happened, my mom got diagnosed with cancer, and Barb and Nancy helped me to get through that and understand that as they shared their own cancer experiences. Our dog died tragically, and other pet lovers reached out to us in the church with compassion and love. Then our son flooded our house and Jeff helped put it together. I got into an accident in our only car, and Courtney and Dave loaned us one while ours was fixed. So many things happened all at once, and even though some were minor, we could have easily been consumed by darkness, but so many in this church showed us kindness and grace that we were surrounded by light. God was with us working through all of you, and we were able to see him through you in those tough days. And we continue to have challenges, things still go wrong in our lives, my husband battles mental illness, our house breaks without my son flooding it, we lose friends, people get ill. Things are going to happen. Life is going to be hard. But we have hope, that things can be good in the midst of that. We can find safety, we can make it to shore, because God’s light is leading us through, as we see it in the people around us.

It’s our job to be lighthouses, not just to each other, but to everyone around us. We should be a beacon of light to our neighborhood, so that people know they can find God on our campus, they can find people that will love them, a place where they can understand who God is, and grow in their faith. It says that people will see God when they see us helping and being a light.

That is our mission at the Open Door, our youth building. We want kids to know they can find love, and explore what it means to know Jesus and follow him. We want them to be open to him. We want them to see God through the welcoming atmosphere there, and through us as leaders. We want to be known as a place where it’s safe to do that and be yourself. So we let the kids be goofy, and we encourage fun, and we try to be a light, speaking encouragement into the dark and crazy time of adolescence. We want to be known for that. So we let the kids post silly pictures on Instagram from youth group and share the light of the open door with their friends. They aren’t just seeing crazy pictures of shaving cream covered faces in a game, they are seeing God. The groups are growing. 

We want to be that light to their parents and school communities too, so we are working on school partnerships with one of the junior highs and with our main high school. I volunteered in the high school office for the previous school year, at the suggestion of the team of youth leaders. We did it not to increase our  numbers, but so that we could be a light, a helping hand to ease the burden of their workload, and to be the hands and feet of Jesus there. Hopefully they saw more than just me sitting in there each week, I hope they saw Jesus. They must have seen Jesus, they asked us back, they want me there this school year, and I almost broke the laminator on the first day. We have more opportunity to be a lighthouse. I hope we can get involved in projects at the middle school too, where most of our group comes from, investing in the school community, so the parents and teachers see us, but more importantly see Jesus through us. We helped with a talent show there, and fed the stage crew pizza, just a small thing, but they noticed, and they knew it was a youth leader sponsored
thing, and we got one more student to come try youth group. One more kid, got to hear that she was loved. One more person got to hear about Jesus. It was a light bearing moment, and who knows what God will do with it.It's our job to just be there, and serve others, and let him be glorified through that. 

We just got back from Alaska. I have to be honest, knowing it was our fifth year of working with that church in that tiny community, I wondered if things would start to fizzle out, if we were still having an impact. We sent another church up last year, so we could do a youth mission here in Portland and include some of our Alaskan kids. So I was unsure, if the town would remember us, if we had made any lasting difference. I thought we had, I thought we had seen God at work, and they had seen him through us, but like the Israelites, I had my doubts. God shined a light on the trip this year through you guys once again, as you funded us through the mission auction, and we had a team so excited to go. On August third, you will get to hear more about the trip, from our students. But let me just tell you now. You all were a far-reaching lighthouse, all the way from Portland to Skagway Alaska. You shined God’s light by sending us up there. We were greeted so warmly and with such excitement, by a church that has grown, doubled even in attendance. The Sunday school rooms that we used to stay in with just a few children’s names written on the attendance charts, had lots and lots of names of kids that had come to our previous VBS programs. The youth group was overflowing with some of our VBS kids that had aged out and into the youth group and they couldn’t wait for the programming we came to do. The people of the town were excited to send their kids and their grandkids to us each day, they were so glad we were back. And the people of the church itself, would bring us dinner every night, and thank us for giving them the motivation, the shot in the arm they needed to reach out to their community. They would thank us for giving them the excuse to invite people in for real times of connection. That church is open 24/7 to the public, it isn’t ever locked, they are open to the community, but they don’t always invite the community, and reach out to them and make connections. Over the years though, God has used our mission teams to help them do that, to remind them to be the lighthouse. We called people into the church, by showing them, that a group in Portland cares about their kids and God will call them to his shore, to his safety of love and grace. They are more open to God now, and what he can do in their lives.

So how can we make more connections in our community? How can we bring the light out of our building and into the homes and neighborhoods around us? How can we be the light in the darkness, that tells a hurting world, there is hope? We have mission trips, we support great organizations in the metro area like Door to Grace, and Portland Rescue, we work with Slavin Court, but what can we do with our own neighbors and friends to help them see our church as a light?

This is a great step, being out in the park, the trees on our church campus kind of hide us sometimes. And we will get out to the Hops game in a few weeks, something we can invite people too, and to the Multnomah Days parade. But maybe there are other ways too, maybe we can host Alpha in our homes, or at a pub or pizza place. Maybe we can have more sports teams, like our softball league we were a part of. More concerts, more fun things like lip sync nights, more days of service in the community like faith in action. All of those things, are ways people not only see us, but see God, see something worth checking out, see a light in the darkness. Those deeds, as insignificant as some of them might seem, all glorify God. As we open up the church, we help people open up to God.

We can’t hide his light. It’s too dark out there. Southwest Portland needs to see the love of Jesus. He is our light bringing us through the trials of life, and we need to reflect that for others. In our homes, in our workplaces, at school, and as a church. We need to look to him and see where he is leading us. In a couple of weeks our pastors will be back from sabbatical, well rested and renewed we hope. So let’s greet them with excitement too, and be ready to follow their lead and sessions lead into the community, to be light so that everyone can see the goodness of God through us, so that he is known in Portland and we are known for showing his goodness.

Friday, June 13, 2014

small infinities, balloons, and losing the young ones we love

Another shooting, another round of deaths, and yet we are still so fresh from the last, the scab is still itchy. Life is precious, fragile and fleeting it seems and the bitterness of death feels heavy around us. Heavier still is the feeling when the death finds someone so young. There are no words in those moments, no comfort in the immediate aftermath. It's hard to think of those that are young as being welcomed in to heaven, when they are ripped so forcefully from the rest of us, with no gentle goodbyes, no full, long life stories. We are left stunned and numb, with nerves newly sliced that have momentarily forgotten how to feel. 

In those moments the only comfort that can come, days, weeks and months later is of the time we have had, the precious gift of our memories. No matter how small, how short lived, we had those moments, we had that gift. John Green says it so very well in The Fault in Our Stars “There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There's .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I'm likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn't trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful.” Green captures in that wonderful book the pain of loss for one so young, but the joy in sharing life with that person, the joy that surpasses the brevity of their life. It is painful, it is tragic to say goodbye so early, but it was a tremendous gift to have the small infinity. 

Three years ago, we lost someone. Three years ago tomorrow, we lived one of the worst days of our lives, as we gathered as youth leaders to tell the students that we loved, that we had lost one of our own, so suddenly it didn't seem real, it just wasn't possible. Not that boy, not the one that was so sweet, so funny, whose eyes sparkled still with childlike mischief and new love. We told them, and watched in an instant their hearts broke, their lives changed forever, as ours were changing as well. Then we wrapped our arms around his mom and his sister. We sat in disbelief for days. In those days, it was only in remembering the small infinities with him, that we found comfort, that the knife in our gut was less noticeable. 

It was hard in those days to see God sometimes, to understand the words that tell us he is only good, only just, only righteous. It was hard to understand why he couldn't or wouldn't stop this, why he had welcomed him home, instead of sending him back to us. It was in the small infinities that we saw God too, as our bitterness turned to gratefulness, for even getting to be a part of the life of this boy. All I could think of was balloons, those toys I hated letting my children have. I knew a balloon would bring brief joy, but too brief. Soon it would be floating off into the sky or popping with a bang, and then there would be tears, and blame and anger. So I could choose to deprive them, to not let them have that moment of joy, to save us all from the pain, that might last longer. God could have spared us from ever sending him to us, and spared us that pain, but he didn't. He let us have those moments, small as they may be in comparison to others. He chose to give us the joy instead.

Tomorrow it's an anniversary, of that day, that day we found out you were gone Cam. It's an anniversary of the day we found out we would have to live with the absence of your presence, we would be starved for new moments, and would have to feast only on our memories. It was the worst, but you were the best. So as we rip the scab off all over again, and revisit those darkest of moments, you shine a light in the midst. Your stories are told over and over again. A whole new generation of kids has invaded the open door and they know you. They see your plaque and they ask, and we tell them our favorite stories, we tell them how you filled this building once with your love as you invited all of your friends. "They will come back for us", is said so often. When a pillow fight, or foam noodle fight breaks out, I can't even look the others in the eye, because in those moments my heart swells with happiness, and my eyes well up. Your body may be absent, but you are still there. I love you Cam Cam.

As we mourn those we have lost, no matter how long we were able to enjoy them, we find our hope, we find our thankfulness, and we learn to live with the small infinities we were given.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

15 yrs later my eyes are open, but my choice is still the same

So blissfully unaware these two are. So happy and so excited and so clueless to everything the next fifteen years would bring. They happily and easily said their vows, to love, to serve, to treasure till death would they part. It was so easy to say those vows. The wedding really is the easy part of marriage. It's exciting it's fun, it's a fantasy world. Real marriage is in the day to day. The ignoring the piles of laundry and dishes, the doing those piles of laundry and dishes. The sitting at the hospital bedside and running to fill the prescriptions. The battling through the disagreements and letting go of the hurts and wrong doings. That is what marriage is. I've said it before, but each anniversary as I look at these pictures, I realize again, It's not the party, it's not the dress, it's not the favors.

Marriage is living out the vows and promises daily, yearly and choosing to keep them sacred. It's saying, I would choose you all over again, knowing what I know now about who we both are and what we have become.

Gone are the days of constant love notes, and little gifts, song after song and email after email about how much we love one another. Acts of love today are more about doing the dishes and having fun with the kids than serenading me with a song from stage. It's about the partner and dad he is, not how hot or entertaining (although he is both of those things). Back when that photo was taken, it was all about how quickly we could get to that hotel room and get our hands on each other.  These days we are lucky to get an hour together at the end of the day to sit next to each other and watch Grimm before one of us falls asleep. We have grocery dates now, romantic right?  We don't go to the beach for a whole weekend anymore on our anniversary and that trip to vegas to renew our vows, never going to happen. Big ceremonies aren't the important parts of marriage, it's about big commitments, big sacrifices and lots and lots of little things. Little things like picking up those prescriptions, walking dogs and picking up the kids. Knowing how to stack the dishes next to the sink, although I still haven't figured that one out. Now it's about a text on a busy day to let him know I am thinking about him, or making sure the kids have everything laid out before I leave for a weekend at work. It's about him ignoring my stressed out snaps and not taking them personally and vice versa.  It's about enjoying grocery errands, because we are together, and even grocery errands can be fun with the right partner. It's thinking the same thing at the same time over and over again, because we know each other and enjoy so many of the same moments and parts of life. It's about being comfortable, vulnerable and loved so completely by another person even when they know how truly awful you are.   I don't mean to say that marriage isn't great, and that it is absent of romance and awesomeness. Those old habits and grand gestures still happen sometimes, but now there is so much more to appreciate and enjoy, so many more ways to understand that we love each other. It's a new kind of awesome this everyday marriage.

We are aware now, our eyes are open, at least to some things. We chose each other today, and hopefully for thousands of more days. We will fight, we will disappoint each other, but we will also be there. We will have moments of great joy, and lots of fun. We will also have moments of crisis and sorrow.  We will support one another, and we will start dreaming new dreams, blissfully unaware of the troubles the next fifteen years might bring. We choose each other, really knowing things won't always be blissful, but we will choose both the bliss and the beauty, the awful and the ugly together.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Motherhood and other opportunities for failure

Mothering is hard, and I don't say that to whine and complain and make all of you who wish you had a child angry. I get that it is a HUGE privilege to have two kids to mother, and I have lucked out with two amazing kids, that make mothering not so tough. I have to say though, it is really hard, and there is always always something that you fail at, ALWAYS. There is always something you can't give your kids, something you are neglecting, it is endless, but really we all can relate moms or not....

For instance, after a week of feeling like I wasn't doing enough for my kids, I wasn't providing enough, I could never give them the life my mom gave me, I realized that while I may ponder those questionable failures, I had definitely failed at something. Dental care. We have big name HMO dental insurance, we have had a lot of dental work, we don't have great teeth as a family, and we don't intentionally neglect them. We stress the importance of dental care we nag the kids to brush and floss and wash on a regular basis, we limit soda, we eats lots of veggies and fruits, so it's not that we don't care about our teeth. It's just we have a very busy life and we don't get reminders, like ever. Even if there is more work they need to do, our dental care provider never sends a card, never calls. Ever. Even the vet calls and sends cards!!! Now I realize they are not wholly to blame for this. I should have known that it's been over a year, since we have been there, but seriously I didn't. I didn't realize. I thought it was just last summer, when I called today. I really did. FAIL. 

So here I am beating myself up, realizing that I have let yet another thing go by the wayside for my kids. In addition to the camping trips I haven't planned, and the sports leagues I never figured out how to register for on time, I have failed their teeth. This broke open the gates of mom guilt for like a million more things to come to mind, that I haven't done for my kids. It was the cherry on top of the shame and guilt Sunday I had been preparing myself all week. Like the no college fund started thing, and the I didn't get them a house with a treehouse thing and the holy cow, I yelled at them this morning thing. Now who knows the damage I have done to their teeth. Every disapproving look from the hygienist they see in the next week it will be a dagger in my heart. Every stab of novocaine they might need for the cavities, I know must be waiting, it's going to cut through me like a knife. 

I failed my kids. 

But there is grace in life and even in motherhood. There are victories too. And I think it's high time ladies and gentlemen that we start focusing on those things instead. There will always be a ball dropped, an appointment missed, a pile of laundry, something you could have done better a to work, a workout you could have squeezed in. No matter what, we cannot hold it all together. We will fail our kids,we will fail each other, we WILL fail ourselves, but we will do wonderful things too. We will help our kids, ourselves, each other in ways we have no idea. We all fail people in our lives whether we are moms or not, but we will also help shape others to be amazing people, better than ourselves, just as we love them.

I can mom well despite dental dementia. I planned a kick ass birthday party for my daughter this weekend. She had a great time. I got both kids to all of their stuff last week, made lunches, had them in clean clothes, remembered to check and spray my son's hair with the anti lice stuff (because I actually took the time to read the newsletter for his class that suggested there could be issues in class). I read stories, helped with homework, snuggled, administered medication, and worked my butt off at my job, all for them. Those are victories! There are many things I didn't do last week, but many more I did and did well.

I got a mother's day card Sunday hand written by my son, who insisted to his teacher that he write his own message. Here is what it said:
"I love you because you made me the most special son in the world. You bought the big dane, you are a good cooker, you give me animals. When I feel sick you make me better, you are kind of Jesus in my opinion."

He realizes what I do, and it reminds him of Jesus. So really, job well done right. He may have cavities, but he is thoughtful, and sweet and understands Jesus love, and the responsibility we have to show that to others.  So I am going to quit beating myself up about the dentist, grin and bear the looks of the dental staff this week, hold their hands through any procedures, and set a jillion reminders on my phone to make appointments throughout the year. Or course I am gong to try and do better, try not to let things fall through the cracks, try and enrich their lives and love them to the fullest extent I am allowed. I am going to try though to be a better mom by not concentrating so much on my failures, on the things I am doing wrong, on the things I can't provide. I am going to extend grace to myself. I am going to try not to compare myself to others and their mothering skills, even my own mom,because who knows what they have forgotten!

I hope you can do the same mom friends, and all friends. None of us are perfect, but if you are reading this then most likely, you are my friend, and all of my friends are awesome! So if you need a reminder of the ways you are awesome, just let me know, I will tell you some of your victories!!!! And if you are the Jesus following type, God loves you failures and all, nothing you do, or don't do according to Romans will separate you from his love.