Domestic Violence Awareness

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS POST IS ABOUT ABUSE. THERE MAY BE TRIGGERS. 

I was running at the gym the other day (yes, I run…well I jog anyway. I don’t LOOK like I jog or work out, but I do), and this song came on and it really got me to just thinking about the lyrics in the song. “Because of you I find it hard to trust not only me but everyone around me…Because of you I try my hardest just to forget everything. Because of you I don’t know how to let anyone else in. Because of you I’m ashamed of my life because it’s empty. Because of you I am afraid” (Clarkson, et. al. 2004).  What powerful words and what a great month for this to be on my heart because October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and if you have ever seen the video that goes with this song (I just watched it the other day out of curiosity) you’ll know it has a powerful message. A message that ALL domestic violence victims and victims of abuse need to hear: your past does not define your future. YOU can change. YOU CAN break the cycle. You are worth SO MUCH MORE.

It isn’t a big secret that I grew up in abuse and I actually remember the first time I heard this song. I don’t listen to much secular music anymore, but sometimes songs like this just stands out and has the ability to touch so many lives in a positive way. I mean, in the beginning you hear how the author/singer will not be making those same mistakes and if you watch the video you will see that in the end, the victim overcomes. It is a story of empowerment for abuse victims, but that is rarely the case. In fact, in Oklahoma according to a local law enforcement officer I spoke with “Charges are often dismissed without victim cooperation. It’s easier to prosecute a kicked Chihuahua case or [prosecute] if the victim is dead. It’s very sad”.

Do you guys understand this? It is easier to prosecute someone for kicking a dog than it is to prosecute a person beating their spouse. It is easier to prosecute if the victim is DEAD. As in, cannot defend themselves and cannot choose to NOT press charges. As in, the abuser has now become a murderer…how does this make sense?

For just a bit of perspective, the fine for possession of a controlled dangerous substance (first offense) in my state is [up to] $1000 fine and a year in jail (Hunsucker Legal Group, 2017). You know what the fine is for an abuser? Assault is a $500 fine and 30 days in jail, assault and battery is $1000 fine and 90 days in jail (Women’slaw.org, 2017). SO, a person can have a recreational drug in their possession and receive a harsher punishment and fine than someone who literally beats someone to a pulp. Now, don’t take this example as me agreeing with someone using drugs, I am just making a point. But seriously, having a gram of pot is more punishable than the literal abuse and bodily harm of another human being? Again, I ask, how does this make any sense at all?

It’s no wonder domestic abuse victims feel hopeless. How can you feel hope when it seems as though there is none? How can you try to find a way out when it is so easy for the predator to find their way back to you? How can you break the cycle when it’s so hard to leave the circumstance? I could just scream at these statistics right now! Let me share a few: between 3 and 4 MILLION children witness domestic violence and/or the aftermath of it each year in our nation. Ninety five percent of abuse victims are women with male partners. Children who witness this grow up with a view of intimate relationships that involves one person being an intimidator and one being a victim and have a higher risk of using violence to solve problems AND are more likely to become abusers (boys) or victims of abuse (girls) (Sudbury, et.al. 2008). “On September 16, 2015 almost eighty THOUSAND domestic violence victims sought service. On that day alone over forty thousand victims sought refuge. Over thirty one thousand received services. In ONE DAY. In this same year, over 1200 direct service jobs were cut from domestic violence services across the nations. Almost 40% of the cases that were not able to have their needs met were denied service due to funding cuts” (NNEDV, 2015).

While any social services benefiting women, children and families seem to get cut every year, the government continues to spend frivolously. According to Senator James Lankford (R. OK), from 2011 to 2013 $3.1 BILLION dollars were paid to government workers placed on administrative leave, $775 million of that went to workers on leave for a month or longer. He believes misconduct is not handled efficiently (and I have to agree with numbers like that). You know where some more money went? We spent $283 million for the Department of Defense to watch birds in California (Federal Fumbles, 2015). True story. And yes, the birds are on the “critical” list, but why can we spend hundreds of millions on birds, billions on employees acting foolish, and millions for a failed CNG gas station in Afghanistan, but the funding to save the lives of abuse victims is cut every single year? Why are our leaders studying the history of tobacco use in Russia instead of the effects of domestic violence on women and children in our own back yard?

Why is it that in Oklahoma you can easily be fined and arrested for public intoxication just for being in a vehicle (like, your cab ride home from a wedding) easier than you can be put in jail and charged with domestic assault and battery? And you know what the punishment is for public intox in Oklahoma? GUESS!? It’s up to a thousand dollar fine and 30 days in jail. Do you remember the punishment for assault? Go back and read it real quick, I’ll wait…that’s right, friends, if you are in a cab that gets pulled over in my state and you have had a few drinks your punishment could be harsher than that of someone who has beaten a woman. Again, let that sink in.

NOW that we have all these statistics, what are you going to do about this problem? What are you going to do to bring real awareness and what are you REALLY going to do to help. I don’t mean show support with a FaceBook photo or frame around your profile picture; I mean REALLY HELP! What are you going to do for your community? What can you do for the laws in your state? One thing I really would love to see is some legislation granting a witness to an assault the ability to press charges. Think of the difference this would make when a neighbor witnesses assault but knows there isn’t much they can do because if they do call the police the woman won’t press charges and she will most likely be hurt even more when the police leave.

Legislation is a big step, though, there are things you can do right now. Go volunteer at a women’s shelter. If you are in ministry or have a counseling degree, offer services to abuse victims for free. If you do hair and/or makeup, go to a shelter and offer a class for women to learn how to do their makeup or go to the shelter one day a month and offer free haircuts. Do you have a closet overflowing with clothes? Like, nice clothes, not the ones we know are in deplorable condition but we donate them to make ourselves feel better…take a good look at your closet, pick a few nice outfits that a woman can wear on an interview or something that will just make her feel better about herself and donate it personally.

Nothing is too small when it comes to serving. Nothing is too frivolous. If you have spent years being beaten down physically, emotionally, and mentally, every little thing can make a difference. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Every little thing counts. One thing I will always remember from an overnight stay in a shelter on the way to Oklahoma from Arkansas is watching this TERRIBLE program about a purple people eater. I mean, I am SURE I thought it was great back then, but I highly doubt I could sit through it now. Do you know why we watched it, though? The lady in charge asked me my favorite color and I told her it was purple and she thought I would get a kick out of watching that movie. Guys, it’s the little things. Just being an open and understanding ear goes so far. Save your judgement. Until you have lived the life of abuse, you have no idea how it can and will affect you and you have no idea how difficult it can be to leave. The cycle is so hard to break, but the best way to help break it is to simply be present.

So, friend, how will you be present?

 

I am attaching links to some very helpful and informative websites. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence please click on these links for information on what you can do to help. If you want to chat with me personally, click the contact link to send an email and I will respond and help you find help. If you just need someone to talk to, click on the contact link and email me, Lord knows I’m a wordy girl, but I can listen too. There is help. There is hope.

You have all my love and prayers.

http://www.womenslaw.org/index.php

https://www.techsafety.org

http://ocadvsa.org/  (For Oklahoma)

http://www.ywca.org/site/c.cuIRJ7NTKrLaG/b.9360173/k.1089/YWCAEliminating_Racism_Empowering_Women.htm

“For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence for precious is their blood in his sight” (Psalm 72:12-14 NIV).

 

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Turtles and Faith; Jesus Will Save

The photo is from the Bellagio conservatory in Las Vegas. Photo was taken by me during my girl’s trip in April of 2016.

Slow and steady wins the race (Aesop).

Not all who wander are lost (J.R.R. Tolkien).

Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out (James Bryant Conant).

Turtles and tortoises are my favorite animals of all time. I mean, I don’t have a lot of favorite animals, but I LOVE these animals. I think part of the reason comes from a rather nomadic childhood…we didn’t stay in one place for long, it seems, and I always admired the turtle’s shell because it meant they always had a home. I did not always have a home, so it was kind of an envious admiration.

As I grew and learned more about turtles, they became even more amazing to me; for instance, did you know that a sea turtle is literally never lost. God built them with a sort of GPS system in their brains so they always know where they are and where they are going. I would say this is especially important for a sea turtle because I am sure with all their traveling the current can easily catch them and throw them off course. Having a GPS is important for them! Like sea turtles, land turtles are close to the same. Have you ever heard that if you find a turtle in the middle of the road and want to help it along, (you know, so it doesn’t get hit) to move it in the direction it was already going. If you move the turtle in the opposite direction, it will turn right back around and try to cross the road again. Why? Because it knows where it is going and is determined to get there. It isn’t lost; it is traveling and has a destination plan.

Now that I am older, you would think I would have overcome my silly love for these creatures, but I actually love them even more. Now, when I think of turtles, I think of my walk with Christ. Christ is the light in my life; my lighthouse and beacon always. You see, I always have a home in Him. When I am lost and wandering in the wilderness, much like His people were after the Exodus, I know that earnest prayer can lead me back home. God is my GPS. He is my Compass and my True North. If you are a child of God, he isn’t going to lose you, and you can never REALLY lose him!

I mean, isn’t that SO refreshing to know during this time when our world is SO dark and scary. God is light and nothing can be hidden if he is guiding the way. Last week, some crazy, evil man decided it would be in his best interest to open fire on a group of unsuspecting people at a music festival in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the nation. We will never know the EXACT reasoning, of COURSE, however, both “sides” are blaming each other instead of just saying “you know what, this is horrible, terrible, awful, no good, and very bad”. I mean, some guy went crazy and with seemingly no conscious or morals he made a decision to murder over 50 people and injure over 500 by shooting military grade weapons into a crowd of over 2000. Is this really a time when we want our entire nation to be choosing a political side and blaming laws and policies?

I generally make it a point to keep my political beliefs silent while sharing my faith, and I still strive to do that. This post is not meant to be political. My aim is not to reach a “right or left” side. I don’t care if you are an elephant or donkey or blue or red because I strive to love you all the way Christ loved me. I fully realize that the entire country can’t do the same, and that is ok, BUT, is this really an appropriate time to play a blame game? And I am talking to BOTH sides here, guys!

Anyway, so what does this all have to do with turtles and faith? Well, friends, the entire country has been affected by this mass shooting whether you believe it or not. I could not watch those terrifying videos because simply reading it brought tears streaming down my face. We briefly touched on the subject in kickboxing on Monday and, again, my throat swelled and my eyes welled up with tears. The thought of those people…the sound of those guns…typing this now my stomach is dropping all over again; I literally cannot even imagine living through something like that.

So, turtles and faith and Christians…friends, brothers and sisters in Christ I urge you to remember with every word you speak and action that you take, remember that Christ is Lord. Remember the Fruits of the Spirits and act them out. Make that the focus of your words and actions. Be like the turtle, always having your Home with you and always using Christ as your GPS. Say all that you say and do all that you do for the Glory of the One who created all things. We don’t know how this life will play out; we cannot know, but we can wait as a bride for her groom being always ready for Him to come. Live your life as though He is coming this minute. Do NOT be a part of the problem, please! Be a part of the solution, and, as Christians, we all know there is only ONE solution to the hate and anguish of this world:

“But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13 ESV).

So, friends, remember that slow and steady can win the race, that God’s people wandered through the wilderness for years before setting eyes on the Promised Land (they were not lost, God KNEW what He was doing) and that being a Christian often means sticking your neck out and being noticed (though not always liked) for making progress. It isn’t the popular position to have, but it is the only one to have. God will not forsake us.

 

ROSWELL

Ok, so FINALLY, my Roswell post!  The time between the trip and now has been exceptionally busy SO that is part of my “excuse” as to why it has taken so long to get this out. Other than that, I am simply sorry for not sharing sooner. It was a blessing to get to travel with three wonderful women whom I love and respect dearly.

This is mainly going to read as a narrative of our trip, and there is a reason for that; girls, it is important that we get away with other girls. You know why? Well, because women have this reputation of being catty, but women, we are the only ones who can understand the things we are going through and there is SO much we can learn from and teach to one another that getting along is imperative! I am far from being a feminist, but I definitely think there are things women experience that men simply cannot understand and empathize with and vice versa. A girl’s trip is good for the soul.

So, girls/women/ladies/gals, if your church is hosting or attending a women’s retreat, go to it. If you have the ability and your mom/sister/friend asks if you want to spend a weekend away, do it! So often we get so busy with the busyness of this season of our lives (or any season for that matter) that we actually forgot to take care of ourselves, but it is really so important! After all, how can you possibly take care of your family when you are running on fumes? Taking a trip to focus on your health and well-being is something that is ok to do, I promise. We have GOT to STOP the guilt tripping of people who do this. It is NOT a bad thing. It does NOT make you lazy or selfish or mean that you love your family less because you long for a weekend away with like-minded women. Not only will you appreciate it, your family will appreciate you doing it because you will come home recharged and have more patience and you will even appreciate your family more…this is my experience anyway.

You see, I LOVE my family, BUT I also LOVE these very rare weekends I get to myself. When I am gone I miss my family terribly, but I also kind of relish the chance to get to miss them if that makes sense. I never will regret our decision to home school, but that decision means that I am quite literally with my children 24/7…that also means my children never have a chance to miss me. Now, some may think that is no big deal, but it’s like a reminder to them not to take this momma for granted and vice versa.

I KNOW this all sounds so selfish, but it really isn’t intended that way, I don’t think I am selfish (well, in this sense, but I AM human so…there is that)…I could be wrong, but who knows; I did so relish our little trip to Roswell. This year I went on my 2nd annual girl’s only trip with my mom, sister, and my gbff I talked about; Erica. Again, moms/sisters/friends, if you have never taken a girl’s only trip, do it. Plan it and do it. AND, keep it low-key (well, if you are a mom keep it low key) because part of the fun and adventure is NOT planning every minute (for once). Seriously, though, taking a trip with girl-friends is good for the soul.

SO, we embarked on our journey around 7pm on a Friday. My mom rented a car which ended up being a sporty little red Mazda 6 and set a fun tone for the trip (our driving motto was “zoom zoom” of course). We hop in the car and plug in the GPS and head off on our way. The music of choice for the take-off was the sound track to Hamilton which happens to be Erica’s favorite and really grew on the rest of us. It was perfect road trip music! We had great conversation from start to finish and, in true road trip fashion, made a snap decision sometime between a stand still traffic jam on the West side of OKC and Denny’s in Amarillo, Texas to drive up to a spot of Route 66 near Albuquerque, NM (about four hours off our course lol) just to drive on a 100 yard stretch of road that plays “America the Beautiful” when /you drive on it. And, girls, crazy things like this are why you need girl trips. And also, it was TOTALLY worth it! I mean, the road plays music…that’s pretty darn awesome! Plus it was in the mountains to which Erica can now say she has visited and we got to watch the sun rise as we drove back south. ALSO JUST because of this detour we took; we saw a HUGE herd of pronghorn antelope which was amazing! And we did that literally just because we could. We all had responsibilities at home, but we got to be responsible for only ourselves for a few days and because of that little side trip we saw some of God’s awesome and marvelous wonders!

Now about Roswell…you guys, I adore quaint little quirky towns and Roswell fit this role perfectly. I LOVE road trips, but HATE anything alien so there was literally zero reason for us to have chosen Roswell. The trip location was my suggestion. I had never been to Roswell and I knew it could be fun so we went. No rhyme or reason…it was literally just because. So obviously the first thing you notice about Roswell is that there is alien stuff everywhere. Seriously, even the local McDonald’s is shaped like a space ship! Now, if you are like me, you think this is super adorable and I almost want to live there so I can be fun and quirky and sell foil hats! BUT, if you are like the residents of Roswell, you are bored with it. And, I get it, but COME ON!!! It can be SO fun, and the town could be so much prettier, but they are tired and you can tell. HOWEVER, that did not deter us from our fun in the least!

In true girls trip fashion, of COURSE we had to have a night where we dressed up and looked super cute and ate somewhere fancy, so after arriving at our hotel, checking in, and napping, we decided to do that the first night. Again, girls, if you take a girl’s trip, dressing up and going somewhere at least moderately overpriced to eat is pretty much a requirement! Because we are all girls and we like to look pretty sometimes and that is OK! So we went to this steak house there and it was delish. There was a massive salad bar that would have filled us alone, but since we were moms with no children to share our food with, of course we all got huge plates of food that we couldn’t finish and that we wouldn’t normally order. I mean, come on, we almost always order something budget friendly that we can at least share with the toddler to save $6 on a kid’s meal that will be thrown out, right? So, get the steak!

Following our magical, kid free meal we found a local custard place that had live music out front! This was like a triple score! This little band was the cutest group of older gentlemen singing classic country (including another of our road trip faves “Amarillo by Morning”…triple score!) and they sounded so sweet! So as we sat outside all dressed up making a mess of ourselves with our frozen custards, we got to hear these sweet guys crooning on about Amarillo and Tulsa Time it made me long for that kind of culture in our moderately sized town.

So, I have to say that I had two absolute favorite stops in Roswell. One was stopping at their farmer’s market. This was the most amazing farmer’s market I think I have ever seen in a smaller town! They had locals all over selling all kinds of homemade trinkets and useful items, AND they had a HUGE fresh food stand that accepted SNAP benefits AND gave seniors special “bucks” toward purchases! Guys! This was absolutely amazing to me! It shocked me deeper than I expected because my husband had been told that Roswell was not a friendly place. In fact, he was told it was downright dangerous, but us four women, who were OBVIOUSLY tourists (we took pictures of EVERYTHING and stopped at EVERY store) never once felt uncomfortable. So, for me, seeing this delightful farmer’s market that was such a big part of the community just got me in the feels!

My other favorite place was Bottomless Lake State Park. According to the hilarious and quirky old guy who ran the welcome center these lakes are actually sink holes in the midst of sulphur and gypsum deposits which give the lakes their salty taste and smell. The lakes were a deliciously cool reprieve from the heat and have a beautiful greenish tint to them. Erica and I were able to paddle board from one side to the other, and when you get to the other side you look straight up a cliff and you can just take in a small bit of the wonder that God created with a simple word. Almost as awesome (or maybe more so) was the drive in where you can stop at the top of several other sinkholes along the way and look straight down into them (no swimming in these as there is no way out if you do jump in!). Guys, God made this stuff. He said “let it be” and it was. There is no other feeling than amazement when you think of this.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Tom, our alien tag along on the trip compliments of Erica (and her dad). He would be the alien head in the photo above, and in most of the Facebook photos…and because of this little guy, we took pictures we probably would not have otherwise taken! Tom was kind of the glue that held our Roswell visit together!

So, on this trip I was able to marvel at some of God’s awesome wonders, and that is and was amazing, but I also know me and the girls forged some deeper bonds by way of great memories on this trip. We talked about all things whether taboo or mundane and were blessed to have others there to listen and give feedback for our situations whatever they may be. Girls, again, this is why I urge you to take a girl’s trip. It really is not something frivolous and it doesn’t have to be expensive. We split the cost of one hotel room and gas and really didn’t spend that much on food.

Again, I want to put an emphasis on how important it really is for moms to get time to ourselves, AND how important it is that we nurture the relationships we have with other women in our lives. I mean, really, we put so much pressure on ourselves. I know that I feel guilty sometimes for feeling like I need a weekend away, but it is so nice to get back to me. It is so nice to get back to the basics of you, and what better way can you think of to do that than a trip with loved ones? So, friends, go. Go glorify God, fellowship with loved ones, and take care of yourself!

 

Heavy Burdened?

SIGH.

As much as I want to wait to publish this so I can come back later and change my mind and put it into my growing file of unpublished writings, I am hitting that button tonight. I know someone is over burdened and can read these words to help lift them up. I’m praying for you.

So, I can’t sleep tonight. It’s just after midnight, everyone is snoozing away, but here I am wide awake. Nothing is really bothering me, really, but I know I have wanted to write lately and I have been holding back. Every time before I publish a post I go through a million names in my head to make sure nobody is going to be offended by something I have said. I try to be graceful with my words; to please everyone…but the fact is that I cannot do that. Pleasing everyone is being a dishonest person. If anyone knows me, they know that I am anything but dishonest. I am a klutz and a ditz and my heart is on my sleeve to feel all the emotions and show all the emotions, which is probably why I can’t be dishonest! If I try to lie, the guilt would just shine through like the sun!

Anyway, so I am a hot mess, and I am holding back. But, what am I holding back? I have my Bible right here beside me and I want to dive into those pages and find that answer so badly! Right now I am reading through the Psalms, and so many times I am reading David’s words as he cries out for grace and forgiveness and relief from his pursuers and I think of just how pertinent the Psalms are to our own lives. Shouldn’t we always be crying out for God’s mercy, as undeserving as we are? Should we not be at the feet of our Lord in awestruck wonder as we realize that He chose us? He sacrificed for US!? He forgives us.

This is the month of July which is the “unofficial” Sarcoma Awareness month. And this is one thing that is weighing so heavy on my mind. I usually try to be witty and funny, but Sarcoma is so serious to me. AND, I found out that there are THREE church members in my church family who have suffered through and survived this terrible cancer. This surprises me and worries me because Sarcoma is technically rare (though there are MANY sub-types). It is a cancer that affects the soft and connective tissues of the body so it can literally be ANYWHERE in the body.

You guys, this is crazy. Anyway, that wasn’t really my point; my point was more along the lines of David crying out. You see, I have been one who cries out, and I know it is so hard to cry out in the time where there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. A year ago this week is the anniversary of the second surgery to remove Scott’s cancer; the first recurrence he experienced. I remember the initial surgery when the surgeon came out holding the “unidentified mass” (because we did not know what it was at this point) in a specimen cup. I remember sitting with Scott’s mom and we were in happy tears because the surgeon was so proud of how easily this mass came out. He “popped it out with [his] finger”. This apparently aggravated the cancer that we did not know was cancer and when we went to our first appointment at M.D. Anderson we quickly found out it had grown almost the same size in a few short weeks. And boy did I cry out.

I remember the second recurrence just as vividly as I remember the first surgery and recurrence. It was like getting the first cancer diagnosis all over again, only worse, because we had nothing now.

We had been living in my aunt’s house (thank God for gracious family) and found out just before Christmas. It was terrible. I am actually in tears at this moment remembering the phone call. Scott had taken this trip to Houston solo because it was to be quick since it was the holiday season…all he could do was tell me it wasn’t good news. He felt like a failure…it grew back THROUGH radiation. I felt I had failed him. Maybe I didn’t cry out to our God enough. Maybe my faith wasn’t as good as a mustard seed. Maybe we were simply getting what we deserved. But, friends, we did not let that mentality keep hold of us for long. Though it is so hard, we refused to worship cancer, which is what we were doing if we allowed that, and not the Word, to guide us.

So, we pulled up our pants and got through the holidays (with a couple of secret Santas I still cannot name and will NEVER forget) and in January, just after Isaiah’s birthday, we headed back down to Houston to fight some more. It was worse this time. Scott lost most of the use of his arm, most of the feeling in it; he will never lift over five pounds without great difficulty and, according to many kids, he looks like he got bit by a shark. Recovery this time was terrible. He had to come home with a wound vac which basically means his surgical site had no skin; it was covered in plastic with a machine that vacuumed out the…whatever the stuff is. It had to heal up before he could get a skin graft, and the skin graft was no walk in the park either. It was yet another surgery, a new recovery and so much pain.

I would love to say I stood strong through this, but I did not. You see, I don’t agree with that saying that “God never gives you more than you could handle”. While Scott was in treatment and having all these surgeries, I was a full time student keeping over a 4.0 gpa. I was also home educating our children. We were hundreds of miles from a home that wasn’t really ours living with another aunt and uncle (yet again, thank GOD for gracious aunts and uncles) with no income and no way to make an income. The money Scott made from short term disability paid for our health insurance and that is all. We were denied every form of financial aid available to people who are struggling. We were frugal, and got by through our savings and the grace of God who brought people into our lives who really took care of us financially and emotionally and physically.

God gave us WAY MORE than we could handle. If we had tried to confront cancer head on, we never would have made it through. I am certain of that. But, Just as the Lord heard David as he cried out, God heard us as well and we had what we needed. We had a drastic lifestyle change, and we are still working on clawing our way out financially, but we are here and happy. We had way more on our plates than we could handle. How on earth could I have been a full time student, a home educating mother, and a care giver to my husband all while being away from a home we didn’t have any more if I was trying to go solo? “At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. COME TO ME, ALL YOU WHO ARE WEARY AND BURDENED, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25-30 NIV).

So, friends, it is now almost one in the morning and I am ready to sign off. Writing can be so revealing. I don’t know if I will fall right to sleep, but I know that I can learn from my Savior. I know He has carried me through more than once, and He will again. I know, on this night, He is willing to take my yoke upon Him so I can learn from Him. He gives us more than we can handle all the time, friends, but it is good for wisdom. He is telling us right here that he gives us more than we can handle because we don’t have to handle it alone! Though the same people aren’t in my life now that were then, we could never have gotten through our trial without those people. Every prayer, penny, morsel of food, kind word, and care package was God teaching us how to share our burden; teaching us that, though we have been given a load we cannot carry, He will carry us.

So, friend, is your plate over flowing? Is your load too heavy? Is your heart burdened? Remember, you may have more than you can handle alone, so learn to lean on His wisdom and His words will guide you.

“My tongue will proclaim your righteousness, your praises all day long” (Psalm 35:28 NIV).

Running…running

Quick note about my picture…I took this on my very first run/walk around our local track…it was so beautiful and encouraging! God is so good!
This is a really emotionally raw post for me, I am still hesitant, but I want to encourage others, so I am closing my eyes and jumping.

UGH, MIA Again! A few reasons, one of which is summer school; yes, we do school ALL SUMMER here at Young Academy in Central Oklahoma because many days are too hot and miserable to do anything else! One other thing that has made me considerably busier AND more exhausted is the fact that I have finally taken charge of my health and am going to the gym almost every morning. Yes. Me. Every.single.morning. AND since it IS summer, after I have tortured myself for an hour and a half at the gym I find it necessary to take the kids to the pool/splash area of the gym for another hour or two and AFTER all that we do school!

What I really want to talk about is why people who are overweight and obese avoid the gym, and hopefully I can reach a few of you and help you to overcome the fears you have.

So the first reason is probably pretty obvious, you are afraid everyone is going to stare, gawk, and laugh. And if you have never had a weight problem, don’t chime in here and say nobody will do this, because I can assure you, it is done. You see, about a month ago I was running with a friend (before I joined the gym) and we were doing well and making great progress, but someone drove by and yelled at us (though probably me as this friend is much leaner than I) “run fat @#$ run”. Now, while I didn’t actually take offense to this (though it does make me sad that some people weren’t raised with basic manners) I know MANY people would be discouraged by this. I mean, as if someone isn’t hard enough on themselves, you want to take it upon yourself to put them down for this situation. Sure, many people get themselves into this ordeal, but it isn’t always a problem of overeating and sedentary lifestyle. While I may have not been working out for the last few…several…ok many years, I am a very active person and eat relatively healthy!

So, no, they don’t want to be put down because it is hurtful and makes the first step even harder to take. So PLEASE, consider your brother/sister before you make harsh judgments and spew unkindness out of your mouth. The first step is hard, but support makes it so much easier.

Another reason people shy away from the gym is intimidation. I mean, those machines are scary am I right!? I started on the treadmill (with the same friend who went running with me) and then went to the weight “machines” with picture instructions but avoided anything else if my pal wasn’t with me because I didn’t know how to use them and they looked scary. I mean, I do NOT want to end up on an episode of AFV being the person who flies off the treadmill or busts the mirror in the weight room when I send the weights flying! (As I edit this, I really feel the need to mention a gym episode the other day where my gbff and I were using exercise balls and repeatedly rolled off of them…I am really waiting to see us on AFV because we were laughing at ourselves at that point!) I just want to hide in a corner and do my thing, but I also was too…proud or nervous or something to go and ask someone how things work. I mean, what kind of world do we live in when we are afraid to ask for help for fear of looking stupid? When I was younger I was always told the only stupid question is the one left unasked and here I am in my 30’s (ok hahaha, that is a total lie…I’m a teen alright 😉 ) and I am afraid to ask a simple question about a piece of machinery that could possibly hurt me if I were to use it incorrectly! GUYS, THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH THIS! But really, this is a huge factor is gym fear. It’s intimidating. AND we live in a world where we are afraid to ask questions because people laugh at everyone for everything…which kind of stinks.

So the final reason I am giving today is the cost. Now, we are BLESSED that Scott has a workplace which reimburses us for HALF of our membership. That is an amazing blessing to us because it actually makes joining and going a goal that we can reach instead of being something we just wish we could do. Now, we do give up other things to afford our gym membership, but these are probably things we didn’t need anyway so we don’t miss them, but the reality is that gyms are generally expensive. There are some gyms who have wonderful prices of something like $10 a month or so, but these aren’t available near me, so not a feasible option, and I don’t know that it includes the family (read that as ‘childcare) so we still get a steal with our half off deal. The Y in our town also does scholarships for up to 40% off monthly, but the kicker to this is the fees have to be paid 3 months at a time which ends up not being affordable after all. SO (yes, I know, I say “so” a lot”) ya, affordability is actually a big deal.

Any who, so my point is…well, there are a few. One is, if you happen to have a few extra bucks lying around, think about donating it to a gym scholarship fund at your local Y. Even though the dues must be paid up front and it can be hard, they offer up to 40% relief with their scholarships and that can be a huge blessing for someone struggling with their weight or self-image that has a tighter budget. Another thing we can ALL do is support our local parks and participate actively in our community by hosting and/or walking in charitable events which will support health and well-being in our communities. We have a decent track with some basic work out tools in a park just off the track. This is an AMAZING tool for those who simply cannot afford a gym membership! BUT, these things are paid for by communities and businesses, so get involved!

My next point is, if you are a member of a gym and see a new face AND you see that new face looking confused or seeming to struggle with using equipment, jump in and offer some tips and advice! This stuff is overwhelming! I mean, you’ve got weights and balls and stretching machines (I am seriously SO thankful I ran into a friend from church who showed me how to use the stretch master 5k [ok, I made the title up], it’s a new favorite!), there are rowing machines and elliptical machines and arc trainers…seriously, I don’t even know the names of everything, but help your fellow man out, please! It takes like five seconds to be a kind person, and you could change the other person’s life!

Finally, be a gym buddy to someone. I am SO thankful for my gym bestie (that’s your new name, Erica, I JUST made that up!). We hold each other accountable; we cheer each other on when one of us wants to give up; and we take turns looking up different workouts to do. This journey is so hard sometimes, and having a friend makes it so much easier, and I want to tell you a little why taking this journey with a friend is so important for me, personally, and why it can be so important to someone else. I struggle. I KNOW I have mentioned this before, but I have stupid hormones that don’t work right in a body that also doesn’t work right and it takes me twice as long to lose one annoying pound as it does for “normal” people. And it is frustrating! Just last night I was literally crying to Scott about how frustrated I am because I began “running” two months ago, joined the gym the Monday after Mother’s day and I have lost roughly ten pounds. I don’t eat terribly; I actually eat pretty wholesome foods 85% of the time, so this super Galapagos tortoise speed of weight loss is SO frustrating to me. Thank GOD I have my friend, and now my sister, joining me almost daily during this struggle because I honestly feel like people wouldn’t believe how hard I work if I didn’t have witnesses, and I would give up on myself without them. So, you see, being a gbff (gym best friend foreva) could change someones life…foreva! Plus, it’s just nice to have a friend!

So again, I just want to urge you, be kind to your fellow man. You have NO IDEA what their struggles are. I have never had an eating disorder, and until I was pregnant, I never struggled with my weight, but it isn’t something that is easy to overcome. Be NICE to people you see putting effort into bettering their lives! Lift up one another in love and be humble. You may not struggle with your weight, but you have your own struggles and you don’t want to be put down.

It’s amazing how far away our culture has come FROM practicing the “golden rule”.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12 ESV).

I’m not a hippie, but really, sometimes all we need is love…and support…and encouragement.

 

 

I Made the CUT

I am going to spend a few minutes talking about my hair. I know it SOUNDS vain, but I hope it doesn’t come across that way in the end. I don’t want to BE vain, I want to be known as godly and loving and giving and caring, but we are all vain to an extent, aren’t we?

So, my hair. For years, I have been growing my hair out. I have had long or longish hair almost my entire life; you know, your hair kind of becomes part of the definition of you. Now, if you are one of those amazing free-spirited people who can change their hair up then you may not feel the same—or maybe you DO feel the same and your identity comes with the fact that you have the ability and care-free nature which supports your frequent hair changes—ok, I’m rambling.

Anyway, so, my hair is long. Super long. Like I sit on it and have to move it or put it up to use the bathroom long. And I love it. Like, guys, I really love my hair. It isn’t that it is thick and curly and luscious, because that really isn’t the reason (and it really isn’t luscious lol). It isn’t thick anymore, it is frizzy, and really, it’s rather dry, so I don’t love it because it makes me LOOK good, I love it because it helps me to define me. You see, my hair is really a curtain I use to hide behind, I think. But it is just so…ME. I’m easy-going, hippy-ish, boho-esque, and semi-crunchy and my hair fits those personalities. When I do get to dress up, my hair matches my outfits and it isn’t because I try; it comes naturally to my hair. And now you see the trend—I have become dependent on my hair (seriously laughing at myself here).

So here’s the thing. It’s hair. Hair is actually a big deal in some cultures. I read an old Native American proverb once (sorry, I don’t remember the tribe) about how a person’s hair is like a sense to them. When hunting, it could detect wind changes, hair gives off scent so a child would know when its parent is near and be a little less afraid. When I hear things like this I wish I knew more about my heritage because maybe it would make more sense—the way I feel about my hair, that is. But I do know that I have an emotional attachment to my hair as ridiculous as that may sound.

Here’s the thing, though, I am getting ready to cut my hair. I am a little terrified, but I am a lot convicted. When Scott got diagnosed with cancer I stopped dying my hair with the intention of donating it at some point, and that point has finally come. All the talk about how attached I am to my hair and how my hair is a part of me, while true, can’t drown out the voice in my head and heart reminding me that it really is just hair. AND, if I feel this attached to my hair as a grown woman, then how would I have felt as a young girl if I lost my hair? You see, I have always loved my hair. And it has always been a security blanket for me. As strange as it may sound, my hair is the one and only thing in my life that I and I alone had sole control over. I am blessed with very long hair, and with all the hormone issues I do have, lack growth of hair on my head hasn’t been a negative side effect of this.

But you know what? I have a little girl now, and she also loves her hair, and I have a boy who loves his hair, and that makes me both happy and sad. Myrah is a happy and healthy little girl, but somewhere right this moment as I type this there is a little girl mourning the loss of her once luscious locks. Noah is a healthy and happy boy with a head full of amazing hair, but somewhere there is a boy wishing he could have hair like Noah’s. Somewhere at this moment a beautiful girl is crying into her pillow, maybe wiping her tears on the hair that is falling out of her hair by the handful. Somewhere there is a mom holding her child and crying with her as she brushes the hair literally right out of her baby’s head. Maybe she is saving the hair as a memory; maybe she wants to throw it away as soon as possible because it’s a horrific reminder that bad things happen to children too.

So, you know what, my conviction has finally overruled the love of my hair and I am finally making the cut. I don’t at this moment know exactly how much hair I will donate, but I am going to donate a lot of my hair. I know my hair will not cure cancer or alopecia or even dry the tears that are caused by these things, but maybe it can bring a little girl or boy some joy. Maybe my hair can help a mom sleep easier tonight or help ease a dad’s guilt. Maybe my donated hair will create a beautiful up do for a girl’s first date or prom. Maybe my hair will simply keep a head warm as a little girl is attached to another bag of chemo—poison in her body to kill the cancer raging through. And I am worried about MY hair. Now, that is vain.

Ok, so I wrote that a couple of weeks ago and as most of you know, my entries are rather sporadic, but I always try to pick up where I left off. And, I would apologize for this, but hey, it’s just a part of my quirky personality.

SO, today I made the cut! A wonderful stylist named Kaci cut my hair for donation and then gave me a wonderful style and you guys, I LOVE IT. More importantly, I didn’t cry! Seriously, though, as I was trying to type this morning before the cut I got so emotional, but I’ve thought long and hard about this and my heart is so happy right now. All I can think of is how maybe some little girl will get my hair and be able to walk through the candy store without the stares of pity following her. Or how a little boy may get his Justin Bieber inspired locks and fit in with the other boys. You see, it matters so much to them!

Why does it matter? Because our culture places a lot of importance on hair, and our children can’t help but want hair. And it isn’t a bad thing. I mean, of course we don’t want our children to grow up vain and thinking that only looks matter, but don’t we want our children to be children? Wouldn’t it be nice to know that these children suffering from some devastating illness that took their hair away can feel normal for a day? I mean, let them be little. Don’t teach them to be vain, but let’s let these babies be babies and if donating a little bit of hair can help them remember how to be a kid again, let’s do it. If it helps them to forget for just a moment that they are sick and suffering, then why wouldn’t I want to help them?

Who am I to say no? I can easily grow hair and I personally know someone who can’t, so why shouldn’t I use this little thing to try to show love to another person. Sure, my hair isn’t a monetary donation, but I took a lot of time, attention, and care to grow it out so someone else could hopefully enjoy it. And all this is such a wonderful and gentle reminder that our gifts do not always have to be big. Everyone has something they can do to help another person. You can donate your hair or your time or your money to any cause you find. It DOES NOT HAVE TO BE BIG! Little things are JUST as important and can make such a HUGE impact on someone’s life!

I watched part of a sermon the other day where the preacher was talking about all the time and money we (collectively speaking) spend on awareness. I mean, think about it, how much is spent on awareness in general? Millions? Billions? If we took that money and spent it on the actual cause think of the amazing difference we could make! Make people aware by using your time! Show people you care by donating your time! Go to the food pantry and volunteer or mow your neighbors grass or deliver groceries to someone who is home-bound. Make meals to take to shut ins or just pick up trash in the park. Could you imagine the difference we would make in the world if every single person did just one nice thing for another person or their community a week? I imagine there would be more smiles than frowns!

So, friend, go do something nice today. Random acts of kindness are so amazing and a great way to teach children the art of giving without expecting to receive anything, even recognition, for what they did. Donate something; you will never regret the nice things you did for another person!

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 ESV).

If you want more information about donating your hair to a wonderful charity please consider donating to Children with Hair Loss. This is a legitimate charity and they accept mildly chemically treated hair and gray hair. The minimum length to donate is 8 inches and the wigs they make for children and youth who are suffering are free of charge. It takes thousands of dollars to make one wig, but they are able to provide this for free to children who are hurting. They are run by donations alone! That is amazing!
Check them out at http://www.childrenwithhairloss.us/

 

 

 

Isaiah has a NEW birth day!

My personal disclaimer:
As always, I began this post WEEKS AGO! THEN, home schooling and VBS preparing and children and life happened SO, I am NOW publishing it! Plus, I haven’t been pleased with my writing lately…so I put it off.

NOW to the good stuff!

On Easter Sunday Isaiah gets baptized.

So there has always been this burning question in my heart when it comes to my oldest: can someone with Asperger’s become a Christian? And thank the Lord that question has been answered.

You see, I always worried a little because I know that Isaiah views so many things as literal. He needs things to be tangible; to be present in front of him. He is interested in science and the reason why is because in a scientific environment he can ask a question, do some research, and get an answer that makes sense. How often does that happen, in that way, in Christianity? I mean, Christ the man even spoke in parables because people would not listen or could not understand, so how can my very literal son understand stories such as the Parable of the Sower and can he realize the deeper meaning behind it?

Well, he did. He does. And I couldn’t be more proud or filled with joy. Isaiah is twelve now, but around his eleventh birthday he came to us and told us how he knew the Spirit had changed his heart and he had become a child of God’s. He explained how he was ready to try his best to give up sin and live for God.

Now, this isn’t actually the first time Isaiah had come to us and expressed this, but this was the first time he had come to us using his own language (as opposed to things he heard others say) and he really showed the heart and knowledge and demeanor of someone who has had their heart changed by the Spirit.

As time goes on and Isaiah learns more about science and nature (as I am almost certain he will choose a career in this field) I do worry a bit that the world may get to him. BUT, he is a child of God now. The Spirit worked in his heart to soften it to the voice of Christ. There is no voice louder than God’s! AM I RIGHT!? He felt that conviction and I know I do not need to worry (as much) anymore.

I mean, sure, the science stuff is scary because it is tangible; it can be put into words and numbers and equations, and concrete evidence of existence, but Isaiah heard God’s call on his heart through all that stuff. This does not take away our responsibility as parents to disciple him in the home nor does it mean the church has no more responsibility for discipleship, BUT it does mean that we KNOW Isaiah has been changed so he KNOWS the real deal. As he gets older, not only will his knowledge in the world grow, but his knowledge in the Word as well. Isaiah will become more spiritually mature and conscious as time goes on, and this is such a wonderful and great thing.

God is wonderful and great, you guys. My heart is so full of joy right now knowing that one day my son will be worshiping our Savior in Heaven. While there is still so much I can worry about, what a great weight the salvation of my son has lifted from my heart.

SO, that was written two weeks ago and today was Easter!

Today, my son followed the call of God upon his heart with an act of obedience and public profession of his faith by becoming baptized as a believer in Christ. My son. My Isaiah. Isaiah got up in front of roughly 400 people and allowed our pastor to submerge him into water completely covering his head and face. And…it was memorable to say the least.

First of all, I have had a bit of anxiety surrounding today because Isaiah does not do well with being dunked in water, water being over his head, water being in his eyes and ears, and to top that off, someone literally putting their arms around him. To be honest, I don’t feel I was really fair to our pastor, I feel he needed a disclaimer before he baptized Isaiah! BUT, it was wonderful. And oh, so memorable (thank you, Will, and I’m also sorry [as I giggle]).

The first surprise was that Isaiah asked to wear one of the robes in the back which I thought was very much Isaiah. Then my brave boy walks down into that water knowing full well he is getting dunked, and through his fears and what I imagine was a mental overload knowing that his senses were about to be overloaded, he professed his faith. THEN it got a little tricky for poor Will! Isaiah went stiff as a board! He said his foot got caught in the robe, I don’t know if that is what happened, but I know we all had a good chuckle as he almost pulled our good shepherd down with him into that water! The amazing thing, though, was how he came up! He came up with water in his eyes which means he had them closed and his arms were outstretched like a blind person trying to find their way. And all my brain could do was think of how poetic that visual was.

Here we are chuckling, but a new believer is like a blind man searching for their way and it is up to us to help them and teach them (discipleship means to ‘become a learner or a pupil’). What is even more amazing to me is that Isaiah truly did not feel embarrassed as I am sure many of us would have in that position (thanks Asperger’s for that). When he came to sit back down I was worried and asked if he was ok and he said that he felt great. He had the biggest grin and I could see the Spirit radiating through him. Something that would have caused me to fly out the back door red-faced and ashamed and here my kid is literally having the best moment of his life. And rightfully so.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible and the one that is kind of my personal motto is 2nd Timothy 2:15: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (NIV). Here I am, supposedly a seasoned believer, and I was worried my seedling of a believer son would be ashamed of how his public profession of faith went. Here I am supposed to be doing my best to present myself as one approved and Isaiah, in his infancy, seems to have it all figured out.

You see, sometimes being a believer is messy. Sometimes it is painful. Sometimes it is downright terrifying. Through all of these, we should never be ashamed of the work we do in the name of our living God. I mean, what is there to be ashamed of? For Isaiah today, he got baptized! He faced several of his fears because he was doing what God led him to do and he was not even a little ashamed of the process or outcome! And yet, friends, don’t we act daily as though we are embarrassed or ashamed? Are there moments where we feel called to pray in public and instead of stopping and praying earnestly right then and there, don’t we instead mumble some half-hearted “God help them” prayer under our breath? How about when we are doing something like eating in front of people who are not believers? Are we bowing our heads and earnestly thanking God for our food and blessings or are we whispering it to ourselves afraid someone may hear and judge us?

Let’s dig deeper, now. When we do something, are we asking for recognition because, instead of being boastful in the Lord, we are working to cover our guilt in deeds and we need to be recognized for our works? We need a pat on the back to cover our shame, right? How about when you are a believer and your loved ones aren’t? Are we holding grudges against those people and judging them as Christians should be judged? Are we doing our best to show the unbeliever that we are Christ-like in spite of their unbelief? In these instances, are we doing our best to present ourselves as “one approved, a worker who correctly handles the word of truth”?

My twelve year old correctly handled it today. He obeyed a command on his heart to follow his change of heart with believer’s baptism and it was awkward and a little messy, but he was boasting in the Lord. At that moment, he knew that God was pleased with him. He knows we are wretched men, but that amazing Grace has literally saved our souls.

There are many times in my life I have been ashamed; though I do my best to present myself better, I often fail. Grace really is so amazing. I saw grace work first hand in my own son and more of that ice around my heart just chipped and melted away. Isn’t it amazing how the actions of a twelve year old can make me see the world with new eyes and understand God’s grace on a different level? I know the Word tells us what amazing things can come out of the mouths of babes, but man, today…I mean, it was a whole new level for me, you guys.

So, what I want to end with is grace. Have grace. Have grace for others and for yourself, but also, we need to hold ourselves more accountable. We need to recognize those moments that we mark off being “shameful” and reevaluate them. We need to rethink how we are following through with the Great Commission that Christ gave us before his ascension into heaven. He said to “go out and make disciples” but, friends, how can we do that if we don’t speak up? How can we do that if we are afraid of the messy days, bumpy roads, and ugly truths? The fact is, we (collectively) are not necessarily ashamed of the Gospel, but we are ashamed of the work we have to do to share it.

We are afraid and ashamed because we don’t want to get dirty and have people talking about us later. We don’t want anyone laughing behind our back even though the Bible CLEARLY tells us that is EXACTLY what is going to happen! WE WILL BE PERSECUTED! It is ugly, messy, and scary. Quit making it all pretty, because going through the ugly is what brings out the pretty.

So, friends, I plead with you, sister to sister and brother. Do not be ashamed, but also, handle the Word of Truth correctly. We can boast in the Lord all day long, but do it in a way that pleases God, not yourself.

And also, if you see Isaiah, give him a hug because he is a child of God, and taking the literal plunge was one of the hardest things he will ever face. I’m awed at God’s awesomeness.

 

Cesarean Awareness

 

Ok, so, can we talk c-sections for a bit since it’s c-section awareness month?

I just want to talk a little about this because, well, I’ve been through it and some people seem to think that if you have had a c-section you have either “chosen” the “easy way” or you have never really birthed a child. And this kind of annoys me; and hurts my feelings, so I want to address it.

So, way back in the day I got pregnant with Isaiah. It was just a couple of years ago, ya know, and I was younger and kind of clueless regarding labor. I mean, I had an IDEA…I was going to do all natural birth and no meds and sweat and pant and push and he would be here and then I’d be up walking around and getting back to business in no time. THEN I went into labor and my body did not work like a normal woman’s apparently. After 36 hours, a drip of Pitocin, some kind of pain relief they put through the i.v. that lasted all of 34 seconds and me losing the ability to breath anymore resulting in Isaiah being oxygen deprived, I lost my desire for a “natural” child birth and opted for saving the life of my child. It was long. It was painful. Recovery was…interesting, but not altogether excruciating (though there were moments). But I apparently didn’t “birth” my child. Having a cesarean was the “easy way out”.

Then comes Noah; what a blessing! We tried for SO LONG! We gave up hope; I had FINALLY begun to give away the baby stuff I’d been hoarding for four years in hopes of another coming along when I found out I was pregnant with Noah. Right from the beginning I was told I had no option BUT to have a c-section. I was older, but naive. I researched some, but I honestly thought the doctor would do what was best for me, not him. He was my doctor from the time I was 16 and I had trusted him. So, I opted for a c-section. I had a little peace of mind this time, though. I KNEW I would not have the exhausting and scary labor experience I had with Isaiah. I KNEW this time it wouldn’t end with doctors seeming worried and an emergency situation where the baby is whisked away with little more than a tiny peck from mommy (I didn’t see Isaiah for over 24 hours after he was born). And it didn’t. This birth experience was calm. We went in quietly, I was prepped and baby came. It went quickly, but wasn’t scary at all. Noah was able to come to me and nurse while I was in the recovery room. I was able to have skin to skin contact soon after birth instead of waiting over a day like I had with Isaiah. Noah had no oxygen tent, no i.v., he didn’t even have to go under the bili lights. I was home in three days as opposed to a week. Recovery went great; much better than with the c-section after a LONG and intense labor. BUT, I didn’t really birth him, right?

Don’t get me wrong when you read these stories. I despised having to have c-sections. I hate knowing that my body failed. I hate that I am not “normal”. I hate that it takes longer to even be able to do something like bend over and pick something up off of the floor. I hate having to rely on people for pretty much everything, but that is what happens after a major surgery (which a cesarean is, by the way). So this was even worse than the emergency c-section with Isaiah because I CHOSE it…this was for SURE the “easy way out”, right?

Fast forward to the insane surprise and shock that came with my pregnancy that brought us Myrah. I had a whole new level of education now and I KNEW I was going to have a vba2c with her. I was introduced to the world of doulas and midwives and went to Birth Boot Camp because I was going to do better this time. I wasn’t going to ALLOW my body to fail. I was sick as can be with that pregnancy, but I went by the crunchy book as much as possible. I did everything right, and guess what? I began having prodromal labor pains SEVEN days before I had Myrah. If you aren’t familiar with prodromal labor, well, it’s like a precursor to labor, but it is NOT the “practice” contractions of Braxton Hicks. It is actual contractions. They MAY come and go, they can be very intense, and they are exhausting because they, of course, come at the most inconvenient of times. So, I had a good four days of prodromal labor before the real thing began then I got dehydrated. Severely. I was in the hospital twice due to the dehydration. Then we knew something went wrong. Something went terribly wrong because I could not eat, drink, or sleep. I could not even sit. There was ONE standing position I could be in without being in the most terrifying and excruciating pain I had ever experienced. The docs brought a portable ultrasound machine in straight away, but we couldn’t figure what was causing the pain. Baby had her head in a position that was blocking us from seeing the cause of the issue, but Scott and I prayed right then and there and agreed to go ahead with (yet another) emergency cesarean section that the doc was recommending. I bawled my eyes out because my body failed again, but I KNEW something was wrong and getting my way was in no way worth risking my daughter’s life. Come to find out, waiting too much longer to make the decision really could have cost us her life because my uterus ruptured on either side and was being held together precariously in the middle but slowly tearing away. THAT IS PAINFUL!

But this was the “easy way out”. As I lay on that table not even getting to touch my daughter before a team rushed in the room like a scene from Grey’s Anatomy, I wasn’t thinking of my failed body, I was begging God to save my baby. I watched a tube go down her throat and a bag being squeezed to breathe for her and all I could think of was how the surgeon said this was the best decision I had ever made. I can’t have any more children now, but this “easy way out” saved my daughter’s life. And if you think for one second that recovery from a ruptured uterus is a walk in the park, then my friend, I must respectfully say that you have no clue what you speak of. I hemorrhaged during the night and begged the doctor to give me a few more hours to bring my blood count up before getting donor blood. The hemorrhage made me so weak I was unable to leave my room to see Myrah in the NICU. She had to be given donor milk because I couldn’t even pump yet. I was miserable, hardly able to walk and it took my back and abdomen at least a year to fully recover. To be honest, I still don’t think I have all my stomach muscles back. This is the “easy way”?

So, having a c-section is rarely the “easy” or “lazy” way out, and it doesn’t make me a person who has never given birth. Given the option, I’d have ten babies all natural, but that wasn’t the option I was given. You see, what makes this hard is that I don’t feel c-section moms get the same support or respect that “natural” birth moms get. Now, I’m not one of those people who needs a pat on the back or an award for everything, but as a c-section mom, I was never approached with the option of having something like a birth doula. There is no “birth boot camp” for women who know they have to have a c-section. I would have loved to consult with a midwife, just to have one on the team with me, but there is maybe one midwife in my area that would even speak to me on a medical basis because vba2c isn’t something commonly supported (especially round these parts). And if you want any kind of holistic, crunchy, or natural support when you KNOW you are having a c-section, you better look real hard. I mean, I personally know a doula or two who is willing, and my birth doula was one who was just starting out and had also had a c-section which was super awesome to me, but that is certainly not the “norm”.

Now, I know a decent community of crunchy gals, and I am in NO WAY making digs at them because they ALL supported me, but this was my experience from some and especially from the online community who didn’t know me personally. These are all things that have been said or done to me, and it hurts. I mean, once upon a time, I fancied being a doula myself, but only catering to c-section mommas, I quickly realized that makes me just as silently judgmental as most people don’t realize they were being to me. I gave birth, and my body did not work the way it was made to. There are factors behind this; I was abused as a child, I had some cervical tissue removed late in my teens, I have ovarian cysts and a hormone imbalance…all of these things played a factor in my body’s inability to read the hormones given out during birth and do what it should. That doesn’t mean I didn’t give birth, though. I fought for each of my children and the only thing I would change now, if I were even given a chance, would be to have a planned c-section with Myrah as well. You know, if I’d scheduled a surgical birth with her she wouldn’t have been at risk? I have some serious mommy guilt sometimes for the fact that she was in such a bad way when she was born. Her condition was brought about by my choices. But, she was meant to be just how she is and where she is and how she got here. So were my boys.

I wouldn’t change anything, so, world, stop making me feel as though I ought to have regrets. I don’t. My children are here. They are healthy and happy and thriving, and I have the scars to prove that I birthed them. I have the stretch marks and saggy girls and wide hips…I have my kids. Every staple was worth it. Ever catheter was meaningful. Every failed i.v. stick, every failed attempt to walk, and every wheel chair ride was worth it a million times.

Whether you have the ability to be the mom who goes completely natural in your birth, or get an epidural, or have a surgical birth, you are a warrior. You are a winner. You have already won because God gave you this beautiful child to keep for Him. We have known since Genesis that birthing wasn’t going to be the easy part physically, we were told before we ever had our children. But, isn’t any birth really the easy part? Because the minute they are born you have to begin letting them go, and that is the hardest part of all.

So, friends, moms, women who have no clue who I am and have stumbled across my jumbled mess of words, lift one another up in love. Support each other! There is no shame in child birthing because no matter how it is done it is a miracle! God has given you a child; you grew that child in your womb for about forty weeks. FORTY WEEKS! You are the SOLE provider for that baby for FORTY WEEKS of its life!

Grab your cape, girl. Wear it proud, and help your sister with hers too.

“A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world” (John 16:21 NIV).

Out of the Pit

So, I have my computer back and today is Sunday and I actually made it to church two weeks in a row, though Isaiah was sick (Scott took duty this morning) so it was just me and Noah. I’ve been having some conflicting feelings about church lately, and before I continue, let me tell you that 75% of my feelings are my own fault because contrary to what my brain is saying, my heart does love my church.

About six months ago we finally joined a new church, but in six months, we missed several times in October, the holidays were hectic, and my family traded illness all of January and February so our attendance has been spotty. But, I went today. I went today and I just felt bummed because while I know we are members of this church, it doesn’t feel like home yet. I don’t feel like family yet, and I so very much miss that feeling. God called us here right now, so I KNOW it is where I am supposed to be, but I think I am still in mourning. So, during the welcome I get all bummed and down on myself because I am not getting all the feels I want to get from my church (because, ya know, the church is there ALL for me…[please take note of sarcastic text tone here]). Yap, my selfish and very human heart made it ALL ABOUT me. Poor me because my kids have been sick left and right and I haven’t really been able to attend and I am not getting all those good feels I am SUPPOSED to get from church and it is all everyone’s fault because woe is me.

And then my pastor preached…and I shrunk lower and felt smaller and I was like “dude, do you have a hidden camera into my BRAIN? Because for real, you’re calling me out in front of ALL THESE PEOPLE” except that he never actually said my name and has no idea I am struggling with my faith i.d. at this very moment.

So, my pastor opens his mouth and ironically one of the first things he actually said was how people get annoyed at pastors who don’t tickle their ears (or something to that affect). Then he gets to the sermon which is all about the pitfalls a believer can fall into and how, just because we are Christian, we aren’t exempt from sin, nor are we exempt from the consequences (so no, you cannot do whatever you want, guys, sorry to bust your bubble). As a matter of fact, we are actually held to a higher standard because we are Christians, but we kind of like to gloss over that, don’t we. So, here I am waiting to get to my happy place and here my pastor is…calling me out! Sheshamundo. He is literally listing my sins off one by one like he has a daggum check list up there in the pulpit or something! YOU GUYS!  I was feeling sheepish. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do NOT believe prosperity preaching benefits anybody, as a matter of fact, I am pretty vocal in my opposition to such a way of preaching, so WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?

Well, you see my pastor began listing these pits that Christians fall into and as he listed them, my heart was super convicted. Lately, my life has not turned out the way I planned it. Six months ago I planned on being somewhere else, living somewhere else, and doing something else, and all that didn’t and hasn’t happened so…apparently God didn’t listen to my commands (HUGE eye roll at myself here). So here are the pits he mentioned: drifting, doubting, departing, neglecting (also not listening, or not nourishing), and rejecting. Can ya guess how many I have fallen into in the last six months?  Maybe not all at ONCE, or maybe so…I mean, I’ve really been feeling sorry for myself. And, you guys, I’ve been stuck. All this time I’ve been crying out comparing myself to Job (laughable, right) when all along I am obviously being my own worst enemy by drifting, doubting, departing, neglecting, and rejecting the living God.

I’ve been slowly but obviously drifting away from the guidance of the Lord. All this time I’ve been praying for guidance, but failing to hold His hand and take that guidance. The Word tells us God holds us in his “righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).  His RIGHTEOUS RIGHT HAND! Jesus is holding us, guys. HE WANTS TO GUIDE US, but he can’t do that when we pull away! SO, I am lost for guidance right now because I have pulled away, not ever because He has left me. He has granted me grace; reprieve for the atrocities I commit daily, yet still he holds his righteous right hand out to me.

As if drifting isn’t enough, I doubt His plan as well. I have this grand scheme in my own mind as to how things are supposed to go and where I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to be doing and none of it is happening! Why? Well, maybe it’s because it isn’t what I am supposed to be doing. Or MAYBE it IS what I am supposed to be doing but I am going about it wrongly or it isn’t the right time. We know that all things work together for Him and all things he brings about are good, yet I doubt every step of the way lately. Well, no wonder I’ve drifted, I don’t even trust my own Creator apparently.

On top of these, I’ve also stopped feeding myself daily. I mean, honestly, I try to read the Word every evening after the kids are in bed; that’s my time. That is when I read best and listen best and pray best, but I’ve been selfish and lazy and SOMETIMES I remember a couple times a week lately. Yet I sit and wonder why I am starving? You know what is REALLY ironic? Noah’s memory verses for his school the last two months…one was “I am the bread of life, whoever believes in me will not go hungry” (John 6:35) and the other was “if anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink (John 7:37). I mean, how ridiculous is it that I can teach my children this, but not listen or do it myself? Seriously, that’s like teaching the multiplication table but not knowing one times one. It’s one of the most basic aspects of our faith; knowing that Christ can fulfill us; that He alone can satiate our appetites. And here I am ignoring it completely!

So onto the departing portion of tonight’s post; in this scenario he is actually talking of failing to produce fruit. Being an unproductive Christian; luke warm; lackluster; LAZY. You see, if you aren’t practicing the Fruits of the Spirit then you will not be producing fruit period. Think of the parable of the sower; you are that seed on rocky ground and a good wind can come along and blow you away. I was going through the motions, but I haven’t been productive, even in my own home. I even see a difference in my children’s behavior recently; there is a lack of respect for authority, a lack of dedication and diligence in their work, and a general bad attitude all around. Well, I can stand now and take some responsibility in this. I am with my children 24/7 (remember, we homeschool) so OBVIOUSLY they are going to pick up on my attitude and behavior and reflect it back. I am a barren tree right now, and hearing my pastor talk and realize the Lord was speaking to me through him, it made me sad. I am guilty, friends, and this is one of those times when I am face down thanking God for his grace because I am so obviously undeserving. I haven’t offered to serve in my new home church. I got all sad and sappy because nobody really knows me, but I haven’t taken a minute of time to know them either. If anything, I’d say I’ve been cold and standoffish and I’d be weary to try to know me.

And this brings me to the final pit Will (that’s my pastor’s name, I should have started using it a long time ago, really, because there are way too many pronouns LOL) mentioned; rejecting Christ. Christians, we KNOW what the right thing to do it, and we reject Christ when we CHOOSE not to do it. I have KNOWN I need to be in the Word and prayer daily in order to stay on God’s track for my life, and I disobeyed. I have known I need to become more involved in my church for fellowship purposes and accountability, I have disobeyed. I have known I need to be exhibiting the Fruits of the Spirit and instead of being peaceful and patient and kind, I have been quarrelsome, impatient, and cold. This isn’t the fault of our new church home, this is my sin alone. Something that my pastor said that really got me here was (totally paraphrasing) “if I send my son to die for you and you don’t act like you appreciate it, I’m not going to like you” (Wilson, 2017). If I were God, I wouldn’t like me right now, thank God I am NOT God and, again, thank God for grace. But think about that. That has been with me since I heard it (oh, by the way, I started writing on Sunday, I am just now finishing and it’s Wednesday).

Friends, it is so important to see this so you can see how sneaky Satan can be. I am an eternal optimist, until the last six months. I am a happy and smiling person, until the last six months. I am diligent in doing God’s work and being fruitful, until the last six months. Satan found a weakness and crept right in. He was just waiting, and I’m proof that it can happen to anyone.  None of us is perfect and none is immune to the trickery of the evil one. If you asked any friend or family member about me I am certain they would tell you I am a “good Christian” and faithful and diligent and all that stuff; but I am also certain that they would tell you the last six months my behavior has been different. I’ve been sadder, more desperate, and lonelier. And you know what is so crazy to me? During the trials of trying to conceive children, I never became this way. During the trials of my husband’s deep addiction, I never lost faith. During the most terrifying cancer journey, I never lost hope. You know what pushed me over the edge? A simple rejection; that’s it. It isn’t even that big of a deal, really, but I’ve never experienced it before and made it a huge deal.

So, here I am. I am laying it out. I am showing my weakness and owning it, and I am asking that you pray for me and with me not only for me to overcome this, but for us all to remember that we must always repair the kinks in our armor.

What is your sin, friend? Do you have a loose tongue and say things without thinking? Do you stir up trouble for drama? Do you hold a grudge? Do you try to get even with everyone who has done you wrong? Let us band together, brothers and sisters, to stand against the enemy’s schemes.

I close tonight with the very first verse I ever learned upon becoming a Christian at the ripe age of 15:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11 ESV).

What’s the Fuss?

I’m annoyed at myself because my original post was SO GOOD and I, in my excitement I guess, did not save my work and lost it! I may have shed a tear or two…anyway…

So, first the introduction, in this beautiful photo I have two of my nieces and two of my friend’s daughters. The two oldest girls in the picture just turned ten! Lexy is in the burgundy and gold dress and Melissa is in the yellow. They are ten, and we dressed like princesses and we went to the movies. And, it was marvelous.

As you can see from this photo, we just finished watching Beauty and the Beast, the live action film, and boy oh boy do I have some stuff to talk about. This film has been talked about for weeks because of the alleged controversy brought about by a comment from the director. I am happy to have now watched it myself and even more happy to write my own opinions surrounding the film.

This is my only disclaimer—THERE MAY BE A COUPLE OF SPOILERS IN THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPHS SO IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED, WAIT UNTIL AFTER YOU WATCH THE MOVIE TO READ THIS POST.

There, I have disclaimed. Now, on to the first big deal—you guys, how did I NOT KNOW that Audra McDonald was in this movie! I LOVE her! I don’t watch much t.v., but I have seen her several times and I have seen her sing and she is simply gorgeous and talented and marvelous and my poor mother was next to me being elbowed by me as I LOUDLY whispered in super excitement when I saw her on the screen! Sorry mom!

Ok, so we know that was not the “problem” everyone had with this movie. Now, before I continue I need to remind every one of a few things since I’ve been absent for a while.  First, I am a Christian. One of my scriptural mottos in life is 2 Timothy 2:15—“do your best to present yourself as one approved; a worker who does not need to be ashamed, who correctly handles the Word of Truth” (NIV). I am a proud Christian.  I am not ashamed of the Gospel. I KNOW I will get heat for not agreeing with certain things and believing in others, and that is ok because persecution is in the job description. I am a good ole Southern Baptist girl. I am moderately conservative, I home school, and I am kind of a hippie. I love God, I believe in His Word, and I strive to fulfill the Great Commission. I have values that may be different from yours. We are all different. I am simply reminding everyone about me so they know where I am coming from with my review.

I am just going to go through the scenes that I specifically saw addressed over and over again in the media and we will begin with Gaston’s song, you know, the one that LeFou sings to Gaston after Belle turns him down. So it begins and there is some ear rubbing that may be awkward for some. To me, I thought it was kind of funny because I have a nephew who likes to rub other people’s ears. It’s like a comfort thing for him so this wasn’t something that seemed off to me, I guess I’m just kind of used to it. Myrah also has this quirk where she likes to play with my moles or Scott’s scar when she wants comfort so it just wasn’t something that seemed off…but that’s just me. I don’t think that was indecent or inappropriate (technically, LeFou passed the job onto someone else so he could do his song). There were also changes in wording made to the song, but there was not a single line that I could pick out that seemed in any way sexual or that sexualized Gaston from LeFou’s point of view. You could probably argue that LeFou’s movements SEEMED feminine at certain points, but honestly, even that is kind of a stretch in my opinion.

The ONLY reason it is seen as that way is because the director told us beforehand he wanted us to see it that way! In the animated version, LeFou is infatuated with Gaston, this did not change for the live action version. Now, there were a couple of awkward moments I will address, but to say these are “gay” moments is a stretch, even for the director to say it himself would be a stretch in my opinion. There was one point where someone said something to LeFou about him deserving better treatment speaking of the way Gaston treated him, and I don’t think any of us would argue that point. Gaston is a bully, LeFou deserves a better best friend! Another, I believe Mrs. Potts was talking to LeFou (but could be wrong, this is my SECOND writing since I lost the first so it isn’t as fresh) and there was an awkward moment where he stated he hadn’t found the right GIRL and emphasized the word girl. Again, a HUGE stretch, but since the rest of the country is stretching, I figured I better include it.

Now, onto the men who get attacked by the wardrobe (Audra McDonald you guys!), she does dress three men up as women, two run off and one kind of smiles awkwardly before he runs off and the wardrobe SINGS the words “be free” at least twice. In this scene, there is SO MUCH COMMOTION and action that I can’t be SURE, but I believe there was already a song in the background and she was singing with the song and it conveniently happened at this time. Now, I’m SURE this was done intentionally, but was it obvious? No. Would I have noticed it had I not read about it a gazillion times before seeing the movie? No. Will my twelve or seven-year old pick up on it? No. They will be too busy laughing at this scene, the same way they laughed at the scene in the cartoon.

Onto the dance scene because this was supposedly the big deal, right? In the end there is a dance scene with LeFou. They were having the big finale dance just as in the cartoon, and it seems as though LeFou and the guy who was happy about his girl clothes earlier (though he is now dressed in guy clothes again) both make the wrong turn at the same time and for about .4 seconds “dance” together. THEN they apparently go back to dancing with women. I know this because I specifically searched the big screen for a glimpse of two men dancing together and there was nothing to be found after that .4 second glimpse. It literally looked like an oopsie on the men’s parts, though they both, again, smiled awkwardly. That is it.  THAT is what we were all worried about?  Really?  Please, PLEASE hear the sarcasm in my voice as I type that because, you guys, we are fighting the wrong battles here.

You know what, we were all bamboozled. You know what happened, the director knew he could say the word “gay” and get a bunch of Christians up in arms which would in turn get the rest of America up in arms and he would get another billion or so on opening weekend because we ALL wanted to see what the fuss was about. We allowed a man’s words dictate what we believed without ever seeing it for ourselves.  We allowed a man’s words to guide our actions. I am embarrassed, and I am sad about that. The director did this for attention, to make Christians mad and to make everyone else happy and essentially to get us all to the movies. Well played, dude, because it worked!

You know what I really want to talk about? I want to discuss and see discussed how LeFou got the short end of the stick when it comes to media attention. Here is LeFou afraid to stand up to Gaston in this whole movie, doing wrong alongside Gaston otherwise Gaston will beat him up and you know what never got mentioned in the media hype? LeFou’s change from evil to good. When Gaston wanted to leave Maurice to die LeFou tried to talk him out of it. Then he tried to save Maurice and Belle and stood up for them saying they weren’t crazy.  Finally, LeFou kept Mrs. Potts from being broken AND joined her in fighting against the bad guys to protect the castle so they all could live happily ever after! The whole time leading up to the movie I couldn’t figure out why LeFou would be in that final dance scene, that’s why! His heart changed, you guys! WHY wasn’t THAT the story? Why wasn’t that the focus of all the hoopla? WHY OH WHY did we have to focus on one sentence the director spoke when after all that bad rap LeFou was a hero in the movie?

Christians, isn’t this what Christ asks of us? Isn’t this what God wants for us? His desire is for our hearts to be changed by the Spirit so we can believe in Jesus and go to heaven! His desire is for us to turn away from evil. I mean, sure LeFou standing up to a bully and defending the castle isn’t the SAME as our hearts changing and going to heaven, but I never thought Narnia (as much as I love the movies) was really accurate either. I actually think LeFou may be my favorite character in the live action movie because of this. No other villager had a change of heart until AFTER the beast was turned back into a man and the castle was restored. LeFou alone had that change of heart and made the choice to fight for the castle before anything changed. Good job LeFou!

Now, I am pretty conservative. So, if you just don’t watch Disney because you just don’t watch Disney movies in general, I totally get it. But, if you are fleeing this movie for fear of seeing some kind of same sex interaction, fear no more and go see it. The director got EXACTLY what he wanted by saying one tiny word—gay. He got attention. We caved in and gave him that attention. He started internet wars because of this! Guys! We HAVE TO STOP FEEDING THESE LIONS! I am talking to people on both sides of the Christian line here, too. We are feeding the hate in the world, which is one thing we ALL have in common right now–we all want the hate to STOP. There was literally NO REASON for the director to say a word except to stir up trouble. And I say this not because I have a problem with a person’s lifestyle choice in any way, I say this because if he was really out to make a statement and make Disney’s first “openly gay” character, he would have actually done it.  It would have been an obvious thing, not these minuscule supposed innuendos that one has to literally guess at and grasp for straws to believe it is an actual statement being made. You wanna stand up for some rights, hey, I am with you and I’ll be beside you, but don’t cry out about making a statement when you are really crying out “go see my movie because it MIGHT have a hint at some statement hidden in a word behind a bunch of clatter in the busiest scene in the move”. I’m calling the bull on that one!

If you aren’t a Christian, that’s ok, I still love you. If you are gay, I love you. If you are divorced, I love you. If you have an addiction, I love you. If you have stolen or lied or ever sinned in any way, I love you. And guess what, I am with you! I am a Christian, but I am corrupt in every way because I am also human! I sin every day. You know what, though, grace. I am saved by grace and I am humbled and amazed every day that God grants me grace.I can’t believe the Spirit was able to crush through the hard shell of my mortal soul and show me the path to eternal life; someone like ME! None of us is perfect, but this is a movie guys. It is make believe. I want my children to grow up loving everyone while also accepting the values my husband and I hold dear, but I also don’t want them to stop believing in fairy tales yet either.

So, to summarize, Audra McDonald plays the wardrobe and she’s one of my faves. The outrage over LeFou is pretty preposterous, the “taboo” dancing scene lasts maybe .4 seconds (Melissa’s mom actually missed it, that’s how tiny it was), and LeFou is a hero. So, if you want to take your kids to this movie and walk away with a lesson, walk away with a lesson about standing up to bullies or how hard it is to do the right thing. Talk them about how LeFou had a change of heart and couldn’t stand to see innocent people being hurt. Explain to them how difficult that must have been for LeFou because he had to walk away from his best friend and literally go against every other villager in order to do the right thing. THAT is a big deal. That SHOULD HAVE been the big deal all along!

Now, I THINK I covered all the points I covered in my long-lost post that was so well written (more tears here), but if you think I left something out, feel free to comment and let me know. I am always happy to engage in healthy conversation, however, I will NOT allow any type of demeaning, degrading, insulting, or attacking to occur.  Please be graceful with your comments, questions, and remarks.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two