I Just Don’t Know.

Recently, I took my mom to get the results of her MRI and memory test, as well as recommendations from her doctor.

My whole goal of taking her was selfish. I have become so bitter towards her over the past 12 years. I don’t want to be bitter anymore. I don’t want my mom hating me when she dies. I don’t want me hating her when she dies, either.

Everyone keeps telling me I need to get over it. I need to ignore what she says. But inside of me I’m fighting so hard for her to hear me. She makes me feel unloved, unvalued, not important, not special. I wanted her to cherish me and to put me first or at least consider me, but she never has. And now that I’m an adult and I finally realize what I’m looking for in our relationship, it’s too late. She’s not the woman who raised me.

My mom died over 16 years ago. And oh how I loved her so much then. She was my best friend. I wish I could love her like that again. I forgave my mom for things she did, even if I didn’t understand what she had done.

I look at her now and I’m afraid if I continue to forgive; if I don’t call her out on how she makes me feel, if I don’t tell her she’s wrong every. single. time, that she’s going to take my self-worth away, again. I’m afraid I’m going to turn into the person I used to be. The one who let people walk all over me, who people took advantage of. But that won’t really happen. If she says she doesn’t like my hair, it doesn’t mean I’m not pretty. If she criticizes my clothes, it doesn’t mean I don’t look nice. If she complains I don’t help her, it doesn’t mean its true. If she doesn’t like my driving, it doesn’t mean I’m a bad driver. I can hear and identify the guilt she’s trying to make me feel, but I don’t have to feel it.

The first thing the doctor says, as he walks into the room was, “I’m impressed…but not in a good way.” He then proceeds to explain that my mom’s brain is riddled with extensive damage. I tell him we figured she has had about five strokes. By looking at the results of the MRI, he says he believes me. He shows me pictures of a skull that has more holes than anything else.

He then looks at her memory test. He explains that 80% of her deficiencies come from her strokes. It is that bad, but the other 20% is coming from signs of Alzheimer’s and depression.

It’s why she’s getting worse.

He recommends referring her to a stroke clinic as well as adding another antidepressant, considering the one she is on does nothing to treat the depression she has.

I am numb. I feel nothing but continue to ask questions as he is quite literally, walking backwards out the door. His answers all become, “The Stroke Clinic will help you.”

She gets to start the new antidepressant, but we wait for a referral to the clinic.

I’ve been struggling to come to peace with mine and my mom’s relationship for a long time. It was important for me to understand the messages I was internalizing as a child, to be able to break free from codependent relationships I was drawn to, felt comfortable having, so that I can become healthy and break the dysfunction I was used to. I blamed my mom for everything.

I blamed her for my abusive relationships. I blamed her for feeling bad about myself. I blamed her for being treated as a doormat. I blamed her for every single bad thing that has happened in my life. And I still blame her.

But I am an adult now. I’m not a child. I have found my voice. I know my worth. Yet, I’m still here hating her. Hating someone who isn’t even here anymore. And when she passed, she meant everything to me. There was no hate, only compassion. I knew she wasn’t perfect. I knew she did her best.

But as this new person started to walk around in her old body that looked just like the mom, I knew I was becoming angry because she’s not my mom. She couldn’t make me feel loved like she used to, even as dysfunctional as it was. And then I started looking within me, trying to figure out why I was the person I was. And I grew angrier realizing the consequences of an unhealthy, and equally broken person who raised me, had on me.

And I was robbed again, because I couldn’t yell at her, at the mom who raised me, because she wasn’t her anymore.

Dammit Kim, why can’t you let this go? I look at a picture of her when I was young, and remember feeling love, but I look at a picture of her today and even though she’s not capable of trying to hurt me, I feel anger. This isn’t even the woman who had screwed me up! But I’m making her pay for it.

Within the last year, I have started praying that God would show me my mom through his eyes. The first time I realized how much he loved her was when I was explaining my mom’s unsafe relationships, to a friend, and she tells me, “Wow, Kim. I really thought you were going to tell me how someone was taking advantage of her, but honestly, it sounds like the other way around.” She’s not lying. You hear stories all the time of people luring vulnerable people into unsafe settings to either rape, beat or rob. But not my mom. She has found another male, not to rape, beat or rob, but definitely to manipulate and take advantage of. Shows how lonely he is too. But I saw for the first time how much God is protecting her. In fact, he always has.

And not only always has, but if I didn’t know any better, I’d swear she was His favorite instead of me!

She lost both her parents when she was young. She and her sister bounced around family until they were of age. My aunt explained to me they should have been in foster care.

Then she gets pregnant with me when she’s 17. She marries my dad right out of high school and six months before I am born.

Her aunt shames her by not letting her wear white.

She makes a ton of bad decisions with my dad, while raising two kids. She leaves us, divorces my dad. Makes a ton more bad decisions. Meets, falls in love with, and marries someone who’s seven years older than me! Oh, she continues to make different but still bad decisions, but this man loves my mom like no other.

And then she has her stroke, the last one. She’s 49. Within a blink of an eye, my mom is gone, but she’s not. Her shell survived. But her brain, her brain has more holes than not. And it takes a while, but she starts walking again, and talking again.

But still, he dotes on her like a queen for the next ten years or so. But now things start to change again. She’s not the same woman who was my mom, nor the woman who was his wife and now more things are changing in her, things she can’t control, and Alzheimer’s has begun and she’s making more bad decisions, but like I said, it’s not even her anymore. She tries to kill herself on her 60th birthday.

But she’s His favorite and her shell still survives. Oh my God, why? I know it’s not because she’s a fighter, but it’s because she’s His favorite too.

She’s moved into an assisted living facility. She’s bitter, angry, resentful, lonely and eventually divorced; again.

Is she His favorite, or is she cursed? She has pushed every single person who has ever loved her, or she has loved away. And aside from her two sisters who live very far away, she has one daughter who still has anything to do with her, and this daughter is angry and bitter but trying desperately to forgive her mom who has left long ago, so she can honor the shell she was left with. The shell that once, before 46 years of bad decisions, gave life to. And even that bad decision produced four amazing people who call her grandma.

One last thing, before the doctor leaves us sitting stunned in his exam room, “If she was right handed, she wouldn’t be able to talk.”

Immediately a different reality overwhelms me. Yes, I lost my mom over 16 years ago, but by the grace of God she can still speak simply because she is left handed.

Maybe, just maybe God loves her so much that after all the tragedy she has lived, she still has something to say. Maybe something I need to hear.

I don’t know. I just don’t know.

God, I need you. I am here, once again on my knees, my face to the ground. Help me. Help me to love my mom. Soften my heart. Make this feel right. How can I possibly be there for her, and for what is to come, when I feel as crummy as I do?

To Change the World

I want to change the world.

For me, my world is not the people on the streets, or the children living in poverty on another continent, oceans away from me.

That world is much too big for little o’ me.

No, my world starts with those people who are the closest to me.

My family, my friends, my coworkers, my former schoolmates, my neighbors, my acquaintances…

People I interact with and do life with everyday.

I want to be surrounded by so much love; by so many people who live life for others.

I want my children to be brought up in a community that is for each other, and not against.

I dream of a day, where we all move as one body, doing the works of Jesus. Bringing heaven to earth, to reach out to the people on the street, and the children living in poverty on another continent, oceans away from me.

I don’t care what church they go to. Or don’t go to.

I don’t care, what city, state or country they live in.

I don’t care who they voted for. Or if they did.

I want to see my community move, not because the church tells them, but because Jesus moves them.

I want to see a community where the Spirit dwells within them, richly.

I want to change the world by encouraging, supporting and showing.

It’s so simple, but it’s not so easy.

Many people are full of good intentions or excuses, but good intentions and excuses do not fulfill transformation!

The Spirit of the Lord is not silent, still, or too busy.

I dream of a day where my community not only reaches up, but also reaches out. A community that not only listens, but obeys. A community that stops acting like sheep and starts shepherding.

Every. Day. All day.

Serving the Lord is a full time job. It requires overtime. Sacrifice. It’s sometimes grueling, but most the time rewarding.

It’s a lifestyle.

It’s a lifetime.

And one day the opportunity will be gone.

Make this day, and everyday, count. They are numbered and are running out.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. – John 10:10

Is the thief stealing, killing and destroying your time? Or are you living your life to the fullest? Are you living out all the opportunities Jesus has made for you?

So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. – James 2:17

My life is not my own. I was not put here for my own gratification. I am not here to see how successful I can become, how many riches I can aquire, or how much freedom I can possess.

May the Lord use me as he sees fit. May he take all that I have for his glory. May I be emptied so that He may fill me. May there be less of me and more of him.

I live only so that one day I may hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

So are you with me? Can you help me?

If someone reaches out to you, will you pick up the phone? Will you help them move? Or watch their kids? Will you ask those who are hurting, how you can help? Will you LOOK for who has a need, and fill it? Will you welcome those who are pushed aside, or shunned from society? Will you give second chances and offer forgiveness? Will you cry with your neighbor? Will you do more than just pray for them?

Will you stop being offended and serve them instead? Will you stop sitting in a pew and start representing our King? Will you stop saying, I’m too busy?

Because, we can all can ask, and we can all listen, and this IS following Jesus.

We are on assignment!

Will you be the church with me Every. Day. All. Day?

I want to change the world. And my world starts with you!

The Mom I Needed to Be

Years ago, I had asked my boys’ dad if I could have three of his old shirts he doesn’t wear anymore.

I wanted to turn them into pillows, so the boys would have a part of their dad when they were with me.

I had a friend of mine, who knows what she’s doing, come over to help me. Remember, I’m not a crafty homemaker by nature. And it didn’t help I had a sewing machine that belonged to my mother, and in my lifetime I know had never been cleaned.

What should have taken a couple of hours, if I remember correctly, took the entire day and then having my friend take them home to finish them on her machine.

The important thing was they got done.

But here I am, years later, and one of my sons asks if I could re-fluff his.

Seriously? You still have it? It’s not destroyed? But you destroy everything? Why didn’t you destroy this?

Yep, he still has it. But to save face I have to tell you, it’s never been washed in all the years he’s had it. Gross.

So this morning, before work, I find myself looking around the house for my seam ripper.

As I sit down at the kitchen table with his deflated pillow and my ripper, we banter back and forth about how much work this is going to take me and that he should not make me do this, and how I’m a mom and it’s my job to do this for him, because I love him.

In walks one of his brothers, and guess what? Now I have to fix TWO of them!

Why can’t you be like your other brother? His is probably in one of the garbage bags of crap that he left behind, and is in the garage somewhere. He doesn’t care anymore. Why do you?

But if course, I don’t mean it. I don’t mean any of it. True I’m not looking forward to talking on this project, but only because it makes me feel incompetent. What would take other moms an hour to do, it will take me four.

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But it grows me as a mom. It’s challenging, and difficult, and I don’t particularly enjoy any of it.

But I love my boys.

Anyone who has a child becomes a mom. Qualifications are pretty low. But the opportunities are limitless. You get to be the mom you want to be.

God knows this.

He knew I would struggle as a mom. He knew I wouldn’t particularly love every minute. He even knew I would have a hard time enjoying a lot of it.

But he knew I would step up and do it. Even if I didn’t want to.

In high school, classes would debate abortion. They probably still do. What I remember back then was I didn’t feel I really should have a say in what another woman did with her body.

I didn’t particularly like the idea of abortion, but I could think of reasons why others might have them. Rape, incest, mother’s safety, I’m sure there were others.

But as an adult, once I got older, once I found myself not living in the garden anymore, I found myself not in one, but two not ideal pregnancies.

For most of my friends, I could probably say, there was no decision to make, but really…how many of them were in my shoes?

When I found out I was pregnant with the first one, I had already had a five and one year old, and I had just left my husband, a week earlier.

We were getting a divorce and I was living back with my dad and his wife, in their three bedroom little house.

My income was around $24,000 a year.

My one year old was already showing signs of some kind of a disorder, but I had no idea what.

And remember, I wasn’t suppose to be a mom in the first place. I had no desire, growing up to be one.

(And before you say it, I was on birth control with two of my kids. The only one that was planned was the middle one…the one who has stretched me most as a mom.)

Now I’m going to be doing it alone.

Second time, I had three rambunctious boys. Oldest one was eight, youngest one was two, and my middle one was four; still not talking, destroying everything during frequent meltdowns and beating his older brother in rage and constantly fearing he would hurt his younger one.

I am unwed, and in an emotionally, verbally and quickly escalating into a physically abusive relationship.

I needed out.

So twice I asked myself, what the hell are you going to do?

I can’t say it was a hard decision to make. Of course, ultimately you all know, I kept the two babies. But it was still a decision I had to make. Or, I should say, it was a choice I felt I had.

However, although I didn’t feel very close to him at the time, I still knew God. I knew deep in my heart, he still had a plan for me, and he had a plan for these babies too.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11

Oh my gosh, it took years, YEARS, for me to stop feeling like I was being punished.

God doesn’t punish.

But I finally came to the realization, that out of all the women, in all the world, that I was the only mom who could raise these kids the way God wanted them to be raised, so that they could grow up to be the men and woman, he intended for them to be.

And they didn’t need a mom who loved to bake cookies, or could sew all their clothes. Heck they didn’t even need a mom who could or would cook half way decent food.

They just needed a mom who would try.

So here I am, sitting at my kitchen table, cursing up a storm in my head but teasing my son about having to re-fluff a pillow, when it hits me…

I needed them, as much as they needed me!

Never, ever would I have felt the need to learn to cook, if I didn’t have to cook for them.

I wouldn’t have realized I needed to start standing up for myself and not let people take advantage of me, if I didn’t have to teach them the same thing.

I wouldn’t have learned I had a voice, if I hadn’t have had to shown them they have one too.

And I wouldn’t have learned to love, if I didn’t have someone, or someones to love.

So, I need to get back to ripping two pillows apart, so I can continue learning how to love my sons.

And I can give them a hard time about it later. Cuz that’s the kind of mom they need. And that’s the kind of mom God has made me to be.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6

Where’s Santa?

It’s incredible how upset people get when I mention, I don’t celebrate Santa.

In all the years, Mike has been decorating our front yard with snowmen and penguins, and Christmas trees and Snoopys, and Star Wars and gingerbread men, not even once has a child asked us, “Where’s Santa?”

But you better believe, that adults do. Not all, but there are quite a few.

Even after explaining my reasoning I get,

“Oh, so you don’t believe in Santa, but you believe in a great big snowman, instead?”

I want to say, “Don’t be dumb.”

But I don’t. I hold my tongue.

Believing in Christ offends people. Not celebrating Santa, during Christmas, offends people too, I suppose.

Who knew?

But I’m not standing out in my front yard, holding signs and yelling through a blow horn that anyone is going to hell for putting a Santa in their front yard.

I’m not.

I’m not condemning anyone who does.

Regrettably, I have several pictures of my kids sitting on some strange man, wearing a red suit’s, lap.

Each one of my kids received at least one present from me, but addressed from Santa, until they were at least 8 years old.

So Santa celebrating went on for a good sixteen years under my roof.

Most of those years, I was a single mom just trying to make ends meet.

God provided for everyone of those years, and yet I gave credit to Santa.

I’m so ashamed now.

So no, I don’t celebrate Santa.

But I do celebrate Christmas with snowmen and penguins, and Christmas trees and Snoopys, and Star Wars and gingerbread men, because they’re fun, and they’re cute and they don’t promise my kids anything, and they don’t take credit for making them happy or giving them anything.

Not everyone has walked in my shoes. Not everyone has experienced the heartache of a Santa, year after year. Not everyone has gone through what I have.

It’s why my relationship with Jesus is a personal one. Everyone’s is personal. Having a relationship with him is a unique one, unlike anyone elses.

So, I’m not asking anyone to change.

I’m just over here celebrating Christmas the way I do. With inflatables and lights, and presents and music, with neighbors and strangers, and with kids and sometimes with those offended adults.

And if I’m lucky, I get to share my relationship with Christ, with someone who asks,

“Where’s Santa?”

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One Curious Encounter

I started crocheting homeless mats while I’m waiting for assignments to start, again. I’d like to be able to donate another 22 mats to Church on the Street again this year, for Christmas. With help from my friends I’m confident we’ll be able to.

Today, as I was waiting for my first job to start, my client’s husband noticed what I was working on. He asked me why I would make a mat for anyone who was homeless.

I told him about my son and his mental illness, then told him God calls us to love him and to love others. This is how I love.

“So what are you? Are you Jewish? Catholic?”, he asks.

“Oh no, I’m just a Christian.”

He gave me a look.

With ASL, looks are apart of the language but I couldn’t read what his look meant. He tapped on his wife’s shoulder and told her, “She’s a Christian.”

“Oh”, is all she said.

He looked back at me, “I’m just curious…”

I started to panic. What was about to happen? Am I going to hear how stupid I am? Or have to explain why God allows such evil things in the world? Or have to listen to him rattle off a bunch of untruths about who he think God is and not really be able to say anything about it because, well, I’m working and this could really make things awkward.

“Why would you sacrifice your life and the things you want to do, to do the things God wants you to do, instead?”

Well, didn’t see that coming.

Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. – 1 Peter 3:15

This was it. This was my moment.

Will I be faithful? Will I be obedient? Will I have an answer that makes sense?

I’m debating if I want to tell you what I said.

The only reason is because we are all told that we need to be able to explain why we do, what we do.

This isn’t a cookie cutter answer. It’s from your heart.

Do YOU sacrifice your will, for the will of God’s? Do YOU know why?

Is it your choice, or are you doing it because you are told to by a parent or a spouse? Your answer should be personal. It should be real.

I gave my answer, and waited to see how it would stick.

Would he have more questions? Would he tell me I’m an idiot? Was he only making small talk, or did he really care?

Almost immediately, his wife was called to a window. I got up to follow her.

Once we returned to our seats, he told me,

“While you were gone, I prayed for. What you are doing is really great. God bless you.”

Now around Christians, you may hear “God bless you”, a thousand times, but coming from this one man, it really meant something to me. I felt like he really meant it.

And you know what? He does!

God blesses me.

He sacrificed his son’s life for me.

There was a time when I was a broken single mom of four. I had nothing, and I felt like nothing. But through the works of God’s people, he picked me up and made me new.

He gave me life.

A blessed life.

That is why.

That is why I do what I do.

This Thorn

I hate talking about the thorn in my side. It’s so embarrassing. I’m sure nobody cares and certainly nobody wants to hear about it.

But as I write, if I still have your attention, try to imagine my thorn as your own thorn, because honestly, we all have one.

You know that thing that brings us to our knees. That thing we struggle with everyday. That thing that leaves us crying out to God, “Take this from me!” And yet, we feel falls on deaf ears.

Mine happens to be my weight.

I have struggled with my body image all my life. I say body image because I always thought I was fat even when I wasn’t.

I few years ago I dropped 60lbs. More than I ever have in my whole life at one time. My clothes got a lot smaller, I took up less room I noticed on my chair, and then there was everyone telling me how great I looked.

Really? When I stood in front of my bathroom mirror every morning as I was about to get into the shower, I didn’t see a difference.

I watched the number on the scale drop slowly every week. It took me a year and a half. Certainly wasn’t over night, that’s for sure.

But I felt nothing. And the mirror told me nothing.

As soon as I hit the number I arbitrarily chose I started to gain the weight back. It was easy, because again, I didn’t see any difference except what was on the scale.

So I let it go. Pound by pound until, guess what? I’m right back to where I started. More some, even.

IT’S INCREDIBLY FRUSTRATING!

It’s frustrating because I’ve done this before. This always happens. And now I have come across information that explains it and it all just seems so hopeless.

So much so that I’m ashamed to tell you this…

But I had given up.

I stopped caring. I stopped fighting. I started enjoying. I started binging. I started to get worse.

GOD, WHERE ARE YOU? WHY DO I STILL STRUGGLE WITH THIS? WHY WON’T YOU TAKE THIS AWAY FROM ME?

And then, this morning I got smacked. I got God smacked.

I have a friend who is living with cancer. I have another who is living with PTSD. My step mom is laying in a hospital bed after receiving a pacemaker, just yesterday.

Are they allowed to give up?

Is it ok for them to stop fighting?

No, it’s not.

Then it’s not ok for me either.

So it leads me back to where I started. Even farther.

But I have to start, again. I have to start fighting, again. I have to start caring. I have to start leaning more on God, again.

Because it’s the thorn that brings me to my knees. It’s what I struggle with, everyday. It’s what makes me cry out to God.

Because if it didn’t, why would I ever?

God may never have any desire to take this from me. But he will continue to walk with me through it. Carrying me at times even.

Like now.

I know that he is here. So I know it’s a good place to be. It’s my journey. It’s my thorn.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Let’s Go Cubbies!

I’m from Illinois, but I’m not a Bears fan, or a Bulls fan, or a White Sox fan, or even a Cubs fan; but my brother is.

Regardless of the fact he’s lived in Arizona since he was four, he’s a diehard Cubbie.

I’m talking about for as long as I can remember, my little brother has sported around a Cubs’ hat, or jersey.

He’s gone to every Spring Training game since he’s had a job and could afford to take the day off.

He’s flown to Chicago, not to visit family, but just to see a game.

His children have probably all worn the same Chicago Cubs’ onesie.

Ex-girlfriend and ex- wife call to congratulate him on the Cubs success this year.

Yes, to know my brother, is to know he loves his Cubs. He’s not one who has suddenly come out of the woodwork like some long lost relative who’s heard you won the lottery.

He’s the real deal.

I told him recently, I’ve been watching the series. I started thinking maybe they had chance until the fourth game and their third loss. I went into the fifth game thinking they didn’t have a shot, but after a couple of runs I quickly got my hopes up.

He chuckled at me, “Oh, don’t do that, Kim. You never want to get your hopes up.”

He’s so funny. He has no faith in his team but he’s loyal to them just the same.

I guess after years and years of getting so close, but never close enough, can take a toll on you. A bit of a rollercoaster ride I guess you could say. Or maybe they’re just predictable. He know they won’t make it far. They don’t disappoint.

I’d like to say he is a believer of Christ, like he’s a fan of the Cubs. I think the ride is probably about the same. A bit of a rollercoaster.

Some days God shows up on time and saves the day, and sometimes he doesn’t.

Sometimes you’re left hurt and confused wondering what just happened. Did he even show up?

Sometimes it feels like you’ve hit it out of the park and sometimes you’re just walking around the bases.

It’s interesting though, whether I watch the Cubs play or not, they still do…

every year…

every year in Chicago since 1876…

even though they have only won two World Series titles; 1907 and 1908.

That’s a long time to be playing and not be winning.

It’s interesting because after all these years of letting their fans down, they’re still here. They still play.

So this leads me to believe my brother is capable of believing in something he doesn’t have hope in.

Whether the Cubs win tonight or not, he will still be a fan tomorrow.

I know this, because they’ve never even been in the World Series during his entire lifetime, and yet…he still watches them. He still roots for them. He still believes in them.

My prayer is one day God will show up in his life’s World Series and it will be a perfect game. No hitters. No batters walk.

He’ll be called out of the bull pin and my brother will see he’s got heat. He’ll see even though he doesn’t know what pitch he’s got up his sleeve, it’s going to be over the plate. God delivers. You can trust him. Dare I say he’s predictable?

And one day my brother can have hope in something he believes in,

year after year, after year, after year…

Yeah, that’s my prayer. That would be pretty cool. Cuz, you know, I’ve been a fan of my brother for a lot of years. His entire lifetime.

I can’t wait to watch that series too.

My Daughter’s Holey Heart

I’ve never kept from her the relationship I had with her dad.

When she asks me questions, I’ve always answered her as honestly as I could and I’ve never told her I didn’t want to talk about it.

Mike came into our lives when she was two. She’s always known he wasn’t her real dad.

She was so jealous of Smart and would ask Mike if she could call him dad too. We always told her no.

That is until we got married. She was five then.

Oh, she was so stinkin’ excited to celebrate that first Father’s Day with him!

I was surprised how much it meant to her.

Years ago, my mom had made me a scrapbook of the kids. Oh my gosh, they were so little.

But imagine my surprise when I flipped a page to see a picture of me and Butterfly’s dad, together.

Then imagine what it was like to have my daughter sitting next to me, asking who he was.

She’s asked to see that scrapbook several times over the years. I know why she wants to look at it. Sometimes I get it down for her. Sometimes I don’t.

Today was one of those days. It was funny, she ran into my closet and pulled it from my top shelf before I could even get in there.

I didn’t realized she had become tall enough to grab it without a chair, and because she knew exactly where it was, and I didn’t, made me think she’s gotten it down herself before.

She entertained me by starting at the beginning and pointing out each of her brother’s as she turned the page.

She finally turned to the page that held the only picture I have of him.

I don’t even remember the questions she asked, but suddenly I found myself telling her he’s in prison.

She was shocked to have learned I had googled him.

“You can do that?”

Yes, you can, and I found him.

Even after all these years, I still fear him showing up in our lives.

He was a master manipulator, and at one time in my life had taken everything I had.

I wanted to know where he’s at.

My fear was he would take her one day too. Not necessarily, physically, but definitely emotionally. My fear is one day, when she’s 25 he will walk into her life and take her for everything she has, with guilt and shame to the point where she feels trapped, just like I did.

Immediately she had wanted to know what he had done, was he in Arizona, and finally…

Can she see him?

Ahh…

Hadn’t quite planned on that.

My daughter asked me if I thought it was weird that she wanted to know about her dad.

I told her I didn’t.

But I didn’t understand why she wanted to see him.

“Honey, you have tons of people who love you. People, who never would have been in our lives if we hadn’t gotten away from him. Our lives would be so different. Why would you want to see him?”

Tears welled up in her eyes, as she told me with a seriousness I was not accustomed to hearing from my ten year old,

I know I have lots of people who love me. But I NEED this one to love me. He doesn’t even know me.

Well there it was.

A need I can’t fill. A need he won’t be able to fill.

That desire for something more.

We all have it. It looks different with everyone. But we all carry that hole in our hearts that can only be filled by God. And yet, like everyone else, thinks it can be filled by something else.

In her case, it’s knowing her dad. If it wasn’t that, it might be if she was only thinner, or more outgoing, or if she had a boyfriend, or if she was married, or if she had children, or if she just had…

…then she’d be happy.

And so her journey is about to start.

I told her I didn’t know which prison he’s in. If he’s even in Arizona. I did tell her if something revealed itself, and that information became available, then I would take her to meet him.

But in order for that to happen, she needs to start learning about Boundaries, and what and who she is responsible for, and what she’s not.

If this is going to happen, I want her to be protected, and prepared. But honestly by showing her now; by teaching her about how God made her and what is hers and what is not, is the best defense I could give her not on only against her dad, but also against anyone else who tries to fill that hole for her.

So, I will choose not to pass my fear unto her, but will empower her by sharing my faith in the only one who can fill her soul.

Lord, I lift my daughter up to you. I understand that hole my daughter is feeling. I understand that feeling of something missing from her life. We are all born with that deep desire for more. Lord, I pray she searchers you more. I pray she studies how you’ve designed her and realizes how much love and value you’ve put into her and she is worth being protected. She is worth fighting for. So much so, that when other people or things try to fill that hole, she immediately recognizes they are not making her hole smaller, but actually making it bigger. Lord, you are the only thing that can satisfy our deepest desires and fill our holey heart. Equip me to help her know that too.

In your Son’s holy name, please protect us, AMEN.

Why Are You So Concerned?

I got a special treat tonight.

My daughter asked if she could borrow my phone to call her brother, Tunes. Not really believing he would answer the phone, I gave it to her anyway.

He came over and had dinner. We talked about his life and work. We talked about his plans for his future and his struggles.

Somehow we turned to our phones and started sharing funny videos and amusing posts from Facebook.

As the night grew later, each one of the kids took their showers and headed off to bed. Mike joined them.

And then there was just the two of us.

For the next two hours he shared with me videos he had found, or posted online; all of which were centered on how corrupt the United States was.

From its education system, to the pharmaceutical companies, to its politicians in office, to the banking industry, America was doomed.

His light demeanor turned dark. He plans on one day, moving to another country.

He doesn’t know which one, but any of them, is better than this one.

Knowing I was about to start something he doesn’t like to talk about, I took a deep breath and pondered if this was the right time. If it was worth jeopardizing the small precious time I got to spend with him.

I started with…

“I know you don’t want to hear it, but…

“Everything, everything you just showed me, everything you just told me about, you can find in Revelation.

Silence.

“You are not telling me anything I don’t already know. There are dark, dark times coming.

“Christians study Revelation and watch for the signs and feel the need to share it with everyone they know, just like you are doing.

“It’s not new. The New Testament says the end of the world will come like labor pains. Fathers will turn against sons, and daughters against mother. (Matthew 24:3-51)

“I wonder though, if you can spend this much time, researching how dark this world is, why can’t you spend as much time investigating what I’ve been telling you about Jesus, to see if it is true?

“Start with the Bible. There is plenty of scientific proof that the Bible is for real.

“There are archeological evidence that back it up.

“There are sources outside of Christianity, that provided historical evidence that support the validity of what it says.

“There are people who have done more than simply thrown their hands up in the air and said, ‘Well I don’t believe it’, and have actually done their research and set out to prove Christianity as a hoax, and have converted because of what they have found.

“If it is so important for you to educate others on the demise of this country, why can’t you spend just a little bit of time researching what I have been telling you?

“There is nothing you can do about it. It does not matter which country you try to run to. The whole world is coming to an end.

“So, you can watch it. You can study it. You can get mad and outraged about it. You can go out and proclaim it to everyone you know about it.

“Or you can look to God, someone who has overcome it.

“You say you don’t understand. You don’t know how there could be a God, but I will tell you His brain is so much bigger than ours. He is supernatural, and just like trying to explain how a car works to an infant, it is impossible for us to understand it in our puny little brains. (John 3:12)

“So he shrunk himself down in the form of Jesus so that he might dumb it down it for us.

“Now I don’t claim to understand it all, but I know he gave us the Bible, which has been evidentially proven as true, and in it says the way to the Father, is through his Son. (John 14:6)

“He sent his son, so that we may spend eternity with him. He gave us a way out of this sick, dark and destructive world. (John 3:16)

“And yes, it sucks living here, especially if you see what is coming; but life here is only temporary. We are only here for a short time.” (James 4:14)

I rolled my ball of yarn out on the kitchen table and I told him to imagine that it didn’t start here and stop there, but actually went on infinitely in that direction and eternity in the other.

I then placed my index finger on one spot of the yarn.

“This is were we are at. Your birth started on this side of my nail and your life here on earth will end here on the other side of it. Everything you experience here is but a breath, and then you live in eternity. (Psalm 144:4)

“So my question to you, is what are you going to do with the education, gifts and skill sets you have, during this short amount of time you have?

“What legacy do you intend to leave?

“The legacy I want to leave to my children, and my grand children and my grand children’s children, is that I loved.

I loved everyone.

I made sleeping mats and hats for the people who live on the street. Probably some of them deserved to live on the street, but I love them anyway.

“I love the needy as well as those who are mean.

“And even though I have a child who doesn’t believe what I believe; I want them to know, as well as you, that I will still listen to you, I will still be there for you, I will still support you, because I will always still love you.

“I want to impact the world that way.

“I want every person I come in contact with, to be better for it.

“But not because of me, but because of Jesus.

“Because he took a single mom with four kids who had nothing and made her something.

“I may not be rich with money, but I am rich with love.

“I have more friends who are family now than I ever did my whole childhood.

“And I want those in my small world to know Him, and what he has done for me. He has transformed me.

“I am fully aware, without being ‘fully’ aware, that life sucks and bad things happen. But my trust is in the one who has overcome this world.

“Why are you so concerned about what is going to happen right here, when you have eternity to worry about?

“Which eternity will you live?

“Because there is a Hell and it’s not under ground. It’s here.” And I let my finger run forward on the yarn.

“And it is here.” I pointed to my finger sitting on the yarn.

“It is full of pain and regret, and anger and despair.

“Or will you spend eternity with our Father?

“I don’t know if I will be spending my eternity in heaven with him, or I will be spending it here on earth once Jesus returns and brings the New Jerusalem, but I will be spending it with him in one of these two places.”

“Mom.” He showed me his phone and it was nearly 11 pm. “It’s time for me to go home.”

“No. You are home, but I will drive you to where you are living.”

My time to talk was over.

As I got back home, and set my head on my pillow after changing for the night, I texted him, “Love you. Thank you for coming over tonight. You’ve been missed. :)”

He responded, “At least know you raised a son with the same beliefs as you.”

“Look it up. Find the proof you need. Investigate. You are not a dumb kid. You are an educated man. Research and then make your own conclusion. Not one that your mom has given you.”

Good night.

This is My Church

This last week, I had this super epiphany of what my church is!

It has taken me awhile to understand exactly the kind of church I’m going to. Honestly, I still don’t understand it completely, but I’m encouraged by it daily.

It’s an upside down church. We are not measured by the number of our Sunday attendance. In fact, there is nothing glamorous about it. New comers are never wowed because of it. If anything they think it’s kind of weird.

Our Sunday service is in our pastor’s house because we don’t want our tithes to go to our mortgage, but rather to our community.

If anything, our new comers are wowed by what we do. We have life groups that meet throughout the week, we serve and build relationships.

Our church is based on three things. Three things Jesus commands us to do.

Did you know, throughout the whole New Testament Jesus tells us only to do three things?

I’m serious. Go check it out.

He commands us to love God and love others (Mark 12:30-31), and to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19).

That’s it. That’s all. It’s that easy.

No hoops to jump through. No boxes to check off. No T’s that need crossing or I’s that need doting.

Now, there are still things we do because Jesus did them, like baptisms and taking the Lord’s Supper, but other than that it’s pretty simple.

Our pastor is not responsible for our growth in Christ. It is our own responsibility. And then it is also our responsibility to go out and grow others; to disciple. It is not all up to him. It’s up to us.

So what is he responsible for?

Well, growing himself, and growing others, naturally. But he is also the one who empowers us to dare to step beyond our comfort zone.

He enables us with tools to love God and love others.

He keeps us out of the box when we start to cuddle back up inside of it. Often we slide back into the habits of the church traditions we were brought up in, and pushes us to examine what we are doing and why.

Usually, when you think of a pastor, most people generally like them for the most part, without any questions. You have a few preconceived notions of what he is like; holds himself to a higher standard, doesn’t cuss or swear, easy to talk to, compassionate.

While going to a church that breaks with tradition, why wouldn’t it’s pastor do the same?

Generally speaking, people either love or hate him. He’s okay with that. He doesn’t understand why people take him so serious or why people take what he does so personal.

So, the epiphany.

Our mission is to love God and love others and to go and make disciples. Exactly what I stated above.

The epiphany is the click. And I don’t even know if I can describe the click that happened inside my head, but it’s something about understanding how all three things work together.

If I love God and love others and I encourage others to do the same, not once, but over and over and over again; two things are happening.

One, I am growing closer to Christ by my obedience and two, I am discipling. The important part, the part where the click happened to me is in the doing it again and again and again.

I can love God and love others, all day long, everyday, every day of the year. That would allow me to grow closer to God, but it’s not discipling. Discipling is encouraging others to love with me.

Even if it’s different people each time. Even if someone doesn’t love with me next time, it is always and forever, encouraging others to love God and love others.

The fun part. The part I’m responsible for in my church is deciding how I’m going to love God and others and disciple.

Yes, it is an interact church. No spectators. No one sits on the bench. We’re all active players, playing on one team.

I love God by praising him, teaching my children about him, reading his word, praying, sharing my relationship with him to others.

I love others by making hats for a shelter in Flagstaff. I make sleeping mats for the homeless in the valley. I raise funds for pediatric cancer.

But I also love by helping friends organize their classrooms, and help move their houses and sit with them to have a drink at a coffee shop.

And I disciple by inviting my friends to Feed My Starving Children, and to donate to Harvest Compassion Center, and to join my life group and to help with Girls’ Club and…and…and… To love WITH me.

Because my church is about loving God and loving others and discipling. It’s about showing God love by obedience. It’s about loving others by serving and developing relationships. It’s about making disciples by encouraging others to live like Christ…which, here’s the kicker, IS loving God and loving others!

Isn’t that beautiful?

My dear Heavenly Father,
You ARE awesome!
Amen