Why Mother’s Day S*#%s

I hate Mother’s Day. Now, I know that might make you think that I don’t love my mother, but that’s just not true. My mom is awesome. She is one of my biggest supporters, and she has always encouraged me to be the best that I can possibly be. 

I hate Mother’s Day because I am not a traditional mother. That’s the part that sucks. If you have read my previous posts, you know that I have faced unexplained fertility for the last fifteen years. You also know that I am an adoptive mother to an adult son who is on the Autism spectrum. That’s not the part that sucks. Being an untraditional mother is what sucks.

For the last ten years, I have had to be ok with the fact that my son does not always know how to show that he appreciates me on Mother’s Day, let alone any other day of the year. Our first Mother’s Day together was terrible. Because he lost his biological mom when he was only nine years old, he was very uncomfortable on Mother’s Day. I had expectations that I know weren’t fair. Instead of wanting to do something nice for me, he wanted to spend the $5 that he had from his allowance. So my husband and I spent about a half an hour standing in the toy aisle of Walmart, waiting for him to pick something out. Nothing for me, of course. 

Some years he hasn’t even said Happy Mother’s Day until he hears someone else say it to me. Usually it’s at church. And it’s usually someone who is older who acknowledges my role as a mother. Then, my son sheepishly repeats the phrase, hoping that I won’t be upset with him. I’m sure it’s just as uncomfortable for him as it is for me. 

And yesterday, he just disappeared. In January, my son moved back in with us after he was unsuccessful at Navy boot camp. We decided that we would try to help him to get on his feet so that eventually he could have his own place. So far, that hasn’t been very successful. He has gone through four jobs in as much time as he has lived with us. So, on Saturday afternoon, he let me know that he was going to work and then staying at his friend’s house afterward. He said that he would be back home the next morning, but that was yesterday, and I still haven’t heard from him.

So, on Mother’s Day, I went to church where adult sons and daughters came to spend the day with their mothers. My son did not text me or let me know that he was ok. I try not to take it personally, but I really don’t know how I can’t. I feel like I am less than other mothers. I feel like I’m not a real mother. I feel like there will always be an emptiness inside of me because my son either doesn’t care about me or he simply doesn’t know how to express that he does.

It sucks. I know that’s not the best language to use, especially since I am a pastor’s wife. But it sucks. 

This morning, I tried to remind myself that there are young adults who do appreciate me. And they tell me regularly, especially at the end of the school year. I teach mostly seniors, and many of them tell me how much they appreciate me as a teacher. They appreciate that I treat them like they are human. They appreciate that I show them that I care about them individually. Because of this, I try to remind myself that I use some of my motherly talents to nurture other people’s children. And believe me, I’ve tried to nurture my son, but he won’t let me. He never had a chance to bond with his biological mother, so I don’t know if he can ever bond with me or anyone else in our family.

This is the part that sucks. I wouldn’t go back and change my mind about fostering and eventually adopting my son. I have learned so much about God’s love for each of us through loving my son. But it is more difficult than many people would like to admit – raising someone else’s child and accepting that they may never express their gratitude for what has been sacrificed. 

That’s it. That’s what sucks. And it’s a constant battle every day, not just on Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day just brings it all to light – I’m not my son’s mother, but I am. God, help me to continue to extend grace and love even when I don’t get it back.

The Teacher-Student Phenomenon

Earlier this week, I had a conversation with a few teachers that reminded me that our students are still struggling, three years after the COVID 2020 lockdown. It came as no surprise, but sometimes I get so tunnel visioned with the content that I am teaching that I forget about the social and emotional well-being of my students. My seniors have been reading novels on their own, and some of the novels I selected for them to read deal with topics like PTSD, depression, suicidal ideation, and domestic abuse. Many of my students chose to read The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, both of which deal with depression, personal identity, and sexual molestation. For my students who planned on reading Perks, I provided a letter with plenty of trigger warnings so that they knew what they were getting into. Despite my warning, most of the students still wanted to read Perks, especially since many of them have seen the 2012 film.

One of my students who chose to read Perks probably shouldn’t have read it at this time in his life. Earlier this year, he lost his best friend to suicide and has been struggling with his own mental health since then. Last week, I noticed that this particular student looked disconnected and uninterested when he was reading during class, but I had checked in with him before, so I figure he was doing ok with the book’s content. Boy, was I wrong! Apparently, he had wished that he hadn’t started reading the book because he was really struggling. Unfortunately, he didn’t come to me about his concern, but instead expressed his concern to another teacher – one of the teachers that I spoke with earlier this week about our students who are hurting psychologically and emotionally in this weird, post-COVID (not quite) world. 

This school year, several of my students have experienced various types of trauma. Some of their experiences are pretty typical of most high school students: a difficult break up, a sports injury or concussion, parents who are suddenly getting divorced. But some of my students have experienced trauma like losing a parent to cancer, getting arrested for assault, being moved into a new foster home (again), suddenly being diagnosed with a debilitating illness, or losing a friend to suicide. Sadly, teachers are sometimes the last ones to know that students are experiencing trauma. Obviously, there are certain protocols in place to protect personal information, so we receive information once it has been ok’d by parents, administrators, and counseling staff. But sometimes, we never know. So we assume that everything is ok until it’s not.

One of the most difficult parts of being an educator is knowing how to meet the needs of children. Some students will come directly to their favorite teachers and tell them exactly what is going on. Before her father died, one of my students told me that her father had just been released from the hospital into hospice. Another student regularly emails me when she cannot be at school because of an autoimmune disease that causes her to suddenly faint. However, most students do not feel comfortable telling their teachers, or any adult at school for that matter, what might be causing them to be unfocused, distracted, or disruptive. 

And when I think back to my own high school experience, I was the same way. When I was struggling for the first time with panic attacks and depression, I was at first embarrassed by this new problem in my life. I was encouraged by my mom and my therapist to talk to my teachers about what was going on, but I felt uncomfortable talking to even my favorite teachers. Eventually, they all knew anyway because I assume that my mom had reached out to them through my counselor. Once my teachers knew, several of them came to me to check in when I was at school. It seemed that others didn’t know how to approach me, so they just focused on the work that I needed to make up when I had been absent for days on end. 

I don’t really know what the solution is for this phenomenon. I would like to believe that all of my students feel comfortable talking to me about what’s going on in their lives, but I know that’s just not true. I pride myself on being approachable, but I know that some students are embarrassed, ashamed, confused, and distraught by the problems they face that may get in the way of their success in school and in social situations. And sadly, some students don’t trust the adults in their schools because some adults just don’t seem to care about them outside of their own classrooms or content areas.

Earlier this year, one of my students asked me how I view my students. I told him that I see them as human, that they are people just like the teachers, that they have human worries and concerns just like everyone else. He smiled at me and said, “Ya.” I knew what he meant. As teachers, we are entrusted with teaching our content areas but also making sure that our students feel safe in our classrooms so that they can thrive in their lives today and in their futures. This means that we need to see them as people. This means we need to value what they think. This means that we listen when they are struggling. This means that we celebrate with them when they experience success. 

I told one of my colleagues the other day that teaching is not about me. I put my ego at the door when I walk in the building. Sure, there are days when the kids get under my skin, but most of the time I know that their behavior is not about me. It’s not personal. Because they don’t always tell us what’s under the surface, it’s best for me to assume that something else is going on. I wonder if we all looked at children this way if maybe they would have a bit more confidence, maybe they wouldn’t feel ashamed when they need to tell us something personal, and maybe this might lead to higher success for all of them.

Something We Don’t Talk About: The Change

In general, “the change” in a woman’s life is usually a pretty personal issue. Some women will talk about it with their close friends, but very few women will speak publicly about the symptoms of menopause. I’ll tell you honestly, it stinks! Unfortunately, women in my family start the transition into post-child bearing years fairly young. I’m pretty sure that I started to feel the effects of perimenopause in my mid-30s, a phenomenon that some people might think is strange. It started with heart racing first, then moved into random nights of sleeplessness, and then the terrible mood swings.

Unless you have experienced these symptoms yourself, you start to think that you are going crazy. Especially when you feel like you want to smash everything in your presence, like you have suddenly become She-Hulk. And those mood swings come out of nowhere. One minute, I’m all smiles and good cheer, and the next minute I seriously want to drive my car into a wall. I remember when I would feel slightly out of touch with reality when I was in high school. I didn’t associate those moments with hormonal changes, but now I understand that the brain fog just gets worse as I am inching closer and closer to “the change.”

The night sweats started last year. It is not a pleasant feeling to wake up in your sweat, thinking that you must have peed the bed. But no, it’s just the joy of this change in my life. I can usually tell when my random period is going to start up again because the night sweats usually take place over a 2-3 night period about a week before Aunt Flo shows up. And she is showing up more frequently than before. That’s another joy of “the change.” My perfect 28 day cycle is now about 21 days with a few 14 day cycles thrown in, just for fun.

The worst part of this stage in life is that I don’t know when it will end. It could be this year, or next, or I could be experiencing all of these wonderful symptoms for the next ten years. Hopefully, I will follow in the footsteps of the matriarchs in my family and it will end sooner than later.

I wish women would talk about “the change” more frequently than they do. That way, those of us who are going through it won’t feel so psychotic. We talk about our children, our husbands, our jobs, our pets, our vacations, but we avoid conversations about our health, especially our mental health. We need to know that it’s ok to talk to one another about all of the stupid symptoms that we have as our bodies are changing.

We also need to know that it’s ok that we are past our child bearing years. So much of our value comes from getting married and having children, that we somehow feel like we are less than after menopause. But we aren’t. We are still beautiful and powerful women!

Finally, we need to share these experiences with our loved ones so that they don’t call up the authorities and have us committed. We might seem a little crazy some days. We might be all weepy one moment and yelly the next, but to some degree we can’t help it. It is so difficult to stop myself when I’m on a rant. My mom said that it’s like watching a dog get after a bone. And then, I feel so stupid after I’ve screamed at almost everyone in the house. I just want to cry in bed until the feelings all just go away.

If you’re a woman going through “the change,” don’t feel ashamed to find someone to talk with – another woman who is experiencing it along with you, or a women who already has, like your mom, or grandma, or aunt. If you’re the loved one of a woman going through menopause, please be patient with her. Buy her chocolate and rub her feet. She might yell at you, or cry, but she will appreciate the patience and kindness.

Ladies, let’s stop making menopause a taboo topic. Just like all other stages in life, it is a natural progression we experience. And more than anything, love yourself as you go through “the change.” You’re worth it.

Infertility and Trying to Find Peace in the Journey

About twenty years ago, I started to realize that something might be wrong. My husband and I had been married for about five years, and we had stopped using birth control for a few years. We weren’t actively trying to get pregnant, but we also weren’t doing anything to prevent pregnancy. During those few years, I didn’t even skip a period. There was no chance that I had been pregnant even once.

A year after I had this realization, several of our friends started having kids, and I started to worry that I might never get pregnant. Since we had been “trying” for about a year at this point, we made an appointment for a meeting with our health care provider for couples that were having difficulty with fertility. I hated making the phone call. I hated the fact that this part of life was going to be so hard. I hated walking into the room with all of the other couples who couldn’t get pregnant. I hated sitting there and listening to the “process” we would go through to find out what was wrong. I hated the shame I felt that I couldn’t get pregnant, and I know that my husband felt all the same feelings that I did.

The first time we went to the specialist, I remember this sinking feeling that we were going to find out the worst news ever. They took all of our samples, and we waited. Nothing was wrong with either of us – plenty of eggs in my reserve and perfectly good swimmers for my husband. The next step was a perfectly horrible test for me – a hysterogram. If you don’t know what that is, then you’re lucky. It was incredibly painful and very invasive. As I waited on the exam table for the doctors to Xray my uterus, I wanted to sob, knowing once again that we wouldn’t get the best news. But nothing was wrong – no blockage stopping my eggs from traveling the right way to the right spot each month.

So, the doctor told us what we didn’t realize was the worst news. We thought the worst news would be that something was wrong. But no. The worst news was the answer the doctor gave us: unexplained infertility.

The next step was fertility medication for me for the next three months followed by a sonogram every month to make sure that my body wasn’t developing any ovarian cysts. For two months, I was a good soldier: I took the Clomid and waited. The mood swings were pretty bad, but the hot flashes and night sweats were worse. I couldn’t do it. We quit after two months because we felt that if God wanted us to be parents that He would make it happen without fertility medication or other medical interventions.

There are times when I wish I could go back and try for one more month. There are times when I wish that we had gone onto the next step – three more months of Clomid with IVF. What could have happened? Would we have our own son or daughter at this point in life – someone just entering into young adulthood? But there is no point in wondering. We made our choice prayerfully, believing that if God wanted us to be parents that we would be in His timing.

I won’t lie and say that it was an easy decision to make. There have been plenty of years when I have still hoped that there might be a miracle. But for the most part, I gave up about fifteen years ago. So, I mourned quietly, wishing for something that I knew would never be mine.

I won’t lie and say that I didn’t become bitter. In the years since all of our fertility tests, I have watched multiple friends have beautiful babies. In the years since I gave up hope, I have thought horrible things about people that I knew who were pregnant. In the years of bitterness, I once wished a miscarriage on one of my friends – and sadly my wish came true. I avoided baby showers and holding newborns because I couldn’t believe that God would deny me the gift of being a mother.

Before I finally found some sense of peace about our infertility, I started drinking as a way to block out the depression that was starting to sink in. I looked forward to coming home from work just to sit on the front porch with a cooler of hard cider that eventually became tumblers of Southern Comfort and Coke or White Russians.

During that time, I didn’t allow myself to feel any emotions because I was terrified that once the crying stopped that I wouldn’t be able to stop. So, I held in the bitterness. I held in the tears. I developed a pretty thick skin because I didn’t want to let anyone see that I was crumbling inside. Hope was lost.

I finally received peace about our infertility through wise words from a few people. On Mother’s Day 2008, our pastor addressed the women in the church and all of the various ways that women act as mothers in our community. It was the first time that I heard someone acknowledge the “spiritual mothers,” those who come alongside of children and youth through teaching and ministry. Slowly, the wall began to fall down around my heart.

Then, one afternoon, I received a card from my sister who had experienced no difficulty with getting pregnant and was pregnant at the time that I was undergoing fertility testing. As I read her card, the tears began to flow for the first time in a few years. The wall came down a little bit more and I could feel my heart grow tender to the whispering of the Spirit once again.

Finally, after I had opened up at a women’s Bible study about my struggles with infertility, one of the women in our church talked to me about adoption. She counseled me to only seek adoption if I wanted to help a child, not to fill a void in my own life. She said, adoption is not about you as parents but it is about the child that becomes yours.

I hate my journey through infertility. I hate the fact that my husband and I have not had the experience of our first born child or the first time our son or daughter said mommy or daddy. I hate that I can’t look at my own child and see my family or my husband’s family reflected in his smile or his nose or the way that he walks.

I want to say that I am completely at peace with my journey with infertility, but that would be a lie. All that I can admit is that God has given me some peace through years of youth ministry and the adoption of our son ten years ago. I do not want my infertility story to minimize the blessing it has been to help our son into adulthood or the joy we find in watching our former students start their own families. However, I will always wonder why God has not blessed us with our own children. I will always wonder if we missed our chance fifteen years ago when we decided to stop fertility medication. And I think that is the worst part: the wondering.

If you have struggled with infertility, miscarriages, or the loss of a child, know that God is holding you close today. Despite the pain that I have endured, I know that God trusts me to be faithful to him as I walk this journey with Him. I know that He trusts me to tell my story so that I can provide some sense of peace and maybe understanding.

Here is some encouragement for you today:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:3-5, NIV

Thank God I Do

A few weeks ago, I was asked to share my testimony at a women’s Bible study brunch at the end of April. It’s been difficult to find the time to sit down and figure out what I want to share with the ladies in my church. I haven’t shared my testimony in a formal setting in about twenty years, and during those twenty years my testimony has changed in multiple ways. Any time I share my story with someone, I feel called to share a different part of the way that God has transformed me and this time, I’m not sure what direction I need to go.

On my way home from work last week, I heard a new song by Lauren Daigle that touched my heart and reminded me of an important part of my story. When I was in high school, I struggled with anxiety and depression, to the point that I missed about forty days of my senior year. Even though I never had difficulty with school before, I did not want to go to school because I was afraid that I would have a panic attack that would leave me debilitated in front of other people. Eventually, I started going to therapy and taking antidepressants to help me to get back to the point where I could function.

Some people might stop the story there and say that therapy and antidepressants helped them to get out of the abyss of anxiety and depression. But that’s not my story. I remember one morning, I was sitting in our church’s counseling office where I would often spend my days when I wasn’t going to school. The medication wasn’t quite working for me yet, and I was fighting insomnia and random panic attacks while the meds evened out in my system. I called out to God in my need and asked him to rescue me from the depths of my depression. I remember feeling like a light was shining down on me as I reached up to God for help. I can’t say that everything got better immediately, but I was able to go back to school pretty regularly, and I graduated on time with my class despite missing so much school.

Several times in my life, I have been back in the depths of depression. About fifteen years ago, it hit again when I was mourning the fact that I would never have a biological child of my own. At this time, I learned that I could cast out the fear and depression because God has given me victory over depression and anxiety. I began carrying scriptures in my pocket so that I could lean on the promises of Philippians 4:6-7 and Isaiah 43:19.

About five years ago, it hit even harder while my family was trying to help a foster child who was recreating the abuse of his birth family. This time, I struggled with severe insomnia and crying fits that would last for hours. I never thought I would get out of the pit, but with therapy, medication, and God’s rescue, I have overcome depression and anxiety once again. I also accepted the fact that my depression and anxiety are both genetic and physiological not flaws in my character or my faith in God.

As I am finally sitting down to write this part of my story, I am listening to songs by Lauren Daigle. So many of her songs speak to the experience that I have had over and over again of God’s hand of rescue intervening in my life. But her latest song, “Thank God I Do,” resonates with me more than any other, especially the chorus:

“I don’t know who I’d be if I didn’t know you.

I’d probably fall off the edge.

I don’t know where I’d go if You ever let go,

So keep me held in Your hands.”

Lately, my husband and I have been watching The Chosen. To be honest, we avoided it for quite a while because we are usually skeptical of Christian shows and movies. We have several friends that we love and trust who said that we would enjoy the show, but we held out until we finally came to the decision at about the same time: we need to watch The Chosen. If you haven’t watched the show yet, I would encourage you to do so. Even though the writers of the show have created fictional back stories for each of the disciples, the stories of the way that each came to know Christ are so beautiful and so human. Not only that, but they have made Christ so perfectly human in His humor, His grace, His compassion, and His zeal for His Father. I have related to each of the disciples in so many ways as I have watched the show, but recently, I have connected with the story of James the Lesser.

In The Chosen, James the Lesser is written to have some type of physical disability like cerebral palsy. Because of his disability, he often feels less able than the other disciples, but more importantly he questions why Christ does not heal him like He has healed other people. When Christ sends out the Twelve to spread the message, He tells them that they will be able to perform miracles, but James is conflicted.

James confronts Jesus and asks him why Jesus hasn’t healed him yet. He questions how he will be able to heal others when he is on his missionary journey when he is not whole himself. Jesus’s answer to James is both beautiful and challenging at the same time. He tells James that He trusts him. He hasn’t healed James because He trusts James to be faithful to God even if he isn’t healed. He trusts James to heal others in His name, and He trusts that James will glorify God because even in his brokenness he is able to speak of God’s goodness in his own life.

What a challenging idea: when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).

My life has been full of challenges that have caused me to feel broken: my parents’ divorce, infertility, never quite fitting in, anxiety, depression, grief. God has healed me of each of these hurts in my life, but there are times when the thorn sticks deep and I feel weighed down by sickness of the soul. Perhaps God has not completely healed me because He trusts me. He trusts me to keep telling my story to others who need to be encouraged by my testimony. He trusts me to walk beside those who are broken by the same diseases as those I have experienced in my own life. He trusts me to tell others that I wouldn’t know who I’d be if I didn’t know Him because I’d probably fall of the edge. He trusts me to tell others that I don’t know where I’d go if He ever let go, but He keeps me held in His hands.

Let it be so in your own life. Let it be as it should be today. I pray for God’s peace to wash over you in this moment. I pray that Jesus is near to you as He is near to me.

Looking Back…2022

Like many people today, I am reflecting on this last year. 2022 has been a bittersweet year for my family. We have experienced some difficulties but we have also experienced some victories. I am sure that some of you understand this feeling in your own lives.

Last year at this time, my family was grieving the loss of my stepdad, someone who I looked to as one of the strongest male role models in my life. He encouraged me to pursue my teaching career and was always happy to hear how my school year was going. This year, we are grieving the loss of my parents’ dog, Roscoe, who was at times difficult to manage but was mostly a sweet dog. We imagine that Les and Roscoe are in heaven together, celebrating their freedom from pain today.

Last year at this time, my husband was struggling with shoulder pain that he has managed for years. We were preparing for doctor’s visits, MRIs, and physical therapy. This year, my husband is healing from intense shoulder surgery. We are hopeful that his recovery will result in better mobility and permanent relief from pain.

Last year at this time, I had a broken relationship with my son. Since moving to Colorado in the summer of 2021, he had pulled away from my husband and me, trying to forge his own path. He intentionally skipped out on our family’s celebrations of Thanksgiving and Christmas. He never said goodbye to my stepdad, and he never expressed his condolences to my mom. In February of 2022, he officially moved out, claiming that he could make it on his own. Sadly, this past summer, he spent some of his time living on the streets of downtown Colorado Springs and eventually moved from hotel to hotel with a friend. I thought we had lost him.

With a renewed sense of purpose, he moved back in with us, planning on joining the Navy. After meeting all of the enlistment requirements, he shipped off to boot camp, planning what his life would look like as a new recruit. One week after he left for boot camp, he called me and let me know that his graduation date would be postponed because he was sick. He sounded horrible. My heart grieved for him, wishing I could crawl through the phone and hug him. One week after that, he called again. This time, he told me that he couldn’t do it. After being sick, he just couldn’t get his mind to do what needed to be done and he felt like bashing his head against a wall. Again, my heart grieved and I wished I could crawl through the phone and hug him. He called later that day, letting me know that he was being separated from the Navy and that he would not be finishing boot camp. For the last two weeks, I have been waiting to hear when he can come home. By the grace of God, he is coming home next week, after only a few weeks in separation. This year, I am rejoicing in knowing that my son has been returned to me. I look forward in hope to what is next in our relationship and in his life.

This year we have seen trials and triumphs, grief and rejoicing, pain and healing. I am encouraged to remember that God is always faithful. Even when we think that things cannot turn around, God’s promises still stand. Even in the midst of suffering, God is with us, holding us through.

As I look toward 2023, I am encouraged that God will continue to carry me through the trials, promising the triumphs. I hope that in your grieving, you will trust that God will lead you to rejoicing and that in your pain, he will lead you to healing. Be encouraged to seek Him this year and to trust in Him to be faithful.

What are you “for”?

Lately, I have noticed that some people are more focused on proclaiming what they are against than declaring what they are for. Just yesterday I saw yet another political bumper sticker that claimed “Republican: because not everyone can be on welfare.” In a local neighborhood, someone has painted “Let’s Go Brandon” on the side of their house, and a small business has a very offensive mural about the current presidential administration. I am in no way defending the ideology of Democrats or putting down the ideologies of Republicans. However, I have noticed a trend recently that some people loudly shout what they are against about political parties, religions, individual lifestyle choices, and so on.

Now some people may assume that this isn’t dangerous: we all have the freedom of speech, after all. However, I don’t completely agree with this. I do believe that we all have the right to think what we want and to say what we want, but there are times when these negative ideologies can negatively impact those who are impressionable and naive. Sometimes these hostile feelings about other people’s beliefs can have deadly implications.

Recently, there was another mass shooting. Which one, you might be thinking, since they happen so often these days. This mass shooting occurred at Club Q in Colorado Springs, a city which has become dear to my heart having moved to Colorado over a year ago. Obviously, there is still an investigation going on to determine the motive for this shooting, but it seems that this attack was driven by hate. What else would cause someone to enter a club that was hosting a birthday party and open fire on innocent people?

I can’t say that I know why this young man (22 years old!) killed five innocent people in Club Q. However, I can speculate that his motivation was grounded in either an obsession or an intense hatred of people who are transgender and homosexual. Either way, five innocent lives have been lost because of another example of senseless violence.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I firmly believe that our first priority is to love God. Our second priority is to love others. This is not always easy to do, especially in a world that is so focused on political ideologies that oftentimes encourage “believers” to hate others and to blaspheme God. Sadly, I have had to unfollow, block, and unfriend people on social media who are believers mostly because their posts are filled with hate and not love. I cannot understand how someone can know Jesus Christ and still post hateful messages about people. It’s ok to disagree with someone’s views; it’s not ok to plaster mean spirited memes, GIFs, or click bait articles about people.

Christians, we have to do better. If the majority of people who are nonbelievers think that Christians are hypocritical, homophobic, racist, and vengeful, then I don’t think we are proclaiming Jesus Christ as messiah and Lord. Why would anyone want to be in a relationship with someone who is so hateful? If this is how we are showing Christ in our world, then that is how people see Jesus. From my understanding of the life of Jesus, he was loving to those who were living in sin, those who were grieving, and those who were ill; he called out the hypocrisy and sinfulness of those who thought they were righteous. Perhaps, we need to check ourselves.

Our politics should not determine the way that we demonstrate Christ in this world. Our faith in Jesus Christ should determine our politics and the way that we treat other people: no matter what political side they are on, no matter what religion they practice, no matter what gender pronoun they use, no matter what color their skin happens to be, no matter how old they are or how young they are.

Christ calls us to love: there was more that he was for than what he was against. Christ was for healing, reconciliation, grace, encouragement, mercy, and empowerment. What are you for?

Please stop saying that COVID isn’t a big deal

I am generally a pretty healthy person. I remember only a few times being really sick. During my honeymoon, I got bronchitis so bad that one night I didn’t feel like eating anything else but canned green beans. My husband took me to urgent care the next day to get antibiotics. In college, I had some type of virus – not mono – that sapped my energy for about a week. One year over Christmas break I caught a stomach bug that didn’t improve until about New Year’s Eve. But COVID is something else altogether.

Considering the fact that I am a public school teacher, it took me until August of 2022 to get COVID for the first time. My habits didn’t change when the new school year started, but at the end of the first week, I knew that I had caught something. At first, I thought it was just my allergies. I had run out of allergy medicine and didn’t have time to get more until two days had passed with no Zyrtec. I just figured that the sneezing was because the pollen count was so high in Colorado. Then, on Sunday, the sore throat started. But again, it felt like it was sinus related. Pain reliever seemed to help, so I didn’t think anything of it.

At the beginning of the second week of school, I knew that it was more than just allergies. I sneezed probably thirty times on Monday, and by the end of the evening, my nose was so stuffed up that I could hardly breathe through my nose. I slept on and off all night, feeling achy and cold. When I woke up on Tuesday morning, my temperature was just over 101. Obviously, when I tested for COVID, the pink line showed up about three minutes after I put my nose swab sample on the test.

Today, it has been four weeks since my first symptoms started to show up. However, my body is still healing from the aftereffects of the virus. I can’t complain too much – I never had shortness of breath, my fever lasted only a few days, and I didn’t have to go to the hospital for oxygen. But my experience with COVID has made me realize that it still is a big deal. I know that some people would argue with me –

“It’s just a cold.”

“It’s like the flu.”

“I wasn’t too sick. Just a headache for a few days.”

“I got over it pretty quickly.”

“Only people with other health problems get really sick.”

I really wish that people would stop saying that COVID isn’t a big deal when it is. Let me explain.

Stop saying that COVID isn’t a big deal when for the first time in my life, I thought I was never going to feel better. There were a few days that I thought that I was always going to feel exhausted, achy, nauseated. One day I would improve and then the next morning I would wake up wishing I would just die. And I’ve had most of my thyroid removed and basal cell carcinomas removed from my forehead (talk about a headache!)

Stop saying that COVID isn’t a big deal when my husband could hardly walk across the room without feeling like he was going to pass out. Thankfully, he went to urgent care and was prescribed an inhaler, but it was really scary for a few days. He was terrified that he would have to be put on oxygen and that he would eventually die from the virus.

Stop saying that COVID isn’t a big deal when my mom could hardly swallow for the first 48 hours of having the virus. I have seen my mom fight against a lot of what life has thrown at her, but I have never seen her so exhausted and defeated by anything.

Stop saying that COVID isn’t a big deal when a friend’s husband just came home from the hospital after eight months of recovery from the virus. He lost at least one hundred pounds during those eight months, and he was in great physical shape before the disease caused pneumonia and several other infections in his body. At one point, his blood-oxygen level was below 40%. He was given a 5% chance of survival.

Stop saying that COVID isn’t a big deal when it is on the list of history’s seven deadliest plagues along with the Spanish Flu of 1918, three bouts of the plague, and AIDS/HIV. Consider the fact that most of these diseases spread throughout the world before modern medical miracles like vaccines or penicillin even existed.

In recent months, I’ve had several people tell me that COVID isn’t a big deal. Some people are still denying that it even exists. I cannot logically wrap my mind around this, considering my own experience with the virus and how I’ve seen it affect my loved ones.

Today, I’m glad that I have finally stopped coughing after over three weeks. I’m glad that I’m able to breathe comfortably without having to smear Vicks all over my chest and feet (yes, Vicks on bare feet actually works for congestion). I’m glad that I never had the lingering headache that some complain of experiencing.

But the effects of the virus have not gone away completely. Over the course of the last four weeks, I pulled the intercostal muscles in my ribs which is excruciatingly painful, especially when I sneeze. Thankfully, the muscle pain is better today than it was this time last week, but it is a reminder that COVID is a big deal.

As you accept the fact that COVID is a reality that we must live with, be considerate of people’s experiences with the disease. If your round of COVID (or second or third round) wasn’t a big deal, that doesn’t mean that it won’t be a big deal to someone else. We each respond to sickness differently, so your experience may not be the same as someone else’s experience. That is the crazy thing about the virus – each person responds differently and seems to have different symptoms, some that linger and some that are gone pretty quickly.

Be encouraged today to be sympathetic to those around you, especially as we are living in a world with a virus that has the capability of causing multiple complications for many different people. Be reasonable in the way that you talk about the virus, remembering that we all have dealt with it in our own ways. Be loving as you care for those who may be sick or those who may be fearful of getting sick. Be gracious to those who have a different opinion than your own regarding masks, vaccines, and all the other stuff involved with COVID. And finally, “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way you obey the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2 – NLT).

In Memory – The Importance of Being a Witness

I don’t know how people live in this world without knowing Jesus. I am not trying to simplify life by saying that religion will fix everything. In fact, I know that having some sort of faith often complicates life instead. I have never believed that getting saved will solve all of my problems. I have just learned that knowing Jesus means that I have someone to turn to, someone who understands, someone who loves me.

I have always been a people watcher. One of my teachers told my mom that if she wanted to know what was happening in class that she would ask me because I watched everyone. As a teacher myself, this skill of being observant helps me to check in with kids who seem to be struggling either academically or personally. And beyond the classroom, I have watched people’s behaviors to determine how I should act. Early on I realized that I didn’t want to make some of the choices that some people made because I didn’t want to face the consequences that they seemed to be experiencing. As an adult, I still watch people, but my observations are much different than they were when I was a kid.

Now, I watch people through social media. Throughout my adult life, I have built relationships with people from coast to coast, mostly because my husband and I have moved between California and Virginia several times. Many of the friends I have on Facebook are from various churches where we have ministered over the years. Other friends are former students that are now married with their own families. And a few of my friends are those whom I have known since middle and high school. I don’t have a lot of connection with friends from high school, but occasionally, I check in with them, mostly through scrolling through their profiles and pages. As we have all aged, it is fun to watch our kids grow up and to see where we have all landed across the country. However, I have also witnessed broken marriages, broken hearts, and broken lives.

This weekend, one of my best friends from high school reached out to me to let me know that one of our high school friends passed away. For the most part, this is the first person that I was close with in high school that has passed away. I don’t know all of the details of her passing, and I wouldn’t share them here, if I did. However, one thing that I know is that she was hurting. It wasn’t always clear from what she posted on Facebook, but there were indications that things were not as they seemed. She was always good about putting on a smile. In fact, that was the one thing that I always remember about her from high school – her sweet smile. Sadly, I hadn’t been in contact with her for quite some time, mostly because of some misunderstanding or disagreement during my senior year of high school. I can’t exactly remember what happened, but I do know that my contact with her recently was just through her posts on Facebook – pictures of her sons and her occasional selfies. The smile was still there – but I don’t know how real it was.

I have learned through the years to listen very carefully to the Holy Spirit. Most nights, my hound wakes me up to go run around the yard. Some nights, I have trouble going back to sleep and at times, faces from my past come to mind. There are even nights when I will have dreams of old boyfriends or friends that I haven’t seen in at least twenty years. Most of the time, I pray for the people that come to mind either through dreams or when their faces appear before me. Prayer is one of the best ways that I can help someone, but after the news I received this week, maybe I need to do more. I don’t know what that looks like, but I know that I have something that so many people need: Jesus.

It’s always interesting to me when I receive friend requests from friends from high school. That’s because most of them know that I was a fairly strong Christian back then. Every week, my mom would pick up a group of my friends and take them to youth group. My friend that passed this weekend was one of those friends. Since we lost contact, I don’t know whether or not she had any relationship with God. I don’t know if she went to church. I don’t know if she knew that Jesus was just a prayer away. I do know that I could have reached out to her.

One of the most difficult things for me as a Christian is to minister to my friends and family. Through Facebook, I am connected to over five hundred people – family members, friends from my past, church people, former students, colleagues. I know that not all of them know Jesus. I know that some of them are struggling. Like I said at the beginning, I don’t know how people live in this world without knowing Jesus. I believe that the only way that I have made it through many of the struggles of my own life is because I know that Jesus loves me. I know that he comforts me. I know that he guides me. I know that he protects me.

Today, I am challenged to be a better witness of the love of Jesus. Yesterday, my pastor shared that when he was first starting in ministry that he didn’t know what he was doing. He came across a book that helped him to see that the best prayer in this time of his life was to ask God to create in him the ability to be a youth pastor. He encouraged us yesterday to pray these types of prayers. So, today I am asking God to create in me a witness of Jesus Christ. To help me to minister to my friends and family members – those who know Jesus and those who don’t. If you are a follower of Jesus, I encourage you to do the same. Pray that God will help you to minister to those you love.

Pro-Love: Part Two

On June 24, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed Roe vs. Wade, a landmark case that provided abortion rights for women across the country. Instead of abortion being a federal right, the court provided the states the opportunity to make their own laws around abortion. For some, this represented a victory against the evil of destroying innocent lives. For some, this represented a set back in history that could lead to other similar reversals. I argued in a previous post that in order for the nation to be able to ethically ban abortions, there were several things that need to be addressed such as sex education and the foster care system. My previous post discussed my concerns about abstinence only education in states that have almost entirely banned abortion as a legal right of women.

A second concern related to abortion bans across the country has to do with the state of the foster care system in the United States. As an adoptive mother and a former foster mother, this is personal. In order to be a licensed foster parent, an individual needs to undergo training that includes an understanding of the legal ramifications of foster care and adoption, trauma sensitivity, abuse recognition and prevention, and other topics specific to each individual case. In my training, we heard stories of conditions that caused certain children to be taken into care – situations of extreme abuse and neglect. We also heard stories of children who experienced similar if not worse conditions in foster placement. As a foster parent, you learn not to be surprised when a child tells you about their past, a sad reality in our world today.

The 2021 Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) reported that in 2020, 407,493 children were in foster care. Over 200,000 children both entered and exited foster care which means that over 600,000 children were at one time in the system during 2020. Of that number only 57,881 children were adopted with the assistance of a public welfare agency while over 170,000 children were waiting to be adopted. The remaining children were in the system until they could be reunited with their birth family or until a family member could become their legal guardian. Of the children in foster care, 45% were in foster placement with someone outside of their birth family while 54% were waiting to be reunified with family.

It is easy to gloss over these statistics and forget that these numbers represent individual children. In my own experience as a foster mother, I had the privilege of mothering two boys. Both boys were about the same age when they entered my home at different times. The first boy experienced severe neglect in his birth home and was allowed to sit in his room in the dark, playing video games most of the time. Due to his experience in his grandparents’ home, he still struggles with video game addiction and making lasting connections with others. He was adopted at fourteen and is now struggling to live independently. The second boy witnessed first hand extreme violence at the hands of his mother’s live-in boyfriend. Due to his experiences, he regularly threw temper tantrums that would sometimes last for hours. Today he is still in need of a forever home after more than seven years in the system.

These two stories are not necessarily the norm. Some children are able to be reunited with their birth family, and the goal of many foster care parents is to participate in this reunification. Other times, the courts terminate parental rights of the birth family because the conditions of the home are not safe for reunification to be a reality. In both cases of my boys, parental rights had been terminated which meant that the foster care system had determined that their plan was adoption. One boy was looking forward to adoption while the other wanted desperately to be back with his birth family despite the possibility of further abuse and neglect.

So what does this have to do with abortion? In my experience and opinion, everything. I would never suggest that these boys would be better off if their mothers had aborted them. I am so blessed that I have been a part of both of their lives. However, I am concerned that with abortion bans across the nation that the number of children in foster care will rise. Currently, it does not seem as if the states that have banned abortions will begin to provide for the economic, medical, and psychological needs of the mothers who will carry unwanted pregnancies to full term. Despite the fact that people across the United States want to protect the lives of unborn children, it doesn’t seem like many are willing to do anything to help these children once they are born.

I try not to be a pessimist when I look at the state of the foster care system; however, with my personal experience as a licensed foster mother, I know how difficult it is to parent children who have been in abusive situations. It is not for the faint of heart. My first foster placement was successful, meaning that it progressed with my husband and I adopting our son. However, my second foster placement was not successful which means that it did not progress to adoption. Our second placement was removed from our home and placed temporarily with another family because he was attempting to recreate the abusive situation that he was used to with his birth family. This experience broke our hearts. We wanted so desperately to be his forever family, but he was not ready emotionally or psychologically.

In order to live in a nation where abortion is not necessary, we need to seriously consider the ways in which children exit foster care. Sadly, the number of children in foster care has not changed much in recent years. I know that this is due to many factors; however, the number of children that have been adopted in recent years has also remained steady. This suggests that potential families have not made the sacrifice and commitment to become forever families for children in desperate need of belonging. It suggests that people are not willing to take care of children in need even though they are arguing for the protection of unborn babies. I just can’t help but see the double standard.

Not everyone can be foster parents or adoptive parents. Not all families can take on the responsibilities of helping to care for children that have been neglected and abused. However, I believe that there are more couples and families, especially those in the Church, who would be wonderful parents for children who need to be given safety and love. It is our call as people of God to care for those who are in need:

  • James 1:27 says, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress”
  • Psalm 82:3 says, “Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute”
  • Isaiah 1:17 says, “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans”

If people in the Church are to applaud the reversal of Roe vs. Wade, then they must also be willing to seek justice, defend the weak, help the oppressed, and care for orphans. At this point in the history of the American Church, I do not believe that we are doing enough. Instead, people tend to argue that women should just put their children up for adoption instead of having an abortion, but many are not willing to adopt or foster a child. People argue that people should just stop having sex, like that is a reasonable solution. Instead of showing love toward those in need, some are showing their lack of concern.

We are called to be pro-love in all that we do. This includes seeing the marginalized, helping the poor, defending the weak, loving mercy. Sadly, a decrease in abortions across the nation will more than likely mean an increase of children in foster care. What are we willing to do to help? What are you willing to sacrifice to stand behind your conviction to love your neighbor?