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Pretty Girls Poop Too

Dear Daughter,

I realize you are having such a hard time at your new school. You are a strong and smart fifth grade student with an incredible future ahead. I’m sorry that you are struggling with the “pretty girls” at school. Self-image is such a pitfall at your age. Whether or not one is skinny enough, pretty enough, outgoing enough. Has the right clothes, shoes, or hair-dos.

I wish I could make you understand what you will understand in 20 years. That is absolutely none of that matters. When you are 30 and you look back at fifth grade, you might look back as it was a bad year. You might feel like it was inconsequential. You might even end up looking back at it with fondness.

The truth of the matter is, my dear daughter, you are beautiful! You have a will for success that most adults are still looking for. You are capable and able to quite literally become anything you set your mind to, because you work hard and have incredible focus. I don’t say that because I’m a mom cheering on my sweet girl. I say that because you are who you are!

When the pretty girl mentality starts to weigh you down. When it starts to cause your internal voice to say “you aren’t good enough.” Remember one thing; pretty girls poop, too.

Since you understand how ugly pooping can be, you can now with 100% assurance know that pretty girls are not pretty all the time! 🙂

I can tell you, my dear daughter, that beauty at this age is quite literally skin deep. Just because one shows beauty on the outside, does not mean they are pretty on the inside. It takes class and character to be beautiful on the inside. These are characteristics you embody.

I will always encourage you to be your best, work hard, and always strive to succeed! You are an asset to this world! Be who you are meant to me. Be you!

Lovingly,

Your Momma

 

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Death Is Not Final

January 29, 2016 was one of the hardest days of my life. That day we buried my father’s remains in Southern Nevada Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery. I was honored to give the Homily for my dad’s service. I am not a minister. I am not a theologian. I have not been trained in special schools. But I do have the Holy Spirit. After I accepted the call to write this message, I became nervous, but comforted in knowing that I was doing what I was told to do.

Below is the message I gave to my dad’s family and friends.

Our New Testament reading comes from 1 Corinthians 15: 35-40. Hear the word of the Lord,

“But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another.”

When I sat down to write this homily, it was more difficult than I thought it was going to be. Trying to make a coherent message while still trying to grieve the loss of my dad.
I realized several things through this process.
1) Death is final. There are no more phone calls, no more photographic opportunities. It’s heartbreaking. It’s sad. It can cause rifts in families. It can bring a strong Christian to her knees. Death in this life is rough.

But then I remember what Jesus says in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted…”

This verse is Jesus providing a shoulder, a hug, an open conversation with our Savior who can comfort us like no other can. He understands our loss, our heartbreak and our sadness. He is able to hold us up in times like these, even though death is final.

2) I also understood our bodies are incredibly fragile. We think we can become invincible. Like body builders. Our bodies cannot withstand the years of abuse we do to them. It cannot remove the toxins from taking advantage of our organs. Our bodies are imperfect and in a constant state of decay. But with these imperfect bodies, comes the responsibility to take care of them. To use them for God’s glory, to be a vessel of the Good News even when we are feeling like we simply can’t. To take times like these, and turn them into messages of hope, of education, or sympathy.

My dad’s body was torn up. It was weak and fragile. When I visited him just a month ago, his body was failing him. He knew it. And that was hardest part to see. My dad was strong when I was growing up. He worked in our yard, fixed our cars, taught me how to change a tire, my oil, brakes and spark plugs. He reshingled our two-story home tied onto the roof by a rope. He FELL from that roof landing on a pile of shingles littered with roofing nails, and got back up there the next day to finish the job. My dad’s body was strong, but as age and years of bad habits took its toll, his body failed him.

However, as the initial scripture says, “the splendor of our heavenly bodies is of another.” And that our earthly bodies are not our heavenly bodies. And thankfully, when our bodies fail us, we can be gifted a new and perfect one.

3) Third, our days have been written in the book. But we do not know when our day comes. My dad’s day came January 5, 2016. Too soon it feels like. But who am I really to question what God’s plans are? The one and only benefit I find in funerals is the reunion with family that I have not seen in years. And then my question comes, “Why do we wait until we lose someone to come together?” This should be a push for people to see each other more often.

4) Lastly, and probably most importantly, is my even more in depth understanding of Jesus’ paving of the way for all of us. See, he wasn’t just born, lived and then died in vain. He did this to prepare a way for each of us to spend eternity in heaven with the Lord, and with each other.

Jesus says in John 14: 1-4, ““Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”

Jesus died so that when my dad died, when you or I die, we can join him among streets paved with gold, in harmony and everlasting peace. So that we can die here, to be born in Heaven. By accepting his free gift of grace, we get all of that!

Death isn’t final. Death is the beginning of a time with eternal peace, eternal health, perfected bodies, and joy beyond measure.

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We Live. We Die. The End.

We live. We die. The end.

Not quite the beginning of a writing one would expect. But I think it pretty much sums up, in three sentences, a story.

I cannot sleep. I was pondering the death of my dad. Not how he died, but the simple “he lived and then he died.” Is that really the end?

He had very few possessions, no wealthy bank accounts, his home isn’t worth the effort to sell. All his worldly possessions were only valuable to him. As his daughter, his items mean nothing to me, but likely meant a lot to him. Now, he’s dead and his possessions mean nothing to him.

In fact, he no longer has an earthly body. He was cremated. So that wraps up his story. I guess. Right? Doesn’t that wrap up all our stories. We are made of the earth; we go back to the earth.

But what about those of us still here? Still living this life? Without the person who has passed on. Does this mean that they are suppose to just move on and forget about the person who died? After all, we live we die the end.

No amount of prayer, grief, or tears will change the hands of time. No amount of money, belongings or inheritances can take the place of the lost loved one. No planning or preparation can remotely ready the heart, head and soul for the death of a loved one. Yet, we mourn as if all of this will change anything. We beg God to bring them back. We yell out in anger hoping for that one miraculous, “Oh he’s still alive.” We bargain and barter, “I will change, just bring him back.” But nothing.

Death is the one final guarantee in this life. You can change spouses, your friends, your lifestyle, your health, your jobs, your path. You cannot change your death. It will happen. And it is final. How we cope with this finality is a choice.

Some people cry uncontrollably, have emotional outbursts, are unable to do daily tasks. Some push through the emotion, properly channel it, and work through it maybe through exercise, jobs, or other tasks. Others partition that experience off, pretending that it never existed in the first place.

The one question that people get when someone dies is, “Was it expected?” Is an expected death supposed to be easier to deal with than an unexpected death? It’s still a death. Someone still died and left this world. Their earthly body no longer existing for our engagement.

My dad’s death was preventable. I am not sad that he died. I understand death as a part of life. I am sad that my children won’t get to experience him as a grandpa, that I won’t get to hang out with him when I’m in my 40s and 50s. I am sad that he left this world so young. But death, I am not sad about. I’m angry about the now miss opportunities, the missed celebrations. Death, I am not sad about.

I look at death very differently than a lot of people I know. Life and death are linked together. Permanently. We cannot change that. Our days have been numbered. We cannot change that. As unfortunate as it is to have lost my dad so young, it was his chosen day to die. How can I be angry about that? How can I be confused about that?

I am dealing with my dad’s death much differently than some, I suspect. I am heartbroken that I cannot call him, see him, or visit with him. I am not sad that he has left this crazy world for the next.

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Technology and Salvation

Technology is an amazing thing. We can call anyone at anytime and talk to them about anything. I grew up in a day when long distance phone calls were “scheduled.” Like Gramma called on Tuesday night, for example. Now we can call at any point and usually get someone on the phone, because our phones go with us everywhere.

There was a time when my dad didn’t have a cell phone. Brief, but nonetheless there was a time. Finally, I convinced him to get a pay as you go phone because he liked to take long rides on his motorcycle.

Tomorrow is Sunday. The second Sunday since my dad died that I won’t dial his number to talk to him. It’s still not sinking in that he is not going to be on the other end. I am scared that one Sunday I will call his number only to realize too late that he won’t be there to receive my call.

I was talking with Aaron this evening about how I’m not a complete emotional mess about my dad’s death. He says it is because I saw him. I saw how his quality of life was disappearing. That anything beyond the hospital was not going to be living, but surviving. He said that I was witness to just how bad life was going to be to him, so death was a relief.

Some will get angry at that comment. But it’s like watching someone with terminal cancer live for everyone around them. My dad did NOT need to live for anyone around him. Yes, his choices put him where he was, but if I had to choose between the life he was going to live post-ICU and the hopeful afterlife I hope he gets to experience, I will choose the latter.

My heart is broken about the things we will miss out on in experiencing with my dad. The things his grandchildren won’t experience. My soul is satisfied that leaving his imperfect body was the best alternative.

I know there will be times where I am heartbroken, my sadness and grief will overwhelm me. My days will be long. My thoughts will wander.

But my understanding in salvation and having been told my dad had accepted Christ years ago, gives me satisfaction that he is likely spending time with loved ones awaiting my arrival (which hopefully won’t be for many many human years).

From dust we came and dust we shall go.
When is my time? I do not know.
I can only pray that when it is my day,
My children will know I chose Jesus one day.

Never miss an opportunity to talk to your loved ones about the saving grace of Jesus. He is and always will be the our path to Heaven.

Rest in peace, Dad! I love you!

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One Heartbeat

Have you ever thought about the value of a heartbeat? How with one motion over and over your heart keeps your body functioning. How as your heart beats about 100,000 times in one day and it does this daily for all the years of your life. If I do the math, my dad’s heart beat nearly 2,263,000,000 times. Then it stopped.

When I was little, I use to lay on his chest and listen to his slow and steady heart beat over and over. It would put me to sleep, I’m told. I’m also told, that his heart stopped Monday morning. That is essentially what took his life. Not the last heart beat, but the first moment it didn’t beat.

Thirteen years ago we nearly lost him to Legionnaires Disease. And while we spent 10 days in the shock trauma ICU, we were obsessed with a few of his stats, one being his heartbeat. It ranged from 20-50 beats per minute depending on how hard it was working to keep him alive along with the full life support he was on. I remember that 10-day experience like it was yesterday.

When I visited my dad daily in the ICU in San Antonio, I was drawn to his stats. Looking for anything that did NOT mirror the stats of October 2002. And while my dad had absolutely no understanding of how close to death he was back then, he knew it this time. His heart was not the strong heart it use to be. It didn’t beat consistently or strongly.

It’s strange watching your parent in such a fragile state. That, along with 2002, are images I will be unable to erase from my memory. Fear and regret filled his eyes. He was unable to talk because he had a ventilator assisting his breathing. He held my hand, but his grip was so weak. His heart rate was very slow, 40ish beats per minute. I think it was the accidental monitoring of his heart rate that caused me to know it would be the last time I would see him.

One heartbeat seems like such an invaluable part of our function. But when that heartbeat stops.

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Denial

There is quite a bit of surreal reality filling my world right now. Something strange about death. Especially when it’s the death of a parent. When you’re a child you believe your parents will live forever. I remember the day when I was a teenager the finite nature of my parents became reality. It was a day when my mom’s cousin passed away leaving my cousins without their mother when we were only in high school. Until that point, I lived in a fantasy state of mind that my parents were immortal.

The realization that my parents will one day pass away, as others have, was a discussion filled with lip service. Then, January 5, 2016 happened.

One day in and I believe that denial is what this phase is called. In an attempt to get my husband home earlier than the 15th my aunt e-mailed me my dad’s death certificate. Of course, because it’s an international travel issue, and flights like that are booked well in advance, we will not succeed with this attempt. However, opening that attachment made this experience all the more real.

My denial comes in alternating swings with realization. It’s easy to continue to focus on my kids, my day to day responsibilities and ignore the fact that my dad is, indeed, dead. That dialing his phone number and hearing his “Joe’s Crab Shack” or “Hello Alaska” greetings will not happen anymore. His voice was always so comforting and soothing on the phone. A deep raspy voice. Our sometimes quick, but always worth it phone calls. I tried to call him every Sunday. Usually on my way to the grocery store. I forgot a few times.

Since he moved to San Antonio in 2004, I called my dad every Sunday. It seemed to help me with the fact that I could no longer see him on a whim. So hearing his voice and talking through problems, or just updating him on how we were became the norm.

My last moments with my dad, I knew would be the last time I saw him. It is heart wrenching. December 23, 2015 at 1:30 p.m. I told my dad I loved him very much and walked out of my dad’s hospital room. I will not see him again, at least not in this life. I won’t hear his voice. Hear him call me “Sam.” Or hear him say “Love you too, punkin.”

I have three voicemails on my cell phone. I’ve listened to them multiple times to try to bring him back to me. It’s one of those denial moments.

My heart is aching to turn back time 48 hours. My mind is playing memories of moments over and over I had with my dad. My soul longs to know that he is at peace.

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THESE ARE MY PEOPLE

My beautiful family

My beautiful family

We love to have fun

We love to have fun

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Human Christians

I am confused!

At what point did it become a bad thing to be a Christian in THIS country? At what point did it become a bad thing to be an Atheist in THIS country? At what point did it become a bad thing to be Jewish? Or anything else regarding religious freedoms…

I’m confused because I love all my friends, family, acquaintances, “enemies,” those who agree with my faith and even more so those who disagree. Every single one of these people challenge me, encourage me, and usually always make me feel even stronger about the sacredness of Biblical contexts.

There are many things happening in our country that get A LOT of media attention. And it’s not always something that makes me proud to say they are my brother or sister in Christ. Even my brothers and sisters in Christ struggle with sin, judgmental attitudes, arrogance, and the like.

Our human nature is the same as a non-believer. We struggle with infidelity, jealousy, bigotry, drunkenness, addiction, pride, greed, lust. We struggle with the desire to better our selves in a world that touts  a “self-help” mentality. We struggle with holding our tongue, controlling our anger, turning our cheeks. We even struggle with loving our neighbors as ourselves. We love our kids like a non-believer, we help our friends, family and others. We care about our country. We vote for elected officials. We seek higher education to be better contributors to our society. We DO seek to better our selves to be better members of boards, communities, playgroups.

All that the same as a non-believer, there is one main difference for a believer to a non-believer and that is we wholeheartedly believe we do NOT have to do any of that alone. But that does not make a Christian better than a non-Christian.

In our country. In this world. In this society, WHY would one person want to travel these merciless roads alone? Why would you want to face adversity in a no-win situation alone? Who wouldn’t want a best-friend, a guide, someone who MIGHT already know the outcome by your side helping you call the plays?

That person to the Christian is the Lord. He knows our paths. Knows the end result. He has gone before us and set our direction to bring Him glory and us (and others) blessings. We are just people trying to find our way back to a home we desire to live and share the Joy that comes from following that path.

So when you see a Christian that is as flamboyant or outspoken like Kim Davis, who is struggling with understanding exactly what grace is, be that example to her with the grace you may not have faith in. Show her or others what you expect Christians to behave like.

God loves each of us perfectly through our imperfections. What a world it would be if we loved each other unconditionally the same way.

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Christian Brothers and Sisters, Where Were We?

Dear Friends,

The legalization of same-sex marriages is the least of our concerns. Our world is being shrouded in darkness. Where were we when the world needed light? Where were we when our neighbors were struggling with infidelity? Drug abuse? Domestic abuse? Children attitudes? Where were we when our president was elected? When our leaders were elected? When the country we love so much was under attack?

Where were we when our children were asking for guidance? Love? Patience? Attention?

Where were we when children were killing each other? When words became violence? When pornography became an acceptable form of entertainment? When bigotry and hypocrisy became normal behaviors for believers?

I know where I wasn’t. I wasn’t on my knees daily praying. I wasn’t on my knees praying for our leaders. I wasn’t asking for guidance in my decisions. I wasn’t paying enough attention to my neighbor. I wasn’t looking for ways to be light in a dark situation. I wasn’t a listening ear. I was an irritated partner in drama.

And here we are! In a world, where when any moment of the absence of light, Satan pounces on. This world is not my home, and I know that. But that does not give me license to be lazily moving about. It does not give me permission to walk past the homeless person and not ask if they need help. It does not give me permission to argue over semantics with a non-believer all the while hoping my Bible thumping will change their ways.

Satan is waiting at every moment for us to fall asleep. He is waiting for our laziness and apathetic Christian practices to appear. That becomes his moment. That becomes the moment he slithers in and makes mountains out of mole hills.

Friends, we are called to be light. We are called to be salt. We are supposed to be the love in an unlovable situation. We should ooze joy out of us because we have Jesus in us.

Jesus wasn’t a wayward friend. He didn’t pick and choose the sins of those he would be okay with, all the while dismissing others. He loved everyone. BUT he was firm in his “go and sin no more.”

I am a sinner. I believe fully that Corinthians identifies sin. It does not sugar coat it. I believe in Biblical Marriage. But I am not willing to let my friends and family that are homosexual feel like any less of a person. I will stand up for them. I will not let anyone bully them. I will not let anyone bash them.

I will not let ANYONE bash my Jesus!

Friends, pray. Do not let Satan slip through. We can pray for God’s miraculous hand in our world. We can pray that he will heal, forgive, provide mercy and grace. That more will come to see his gift of Salvation is free! Do not allow darkness to enter where you can be light!

Satan is pouncing all over this divide caused by this unfortunate divide between some Christians and the LGBTQ community. He is LOVING the arguing. He is feasting on anger and frustration. We cannot let him have this moment. Love everyone, because we are NOT perfect. Do not let your spiritual light dim or go out for any moment. Be in the Word and prayer all the time. Pray without ceasing. Love without conditions.

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Sometimes I Refuse to Cry

Sometimes I refuse to cry.

It’s not because I’m cold-hearted or unemotional. It’s not because I don’t feel anything. It’s not even because I happy all the time.

Truth is sometimes I refuse to cry because crying forces me to actually release emotion. It makes me admit there is something in my life that makes me so uncomfortable that I have a physical reaction to it. Sometimes I refuse to cry because if I cry it means I acknowledge that something is different or is going to be different.

In a little over a week, my family will move. We will leave the home we’ve lived in for 6.5 years. We will leave the region of Alaska we have called home for just under 7 years. We will leave the home we brought our baby boy home to when he was born; where our daughter learned to ride her bike without training wheels; where our son learned to walk; where we had emotional arguments and happiness; where we watched sunsets and sunrises through illness; where we hosted many cookouts and parties; made memories; watched probably over a million cars pass in front of our house over the course of 6 state fairs; leaving behind the climbing tree that MANY kids first learned to climb in; a home with an incredible amount of character; a church family that embraced me in the weakest of moments that loved my kids as their own; friends that have been through many dark times with us as well as many more happy times; babies that have turned into kids; kids that have turned into teens; and a community that we have called home.

Sometimes I refuse to cry because I have connected with some amazing people instantly. Like my Teaching Assistant, Amber, We met and connected within a week. I feel like we’ve been working together for years. Like Rachel, my friend that I can ALWAYS count on to tell me like it is in the most loving and caring and blunt way possible. Like Cassie, who took my kids in her home immediately when I was desperate for childcare and turned out to love my kids like they were her own and has always been ready and willing to help me out of a jam without question. Like Kristina, a friend that has been in the trenches with me and yet we always come out closer on the other side. Or Sarah, my teacher friend who supported me when I went back to work and gave me some deep words of wisdom, or could sympathize when I was struggling with the whole working thing in the first place. Or the countless friends that I connected to and moved away first (jerks 😉 )

Sometimes I refuse to cry because it just plain sucks.

Other times, I refuse to cry because I know that I have a Savior and His plan is perfect. He has big things in store for my family. How do I know? Satan is trying to throw us off track. He only does that when we follow God’s direction and guidance.

Usually I refuse to cry, because I don’t want others to cry.

But …

This is not one of those times. Right now I want to cry.

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