Give me a moment

This was composed while I waited today for the doctor during my 6 week post-op from my hysterectomy -a day after Father’s day. My surgery was 3 days before Mother’s day. I can hear them checking for an unborn baby’s heartbeat next door. A week after my surgery, my first post-op, I heard the same. It’s a beautiful sound. It’s breath taking moment that I am unexpectedly forced to participate in.  

If you love someone in my shoes or who struggles with infertility or the horrible sorrow that comes with miscarriages– love them enough to give them a moment. I know they want to be excited for you, but emotions tend to rear their heads at odd moments. 

Ladies, and gentlemen, who also struggle with this grief, love yourself enough to give yourself that moment. 

(A letter to a friend)

(Internet search for ultrasound heartbeat)

Give Me A Moment (RKG 6/2017)

Please, just give me a moment. 

Just a few to catch my breath. 

Just a few to stop the tears.

Please, my friend, just give me a moment to grieve. 

Give me a chance to package up these emotions and store them in a safe place. 

I’ll be happy for you in just a moment, but this is still so new. 

No matter how many years go by, knee jerk reactions might still bring tears to my eyes.

It’s not against you, please don’t ever think that.

But, you see, grief is this weird thing. It ebbs and flows and sometimes attempts to drown you like a sneaker wave.

Even if I had known this was needed, so that I can have a better life, grief is waiting for those moments when I think I’m past the pain. 

The what ifs and the could have beens, are annoying little mosquitos waiting to suck the joy out of your moment.

So please. Just give me a moment to spare you unwarranted pain. 

You deserve your joy and your excitement. Please, help me not to tarnish it.

I am so happy for you, my dear sweet friend. I’ll be the first to plan your shower of joy, if you just give me a moment to wipe the unexpected tears from my eyes. 

My joy for you will overshadow these feelings of sadness for a future left unwritten, if you but give me a moment to acknowledge the pain it carries. 

I have such plans to spoil your beloved little joy, books to read, games to play. If you would just sit a moment with me under my little rain cloud. 

Just hold my hand for a moment, please.

I’ll dry off these tears and force my smile until it’s real. I’ll hold that little sweet bundle and count the toes. 

I’ll wait until I’m home, before I think of the no longer possible. 

Don’t give me platitudes because you can’t think of what to say. Just promise me to chew on your words a little before you say them to me.

I don’t want to be bitter, so please just give me a moment. 

I’ll be happy for you. I’ll be so excited for you, if you just know that I need a moment.

A moment to shake hands with my grief. 

A moment to acknowledge the empty space in me. 

A moment to remind myself, that grief is okay, but so is joy. 

Give me a moment to move pass this sorrow so I can be with you in your joy.

Please, give me just a moment.

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This is connected to my post Fight For Your Health if you are curious to what lead to this letter. 

I also encourage you dear reader, that if you find either post encouraging or enlightening, to please like it on this blog so others might be able to find it. In this world of blogs, billions of posts are published every day. Help a writer out and put a star on one that helps you! 

Fight for your health 

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This blog post has to do with women’s health. It may be considered graphic to some. This is my story. In no way am I an expert, but this is my fight for my health.

….

….

I’ve debated about writing such an intimate post for months. Then after finally having surgery three weeks ago, I really started praying about it.

I am not an expert. I did not explore all avenues, but I did commit to a very life changing surgery in the attempt to live better.

I realized that knowledge is power. That doctors don’t know everything. That second, third, fourth, and eighth opinions are worth it because it is my health.

I realized that if I didn’t have my mom, my own age friends, and the multiple years of experience found in the older ladies in my life, I could have very well kept living with the pain. I had three or four doctors tell me it is normal.

It is not normal.

If you are living with similar pain–or any unexplainable pain, you have the right to fight for your health. You have the right to demand the doctors listen to you. If they won’t, find a doctor who will.

You are the one who has to live in your body. No one else. The doctors don’t, your friends and family don’t either.

Your body is telling you something is wrong. Pain is your body’s way of telling you to help it. Those who are use to pain too often accept it until the pain gets so bad you can no longer function.

I was quickly getting to that point.

Every single day I lived with pain as my constant companion.

Every day my lower back felt like someome had my spine in a vice as they twisted and pulled it. Occasionally every few hours, I’d get a hot poker stabbing me in the middle of that vice. The feeling of hot lightening would flare through my legs followed by wobbly knee numbness.

My abdominal muscles were equally tyrannical in their doling out of pain. I did not know a day without cramps. Cramps. Such a tame word for something so encompassing.

These muscle “spasms,” would knock the breath out of me and more than once had me running to the bathroom to throw up. Imagine a water balloon. When you tap it, the whole balloon shakes with the contact. That is how these cramps were like for me. I felt it throughout my whole body.

My back pain would multiply during my cramping sessions. Though moments without cramping were few and far between, and as the years went by, even more fleeting.

I had constant headaches that no medication would touch. Two doctors gave me muscle relaxants to calm the spasms to help relieve the headaches, not the cramps or the back pain. One other doctor told me to take a different relaxant during the worse of my cycle to ease the pain. They wanted to throw pills at the problem rather than find the cause.

I bled every day of the month. I have no clue what a “regular” period looks like. I bought 4 months worth of heavy overnight pads that would usually not last me a complete month.

I was always fatigued, from the pain and the bleeding. I battled nausea throughout the month as well as painful gas and other digestion issues.

There was no relief.

I sought after an chiropractor who at least helped to keep me moving despite the back pain and gave me a few hours to a few miraculous days of less pain.

An acupuncturist who helped me at least manage my digestion issues so it wasn’t too consuming, and she also helped take the sharpest edge off of some of my headaches.

And also a Structural Integrationist, whose knowledge helped me to keep breathing despite the pain. Her work on my muscles helped me keep a range of motion that I think would have disappeared if she hadn’t loosened up my joints.

Despite all of these wonderful practioners who truly know their trade and the human body, I didn’t find lasting relief. I just found temporary bandages that last for too fleeting of a moment.

While I had other damage done to my joints, muscles, and bones due to various injuries, that pain was nothing compared to this.

There is a family history of menstrual cycle problems. Some of the women had hysterectomies after having their children because of the pain and bleeding. At least one of the women had endometriosis and tumors.

Every time I brought up the possibility of endometriosis to the doctors, they told me I was too young or there was no proof that I had it.

They instead prescribed numerous hormone treatments that all made me very sick from the age of 17 to 21. Every time I would complain about a horrible side affect, they’d try another. At least three of those treatments are now featured on ads for medical lawsuits. I eventually gave up on them. They didn’t help anything–no lessening of blood or pain. Didn’t even help with my acne! All I got from them was severe nausea, joint pain, and a crabby attitude.

The only truly conclusive way to prove endometriosis was through exploratory surgery. It would take me nearly nine years of doctor searching to find one who was willing to do that exploratory.

Only for her to do lack luster job of it. She told me that my surgery would last a minimum of an hour and half, but probably be two hours. I would have a minimum of four incisions but will probably have five.

I was praying as I signed the release form, that maybe her scalpel would slip, so I would have to have an emergency hysterectomy. That should tell you how exhausted I was physically and emotionally facing that surgery.

I was under anesthesia for a total of 30 minutes and only had 2 incisions. She found polyps, scrapped my uterus, and was done. That was it. At post-op when I couldn’t handle the disappointment and started crying, she told me that I’d have to get used to my “supposed” pain. And offered me another muscle relaxant.

Her bedside manner sucked.

And my pain became even worse. My bleeding was so excessive after the polyp removal and scrapping, I was changing pads every two hours if I was lucky. My cramping was making me vomit, and no matter how I laid, I couldn’t stop my back from hurting. I’d wake multiple times during the night because it was hurting so badly.

I was becoming bitter. I had trusted my doctors to help me, and they weren’t. My emotional health was finally starting to cave under the pressure of the chronic pain. I was becoming angry at the drop of the hat and my patience was in short supply. I wasn’t me.

The masks that I wore to hide the pain were starting to fray.

It was affecting my ability to care for my client. It was affecting my spiritual life as well.

Three years later, the back pain was so intense I was getting ready to attempt to find a new doctor. I was talking to multiple ladies I trusted and asking for prayer. I was trying to get my nerve up to talk to another doctor.

I had nearly 10 years worth of charts, mapping out the different symptoms and the durations. The first surgeon had barely looked at them. But I knew that I had to be ready, because many doctors had told me to go home for six months and chart before they’d do anything. My mom kept that fresh in my mind, so I constantly updated those charts.

One friend spoke to a nurse friend of her’s about my history and she urged me to get an appointment with the doctor she worked for.

It took that one visit with one of the first doctors I had seen, to get the ball rolling. She remembered my history and how badly I reacted to hormone treatments. And I was bawling. I was at my wits end. She offered other possibilities such as a IUD, new hormone treatments, another scraping, or an ablation, but said that there’s the strong possibility of having to come back in in less than 6 months.

I was done. I had prayed about it for over 12 years. I was mentally prepared for the hard decision. I could not handle the pain any more. If it was just the horrid bleeding and cramping, I could do it. I’ve done it for 20 years. But the back pain. I couldn’t handle that anymore.

The day after my birthday I met with her, and we started getting the blood tests and ultrasound tests out of the way. I was having a hysterectomy. A month and a day later, I got it.

I think I also got to the magical age when they listened to me. Maybe finally at 32 I knew my own mind.

My back pain has basically disappeared. Once my chiropractor gets the surgery kinks out, I think it’ll be great. That twisting vice is gone. It’s only been 3 weeks, but I noticed it in the hospital hours after the surgery. I was laying down and my back wasn’t killing me.

My doctor found clear endometriosis on both fallopian tubes, the left ovary, and on my uterus. There were multiple cysts in both tubes as well as the ovary. She sent my uterus in for a biopsy and they found extensive adenomyosis that was nearly through the uterine wall. The only way to diagnose adenomyosis is through a hysterectomy biopsy according to my research. 

The possibility of me getting pregnant would have been very slim, and being able to carry a baby to term was even less.

My doctor told me that women with endometriosis tend towards bad periods. Women with adenomyosis have hellacious periods, with excruciating back pain.

And 95% of women after a hysterectomy no longer have back pain.

I have to remind myself to still take it slow because my surgery pain from the removal of an organ and a half is nothing in comparison to the pain I’ve been living with.

Do you know that on average it takes women anywhere between 7 and 10 years to get a diagnoses for endometriosis?

It’s considered a low estimate that 1 in 10 women are dealing with horrible pain that can cause miscarriages and infertility. Depending on where the endometriosis spreads to, it also can cause bowl and bladder issues. Some types of endometriosis are even hemorrhagic, which causes bleeding within the belly cavity. 

Both endometriosis and adenomyosis are also notorious for causing problems in a woman’s sex life. The diseases can attach to the pelvic wall and the cervix, which then can become inflamed which leads to infections, torn skin, and horrible pain. All of these added pressures can eventually break down some of the most solid relationships between partners. 

(The following three charts were the most beneficial for me. Because I could say, yes! This is what I’m feeling!)

Dr. Axe’s chart- he promotes all natural treatments

Endo-resolved, a website that offers information & support

A blog about an artist living with Endometriosis 

The emotional toll that these diseases have on a woman are immeasurable. 

We look to other women–mothers, sisters, and friends– for support and encouragement. We want to compare and contrast what we are feeling to know if we should seek medical help. But too often, we either don’t speak up about our own problems, or we mock the other woman’s pain, telling them that they’re being weak and a period isn’t that bad. 

Endometriosis is not just a period. It is a disease that is extremely painful to live with. 

Then when we do get up our gumption to go to the doctor, we find someone who won’t even contemplate the possibility. I’ve been told by various female doctors that painful periods are normal. That heavy bleeding and back pain are normal. That I need to toughen up because I’m going to be living with it for years. 

It is not normal

The emotional toll can be more devastating than the physical sometimes. 

I choose the most drastic step in fixing my pain. I removed any chance of giving birth to my babies. 

No matter how much I wanted an end to my pain, that is still a bitter pill to swallow. I choose the ending of a possibility of a dream of a biological child, for the chance of less pain. When/If I ever have the opportunity of a relationship, that pill may very well feel like it’s choking me. I just pray that the man can love me for more than my uterus. 

I had the chance to not go through with the surgery. I had the opportunity to really pray over it for 12 years. Numerous women don’t get that chance.

I’ve had people tell me that “I never realized you were in so much pain.” Or they would rather mourn over the discarded organ instead of asking how I am doing. 

I can’t Velcro it back in. Nor would I want to.

The surgery isn’t fool proof. There is always a chance that the endometriosis had spread. Though my doctor did look at my bowls, bladder, and surrounding muscles to hopefully make sure it hadn’t, there is always a chance that it was hiding. Some women continue to have problems with the disease even after a complete hysterectomy. 

There is a possibility at a later date that I will have to go back under the knife to remove my remaining ovary if it is painful. We left it in hopes of keeping my hormones in balance. It wasn’t encased in endometriosis like my other one was. 

Endometriosis is not spoken about much. Not nearly enough doctors know about it, or know the symptoms well enough to suspect it. 

Women are speaking about it more. Younger women are seeking help for it. It’s not an older lady problem only. Doctors have to become aware of it so they can help. If you suspect you have it–research it! Gather intel so you can show your doctor how your symptoms match up with women who had it.

Fight for your health. No one else will fight has hard as you do. 

This is my story. It’s still being written. I’m only 3 weeks out from the surgery. But I wanted to share it with you before my memories fade because I don’t necessarily remember the sharpness of the pain i lived with every day. 

This story is very intimate. But it is true. If I can help one woman fight for her health or one man understand a small bit of what their loved one is dealing with, then baring my soul and my underwear drawer for public consumption is worth it. 

I am not ashamed of the choice I made. Everyone deals with pain differently. I figured there was enough pain I have to deal with every day, why keep battling something that can be taken care of?

This is me. Looking forward to being healed and facing the future.

~~For more information about endometriosis and adenomyosis these are a few websites that were helpful for me:

 Hystersisters-This website is dedicated to helping women who are facing a hysterectomy and have already had one. It has forums and articles to help you.

>>It also has information to help the men in a woman’s life understand what this surgery and the recovery entails. Mister Hystersisters

medicinenet.com— a list of symptoms and medical information

Endometriosis Foundation –a resource to help spread awareness and provides valuable information.

Adenomyosis Advice –similar to the Endometriosis Foundation.

Gyn Care –learn the difference. While endometriosis and adenomyosis can happen together, they are two different diseases that can cause different symptoms.

Bad Day Blues

I am having a bad day. 

It’s an accumulation of numerous things totally out of my control. Things have negatively impacted me to the point that I either want to scream or cry out of sheer frustration. But, because I am at work and will continue to be with my client until 9:30 am tomorrow, I do not have those outlets of releasing my frustration open to me.

I have been told, on the rare occasions that I vent online (in other words, I am frustrated because A, B, and C), that I need to “Love Jesus more,” “I need to learn more forgiveness,” or that “this is a time to practice love more.” 

Even when I try to describe what went wrong to someone in person as I try to work through it, I’m told to get over it, or that obviously that person or situation needs more prayer.

I don’t vent much. And when I do, I try very hard, even in my frustration to be focused on the situation, not the person.

So let me just lay it out there, when you are having a BAD DAY, having someone chide you for not loving enough does not make it better. It makes it worse. 

Especially when it has nothing to do with loving someone more! Or when it is someone ELSE who is the one who is harming YOU!

I sometimes think that as a society we have split people into certain categories. Group A can complain and whine and over dramatize every little thing. Group B has to be the one to always comfort and ask questions and NEVER show that you have a bad day and make sure to buck up. On rare occasion, you have Group C that can be fluid.

I’m tired of putting that blasted mask on. I have the right to be honest about myself. I shouldn’t have to hide. I have bad days and some days are HORRIBLE. Some days blend into a week and make you feel like you can’t see the light ever again. 

But: bad days don’t mean I stop loving my family, my friends, my church, or my job. Bad days don’t mean that I’m turning my back on God. Bad days don’t mean that I hate everyone. 

Bad days simply mean that things aren’t going the way I had hoped and planned for. It means that things and people totally out of my control are negatively impacting me. It means that the verbal abuse that I can usually shake off simply got to me this time. It means sometimes it is easier to focus on this little thing that is bugging me than blow up about the big thing that no one knows about. 

I want to tell you– it is OKAY to have a bad day! It doesn’t mean you are a horrible believer or person. It means you are HUMAN. 

Sometimes I have to remind myself of this truth.

But–it is NOT okay to abuse another person (or animal) because your day wasn’t as pretty as you had planned. It is not okay to ruin another person’s day with physical or verbal abuse. It’s not okay to emotionally destroy someone just so you can feel better. That just makes you a bully. 

It is okay to expect someone to listen. Sadly, in this day and age it’s hard to find someone willing. Especially someone is is willing to not say, “Well my day was worse so what do you have to complain about?” (I cannot tell you how many times this happens to me! I swear if I can get through my story without someone hijacking it with theirs it’s a miracle!) 

Most of the time I don’t want a solution, because there is no solution! I just want someone to listen. I want to release the pressure in the cooker that is my life before it explodes. 

I honestly think we all want that. 

I am frustrated. I am having a bad day. I don’t need to be chided by someone who has no clue what else I am dealing with. News flash–no one is perfect! 

I have hope that tomorrow will be better because I have faith in the One who is creating tomorrow. I have hope that my bad day or week doesn’t equal a horrible life. I have hope that things can change. 

I have love for those people who are frustrating me because I know a God who loves me despite how annoying I can be. And I know He loves them just as much. 

And guess what? I still think it’s okay to say you had a bad day! You can be disappointed when things don’t work out the way you had hoped. You can be frustrated that people have lied to you and still love them! Your job can make you want to pull out your hair and you still have the right to say you love it!

Do something to help you smile.

If it’s wearing crazy socks, do it. If it’s petting an animal or eating your comfort food, do it. If it’s binge watching a show that let’s you cry or laugh, don’t let someone make you feel guilty for it. Go for a walk, read a book, color a picture, build a model. 

Take care of yourself. 

It’s okay to have a bad day, just don’t let it make your life bad. 

You are loved. Never forget that.

Broken Praise (12/2016)

This is a poem I wrote for my Church’s annual Christmas Eve Candlight Service this year. I’ve been writing and sharing a poem since I was in my early teens. 

This year, I finally found my inspiration on Christmas Eve when I was at my grandparents. (It’s become a bit of tradition for friends to ask when I finally wrote it. This time I was in the car heading home from my grandparents, less than an hour before I needed to be at the church.) 

My grandfather said something that kept going around in my head. He was speaking of his mother, my great grandmother, who would nearly shout when praying. When he asked her why she always prayed so loudly, she answered, “I am so insignificant. I have to shake the rafters in heaven so I’m heard.”

It was something that itched my brain. Because that is the beauty of God. God doesn’t need your shouts to be heard, he listens to that quiet plea in the depths of the silence, when you have no words, he still hears you. The angels are said to rejoice when someone comes to Christ (Like 15: 10). That there is so much excitement in heaven that the very angels share it with each other.

We humans are not insignificant. God is so eager to have that relationship with us, that his messengers understand and rejoice with him when one comes back to him. We are not insignificant to God, we don’t need to shout. He hears us.

Broken Praise  (RKG 12/2016)
The rafters shook in Heaven today.
A shout was heard as the angels came
Rejoicing at the foot of Heaven’s throne.
Martyrs cried out with joy and saints danced with the Heavenly host.
The angels celebrated as Satan groaned.
Another one found is Satan’s loss.
The rafters in Heaven shook today.
The barest whisper of sound swept through Heaven with the force of a hurricane.
It had the power to close the gates of Hell and throw open the pearly ones.
It snatched from Satan’s grasp, one so lost that she found the light.
Her breathless plea, a whisper of hope, shook the rafters of Heaven today.
Lost in fear, betrayed by man, she took a leap and found faith again.
Never alone, always held, Emmanuel, God with us.
The Shepherd gathers his lost sheep, one by one.
The rafters shook in Heaven today.
A shout rang out and angels rejoiced around the Heavenly throne.
His cry was heard in the darkened room, despair so thick trying to suck him in.
But light abounded and darkness fled, salvation found, peace within hand.
A warrior’s cry so loud within his broken whisper, that demons quivered in fear.
Abused and hated, homeless and hungry, he took a leap and grabbed the hand of Salvation.
Never alone, always held, Emmanuel, God with us.
The Shepherd gathers his lost sheep, one by one.
The rafters shook in Heaven today.
The power of a broken praise that can heal hearts and find the lost.
Amazing the grace when love is given and hope restored.
The angels rejoice and martyrs cry with joy when one more is snatched from the grasp of Hell.
When Satan groaned, life is found.
When a birth foretold, and death chained the beast, Heaven’s rafters shook and a curtain tore, the joy poured out no longer contained.
Angels stood amazed as the Gospel was told, the love found in the act of sacrifice too great to bear.
My prayer so loud in my chaotic mind, shame pushed aside and grace found.
No longer condemned, I stand free.
I, I, shook the rafters in Heaven today, pleading to be taken out of the pit to live in the light of righteousness.
O come, O come, Emmanuel, take my hand and pull me free. Set me on the mountain high, out of this pit take me now.
Break the grasping talons of Satan now, shatter my chains, no longer enslaved.
Coat me in the sacrifice of love, wash me in the river of life, let me live in your perfect light.
My broken praise, my gift to you.
My rejoicing joined the angels today, as I was found in the darkness.
My Shepherd led me forth to the light, to drink deeply of the never ending life-giving water, never to thirst again.
The rafters shook in Heaven today.
Satan raged while the angels rejoiced.
I found my God when all was lost.
The gates of Hell slammed shut while Heaven celebrated.
One who was lost was found.


Supporting Equal Job Opportunities 

Someday, I want to plan a road trip around the nation and up into Canada, where the focus is stopping at businesses that were specifically created to give those with disabilities equal opportunities for work. 

I’ve been collecting names of these places as they come to my attention. Some are businesses created by parents wanting to make sure their growing child had a job opportunity. Others are places that are specifically made to encourage young people with disabilities to become independent hard workers. 

I’ve been looking online to see if someone else had a database list of these amazing restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, as well as gift shops and other businesses. As of yet, it doesn’t seem like anyone else has made a list, so I thought I’d share what I’ve gathered so far.

 Perhaps you might want to grab a cookie and a cup of coffee to support these hard working adults?

Or, perhaps, you know of another buisness I should add to my list?

Bitty & Beau Coffee Shop –Wilmington, North Carolina
 www.bittyandbeauscoffee.com

Blake’s Snowshack–Denton, Texas
 http://www.blakessnowshack.com

Firefly Café & Bakery–Winchester, Virginia
 http://www.fireflycafebakery.com

Puzzles Bakery & Café –Schenectady, New York
 http://www.puzzlesbakerycafe.com

Sunflower Bakery–Gaithersburg, Maryland
 http://www.sunflowerbakery.org

Sugar Plum–Virginia Beach, Virginia
 http://www.sugarplumbakery.org

Special Kneads & Treats– Lawrenceville, Georgia
 http://specialkneadsandtreats.com

Greenhouse Inn Restaurant
Hearts & Flour Bakery
Heartstrings Gift Shop
Twice Blest Thrift Shop  –Chicago, Illinois
 http://www.misericordia.com/shops/default.aspx

Steamers Coffeeshop/Jack’s Bar & Grill — Denver, Colorado (A combined shop)
 http://steamerscoffeeshop.com

Cause Café — Fort Salonga, New York
 http://www.causecafe.net

Samples World Bistro– Long Mont, Colorado
 http://www.samplesworldbistro.com

Harvest Café — Staten Island, New York
 http://www.harvestcafe-si.org

Hugs Café — Mckinney, Texas
 http://www.hugscafe.org

Mozzeria– San Francisco, California
 http://www.mozzeria.com

Collette’s Cookies — Boston, Massachusetts
 http://www.colletteys.com

Rising Tides Car Wash– Parkland, Florida
 http://risingtidecarwash.com

International 

Bread of Life Bakery– Beijing 

Christina’s Tortinia Shop– Brampton, Ontario, Canada
 http://www.cristinastortinashop.com

Signs Restaurant — Toronto, Canada
 signsrestaurant.ca

Do not grieve (JAF Camp 2016)

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I just recently finished serving a week at Joni and Friends Southern Oregon Twin Rocks Family Retreat. This is my fourth year serving at this camp that caters to family with disabilities. These are families who fight for their loved ones so they can get proper medical treatment, education, and spiritual care.

These families travel across the nation to participate in four days of camp on the Oregon Coast, because there isn’t something like it where they live. While more Joni and Friends retreats are being set up, the need is so great that the demand overtaxes the supply. There are families who plan their whole year around these four days, that is how important it is to them.

This camp is a place where the campers can be kids, and families can focus on just loving each other rather than being on the defense against other people’s curiosity and advice. Here they are eagerly anticipated and accepted. They are not considered ‘other’ or ‘different,’ they are simply seen as someone to love.

Short-Term Missionaries (STMS) are volunteers who come and serve these families. They are all age ranges, from 10-80 at least, who are so eager to love on these campers that they save up all year to attend. This is not a camp where volunteers put in a few hours of work in the kitchen to have a free fun time. No, this is a place where STMS are paired with a single camper and their duty is to be their friend for the week. It’s a place where they are truly missionaries whose mission is to show these campers that they are deeply loved, exactly for who they are. We have STMS who do bake sales, garage sales, mow lawns, build birdhouses, and numerous other things, to raise money, because this retreat is that important to them. $450 is a lot of money for a 13 year old to raise, but they do! And now many of them are raising about that much money again, so they can serve in the next week of camp as well. The STMs love it just as much as the families do.

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All of our camp volunteers (STMS) Nearly a 100 kind spirited people giving of their time and money to serve

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Our whole family camp! Campers and STMS together

This year our camp verse could be found in Nehemiah 8:10, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” But, the verse is right in the middle of a sentence. What the actual sentence says is, “Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”” 

Nehemiah is an amazing book full of God’s mercies and work. It’s about the Israelites getting to go back to the Promised Land, after being put into the chains of slavery due to their sinfulness. It’s about a pagan king who listened to the voice of God and allowed his cup-bearer to leave and build the walls of Jerusalem once again. It’s about the eagerness of the God’s people hearing the words of the Lord once more. It’s about the joy of finding God after years of silence (on the side of the people).

In this section of Scripture, we find the people hearing the Word of the Lord for the first time in years. They were weeping because they hadn’t heard it for so long. But, this was a time to celebrate. The Word was available once more. It was being read from early morning till midday. And the people stood to hear it.

Do not be grieved. Don’t be grieved that before you didn’t understand the Word. Do not be grieved over the past deeds, because now you have the way to make your slate clean. Do not be grieved.

It is a time to rejoice! To revel in what the Lord has done! He has done the unimaginable and it must be savored. He has brought the Israelite nation out of slavery and out of their sin and has brought them back to their forefathers’ Promised Land. The pagan king funded the rebuilding of Jerusalem! How amazing would it have been to be there, to walk back into that land that was your father’s and know that you could come home.

Nehemiah is telling these people who were weeping over the loss of time and of the Word, to not grieve, to rejoice, because that joy of the Lord is your strength. The joy of the Lord is your strength. Rejoicing and reveling in the Lord gives you strength.

These families with disabilities know what it is like to grieve. Some days, it may feel like they can never find anything to rejoice, but then the joy of the Lord strengthens them. And this camp gives them that strength.

But, at the same time, these families know how to rejoice over the little things. Things that might seem inconsequential to us, but are major milestones for their loved one. And this camp helps them rejoice over them.

Joni and Friends Family Retreat is an experience like no other. It is hard to use words to describe it adequately, because there isn’t one thing similar to pull from to compare. It is often compared to Disney, as being the happiest place on Earth, because at camp, the campers can just be kids. No expectations to fit into any mold that one may insist on being the perfect one. No trying to remember the arbitrary rules of society so that one can be accepted. No acting a certain way so that you won’t be laughed at. No explaining why you do things differently than others, why you walk the way you do, or why you can’t speak.

These people at camp, they understand. They look at you, and see simply, you. You. The one God declares Beloved. You, who God created with great love. You, whose beauty can be seen as God intended, rather than as a mark against the plastic perfection of society. You, whose talents are marveled at, whether you can sing or draw, or throw a ball, or take your first walks on screen. You, you are celebrated for being you.

Here your ticks are accepted. Here sounds that are voiced are cheered. Here you can run because its just so much, and we will run with you, rather than force you to stop. Here your mask can be left at home, and the real you can be let out to enjoy the world as it was meant to be. Here people rush to meet you. Here hesitation and fear have no place as you are loved. Here people will share their food and their space. Here the need for quiet is understood, but so is noise, and what a joyful noise to the Lord we make together! Here miracles happen on a regular basis, voices are found, friendships are made, love is given. Here, angels tread and God blesses those he calls his.

God’s love for you is your strength. He knew you when he placed you in that womb. He knew your life would be difficult, but he knew he wanted you. You were not a mistake. He rejoices in you, every minute of every day. He knows you and loves you just as you are. He gave you spiritual gifts to bless this world, don’t let anyone get between you and worshiping your Father. Share your gifts!

I know a camp where we are eagerly awaiting to celebrate them…

I highly recommend Joni Eareckson Tada’s biography if you have never heard about this ministry. Joni- An Unforgettable Story

http://www.joniandfriends.org/store/product/joni-unforgettable-story-discount/

You can also follow her radio/video series, many of which can be found here:

http://www.joniandfriends.org/jonis-corner/

For more information about Family Retreat, please see:  http://www.joniandfriends.org/family-retreats/

For more information about volunteering at a Family retreat, please see:

http://www.joniandfriends.org/family-retreats/for-volunteers/

A Christian & A Muslim in Walmart 

A handful of years ago, I had just gotten off of a double shift that included a graveyard. I was tired, grouchy, and still in my scrubs from my job at an Adult Foster Home.

I was at the point of being too tired to sleep, so I had gone into town to do some errands before having to get back for another double shift. I hoped I could burn off some of the jitters so I could grab at least few hours of shut eye.

I was digging through one of those $5 movie bins at Walmart trying to find anything that wasn’t a B-rated movie. A gentleman stopped by just as a family of three walked off with a handful of cartoons and boxes of candy.

He murmured a hello, and I flashed a quick polite, yet distant smile as I continued to dig. I barely registered his white skullcap or his traditional white religious shirt and trousers.

After a minute or two of quiet digging he cleared his throat. “Doesn’t seem to be much in here.”

I chuckle and shrug, “No, but I keep hoping there’s a diamond in here.”

“Yes. Something to eat up the hours while waiting for the sun to come up again.” He sighed as he started to stack the DVD cases.

“I’m doing a run of graveyard shifts so I understand that.” I flipped through a few more movies as his pile became larger. He started a second and third pile and I realized he was separating them.

“Are you a nurse?” He asked with polite hesitancy on the word while motioning at my Eeyore covered scrubs.

“A caregiver. I work with the elderly.” Then, through my exhaustion, I noticed his sad look and nervous hand motions.

“That has to be hard. Do any of them…do any of them have Alzheimer’s?” He stopped fooling with the DVD cases and smoothed down his shirt.

I also stopped flipping through the movies to look at him. A gentleman who was probably in his late 50s with his own brand of exhaustion lining his face. There was a mixture of fear, sadness, and a hint of desperation in his eyes.

“Yes. I have a few clients with Alzheimer’s. I’ve worked with those living with that nasty disease for a number of years now.” A light seemed to enter the man’s eyes as I talked.

“My mother has it. I had to go home to collect her. Iran is all she ever has known. It’s so different here. I wonder if I did her wrong, bringing her here.” He rubbed his face with frustration.

I desperately wanted to give him a grounding touch on his arm at that moment, something to show him that he wasn’t alone. But, respecting his religious garb and the vague knowledge I have of his culture, I refrained and attempted to pour all that compassion and concern into my words.

“It’s never wrong to take on the hard duty of caring for your parent. It’s a lot of sacrifice. Do you have family here to help?”

“No, I’m all that’s left. That’s why I brought her here.” He started digging through the movies again. “She is so angry. Some days she throws things, others she screams. Some, she just weeps. I come here to Walmart just to wander the aisles. Just to breathe without her. Then I feel guilty for leaving her. What if something happened? My mother was never a happy woman, but now she is just so….just so full of hate. I am so tired.”

“It is tiring. Especially if you can’t take time for yourself. Does your mosque have any community services to help? I know of a few, such as Catholic Services that help in the home. If nothing else they can come for a few hours so you can go for a walk or do errands.” I wracked my brain for any of the local community services that were available for such issues. “Or a neighbor you’d trust to watch her for an hour? Someone who could do with a little money?”

“I am no longer connected to my mosque since moving down here. It’s been a few years, most of my friends are gone. They don’t want to be around a man who is worried about his mother all the time.” He sighed. “It just keeps getting worse. Some mornings, I hope she might not wake-up. I’m a horrible son.”

“You aren’t horrible! You’re burning out. You need support. I know it’s hard to even to contemplate, but if she is getting too hard to handle, you might have to think about putting her in retirement home. Where they can have someone able to watch her 24 hours a day. It’s hard to think it might be time for that, but it might be best for both of you.” The man looked near tears as I finished speaking.

“I’m just so lost. I just want to do the best for her.” He looked at his watch and sighed. “I should get going. I’ve taken up your time and I have left her too long. Thank you for talking with me.”

Nervously, I offered, “Sir, would you mind if I pray for you? I don’t want to offend you, but I’d really like to.”

He smiled, “Prayers are always welcomed. I’m assuming you are Christian?”

“Yes.”

“Thank you.”

So, at that moment I prayed for this gentleman from Iran in traditional Muslim religious garb who was worried about being a good son to his ill mother. I prayed for wisdom for the next step, patience in his care, comfort for the mother, and a community that would support them.

After I finished, he patted my hand that rested on the movie bin. “Thank you young lady for listening to my rambles. For your compassion.” He left with a blessing to Allah.

It was a chance encounter. Two very weary people wanting to find rest. 40 minutes of talking. I’ve never seen that man again. I never found out his name. But, I think of him often.

It wasn’t my first conversation with someone in the Muslim faith. I’ve always had very nice cordial interactions with them before and since. But, this interaction in particular has constantly reminded me how very human each of us truly are.

With all the constant news regarding terrorism, al Qaeda, and now ISIS, it is sometimes difficult to remember that the 1% of “Muslims” who are killing, do not speak for the other 99%. Men and women who are just living life the best they can. They have the same hopes, fears, and yes, even enemies as we do.

I, as a Christian, do not want to be lumped into the same group as those who are fanatics proclaiming to be apart of my faith. I don’t want to be associated with the 1% of  “Christians” who attack people out of fear and hate. The KKK, Westbro Baptists, those who attack people who appear to be different than the “righteous,” do not speak for me, my faith, or in the name of my God.

Why do we insist on doing the same to Muslims?

When ISIS attacked European cities over the last couple of months, worldwide tears were shared. When an attack on a LGBT friendly nightclub in Orlando was found to have links to support for ISIS, tears and rainbows abounded. Hours of news reports flooded the tv.

We were united in condemning the actions of terrorists. Domestic and international.

I applaud the actions of compassion and unity. Show your support.

But, then I start hearing the troubling news of innocent people being attacked as they attempt to go to local mosques. Bomb threats on places of worship. Where children are. And I am ashamed of my 1%. The 1% Christians who spew vitrol out on social media hidden by their keyboards, the 1% of Americans who think hate makes us safer hiding behind their patriotic pride.

It saddens me more as I hear of the numerous terrorist attacks in the Middle East being linked to ISIS. Of the Muslims being slaughtered during their holiest of months, because they weren’t willing to partner with their 1%. 

But where is the outcry? Where are the tears and the show of unity? Where are the candlelight vigils? 

Suspiciously absent.

For God so loved the world” Nowhere in the Bible does it say, “everyone but them.” You cannot condemn the actions of a terrorist group but be quiet when they kill those who share the same faith system.

Turkey has had at least 7 attacks this year. I’ve only heard about this recent one in passing on the news. I certainly didn’t read about it on social media. Other Middle Eastern cities have been attacked by advancing ISIS soldiers as well. But, it’s just silence until it spills over into Europe or America again.

It’s not right. As a Christian, I believe that every single person on this earth is a child of God’s. Whether we call him our Father or not, we are still his. So I must grieve when I hear about more senseless deaths and terror.

The 1% does not control my actions. Fear does not make me hate. Instead, when the days get dark, I remember my Iranian friend who let me pray for him in Walmart.

I remember that love is always stronger than fear and hate.

We are all children of God. And I love you because you are family. And I will grieve with and for you. You are loved.