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Archive for May, 2020

When I read those words, above, in Dr. Steve Rose blog, they resonated in a way that made me think I would need them in the days to come. This week they surfaced in my mind as I read the posts on social media and in the news.

We who can respond are responsible for our actions, or our inactions. As long as I have breath, I am responsible to respond, to speak, to write, to work to change my world, through changing myself.

I am responsible to get to the bottom of my sin, my actions and beliefs … in the light of Truth … the Truth.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16)

The Psalms declares our earliest beginnings … we are the handiwork of the very Creator of everything. This is true for us all … male or female, Jew or Christian or Buddhist or Muslim or atheist, red or yellow or black or white. Whatever difference or division or thing that may separate us as the human race, all were created by God and for him (Colossians 1:16).


Behold, all souls are mine. (Ezekiel 18:4)

No other human possesses or controls another’s soul. It has been, it is and it will forever be under the ownership of it’s Creator … we may deny him our soul, but it cannot be snatched by any other.

Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Genesis 2:7)

Dirt … that is what we are made of, dirt of the Earth. We are humans, from the humus, the soil to be worked, to produce good fruit.

This is what God the Lord says—the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it … (Isaiah 42:5)

The Creator of the heavens … who gives breath to its people, and life … that is what makes the dirt organic, full of life … it is the very breath of God.

Breath, breathing … to be able to breath is the gift of life, through the giver of all life, for all lives.

Who should take that breath away? Not I.

We who can respond are responsible for our actions, or our inactions. As long as I have breath, I am responsible to respond, to speak, to write, to work to change my world, through changing myself.

“If violence is absolutized, we only find ways of hurting, we find very few ways of solving problems,” Ravi Zacharias

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I cannot wait to go back to the warehouse we call our church building, to see those who we call our church family, to sing, as a congregation our songs of praise and worship to God.

This is the yearning of many around the world, during this time of pandemic.

Last weekend I went shopping and found myself walking out of the store thinking the following :

my entire church family of hundreds of people would have been a safer group to be with than in that store of limited numbers. Why can’t the church be opened up?

It was my heart cry. Because the people I worship with, unlike the strangers in that store, love each other enough to keep our distance from each other.

I mulled over my experience and thoughts when listening to the news from around the world … it’s funny how hearing your own thoughts coming through the mouths of others can allow your ears and heart to where your thoughts are really coming from.

My desire, though sincere, was morphing into a perspective that I deserved to go back to church, that it is my right.

That set me on a search for truth and there is only one source of truth, God’s word. What does the Bible say about the church.

Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?’ Acts 7:48-50

(God’s house, the house of God is not made by human hands)

… you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22

(The foundation of the church are the apostles, the cornerstone … what the entire church is constructed/depended on, is Jesus Christ. We are where the holy spirit lives)

For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:9

(we are the church)

But Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. Hebrews 3:6

(we, the church, need to stay close, be faithful to him)

And then I found these words, from Charles Spurgeon,

“”What is a church? It is an assembly. And a Christian church is an assembly of faithful men (and women), of men (and women) who know the truth, believe it, affirm it, and adhere to it. The Greek word signifies an assembly summoned out of the whole population to exercise the right of citizenship. An ecclesia, or church, is not a mob, nor a disorderly gathering rushing together without end or purpose, but a regular assembly of persons called out by grace, and gathered together by the Holy Spirit. Those persons make up the assembly of the living God.” (What the Church Should Be Sermon #1436)

In this time of living in a pandemic, the church, anchored and built by God, made up of the people of God, has continued to assemble … in Spirit, as one. We have met online in conference, in church services, in small groups and on social media. We have been the hands and feet of God, doing his good work by committing our work in our jobs to him, by caring for the elderly, the sick, the poor and disenfranchised.

“Churches are essential.
That’s why they never closed.
Buildings may have,
but the church didn’t
The gospel will never be silenced.
It will always find a way to be told.”

Natalie Grant

What I found interesting was the timing of this line of thinking, for it began about the time in the church calendar when we celebrate the ascension of Jesus.

Acts 1 tells us of his ascension :

“They (the apostles) were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Let me paraphrase … the apostles, after forty days with the risen Christ, watch him ascend into the sky, the heavens. They are standing there, staring up, transfixed, when they hear a voice from two angelic beings standing with them saying,

People, what the heck are you doing here, staring at the sky? Did you not listen to Jesus at all? He’s gone, but he will be back. Now get to work! Do the work of the church, like he modelled to you! You do not need his physical presence anymore than you need a brick and mortar building. Go, spread the good news … in word and in deed.

“We are his temple. We do not turn in a certain directlon to pray. We are not bound by having to go into a building so that we can commune with God. There are no unique postures and times and limitations that restrict our access to God. My relationship with God is intimate and personal. The Christian does not go to the temple to worship. The Christian takes the temple with him or her. Jesus lifts us beyond the building and pays the human body the highest compliment by making it His dwelling place, the place where He meets with us. Even today He would overturn the tables of those who make it a marketplace for their own lust, greed, and wealth.” Ravi Zacharias

So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. Ephesians 3:10

It is not our right to go to church, we the church is a responsibility endowed by Jesus Christ.

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Why did I wait so long?

That was my question to my son, to the Wonder Dog, to the air in the room as we finished the final movie of the Harry Potter series. I was delighted with the story telling in this series.

It was way back when my oldest was in grade one or two that we read the first book in Rowling’s series together. Though I enjoyed it, I was not mesmerized as it seemed others were, so I did not continue reading them.

In the final film, Part 2 of the Deathly Hallows, Professor Dumbledore says something that caught my attention to the point I had to rewind to hear it again :

“Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.”

Ahhhh! I love it when I not only hear a good quote, but it so resonates with me that it absorbs into my being.

Immediately I thought how this quote also resonates with what the word of God has to say about our words.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21)

“A person’s words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook.” (Proverbs 18:4)

“Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” (Proverbs 16:24)

“Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4 )

“Evil words destroy one’s friends; wise discernment rescues the godly.” (Proverbs 11:9)

” … a person with good sense remains silent.” (Proverbs 11:12)

If only I had the good sense to remain silent at times … (do I hear an amen?).

Words, truly are magical. May we be wise as we use them, careful in how we throw them around.

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Favoritism

I don’t remember when it began … the joking and one-upping, the not subtle at all angling for first, for favorite.

My brothers and I joke about who is the favorite kid of the family. When I fly west to east for a visit, I claim favorite status. When the older of my younger brothers delivers a gorgeous birthday gift, he claims favorite. When the youngest … does the youngest have to do anything? I mean, really? They are the baby of the family.

At Christmas, last year, I ordered a gag gift. T-shirts for my brothers and I so that we call each proclaim to the world our self-proclaimed place in the world. I look forward to a time when I can fly east again, and we can all wear them, together, all the while one-upping each other.

Parents, who are wise, avoid the favorite game. For to do so will only teach a child to work for love … but, love is not based on what I receive, but on what is given, freely.

As a parent I will tell you that I do not have favorites, but my expressions of love are different because each of my kids is different. Each have different personalities, preferences and interests. Each have different hopes, desires and needs.

There is one who I love to eat sushi with, one I love to eat Indian with and one I love to eat steak with. I love to eat with them all, just differently … just like I love them all, just differently.

A parent’s love for their children must be equitable, even if the expressions

The Bible speaks of favoritism, as well.

Romans 2:11 tells us that “God shows no partiality (favoritism).”

Deuteronomy 2:17 says, “the Lord your God shows no partiality (favoritism) and takes no bribes.”

Probably my favorite verse on not having favorites (isn’t that an interesting way to put it?) is Proverbs 28:21, paraphrased in the Message :

“Playing favorites
is always
a bad thing;
you can do
great harm
in seemingly
harmless ways.”

The good-hearted roasting and teasing will go with my brothers and I as long as we all have breath … and they are both my favorites.

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A profound sense of sadness filled me as the conference ended.

Conferences are the Zoom meetings of my workday. Averaging almost an hour each, I sit and assist students through their schoolwork, their frustrations with technology (can I get an amen?!), hear about their future plans, their younger siblings, their lives.

Conferences have become the conduit of education in this season of Covid 19.

But this conference … this one was different.

Just a week ago I had been frustrated with online learning, the conferences, the hours beyond the timesheet and feeling the struggle of trying to assist students without the advantage of body and facial language to enlighten me where their words were not. I was just so done with it.

But as that week wore on, my attitude of frustration and negativity did too.

At the end of the week, wanting to update to my supervisor about the successes of a couple of students, I kept going. I listed each student and was able to put to words their strengths … either academic, personality or character. As I finished the email, I realized how truly blessed I am to be privileged to walk through this season of high school, of online schooling with them.

I get to be their peace in the pandemic storm, their sounding board, their cheerleader, advocate, prod and even their academic support (that’s what I actually get paid to do 😉 ). This position is a privilege and I had (for a moment) forgotten that fact.

Then, yesterday happened …

A student (who I have worked alongside of for three years) requested a conference to discuss his research paper. I had been assisting him with it since online schooling began in early April (weeks before it was assigned, as he was determined to do well on it) … almost daily. He wanted to share his final mark, what the teacher said. Then we discussed his future plans, teachers who had impacted him and I was able to encourage him that he would do just great, not just in school, but in relationships … for he does not allow his weaknesses and struggles to define him.

Eventually our conference ended … and the profound sadness fell on me …

for there will be no academic need of another conference, his biggest academic mountain has been climbed, he reached the summit and in a few weeks he will graduate … he no longer needs my (our) help … my job is done.

Once again, worked myself out of a job.

I am sad that our season has come to an end, but so proud of who he has become and how well he will do in his future.

And this is our job, as an educational assistant, to help them through their schooling struggles so that they can move on in independence and under their own strength.

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Do you know how to pray? Where does faith come in? What about doubt? Is it okay to pray for miracles?

When I encounter someone with a prayer request, I immediately offer to pray, then, when I begin to actually speak to God, when I enter consciously into his presence … I stutter with my words.

Perhaps it is because, in coming to him, I recognize how much I need him, how great he is, this one to whom I bow my head.

I have a friend who is struggling in a marriage of abuses and unresolved traumas of the past. When I pray for her, I long for marital healing, for a rebuilding of this broken relationship, for miracles.

Yet, I also have a friend who never received such miracles. Recently we re-connected and she caught me up on the end of that marriage. She said, of the separation, the struggles with that marriage, it is exceedingly more wholesome than the way it was. No miracles, no reconciliation … yet she now has peace.

My brother is now undergoing treatments for cancer. The prognosis with treatment is good … the effects of the treatments are horrific. When I pray for him, I long for miraculous healing, that the effects of the treatments would not cause the damage and pain anticipated.

How are we to pray? What do we say, what do we not say? Are miracles on the table? How about … selfish requests? Do I have enough faith? What about my doubts? Does God alter what the natural world, his plans because we pray?

do you know how to pray?

The Bible has a number of recommendations:

  • ask and be thankful (Philippians 4:6)
  • confess your sins, pray for each other (James 5:16)
  • God will hear our prayers (Jeremiah 29:12)
  • pray so you’re not tempted (Matthew 26:41)
  • call on his name and be saved (Acts 2:21)
  • forgive others (Mark 11:25)
  • pray in secret (Matthew 6:6)
  • confess sins (1 John 1:9)
  • devote yourself to prayer (Colossians 4:2)
  • be faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12)
  • believe and don’t doubt (James 1:6)
  • with confidence (Hebrews 4:16)
  • pray without ceasing, rejoice, give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Then we get thrown off by verses of such black-and-white absolutism …

“I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).

So … we ask and God gives?

Well … yes … and no.

It is blind hope to read this verse and see only the part we want … I will do whatever you ask in my name. What follows is really the main point … so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You see we do not pray to God, except that it comes through his Son. It is the blood of Jesus that has made us right with God, therefore it is through him that God hears our prayers.

Lovely, isn’t it?

Sure it is, until we pause to think about what we are praying for and through whom our prayers pass.

Ellicott’s Commentary speaks to this verse in a reckoning manner :

“The prayer of Gethsemane—“If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless, not My will, but Thine be done,” should teach what prayer in the name and spirit of Christ means. We commonly attach to our prayers, “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” We do not always bear in mind that this implies an absolute self-sacrifice, and is a prayer that our very prayers may not be answered except in so far as they are in accordance with the divine will.

When I think about prayer, really think about it, I come to one conclusion … I pray because it is the only ‘help’ I know. There is nothing I can do to change circumstances.

So I offer up my requests, in faith, along with my praise and thanks, trusting the only wise one will either change the circumstances I pray, or that he will change my heart to be more like his own.

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As I sit in my big comfy chair, my dog is at my feet scratching at his paws. He does this every time he comes home from the groomer. They feel different, irritating him so he scratches.

Everything he does is based on intuition, habit, response. I can take him to a trainer (it’s high on my to do list when Covid restrictions are lifted) and learn how to teach him new behavioral habits, but what he learns is rote … it is mechanical learning accomplished by repetition.

My dog does not have the capacity to choose to change his behaviors.

That choosing is something that is specific to humans. Certainly we can also benefit from rote training, in memorizing facts or processes, or in creating new muscle memory in areas such as physical rehabilitation or creating new pathways for better emotional health.

But we humans have at our disposal a most powerful ability in being able to make choices at will.

When we are hungry, we choose to eat, choose what to eat, choose how much to eat. When we are upset with another person, we choose how to respond to our feelings, how to respond to that person. When someone makes a mistake we have the power to respond with grace or with revenge.

At the end of the book (and life) of Joshua, he (Joshua) speaks to the people, challenging them with the story of their history and offering to make a covenant (agreement or vow between they and God) with them. He challenges them with a question,

“choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve?” (v. 15)

I love how poet Mary Oliver has asked a similar question, “tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

It is a question asked of us all, every day of our lives.

Years ago I found a beautiful keepsake on a beach. A shell, fixed hard and fast to a rock, as if clinging to a life source. It reminds me to choose to be attached to the rock, which is Christ.

It is a question of what we will choose … either we answer it with the God of creation, we answer it with myself, or we remain silent … but the rocks will testify to our unspoken choice.

“For the stone shall cry out of the wall,
and the beam out of the timber
shall answer it.”

Habakkuk 2:11

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When the impact of a pandemic began to touch our lives, in British Columbia, when restrictions began to be put into place, when we all became home bound the message began …

be calm, be kind, be safe

That has been the consistent message from the PHO (Public Health Officer), Dr. Bonnie Henry, in her (almost) daily press conferences, where she updates the province on the the spread and treatment of Covid 19. But the numbers aren’t all that she has communicated.

She has also shared, what comes across as most genuine sorrow for the loved ones of those who have died.

When an outbreak in the community has occurred (at a seniors care home, a prison, a packaging plant, etc.) she presents that information with clarity, sensitivity and a lack of panic. When PPE (personal protective equipment) was needed, she would share what was being done. When reporters seemed to ask questions to initiate scandal, she, gently, confidently pointed out what was known, rather that what was suspected.

Each day there has been a message of the facts …

… reminds me of a song from the Anne of Green Gables musical, in which Anne is telling of what she imagines her upbringing might have been, in a most fanciful way. The women around her, Mrs Spencer, Marilla Cuthbert and Mrs Blewett, sing out their response of “the facts, the facts, the facts … the plain, simple, homely, unembroidered facts” to her.

Which brings me to the other part of Dr. Bonnie’s press conferences that (personally) blesses my east coaster heart. She grew up in Prince Edward Island and each day I hear her island of origin in her breathy speech, the way she sometimes says about (aboat), the elongation of her vowels.

Mostly, though, what I hear is the style of leadership that we rarely get treated to and which exudes through her every word. She is a quiet, confident, shamelessly unshaming, facts-first, sensitive, human leader. She has created confidence in the people of this province, at a time when fear, speculation and panic could have taken over.

When I have heard the health authorities of other provinces and countries speak, I have realized what a gem of a leader we have here. She has not encouraged us to keep an eye on our neighbors for wrongdoing, but for care, kindness. She has not focused on the minority who break the rules, but reminded us that we do not always know the whole story, that the majority of people are following the rules. She has reminded us that it is we who bend the curve, not the heavy hand of rules and laws.

She has empowered us in this fight against Covid 19.

When our lives begin to slowly open to our ‘new’ normal, I pray a cure, a vaccine is found. But I also pray that Dr. Bonnie’s style of leadership becomes a new norm as well.

A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:1

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In this season of Covid 19, it is not difficult to find ways to love one another, for the need to be loved, to experience love, to feel love are great?

The easiest way to show love is to self isolate, reduce interactions with others, keep our distance. Those who are volunteering at places which meet the needs of the elderly, the homeless, the disadvantaged. There are those who are donating money or goods to various causes.

“This is my commandment,
that you love one another 
as I have loved you.”
John 15:12

During this pandemic and our isolation from society, I have wondered about those, not dealing with Covid 19, but those dealing with an internal, virus-like condition. This condition attacks the mind. This condition can alter the individual’s ability to work, or parent, or study. It can alter their personality, habits, view of the world around them. It can create actions and reactions that are filled with misinterpretation, anger, sadness, doubt, lack of trust, hopelessness, even rage.

“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.” ― C.S. Lewis

Mental health issues are the invisible struggles of many in our society. Though the fallout of mental health struggles can be easily seen on the sketchier streets of most cities, where substance abuse is one of the symptoms, if we look more close to home, we might discover it’s presence as well.

Symptoms of struggling with mental health can be found in the struggles to look for or maintain a job … or addiction to work. Anger, passivity, apathy. Struggles with relationships resulting in isolation from loved ones or divorce. Sadness, depression or perfectionism. Struggles with their own behaviours, or the behaviours of others. Loneliness, isolation or a constantly filled calendar. Struggles with anxiety, causing an inability to act, withdrawing into themselves and planting a hedge of self protection all around … resulting in near-impossibility of penetration from the help of others.

Those struggling with their mental health need advocates. People who will step in and be their voice … even when they resist, reject and refuse such help. They need people who will dig their feet in the soil beside them, with teflon-like armour (for they may receive opposition to help … adamant denial of a problem … that may injure, deeply). They need people who are willing to go the distance, even if it means (temporarily) losing peace, in order to reach out for help from professionals

… and help from professional must be achieved for health to be restored. Who would not race to contact medical advise if a loved one presented symptoms of Covid 19? Mental health issues can be as dangerous, untreated.

Today is the last day of mental health week, in the province of British Columbia … lets love those around us who are struggling with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, or one of the many other mental health realities that affect our friends, co-workers, family … possibly even within ourselves. It can be a potentially life-endangering struggle …

help them get help, love them … pray for them.

“I find myself frequently depressed – perhaps more so than any other person here. And I find no better cure for that depression than to trust in the Lord with all my heart, and seek to realize afresh the power of the peace-speaking blood of Jesus, and His infinite love in dying upon the cross to put away all my transgressions.” Charles Spurgeon

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So, here in Canada, May 6-13 is Mental Health Week, Sunday, May 10 is Mother’s Day and, to top it all off, this weekend marks eight weeks of self isolation due to Covid 19.

A trifecta is three events that make for a perfect result … I am not so sure that this weekend is so perfect. As a matter of fact, I have been noticing moms lately, pondering how this self isolation might be affecting the mental health of moms, at the various stages of the mom life.

I have been thinking of the moms of littles. They are frequently out for a walk, pushing littles in strollers, carrying them on their backs or at their fronts, holding tiny hands. Their days begin as the sun is lightening the horizon and though their littles might go to bed in the early evening, their nights are frequently interrupted with feedings, changes, soothing and rocking. What a time this is for those moms, with days so full of activity and questions and physical care … with no relief from grandparents, aunties or babysitters. Some have the benefit of a partner with whom they can share the load, but then there are also those who are trying to balance caring for their children while still working, in the same house.

Then there are the moms of school aged kids, who are trying to manage the full house of social distancing, potentially working from home and now, being the tutor that they never signed up for (at least, not knowingly) … all while trying to keep up with the social pressures to learn how to make sour dough bread and Dalgona (whipped coffee). These moms have patience that are being tested and tried every waking hour (their kids outlasting them at days end). The only hope for these mommas, for a break, is to set their alarm for an early hour, before their kids awaken, so that they can pull their tattered brain cells back together, for another day of endless cooking, technology-managing, homework-overseeing, sibling-peace-keeping.

At the far end of the spectrum are the grandmas and great grands, sitting alone in their homes, their care facilities, the hospital. They might be feeling a very real sense of fear for their lives. A fear of their own, their kids and society as a whole as they are perhaps the most at risk of this disease being a threat to their very life. They were lonely before Covid forced us to keep our distance from them. Their days are filled with quiet, little social or physical interaction, time. They long for a visit, a call, a touch.

Then there is the empty nest stage mothering (the one I am currently 2/3 of the way into). Our kids are mostly independent, living their own lives. Our days are largely our own, or occupied by work in some form. We might long to visit our own mothers and grandmothers, to encourage them, help to pass the time, give them a hug. We might ache to help our own kids as they manage life at home with their newborns, their busy children, their socially-starved teens. Maybe we just long for the freedom and safety to embrace our kids again.

For all of these stages of mothering, this is tough time to mother. It is exacerbated when anxiety, depression or other mental health challenges are part of everyday life (for the mom, a child, or spouse/father). Mental health struggles have no boundaries due to gender, age or stage of life. Mental health issues are much like a virus during a pandemic … there is no one immune to it’s touch.

The combination of a special day, social isolation and mental struggles can be just too much for some moms, who are weary, lonely and/or dealing with their own, or their loved one’s mental health struggles.

Maybe what we need this Mother’s Day is understanding that mothering is hard right now. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t joys and delights, that the chests of mom’s aren’t swollen with love for their children, just that, for many moms, it is hard right now.

So, let’s love on our mom’s this day.

Maybe the real trifecta is faith, hope and love. A verse more commonly pulled out at weddings than Mother’s Day. But right now, those are what all mothers, all of us need more of.

May we all look to mothers, to ourselves with those three words. May we all look to God as we struggle through this time, as mothers and as children of them.

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