I’ve noticed a trend with movies and television shows in recent years. It seems like there are superheroes everywhere. Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Ironman, The Hulk, Green Lantern, Wolverine (who, to my utter shock and dismay, never actually played football for the University of Michigan.) Maybe that trend has always been there, and it’s just become more apparent to me recently because I have three sons, one of whom is a big fan of anything having to do with superheroes. It just seems like every time I turn around, I see a new ad for a superhero TV show or a trailer for a new superhero movie. Because of my six-year-old who thinks this superheroes are the coolest thing, I am sure that I will see nearly each one of these movies and at least one episode of each of the television shows. And I will likely hear, more often than I would like, “wouldn’t it be cool to have that super power?” And while I can’t help thinking that some of those super powers would really be cool (super speed would really come in handy when it comes to cleaning the house…) I also can’t help thinking about some real-life superheroes I know.

I am going to share about these two superheroes, though I have a feeling they will disagree with the label of superhero. This couple came into my life because of my oldest son. Two years ago, he met a young man at school who quickly became a good friend. It seemed that every story I heard about school had Grant involved in some way. Early on, I made the decision that I wanted to know the parents of the children my sons associated with. We didn’t necessarily have to become friends; I just felt that knowing them would give me some insight into the type of person my children were friends with. At the very least, I would know what kind of home life the children had, so I would know how safe my boys would be when they were visiting their friends. And that is how the superheroes Dawn and Todd came into my life.

Grant is not their only child. They also have a daughter, Gabby, and a son, Willy. As any good parent would, Dawn and Todd look at their children as blessings. They are the light of their lives, and both Dawn and Todd would do anything for their kids. That in itself could earn them the title of super parents. Face it, we live in an age where parents all too often put their own needs and desires above their children. But that is not what makes them into superheroes. I think of them as superheroes because of how they handle the lemons life has thrown their way.

You see, Willy is not what many would consider to be a “normal” child. He is, as Dawn has said, “normal Willy.” He has many health issues, including lissencephaly, a terminal brain disorder. I don’t understand everything that this disorder entails. I know that Willy has a feeding tube, that he is prone to seizures, doesn’t walk, and is unable to communicate in ways that most children do. There are times when it seems that Willy is in the hospital more than he is out of it. He requires constant care. His special needs could easily overshadow the “ordinary” needs of Grant and Gabby. But you know? I don’t think that they do. Yes, Willy’s care and Willy’s needs take up a lot of his parents’ time. But so do Grant and Gabby’s activities. They don’t seem resentful of him at all. Willy is their brother. He’s part of their family, and they love him. Would they like him to be “normal”? Most likely. Something tells me each member of that family would love to see Willy run around the yard on his own two feet chasing after Gabby or trying to jump higher than Grant on the trampoline. I’ll bet they’d like nothing more than to hear him laughing and telling jokes with his brother and sister or even screaming, “Dad! Grant hit me!” or “Mom! Gabby is getting into my stuff!” But that’s not what life handed them. This isn’t the kind of family that sits around and whines about what they don’t have, dreaming about how much “better” things could be if only this illness hadn’t touched Willy. Instead, they take what they have been dealt and make the best of it.

Now, I can’t say with 100% certainty how I would handle myself in this same situation. But I can’t imagine being as strong as I have seen Dawn. My 9-year-old fell off a scooter earlier this year, scrapped up his elbows and knees, and I about flipped out over the cuts. I can still see the scars on his elbows, marks he views proudly as battle scars I see as the bloody, nasty patches that could have led to horrible infections. It’s been a struggle to allow him to ride his bike or skateboard because he could get hurt. And football season is coming up! He is going to want to play again this fall. His brother got a concussion just from laying on the couch watching TV. (OK, so their baby brother threw a rock that landed squarely on the older brother’s head while he was laying on the couch, but still…) And I am supposed to be OK with letting my middle child play a sport when the other kids are actively attempting to knock him to the ground and pummel him over a silly, odd shaped ball?

Yeah, I don’t see me handling a terminal illness with any sort of poise or strength. Let alone the sense of calm acceptance that Dawn seems to exude. Seriously, I had tears stinging my eyes as I read an update she posted this week in which she calmly described putting Willy into Hospice services. She stressed that though her son’s disorder is terminal he is not dying, and that Hospice offers so much more than just end of life care. She was just so calm, so strong, so matter-of-fact about it. I imagine that at home, when she and Todd are alone and the children are sleeping or off visiting friends, she has her moments of tears and anguish. None of that showed up in her update or in her responses to any of the comments made on it. No, what showed up in her comments was actually quite a bit of humor. Case in point—Hospice will provide a nurse to help with Willy’s bathing needs. Dawn’s comment? “Willy gets his own personal lady to bathe him. I mean, seriously. What guy wouldn’t want this??”

A few months ago, Dawn and Todd moved their family out of Jackson. I still keep track of what is happening with them through Facebook. I can’t say I know them well. Sometimes, I wonder if it is even correct to call them friends. But I can say that knowing them has enriched my life. I’ve met admirable people before. But until I made the acquaintance of Dawn and Todd, I could never say that I had met real superheroes.


Sin and Leadership

Late last week, I read an article about a woman in the United Methodist Church who had applied as a candidate for a clergy position. (Please forgive me if I get some of the details wrong. I am not a member of this church, I am not familiar with their doctrine, and I do not know all the “rules” about leadership within the church. And as I am writing this from family camp, where internet service is sketchy, I am not able to look up all the details at the moment. I just want to write it out while I am thinking about it.) The way I understood it, she was approved as a ministerial candidate in Florida a few years back, before she came out as gay, even before she admitted to herself that she was gay. She now lives in Texas and is in a committed relationship with a woman. The district of the church that she now belongs to is attempting to block her entry into the ministry, saying that a practicing homosexual should not be in leadership position within the church.

I can only imagine the uproar this controversy has caused. I can imagine the reactions of my readers right now. Some of you are in agreement with the church. Some of you think the church is wrong. All of you are wondering which side I am on in this. (OK, so maybe not all of you are wondering. Some may have even stopped reading by now. But it’s fun to dream sometimes….)

My opinion may not mater, but I am going to share it anyway. I think the district is right in trying to block this woman from the ministry.

Nothing against her personally. I don’t know the woman. I know that her name is Mary Ann, and that she has served the United Methodist Church for a few years now. I am sure she is a good, kind woman with a heart full of love. I am not even going to suggest that she hasn’t been called into the ministry or question her relationship with God. Those are things that she and God will have to work out. It’s not a conversation I need to be a part of.

What I take issue with is anyone—man, woman, gay, straight, whatever—who is actively engaging in sinful behavior serving in a leadership position within the church.

Nearly ten years ago, a woman I know who has a wonderful relationship with God began dating a man that perhaps wasn’t the best choice. The relationship became physical and she became pregnant. They did not marry (which was probably a good idea, but that’s another story.) At the time, she was on the church board and she served as part of the worship team. She gave up both positions, because she knew she had done something against the church’s teachings and she needed to get her heart and her life right with God before she could lead the church in any way. Not sure if I ever told her, but I really admired her decision. I know there were some hurt feelings at the time, mainly because of the way that some members of the church treated her because of her pregnancy (Christians stumble too, you know) but she handled it. She didn’t let the bitterness eat her up inside, and she has grown into an even closer relationship with God than she had then.

There are people—many, from the Tweets I’ve seen—that think it is wrong for the United Methodist Church to block Mary Ann from completing her study to be in the ministry. They are calling it discrimination against her because she is a lesbian. It is discrimination, but not because of her orientation. It is discrimination against sin. Which is what the church is supposed to do.

Don’t believe that homosexuality is a sin? Read I Timothy 1:8-11. The New Living Version says, “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for the lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.”

I won’t get into the whole “she didn’t choose to be gay, God made her that way” debate. It’s not one that is going to get anyone anywhere. But I’d like to drawn attention to the words in bold above, for those practicing homosexuality. This verse makes it very clear that practicing homosexuality is a sin. And is it right to have someone who is sinning, who is consistently living a life that goes against Biblical teaching and has no intention of ending that sin, in a leadership position within the church?

If Mary Ann was married to a man and actively cheating on him, would she be considered for a ministerial position? If she had children and was abusing them, would she be considered for a ministerial position? If she was a murderer, would she be considered for a mistrial position? If the answer is no to any of those questions, why should it be different for practicing homosexuality? If the Bible says all of these things are wrong, why should someone doing any of them be in a leadership position in the church?


Yesterday was the first day of Family Camp 2013 at Winding Creek. In all honesty, I can’t say I’ve been looking forward to it. Some of my health issues make being away at camp uncomfortable, to say the least. Maybe I’ve been just stressing over nothing.

Or maybe there was something that I needed to hear here, something the devil was trying to keep me from coming to experience.

At the first rally of the week, the speaker said something that felt as if he was speaking directly to me. He said, “There is a difference between seeking the plan and seeker the Planner.”

How many times in the past 18 or so months have I said something about following God’s plan, knowing that even these health issues are somehow a part of God’s plan, or wishing I understood what God had planned?

And how many times have I, frustrated because I just do not understand how this could be a part of any “good” plan, screamed at God?

More than I can count, that much I know. I also know that if I were to ask, “How many times have I sincerely prayed about it, talked to God, and told Him I wanted more of Him?” the answer would be something along the lines of, “Not nearly enough.”

My uncle passed away on Easter Sunday. Liver cancer. The time from diagnosis until death was short, only a matter of weeks. Since his death, his wife has dealt with a flooded basement and seeing their 33-year-old son-in-law suffer a stroke and then be told he has a hole in his heart (surgery to repair that is scheduled for later this week.) My aunt, I am sure, has questioned God’s plan in all of this, especially when seeing the fear on her 12-year-old grandson’s face as he worried he might have to say good-bye to Daddy so soon after saying good-bye to Grandpa. What she hasn’t done is question God. She says that Jesus is her strength, and has compared herself to the song The Warrior is a Child. In that song, Twila Paris sings about winning battles for Christ, but still being spiritually wounded, and running home to Jesus for comfort. Aunt J doesn’t question the love of Christ; she seeks it out. While she may question His plan for her, it’s not the top priority. Her priority is living for Him, growing closer to Him, loving Him. And allowing Him to love her back. That is why she is smiling nearly as big as ever just three months after watching her husband step into Heaven. Because to her, the plan doesn’t matter nearly as much as the Planner.

I wish that I could say the same thing. I could say it, of course, but it would be a lie. It’s not that God doesn’t matter to me or that I don’t love Him. Last night, though, I realized that my focus has been in the wrong place. I’ve not been allowing God to love me the way He wants to and at times I’ve barely been allowing myself to love Him. I’ve been too concerned with trying to figure out what He has planned for me. And, yes, too busy worrying about what might be coming next.

I talked to Aunt J a few days ago. During our conversation, I told her that when I grow up, I want to be her.

I think it might be time for me to start growing up.

Parental Influnces

“There is a slim chance that you will not end up like your parents.”

Pastor Clive said that in Sunday School this morning.  He told us that is one thing he often shares in premarital counselling.  The couple’s, he shared, are often taken aback like that.  They’ve lived long enough with their parents and don’t want to turn into them.  It’s possible to change, Pastor Clive said, to break that cycle and create something new.

I had to think a lot about that.  There comes a time in every woman’s life–especially if she is a mother herself–when she begins to hear her mother’s voice come out of her mouth and see her mother’s face staring at her from the mirror. That’s been happening to me a long time now. Not only do I use the same words and phrases she used when I was growing up, I sometimes use her same tone. Occasionally, I even hear her laugh coming from my own body. As for seeing her reflection…. Well, let’s just say there are worse people I could look like.

Somehow, I don’t think that is what Pastor meant, though. When he said it takes conscious effort to break the chains your parents formed, I am sure he was talking more about attitudes and temperament than voices and appearance.

I was blessed with awesome parents, some of the best a girl could hope for. We’re they perfect? Hardly. Twenty years ago, I likely would not have been willing to admit who wonderful Mom and Dad are. Twenty years ago, my parents weren’t all that wonderful. They were–horror of all horrid!–responsible parents who wanted to know where I was and who I was with at all times. I had a curfew and can you believe they actually forced me to abide by it? They didn’t make idle threats. If a punishment was deserved, it came at the specified time and in the specified manner. Occasionally there were undeserved punishments, when one sister was successful in convincing Mom and Dad that another was guilty of her crime. But I suppose that is fair since ever so often (though not so often as some of us might have liked, as Mom and Dad are not idiots) misdeeds would go completely unpunished.

When all is said and done, I have to admit that my parents possessed–or at least developed–parenting skills that were far above average. Ending up like my parents would not be a completely negative thing.

After admitting what a blessing my parents are, I found myself examining my own parenting style. Would I feel as blessed if I’d grown up with me as a mom? Are my boys likely to think of me as a blessing in twenty tears time?

When I came up with the honest answer of no, I nearly cried. I love my boys, all three of them, with every fiber of my being. They are three different children with three distinct personalities. I treat them differently at times because the each respond to different things. That, I think, is normal, though.

What isn’t normal is the way I yell. My ability to yell, I think, came from my Dad. I can recall a few times growing up when he would really yell at one of us girls about something. But he never yelled like I do. One minute, we are one happy family. The next, someone was looked at me the wrong way or said something I didn’t like, and I am screaming my fool head off. It’s like I am some sort of ticking time bomb, ready to explode with no notice.

If my mood swings scare me at times, I can only imagine what they do to my children.

When it comes to attitude and temperament,I am not a good example to my sons. And I am not sure what I can do, how I can change that.

Family-Friendly Alcohol?

If you have small children you need beer.

What can I say to that?

Perhaps I should explain the context a little. This morning, I stumbled on a Facebook conversation about a possible festival in downtown Jackson. The woman who started the conversation (and I am not saying that a festival is happening, she was just sort of tossing out ideas!) was talking about setting up games and booths for children, and allowing churches to sell tickets for the games; the churches could then keep a portion of the ticket sales. Someone said something about a beer tent, possibly in a joking manner. I didn’t pick up on it as a joke (hey, sometimes the joking and sarcasm don’t come across on Facebook!) and I commented, “Is this festival geared toward children? If so, why would there be a need for beer?” The response to my comment was, “If you have small children you need beer.”

I was just flabbergasted, so much so that I didn’t know what to say. Oh, I could think of responses, but they all sounded snarky. I chose to say nothing rather than start a fight on Facebook with people who are virtual strangers to me.

But this is MY blog, and I can say what I want, right? If I want to start a fight, isn’t my blog the best on-line place to do that?

Seriously, I don’t mean to start a fight. But I have to say that one of my biggest pet peeves is an event geared toward children or geared as family-friendly that serves alcohol.

Please understand, I am not against drinking. I don’t engage in the activity often myself, but I have been known to enjoy the occasional mixed drink. I try to avoid getting drunk, as I believe that is where the trouble comes in. I know that some churches and denominations frown on drinking at all, but I honestly believe that is a personal decision. If you feel God is telling you not to drink, you’d better not do it! However, if you do chose to drink, do it in moderation. The Bible warns against drunkenness, as in Ephesians 5:18, “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

What I am against, though, is the idea that alcohol must be present and must be consumed in order for an event to be fun. And if an event is “family-friendly,” it would seem that everything about that event should be something the entire family can enjoy. Those under a certain age are not legally able to drink. So why should beer be available at such an event?

As for the comment about needing beer if you have small children….


All that I can really say to that is if you need beer because of your children, you are not raising them right.

Yes, raising children is a hard job. As a parent who works from home, I spend a lot of time with my kids. A lot. Sometimes, I feel like I spend too much time with them. Don’t get me wrong—I love my boys. Being their Mom is an awesome blessing. Yet I have moments when I need to get away, when the fighting gets on my nerves and I need to retreat to a quiet spot to relax and unwind. And I am sure I am not the only parent who feels that way. Some parents might choose alcohol as the way they unwind, and that is fine. As I said, whether to drink or not is a personal choice.

But to say that if you have small children you need beer…. Even if it is said in jest, to me that is degrading and offensive.


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“What are you doing in my kitchen?”

I stopped in the middle of cracking open an egg, squeezed my eyes shut, and sighed.  This was not an easy way to start the morning.  Making breakfast for Nana was not a problem.  It seemed like such a small thing I could do to repay her for the years she spent raising my sister Erin and me.  Some days, and this looked like it would be one of those days, Nana’s dementia was worse than others.  She got confused easily.  Sometimes I wondered if it was the illness or just that Nana resented not being able to do things for herself.  That Erin and I could even operate a stove was a mini miracle, given that Nana had always hated having anyone in her kitchen.

“I’m making your breakfast, Nana,” I said, finishing up with the egg and turning to face her with a smile.  Smiling at her was not always easy.  Since Papa had died three years before, Nana’s health had grown steadily worse.  The days of thinking “No way can she be as old as her driver’s license says” were long gone.  Instead of the vibrant, petite woman who loved everything about life, I looked at her and saw a little old lady, patiently (or impatiently, depending on the day) waiting for death.  I watched as she shuffled into the kitchen from her bedroom.  “How do ham and cheese omelets sound today?”

“Humph,” Nana said.  “Can’t imagine it will be any good.  Only my Laura can make a ham and cheese omelet good enough for me to eat.”

I smiled to myself as I went about preparing her meal.  Even if it was a morning when she didn’t know who I was, it was nice to know that she knew my cooking from Erin’s.  Not that it was difficult to tell the difference—I could make just about anything without the aid of a recipe; my sister had been known to burn water.

Nana made her way slowly to the living room.  I heard the familiar creaking of her favorite recliner as she settled in front of the TV.  The television came on, and Nana muttered something about how she hated commercial breaks.  I stifled a laugh.  She had always complained about the commercials during her favorite morning program, NBC’s Today Show.  Nana thought the show would be better with fewer commercials and more shots of Matt Lauer.

I was just moving Nana’s omelet from the pan to a plate when I heard Matt’s voice coming from the TV.  Nana muttered that she didn’t want to hear him, she wanted to see him.  Not for the first time, I thought about writing a letter to the Today Show anchorman.  “Dear Mr. Lauer,” I’d write, “Since Nana remembers more about you than she does about me, do you think you could begin paying her medical bills?”

Yeah, not likely he’d read that and not send the FBI looking for me.

The music floating in from the TV didn’t make much sense to me at first.  Sure, I knew what it was, but I had no idea why, after they’d been out of the spotlight for a decade and a half, ZeroGravity music would be playing on morning TV.  Balancing the omelet plate on top of Nana’s juice glass, I grabbed a tray table to set up in front of her seat.  No way would she eat at the table until NBC’s morning program was over.

I’d gotten good at setting up her tray with one hand through the years.  Nana was mumbling about those idiots, screaming for a bunch of washed up old men.  I finally looked at the TV.  My favorite band was back together and performing live.  “My granddaughters used to go crazy over these guys when they were in school,” Nana told me, snatching her fork out of my hand and waving it at the TV.  “Used to make my husband and I listen to them all the time and drooled over the pictures of them they had plastered their bedroom with.  It was so nice when the girls moved on and got those talentless kids out of their heads.  Used to compare them to the Beatles—can you imagine?  As if any of them could hold a candle to Paul McCartney and John Lennon.”

On my way back to the kitchen, I glanced at the pictures of my daughter, Barrett that hung on the wall above the sofa.  Nana had no idea how much one of those “talentless kids” still resided in the head—and heart—of one of her granddaughters.

For some reason, Nana decided to turn up the volume on the TV.  No point in questioning it.  She wasn’t hurting anything, and since Barrett was already off to school there was no one in the house who would be disturbed by the sound.  I just shook my head, thinking of how Erin and I would have been punished for playing anything that loud, and went to work cleaning up the kitchen.

Then I heard his voice.  There was no mistaking it, and I’d know it anywhere.  The sound of his singing never failed to make my heart flip.  Something was different this time.  The words he sang were new, and caught me by such surprise that I dropped the coffee mug I was loading into the dishwasher.

Walking on the beach that summer day, her beautiful eyes stole my heart.  I wonder if she ever thinks of me, and all the things that we could be?

My right hand fluttered to the locket around my neck, the one I had rarely taken off in the past ten years.

Was he singing about me?  Did I ever think about him?  Of course I did.  I heard myself whisper, “Do you remember it, Joey?  Do you think about me?”