Friday, September 4, 2015


Yesterday I was listening to the news as I was driving home from work.  Sitting in my air-conditioned car, ambulating myself home on my own timetable, I heard the report of Syrian refugees who had been stopped in a train station in Hungary.  Attempting to get to Germany by train, the issues of borders and politics and governments had stopped them in a station.  To avoid being forced into a refugee camp they had refused to get off the train.

And so they were still in the train. All day in the heat.  And then into the night.  Men, women and children.

As I pulled into a gas station and turned off the key and the news, I was struck at the intense contrast of where I was at that exact moment, and where they were.  I got out of my own car.  Swiped my debit card.  Filled up the tank of my personal car with fuel.   Got back in, turned on the key, drove to my home.  A nice house in the country of my birth, in a safe neighborhood where I live as citizen in freedom and security without fear.  My children are waiting for me there.  They are watching TV.  We sit on comfortable couches, eat dinner, use computers, talk, and go to bed in our comfortable beds.

This is utterly unfair.  It is unfair that I should have a home, and they should not.  It is unfair I should have freedom to go anywhere I want, and they do not.  That I can offer my children security, education and a future, and they cannot.  I did not do anything to deserve to be born in America any more than they did anything to deserve to be born in Syria.

I lay in bed, thinking about them.  What can I do to reconcile this sense of unfair contrast?  I care.  I pray.  I fall asleep.  I wake up this morning and wonder.  Are they still on the train?  I roll over on my Egyptian cotton sheets covering my pillow top mattress and reach for my iPhone to check the news.  They are, as far as I can tell.  I feel slightly too hot.  I go turn down the air conditioning, use my private bathroom, and return to my comfortable bed for a few more minutes.

I wonder if someday I will be in a disaster or a crisis like that and someone will be reading about me on the news.  What would I want from someone on the other side of the world completely unable to help?  

I would want them to know.  I would want them to care.  I would want them to pray.

I do all those things.  And I go back to sleep.

(I also wake up, do my research, and find that I can donate online to the refugee crisis through the reputable Samaritan's Purse.)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Dear Anna Duggar, I've been there. Here's what I learned.

In the recent aftermath of former 19 Kids and Counting reality TV star Josh Duggar's infidelity to his wife becoming public, I write this letter to his wife, Anna.  

Dear Anna,

Oh girl.  My heart goes out to you.  I know where you are right now.  I was there fourteen years ago.   Pretty much exactly.  The number of years married, the very young children, the Christian husband in ministry who was caught living a double life- one in public as a Christian husband, father and leader, and the other in private with a pornography addiction and multiple affairs.

I’m so sorry for your loss. You have my deepest condolences.

The only difference is, you are a household name and I wasn’t, and the internet has made your situation much more public than mine ever was.  You probably hate that right now, and just wish the ground would open up and swallow you, and you could deal with it all privately.  It may be hard to believe, but it’s actually better this way.  Addicts struggle with serious denial and reality issues and tend to re-write their story as they go along.  Your husband has already been caught doing this, editing his confession online more than once.  No matter what reason he gave you for changing his statement, this is part of the denial and self-scripting all addicts do. But the internet is unforgiving and won’t let Josh do this, which is the best thing that could ever happen to him (although it really sucks for you and the kids).  It is his best chance of really repenting someday- the fact that he will never get to pretend his sin didn’t happen, or wasn’t “as bad as people said it was.”

You see, right now he is just sorry he got caught.  Otherwise he would have told you the truth before he was exposed.  But that sorry can lead to real repentance eventually.  Don’t be confused, it hasn’t happened yet.  I know he told you he has.  He may even think he has.  He may currently be acting VERY repentant and very loving. But only time will tell if that is real and permanent.

I know also, as many people may not, that it isn’t like you had a good marriage or a decent marriage or even a normal struggling marriage and then, boom, this came out of the blue one day.  No.  Sexual addicts have lots of destructive behaviors in their “normal life” that wears away at their spouses and children.  Sex addicts are angry people.  You’ve wondered why.  You’ve tried really hard.  You’ve questioned what is wrong.  And all this coming out about his sexual addiction is the answer to the questions you’ve been asking and the prayers you’ve been praying. 

You aren’t just hurting now.  You’ve been hurting, badly for a long, long time.  And you haven’t been able to really talk about it or get help.  I know.  I’m so sorry. 

It isn’t your fault.  Your husband was a sexual addict when he married you.  This was 100% his sin, his choice. He is responsible for his sinful behavior, before and after his marriage.  Yes, I know you aren’t perfect and you’ve also sinned and made lots of mistakes.  But you aren’t the dysfunctional addict in your marriage.  You aren’t the one who was living a lie.  You aren’t the one who broke your marriage vows of sexual exclusivity.  You aren’t the one who smashed your marriage covenant.

Let me repeat.  What Josh did isn’t your fault AT ALL. There is nothing you could have done that would have kept him from cheating on you, I promise.  You see, it’s not about sex.  It’s an ADDICTION more deadly than if he was hooked on heroin, and addicts never have enough.

I hope this gets to you somehow.  I want to share with you everything it took me years and years alone to find out the hard way.  If any of it can be any help, take it. 

  1. As soon as you possibly can, get someplace, out of town, away by yourself, with your children but not with your husband or with your parents.  No, really.  You need to get away where you can hear from God and not from all the voices around you. You aren’t leaving him.  You are taking time to pray.  It may just be a couple of days, or it may be longer. You may need to do this more than once.  It’s okay.  You don’t need to apologize for needing this.  If Josh is truly on the track to repentance, he won’t have a problem with it. If he does, it shows he isn’t even close.  Find a hotel, a B&B, something.  Take someone along to watch the kids if you can.  The sooner the better.  I know he will say you need to pray together and heal together. That's for later.  Do it alone first. 
  2. And then you need to cry.  And let yourself get angry.  It is normal to be angry when you have been betrayed.   That kind of anger isn’t a sin.   Even God had that kind of anger when Israel was unfaithful to him.  God gets angry at sin.  It is a righteous anger.  You don’t need to feel guilty for feeling righteously angry about the sin your husband has committed against you and against God. 
  3. Journal your feelings.  Be honest, let it all out.  And keep that journal private.
  4.  Pray.  Like never before you are going to need to strengthen your own relationship with Jesus.  You know you can trust Him to give you good advice.  But you need to think of yourself in a different way now- not as part of your parent’s family, not as part of your husband’s family.  Just you as an individual directly talking to Jesus and getting direction in a way you never have before for you and for your children.  You must do this.  Take responsibility to hear from God directly for you and your family.  You are the moral head of the household now.
  5. Start reading and learning about sexual addiction.  Online and in books.  Pray for God to lead you to the right sources, the information you need in particular.  Go to Amazon and type in “wives of sexual addicts,” and “sexual addiction.” Google “resources for wives of sexual addicts.”  There are so many more good websites, articles and books than there were when I went looking- because this problem is becoming bigger and bigger and people are dealing with it more openly. You aren’t alone Anna, many other Christian women and couples have been down this path, and they have wisdom to give you.  The first one I read when I was reeling from the pain was “Love Must be Tough” by James Dobson.  It’s not about sexual addiction specifically, but there are some things in there you need to know.  The sexual addiction book I read that helped me understand what my husband was struggling with was “An Affair of the Mind” by Laurie Hall.   More recently written: “Your Sexually Addicted Spouse: How Partners can Cope and Heal” by Barbara Steffens and Marsha Means. Also, get the book and the accompanying workbook, “The Healing Choice: How to Move Beyond Betrayal” by Brenda Stoeker and start working through it.  The other one you may want to get is “Restoring the Fallen- A Team approach to Caring, Confronting and Reconciling” by Earl and Sandy Wilson.  And finally, please be sure to read “Boundaries in Marriage.”  You may find things you don’t agree with in all these books.  That’s okay. I did too.  But I also found nuggets of information that the Holy Spirit used in all of them as well when I was desperately trying to understand what had happened to me and what I needed to do next.  Order them all.  Jump around, pick and choose, ask God to help you discern what applies to you and to Josh.   Anna, I know these aren’t the kinds of books on your shelf.  I know you may believe that they are too worldly, or not Biblical.  I believed that too.  Here’s the thing.  None of the books on your shelf cover your situation. Not much in your world prepared you to handle the awful situation, because you thought it would never happen to you.  I didn’t either. It wasn’t supposed to happen to girls like us who did things right- who homeschooled, stayed pure, saved ourselves for marriage, didn’t date, and married a Christian.  But it has.  So now you are going to have to go beyond your world, and what you have learned up until now about marriage and relationships to cope with this terrible thing.  I know that’s scary, to look for answers in new places, and it feels wrong.  And people may even tell you it’s wrong.  But here’s the deal- it was your husband who did wrong, and now you are trying to cope with it.  Looking for resources to help you cope and survive and heal is not wrong. A word of caution.  In an addiction situation, where your husband has lied about multiple affairs and pornography, pretty much everything the regular Christian marriage books tell you won’t work.  They only work when you have two people on the same page.  Josh is in a completely different book now. 
  6. Okay, this is going to be hard.  I know you aren’t going to want to face this, or do this.  But, you have to.  You have to get tested for STDs.  You don’t have to go to Planned Parenthood.  You can do it anonymously. (Google it.) But the fact is, you’ve been exposed.  No matter what Josh said about how he always used a condom (did you ask?), or was careful, you can’t know for sure, (and anyway, condoms aren’t 100%). So make sure you get tested for HIV, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Hepatitis A B and C, Oral and Genital Herpes. You don’t have to go to a doctor and have a long embarrassing exam, nor do you have to go to a sleazy free clinic.  You can fill out paperwork online and then slip in and out of a lab close to where you live, and get the results by mail or phone.
  7. Next. Your husband needs to get tested for STDs too.  Insist on it.  Don’t have sex with him until he tests and you test and they all come back negative, as I pray they do. If he won’t agree to test, or gets angry when you ask, it is an indicator of lack of repentance, and possibly that he hasn’t given up his addiction.  If he is repentant he will understand and agree that is what he needs to do and be willing to do it.  Anybody you are counseling with should have mentioned STD testing for you both first thing.  If they didn’t, they aren’t on the right track.
  8. So speaking of counseling-You need to find a good counselor.  Not a church based staff counselor at your church.  Not a trusted pastor, not an elder with a counseling certificate on his office wall.  Not an older woman or couple that you look up to that does marriage counseling in their home.  And above all, not anyone who is related to either one of you. A real honest-to-goodness licensed professional counselor with a degree in psychology (PhD or PhyD) who specializes in sexual addictions and will keep everything you tell them absolutely confidential (as long as you don’t talk about harming yourself or others or report the molestation of a minor).  Pray that God will lead you to the right one.  I know this may be way, way out there, and that you have been told and believed that all counseling should come from church leaders and your spiritual authority, not someone with a secular education.  Please, I beg you, for your own sake, skip the church based counseling with pastors.  It set us back years and did great damage.  Pastors and church leaders can definitely be a part of the healing and accountability process, and God can use them to bring wisdom, but when it comes to sexual addiction you need a specialist.  Just like you wouldn’t go to a doctor who is general practitioner if you needed heart surgery, you can’t go to your pastor and get the kind of help you need right now for your very intense specific need for help with sexual addiction and betrayal on the level it is present in your marriage. This professional counselor can still be a Christian, and in fact should be. This isn’t for you and Josh to do together, by the way.  This is for you.  If you want to help him, if you want to be strong for him and for your children, if you want your marriage to have a chance, you have to help yourself first. Alone. I remember when I finally got up the nerve to go with great fear and trembling I told my first counselor “I have three months to get my issues dealt with,” and he just smiled.  It took a couple of years.  That’s much more realistic.  Seriously, a real counselor can’t even legally tell people you are coming to see him or her.  It’s a safe place to talk and get perspective.  They won’t lead you astray.  You are too well grounded for that.  But you do need help and this is the kind of person who can potentially offer that. It’s normal for their quoted price to be $100-$150 per hour.  Don’t let that stop you from going.  You are worth it, and your marriage is worth it. Most of them offer a sliding scale to pay, and are very willing to work with you without a lot of financial paperwork.  Tell them what you can afford.   Josh should be absolutely willing for it to come out of your family finances.  It’s no different than paying a doctor bill for you after a family car accident left you with fatal injuries. If he doesn’t want you to go without him, it indicates a problem in his heart, not an indicator that you are doing something wrong or want to leave him.  Remember, you didn’t break his trust, he broke your trust.  You have many options open to you that I did not- counseling by phone or Skype, for example.  I am not recommending these sites or organizations specifically, but here are a couple for you to check out.  Click around, read their articles and information, call, ask questions, learn what your options are: and www. These both offer phone or Skype counseling/coaching sessions and/or support group that supports the trauma model and do not label you a co-sex addict.  The first one offers an online wives support group.  I joined one of those that helped me immensely as well as attending one in person. They do not tell you to leave your husband.  I know.  I was afraid of that too. 
  9. You can also do professional marriage counseling, and will definitely need that as well.  Follow the same guidelines in finding a joint counselor.  Consider not going to friends or people in authority you both already know.  You need objective help that is professional and effective and unbiased.  You are allowed to decline to talk to someone you don’t feel comfortable with.  You are allowed to help decide who you and Josh will go see together.  Find someone who will back you up if you need help talking to Josh about this. If he refuses to get professional counseling, then you carry on and go on seeing someone for yourself individually until Josh is ready.  By the way, that would be a strong indicator he isn’t repentant and ready to be fully honest.
  10. Don’t listen to any time frames people are giving you for “healing your marriage”, especially Josh.  The truth is, it’s going to take many years and it depends on Josh’s choices what that looks like.  Don’t let anyone pressure you (and don't pressure yourself either) into making promises or commitments you aren’t ready to make.  Anything or anyone that pressures you or makes you feel guilty right now is wrong.  You shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for hurting, for talking about your feelings, for reaching out for help, for being angry. You are the one who has been wronged.  You are not the one who caused this wrong. (Yes, I know you aren’t 100% right all the time.  I’m not saying that.)
  11. Find things that help keep you stable and keep them close.  That can be constantly playing your favorite hymns and praise and worship music, or audio Bible - especially at night.  It can be favorite movies you watch over and over.  It can be a place you stop in every day for a cup of coffee.  It can be a walk you take.  It can be a trusted friend or friends you call to pray with you day or night.  It can be taking a really high potency B-Complex vitamin daily and keeping some Bach Flower Rescue Remedy (all natural fast acting anxiety supplement) in your purse.  It can be getting a massage or a pedicure without the kids once a week.  Nothing is “too much”.  Do whatever it takes not to go crazy.  You are investing in healing the most devastating of wounds.  It’s okay.  Don’t feel guilty for not being the most attentive mother right now.  Get help with the kids.  As long as your children are safe and fed it is okay that you are just maintaining and not 100% on top of everything. Don’t worry about doing school work with them. Videos are fine.
  12. Don’t let people pressure you into forgiving your husband.  Of course you have to forgive him.  But forgiving doesn’t mean instant trust restoration and everything okay, or everything okay in a few months.  He can be forgiven, but he has to earn back trust by years of accountability and faithful loving humble behavior, in private as well as in public.  If he gets resentful when you need time and patience from him in this area, it indicates he isn’t really repentant, and maybe hasn’t given up his addiction. If people pressure you about what you are “supposed to do” right now, they aren’t on the right track either.  You need support, not pressure, and that’s what healthy people truly hearing from God will give you. Support for you, accountability and boundaries for Josh. No one should rush you.  And don't rush yourself either.

Anna, even after you do all of this, I don’t know what will happen.  There are people telling you that you have to stay with your husband.  There are people telling you that you should leave him.  I know you don’t want to lose your marriage, even after everything that has happened.  I get that.  That’s a godly desire.  But the truth is, only God knows how your situation is going to go.  And that revelation is probably going to be one step at a time with you not knowing the end of the story til you get there.  I’m guessing if your situation is like most, you won’t know what you need to do permanently for quite a while.  It takes a long time to see if Josh will really change and stay committed to change.  This process is going to be a lifetime for him, not something he does and moves on.  (Common misconception.) There is a lot you can do to set the stage for your husband’s repentance, accountability and opportunity to change, as well as moving toward your own healing from betrayal and working on personal issues that this has brought up.  But no matter what you do, it is still his choice whether he gives up his addiction or not, and then stays free from it.   If he makes the wrong choice, it isn’t your fault.  

Just like you doing the right things up until now didn't keep this from happening, doing the right things from now on can't give you a guaranteed outcome, only the best opportunity for it to happen.

Josh getting caught isn’t the same as him giving up his sin.  Please, please hear me.  I thought once everything hit the fan and became public it meant my husband would of course not continue seeing other women or looking at pornography- it seemed like such a no-brainer to me that once he had been exposed he would never do any of that again.  And of course that is what he told me as well- that now it had all come out he was glad and ready to move on.  But getting caught doesn’t set you free.  It can be the first step.  But it isn’t automatic.  (I went through a lot of pain to learn that that truth.)

Josh can’t help you heal right now, because he isn’t healthy himself.  You are going to have to turn to Jesus and trust Him, not your husband.  God is faithful, your husband isn’t.  I repeat, Josh getting caught is not the same as Josh changing and giving up what he got caught doing.  Not at all.  I know he thinks it is.  But he has disqualified himself as the spiritual head of your home.  In the same way you can’t submit to an intoxicated husband when he demands the keys to the car to drive you and the children home, Josh isn’t able to drive your family car right now.  And that authority over you and the kids doesn’t revert back to your parents.  Or his parents.  Or your pastor. 

I know that doesn’t sound right.  Just pray about it.  See what God tells you about that.  Listen to God each day more than you listen to people.  You are in a very important window of opportunity- use it wisely.

I’ll be praying for you.  Seriously praying.  Lots of other people are praying for you as well.  We aren’t all out here judging and thinking badly of you and Josh.  Some of us have been exactly where you are, and we know how it feels.

Again, I’m so sorry for your loss. You have my deepest condolences.


PS It's going to be okay.  I don't know what "okay" will look like for you in the future, but I know God is faithful and He will never leave you or forsake you.  That's my ultimate definition of "okay".

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Cutting Versus Healing (Not just for VBACs)

It only takes five minutes to perform a C-section.  Five minutes to cut a woman open, and pull her baby out of her body.  Of course that’s not counting the prep time, or the delivery of the afterbirth and suturing up afterwards- that’s another 30-45 minutes.   The physical healing of that incision will then take weeks, and for some women, months.

It takes five minutes to put a permanent scar on a woman she will carry for the rest of her life, both physically and emotionally.  It may have been necessary.  It may not have been.  But the scar is the same.  It doesn’t take much time to mark a woman with something she will always have with her, inside and out.

In contrast, consider the process of a woman deciding to try for a VBAC, a vaginal birth after cesarean.  When the woman who has had a C-section gets pregnant again, she may not want to accept the outdated “once a C-section, always a C-section” saying, which more and more people are realizing isn’t true or always the safest choice.  She will do research, read studies, and find out that the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) now states that it is acceptable for women to have a trial of labor after a C-section and many will be able to give birth vaginally.

That statement does not make it automatic however.  The woman now has to find a health care provider who can support her in this goal of laboring and delivering naturally, in spite of her scar.  Many providers are not interested.  It is, after all, much easier to schedule a repeat C-Section that will be a convenient date on the calendar and take five minutes.  So women may turn to midwife based care to meet this goal, and here is often the place she finds a safe supportive environment.

This is where I come in.  Several times a year I get to walk alongside special women in their journey of attempting a VBAC.  My role is to assist the healing, the “do-it-right-this-time”, the “try-again-for-what-I-want.”  I provide the same high quality prenatal care for VBAC moms as I do for all my pregnant ladies, but the VBAC mamas have special needs. 

As their due date approaches, they will have more anxiety.  Will their bodies work?  Will they go into spontaneous labor without being induced?  What if they don’t?  What if they get stuck again, at whatever point they got stuck at before?

Unfortunately they not only have to deal with their own internal questions, but the external ones coming at them from friends and relatives and even strangers. What does your doctor say?  Is your midwife trained to handle this?  You mean she won’t induce you?  What if you don’t go into labor on your own? Isn’t that dangerous to go so far past your due date?

At this point I become a life coach as much as a midwife.  I expect daily texts and phone calls.  I expect my VBAC clients to go past their due dates, and to have to discuss each day how we will manage that.  There will be extra sonograms to make sure baby is doing well, extra chiropractic adjustments to make sure mama is doing well, extra supplements to buy, extra office visits to evaluate contractions that will be happening on and off for days before “real” labor sets in. 

Then, at last, labor.  It may be her very first attempt, or just her first attempt since her surgery, but either way, a big FIRST.   I will be there with plenty of encouragement, extra mama and baby monitoring, reassuring family when needed, and with constant presence.  There will be physical and emotional hurdles and much need for patience and endurance.  We will all invest many hours and much sweat and probably some tears in reaching the final goal.  

All this effort to get past something that took five minutes to do.  

Years of waiting and thinking and reliving the past experience, months of research, days of interviewing providers, more months of pregnancy care, weeks of nail-biting, days and hours of early labor, more hours of active painful labor…to achieve natural birth.  

Past the scar. 

That scar that took someone five minutes to make.

But that’s how it is in life.  It is easy to cause pain.  It only takes a minute to cut someone deep, to speak words or behave in a way that makes a permanent scar on a person's soul. It is much harder to be a part of healing the scars the pain leaves behind.  And it takes many times longer to heal than it did to get hurt in the first place.

It’s one of the things I enjoy about being a midwife.  I like being on the healing team. As someone who has many scars myself (not the C-Section kind) – I know how important it is, how necessary if we are to go on living, and go on living well. 

And all the time, all the “inconvenience”, all the lost sleep and personal time on my part as a midwife is worth it in exchange for being a part of a woman’s healthy healing redemptive experience that will also stay with her, for the rest of her life.

To me, that's the more valuable skill to offer a woman. 

This skill is not exclusive to midwives with VBAC clients, but what people need all areas of life. Everyone needs someone to be patient with them when they are anxious, to be longsuffering with them when they are needy, to speak words of encouragement when they are discouraged, and to offer hope of a better outcome in the future.

Particularly those people who are trying to push past their scars.

It's a skill all of us can develop.  It's a choice to build up instead of tear down, to heal instead of hurt, to fix instead of break, to be patient instead of impatient, to stop and listen instead of being in a hurry.  

Because everyone has scars and everyone needs healing. 

And most people can push past them, if they just have the right support.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

21 Days of Grace, plus a lot more

In two days I’ll be a published author.

The funny thing is, while I have written prolifically all my life both in jobs and for pleasure, this was not a goal I was actively pursuing.

It’s kind of one of those extra unexpected gifts from God.

We all have things we pray and pray and pray for, and finally see happen, and that’s cool. Most of us also have things we pray and pray and pray for that don’t happen, and that’s hard. 

So getting something you hadn’t been praying for- well, that’s like getting a dozen roses when it isn’t your birthday or Mother’s Day. You could say getting published in 21 Days of Grace with a bunch of other cool authors for me is like getting flowers delivered on an ordinary Monday.

It feels redemptive as well.  I find personal significance in the fact that this book is being released almost to the day of the 7th anniversary of my very painful divorce.  The Pain Redemption.  It started as one of my many blog musings and ending up developing into a devotional.

On so many levels, God has indeed redeemed my pain.  The pain of parental rejection has helped me be a better parent and highly value my relationships with my kids.  The pain of spousal betrayal and the shame of divorce taught me about grace and the importance of extending it to others.  The pain of church and ministry conflicts taught me not to overlook character issues in leadership for the sake of the work of the ministry, or for the sake of acceptance.  

God redeemed the preparation I was doing for the mission field into job training that allowed me to support my family in work I love here in the States as a midwife.  He redeemed my time overseas as a missionary into understanding for the issues my missionary patients face, as well as cultural sensitivity for my international patients.   

And finally, he has redeemed the writing I have done to process my pain and my journey toward healing into something that will hopefully be an encouragement to others as well.

My prayer is as you read each story in 21 Days of Grace, you will be encouraged by the themes of grace and redemption that are present in them all.

Available from Amazon,,, or

Sunday, April 5, 2015


As a full time midwife and a single homeschooling mom of three teenagers, I’ve noticed a recent reoccurring emotion.

I feel like I’m perpetually on the giving end.  The person in any and every given situation who does the most, sacrifices the greatest, works the hardest, and stretches the farthest.  I do so much for others with much less help and support than everyone else gets. Whether it’s the parenting, the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry, the shopping, the scheduling, the school work teaching and grading, the driving people around, the budgeting, the bill paying, the car maintenance, the yard maintenance, the honey-do list I do for myself, the working to make a living for my family, the life and death 24 hour on call responsibilities of my profession, and most of all (dramatic sigh), the going behind others to fix what wasn’t done well.  With so little appreciation.

Because really, you know, I have to do everything myself.

On Maundy Thursday while taking communion, I tried to focus my mind off of my never ending to-do list and on the elements and all they represent.  Taking the reminders of Jesus’ blood and His broken body was a sharp contrast to my stressful week.  As I struggled to focus on the Last Supper and all Jesus suffered and sacrificed, I suddenly had a beautiful thought. 

Jesus gave so much, much more than I ever have, for me, and for everyone.  He sacrificed more, suffered more, loved more- and surely has gotten much less in return from every person he made that sacrifice for, even the most appreciative.  I cannot “one up” Jesus.  I cannot play my martyr card in the face of the One who died for me- who gave me more than I could ever give Him- who did for me more than I will ever do for Him.   

I felt peace in the revelation that everything was not, after all, up to me.  Everything does not begin with me getting up in the morning and hitting my to-do list with a running start, and end when I fall exhausted in bed at night.

Because actually everything began with Jesus.  And He ever so perfectly finished everything on the cross and with His resurrection.  Without my help. 

Or going behind Him to fix things. 

Because the redemptive work of Jesus in His life, death and resurrection changed everything.



Saturday, January 31, 2015

God is everywhere... but we aren't.

After reading yet another abrasive Christian blog, ranting on rude Christian people who had been railing on another Christian blog that offended them, and then here come the follow up blogs to the original blog, (all on women’s clothing!!! OMG- stop the madness!!) I’m pondering again the many sided monster the body of Christ sometimes is. I guess it always has been, but now on the internet we get to see it displayed like never before.

There always have been debates and different points about life styles among Christ-followers all the way back to the time of the Apostles- but they weren't blogging their points of view on the internet with the churches of Asia minor reading them instantly, re-posting on Facebook, and then blogging responses and commenting vehemently back and forth.

More and more I’m becoming convinced it is important to step back from our forums, from our blog postings, from sharing about the path we are on, from making the direction God is moving us in lifestyle our doctrine de facto, and see what God is doing in someone who is moving in the opposite direction.  Yes, it is possible.

Consider these blog debates on (primarily) first world life style issues:

One woman is convicted by the Holy Spirit that she’s been dressing too provocatively and decides to stop wearing leggings, while another woman who has spent years trying to get free from a legalistic dress code finally gets the freedom from the Holy Spirit to wear yoga pants to church. 

One Christian support group on Facebook exists to support survivors of a legalistic cult who celebrate the escape from dress, eating and lifestyle behaviors that another Christian Facebook group (not a cult) exists to help its members develop. 

One mother blogs about how she’s been convicted to get her space organized, and another shares how she’s learned to relax and not be so uptight about housework.

One mom posts a “get off your iPhone and pay attention to your kids” blog and then there follows a, “I am a good mom and actually this phone is helping me get stuff done while spending time with my kids,” response.

One person blogs about books and movies of all genres and what spiritual lessons they gained from them, and another encourages Christians be more discriminating in their media choices and stick with God’s Word for teaching and revelation.

Someone posts about finally getting motivated to exercise and lose weight and makes that a part of his or her spiritual journey, and someone else posts about getting free from an exercise and image obsession and learning to be comfortable with the body they have.

One person blogs about being convicted not to spend so much time with friends, and to have more serious quiet time with God, and someone else journals about getting set free from being too serious and realizing that it isn't nonspiritual to go out and have fun with friends.

And Christians keep weighing in their opinions on each other’s peripheral and random issues, very much based on what God is doing in THEIR lives at the time, and not considering that God could be taking someone else the opposite direction.  

Consider for a minute that God is everywhere, on all sides of us.
He is with the recovering alcoholic who celebrates every day of not taking a sip, and also with the Christian who has come to believe it is not a sin to have wine at dinner with friends.  He is with the mother who is blogging about child training and the importance of teaching manners, and also the mother who is blogging about accepting her children’s behavior and seeing beyond the external.  He is with the young person being convicted to have a more disciplined lifestyle and with the older Christian convinced to lighten up.

He is with the woman convicted to be more be more modest in her dress, and the woman who has been set free from a legalistic dress code.  He is with the parent convicted to put down her phone, and with the one set free to pick it up.  He is with the single person who decides they won’t date and the one who decides they will.  He is with the family blogging about getting healthier in their food choices and posting gluten free recipes, as well as the one posting pictures of sugar frosted cupcakes from their last birthday party.

I’m a blogger myself.  I have opinions too, and I like to blog about them.  I’m on a life-journey with the rest of humanity, and I like to write about that journey.  Furthermore, I love finding blogs with like-minded people, moving in the same direction.  It’s like a high five. Someone else ‘gets it’, someone else affirms my direction. But what about when I read a blog that reflects a place I was ten years ago and now have a different perspective on?   It’s easy, for example, as I travel from supreme legalism toward grace, to judge blogs that extol things I’m moving away from.  I can easily project that they must be legalistic if they do things I did when I was legalistic, but, it ain’t necessarily so.  And even if it is, rarely will a blog debate change anyone’s mind.  In fact it can quickly get very vitriolic and nasty with everyone firmly in their own point of view, and no one really hearing anyone else’s except through the filter of “you aren't doing the right thing because that’s not where I am now, or how I see it, and I know God is on my side ‘cause I have a good relationship with Him, and I’m well informed on this topic, so that means by default you need to be enlightened.” 

Er, no, actually not.  God is not limited by the same time period, culture, age, generation, lifestyle, doctrine, preference time space continuum that we are.  Not at all.  He is everywhere.  We aren't.

So this one is for all the spiritual bloggers.  Keep writing.  Keep posting your journey.  Keep walking the direction you feel God is leading you.  Keep looking for like-minded people. But remember to be kind to others you meet going the other direction.  Don’t make assumptions. Don’t bash them.  Don’t counter blog their blogs.  Just keep blogging your own.   Nicely.   The golden rule applies to the internet world too.  Just sayin’.

Don’t bash others and end up bashing Him.

‘Cause God is everywhere, in lots of places that you aren't.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Still here. Still alive. Merry Christmas.

Imagine getting a Christmas letter that admitted someone in the family was struggling with pornography or another addiction.  Or that another member of the family was in counselling for depression and an eating disorder.  Or that the whole family had been hurt in church and now nobody wanted to go back.

Imagine reading from a friend’s letter that the husband and wife were in marriage counselling and didn't know if they were going to stay together.  Imagine finding out in an end of year missive that someone’s child was in trouble with the law, or serving time.  What would you think reading descriptions of the tension between a new blended family trying to adjust to two visitation schedules with two ex’s?

The fact of the matter is, any time any of us have a bad year, we aren’t as likely to send out Christmas cards or a Christmas letter.  If we’ve experienced a death in the family, struggled financially, had medical issues, serious kid problems, emotional trauma, a divorce, church drama, or just a year where everything seemed to go wrong, we don’t really feel like sharing.  Those things don’t go as well in the end of year brag letter as do educational accomplishments, travel, promotions and awards. 

After all, no one is completely honest in those letters anyway, right?  And even if we are truthful, we are selective. We tell about the highlights of our year, but rarely the struggles in between.  And if the “in between” was bigger that whatever we could come up with to brag about… just never mind. 

And now you know why you don’t get one of those letters from the Andersons.

So what about the Christmas card picture?  The one where we are all smiling in our best clothes and the carefully planned background.  The one that took like 100 shots to get everyone looking at the camera and everyone’s expressions just right, and everyone was ready to kill each other by the time we were finished.

Our family does do one of those.  We’ve figured out that if we plan a “Christmas picture shoot” it leads to tension and disaster (even now that there are no more toddlers in the family- sorry to disappoint you) so what we do now is select some pictures taken in the past year and stored on the computer and use those. 

And yes, we do pick the best ones.  And as I address envelopes to friends and family I rarely see or communicate with in person, I think about what message I am sending with my card.

Honestly, it isn’t “look at us, don’t we look good.” It’s more like, “Hey, look, we are still here.  We survived another year!”  I’m a single mom, but willing to send out a family photo card anyway.  Yep, here I am, gaining a little weight, still single, still hanging in there.  And my kids- yes, they are beautiful, but they have struggles too.  Like me, they are making the best of things, not smiling because of everything, but in spite of everything.

We are like the prehistoric granny in animated Dreamworks film The Croods who wakes up every day and pops up out of every disaster with a triumphant “STILL ALIVE!”

So if you get a Christmas card from us, you can just do a little mental translation. 

It says, "Merry Christmas,"  but what it really means is-


(By God grace.) 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

My history according to Maleficent

Spoiler alert.  If you haven’t seen the film Maleficent this blog is going to make no sense.  If you don’t watch or approve of Disney movies like Maleficent, it’s time to hit your mouse (not Mickey).
I just finished watching the movie Maleficent for the second time.  The first time I was somewhat distracted by Angelina Jolie’s cheekbones but otherwise completely engaged by a well-written, well-acted upside down version of Snow White.  However the second time around my thoughts went a layer deeper into the plot.
My conclusion: This predictable fairy tale has been turned into a serious redemption story.
Maleficent innocently falls in love.  She gives her heart to a boy.  A boy who grows up into a man, and then betrays her.  He pretends to love her, gets her to trust him, and then cuts off her wings for his own selfish gain.
Yep, that’s pretty much my story.  The scene where Maleficent wakes up and finds her wings gone, where she shrieks in horror and pain and despair… that the one she loved and thought loved her could do this and leave her maimed for life… well, that was me, waking up from my fairy tale turned nightmare. 
I get her rage too.  It feels really justified.  As she painfully gets up out of the fetal position on the cold ground and hobbles off with the use of a staff into a world now turned dark, I see myself as I was emotionally for a long time.
But, from that man who betrayed her, comes a child named Aurora.  A child who slowly but surely melts the cold ice of Maleficent’s life.  Someone who shares half the DNA of the person who caused her the most pain, is the source of healing what is left of Maleficent’s heart.   Through her self-appointed mission of protecting Aurora, Maleficient comes to care more about Aurora and her future and her happiness than any thoughts of revenge. 
Aurora teaches  Maleficent how to live and laugh and love again. And at the end, it is Maleficent’s true love’s kiss – the love of a mother for a daughter- that saves the princess.   And it is Aurora’s love for Maleficent – the only mother she has ever known- that gives Maleficent back her wings and sets her free to fly again. 
Maleficent’s skepticism about the existence of true love melts.  And her understanding of the different kinds of true love deepens.
Yep.  Pretty  much.
I love the last scene, the protector Maleficent looking contentedly over the restored kingdom, and at her “daughter” reigning in joy, loved by all.
Most of the time these days, that’s where I am.  Can I just say, it feels good to have my wings back. 

Except I don’t look anything like Angelina. 

Thank God.  Those cheekbones are scary.  Not to mention the horns.

Disclaimer: I love to see symbolism and truth in fiction, but I in no way allow them to replace the true Gospel.  I acknowledge Jesus as the Restorer of all things and the Power behind the scenes working all things together for my good, and His love that is the source of true Redemption.  My three “Auroras” (sorry son, its just symbolism) are His gift, and have been a huge part of His healing in my life.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Life after death.  Hope after despair.  Freedom after bondage. Forgiveness after condemnation. Acceptance after rejection. 

Grace after judgment.

Is it any wonder this is my favorite time of the whole year, of my whole existence?

I’m so grateful for Jesus, and how He went out of His way during His life time on earth to demonstrate what His attitude would be toward me as a woman and an individual before I was even born.

I’m sure we can agree nothing Jesus did during His three year ministry was without significance, so consider a few examples.

The first person Jesus told He was the Messiah was a woman.   And not a super-upright uptight upper-middle class woman in Israel, but a wrong-side of the tracks social outcast living with her boyfriend.  He told her He was the Messiah before He told His own disciples.  According to His culture, He shouldn't speak to her at all, he should cross the road and not even look in her direction, and yet He boldly looked her in the eyes, engaged her in conversation and trusted her with his most important revelation. (John 4:1-42)

Jesus publicly stood up for a woman condemned to death for adultery by religious law and saved her from being stoned.  Then He humiliated the men who were pointing fingers at her, and openly offered her mercy and forgiveness. (John 8:3-11) Culturally men did not stand up for women at that time. (And rarely in this.) 

Jesus also made a point of showing that He valued women as individuals, and not for their domestic role.  Two women, Martha and Mary competed for His approval, one by doing housework and cooking meals and another by sitting and talking with Him. Jesus expressed preference for the one who used her mind to listen and learn, and her heart to have a relationship with Him, over the one who could keep house and cook a mean roast lamb. (Luke 10:38-42)

And most amazingly...

Jesus revealed Himself first to women after His resurrection. He chose women as the first eye-witnesses that He was alive, and appointed them as the first evangelists.  He trusted them as reliable, and put them first, in a culture that didn't trust them, and put them last.  (Matthew 28:1-10) Under Jewish law at that time, a woman was not even considered a reliable witness in court. 

Jesus showed that in His kingdom, unlike in the ones on earth (both past and present, both secular and religious), women could be trusted, could be forgiven, were worth defending, were valuable and worth having a relationship with, and finally, were individuals whose testimony and witness of the gospel could be trusted.

And so, when it was my turn, Jesus welcomed me. When I was rejected, when I was judged, when I was abused, when I was deemed not worth standing up for, when I was labeled not good enough, when I was lied about, when I was condemned, when I was mistrusted and maligned, when I was told my value was limited to a domestic support role, Jesus had already contradicted all those lies over 2000 years earlier.

And most of all, when I was told I could not hear from God myself reliably to obey and follow Him, that I needed to be “under a covering” or I would surely be deceived and get it wrong- Jesus said differently.

He says I can give a reliable testimony of His resurrection and freely share the good news.

And so I do, and boldly. 

Jesus is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Why What Happened in the Bill Gothard Movement Matters Part 2 (And How Becoming a Midwife Temporarily Saved Me From It)

Since I wrote Part 1, I’ve been a little surprised at the number of visitors to my little blog.  There are many other websites that provide a more wide spread and comprehensive forum for ATI survivors to share their journeys.  What seems to have struck a chord was how much the doctrine that came through Bill Gothard’s Basic and Advanced Seminars and the ATI curriculum spread and affected those who were not an actual part of the movement, like myself.
The homeschool movement itself has been a huge current into which many branches have fallen and affected those of us who were swimming in the river.  While homeschooling itself was just an educational choice, those who chose it were often more “extreme-conservative” in their lifestyle choices, and that very much flavored the whole stream for a very long time.  IBLP and ATI were two of the biggest branches that were log-jamming the whole thing.

This is why at homeschool book fairs it became common to see a large majority of young people and their parents dressed in jumpers and button down oxford shirts. This might be because they were ATI , or it might be because they were influenced by the general current philosophy that flavored the stream that Christian home education, traditional roles in the home and more traditional dress (women wearing skirts and dresses exclusively) were a package deal.  Booths at these fairs might include a large one from ATI, Vision Forum, Above Rubies, and multiple other small ones with everything from dress patterns, to coming of age and courtship books, to cookbooks, that fit into the conservative healthy lifestyle.  Even the images and illustrations in so much of the Christian curriculum on display (Rod and Staff, Christian Liberty Press) would show women dressed very conservatively, children obediently smiling, and everyone in traditional roles - to the point that these things were all melded in our minds as indistinguishable.
So, back to my story, which is really the only one in which I can to speak with any kind of authority, and why I am telling it.  My motive in sharing it is that it may help others on their own road of sorting and healing. 

 My family and I jumped into that off-mainstream-road into the homeschooling-stream in 1981, when I was 11 years old.  It was not the typical diving board. I had been doing fairly well going to public school in our small town, but then when I hit 5th grade I had a slightly imbalanced male teacher who would occasionally get verbally and sometimes even physically abusive with the kids in the class, besides not doing a very good job of teaching.  My mom was furious, couldn’t get support from the other parents to get him removed, and finally decided it was easier just to take me out.  She didn’t know anyone who was currently homeschooling, but had read about it in an article sent to her by her sister about the humanism coming into public schools (mainly the teaching of evolution) and how to help your kids navigate it.  In the final paragraph there was a brief mention of home schooling as an option.
(You will notice I keep mentioning my mom but not my dad.  My dad was a dysfunctional alcoholic mostly absent parent who had very little influence over me at this point. What I didn’t realize about my mother at the time was that along with an on-going battle with depression she also had borderline personality disorder.  This causes a person to see situations and people as either all bad or all good, nothing in between.  Hence her quick jump to all-bad public school= we must homeschool. )

My mom latched on to that idea, ordered some Abeka books from Christian Liberty Academy (because that was one of the few companies providing curriculum at the time- Bill Gothard had not started ATI yet), and bam, we were homeschoolers.  My only sibling was a brother, six years younger and autistic, who had only gone to a church kindergarten, so she started him in first grade.
A key part of my story is that at this point my family was not ultra conservative nor legalistic. In fact we were enjoying some positive fruits of freedom from the Jesus movement that surged throughout the 70s and influenced the way we lived as Christians.  We went to a healthy non-demoninational evangelical church, attended women’s Aglow meetings, listened to enthusiastic bearded guitar playing Christian artists like Don Francisco, came up to Dallas to hear speakers at Christ for the Nations, and read the Last Days Ministry newsletter from Keith Green. Other than the fact that my mom was strict about TV and kept me on a steady diet of PBS shows like Mr. Rodgers and Sesame Street instead of letting me watch the Dukes of Hazard, Happy Days and Saturday morning cartoons, I was kind of a normal late70s early 80s kid who dressed and ate and watched and read somewhat consistently with my time period in America. 

And then homeschooling changed all that.  When we jumped into the stream my mom picked up various bits of flotsam that she adapted to her fancy.  We weren’t nearly as specifically legalistic as the ATI family mold, but my mom soon developed her own quirky version as we floated along.
Clothing, for example.  We didn’t go all exclusive dresses for gals, and I never heard the term “eye trap,” but it was decided that pants with zippers were “men’s clothing.”  By the time I was 13 (1982) I had to find pants and jeans without zippers.  Anybody want to guess how hard that was?  Also the pants were carefully scrutinized not to be too tight (Mom’s definition: showing any curve from my seat down the back of my leg), so I was usually forced to buy at least a size bigger than necessary.  Swimsuits usually had to be specially made for me and resembled more of a mini dress. 
Food, for another thing.  My mother read the book Sugar Blues by William Duffy (published 1975) around the time she was pulling me out of public school.  It was actually quite ground breaking and gave her some excellent dietary keys to helping my brother’s hyperactivity that were way ahead of the curve.  Unfortunately, not eating sugar and white flour quickly became, not just a healthy lifestyle choice, but one more sign that we were more spiritual that the people still eating sugar because our bodies were temples of the Holy Spirit and we were keeping ours cleaner than theirs.
These were relatively minor -although not at all minor in my teenaged mind- I didn’t want to dress provocatively, just be like everyone else- wear jeans and eat candy bars- uh huh, gotcha! - that was exactly what I was NOT supposed to want, you know. But minor compared to the stronger previously mentioned mandates in Part 1 that quickly crept in and instructed me not to have dreams for myself beyond getting married and having kids.  No jobs. No dating. No college.  No goals. 

(What do you think?  Was the individualized legalism my mother developed for me any less quirky and random than the laws developed for the ATI students?  I thought this post was one of the best I have ever read at pointing out the inconsistencies, and it helped me more clearly see the ones in my story as well: 

Did your family develop random extra-Biblical or inconsistent legalistic rules for you to follow that affected you?)

This is where I would like to make another important point.  Remember I mentioned that my mother had chronic struggles with depression and had borderline personality disorder.  It wasn’t until much, much later in my adult years that I realized she picked both lifestyle and doctrine that matched her dysfunction. 
It was much easier for her to stay home with me that go out and take me to school and deal with people.  As a young person she had felt traumatized when her family expected her to go to college and get a job, and had suffered emotional breakdowns as a result.  In her mind, when a Christian doctrine came along that said that shouldn’t have been expected of her to go to work and go to college in the first place, it totally justified her reaction- and she was ready to pass that all on to me.

Her borderline personality did well with the “us and them” mentality that existed between homeschoolers and public schoolers in the 1980s, and well into the 90s.  In general, Christian homeschoolers espoused that if you were a real Christian who cared about your kids getting raised right and turning out right, you had to homeschool, because public school would absolutely ruin your kids and destroy all the traditional values you worked so hard to put into them.  Christians who had their kids in public school generally thought the homeschooling parents were weird and overprotective and their kids would turn out to be un-socialized misfits.  Needless to say, their kids didn’t hang out together much.  This was a mentality greatly fostered in ATI as well, I noticed- you either were, or you weren't, in or out, a good ATI Christian or a not that great worldly one.
As I mentioned in part 1, I think the majority of Christian parents choose homeschooling for the right reasons.  But there was a significant minority of parents who choose homeschooling, and perhaps also ATI, because it fit in with an already present co-dependent or dysfunctional lifestyles or unhealthy emotional tendencies.  I think depending on the day, my mother could have been in either category. 

However as I got older, it was more in the dysfunctional category.  I was not allowed to have opinions that differed from hers without being labeled rebellious. This came both from the growing submission to parents teaching in the stream and her BPD which interprets all disagreement as betrayal. 
My father’s drinking worsened, and he began to get more and more violent, sometimes coming home in a drunken rage and throwing knives around in the kitchen.  (He had already been unfaithful many times.)  My mother, worried about our safety, took my brother and me and moved out when I was 14, hoping it would cause my dad to get help.  He didn’t. The divorce was final two years later.  (For the record, I’m glad whatever she was reading at the time didn’t tell her to stay and submit to that.) However we were never allowed to talk about what happened in front of other people– I’m not sure how much of that was shame, how much was control, or how much of that reminded my mother we weren’t the perfect Christian family she still somehow tried to keep up the appearances of.

In the meantime, we kept homeschooling.  By the age of 15 I tested out of all my curriculum and received an Alpha Omega high school diploma of completion.
So now what?  I was interested in midwifery, but deemed (rightly) too young to start an apprenticeship. I started helping a lady in my church clean houses for money.  (I brought the money home to the family.)That job was deemed acceptable since it was in homes.  Then I got a temporary office job with a doctor in my church.  (I brought the money home to the family.) That job was deemed acceptable because it was with someone from the church.  Then I got a job at a grocery store. (I brought the money home to the family.) That job was deemed acceptable because God gave it to me.

Because I was simply grateful to be let out of the house, I didn’t realize that I was experiencing evidence that exceptions could be made to “women shouldn’t work outside the home” rule when it was convenient to do so.  As with many laws made by man, the ones in my home could also be reinterpreted by man when there was a necessary end to a certain means.  (I’ve seen the same pattern in some of the testimonies from those recovering from ATI, particularly those who worked at headquarters.) My mother did not choose to reinterpret it for herself however.  She stayed home and homeschooled my brother.
The dating one was not reinterpreted though.  That one was unchangeable.  And I thoroughly internalized that one, and kept it as one of the Ten Commandments, believing that it would ensure me the happy marriage of my dreams, and not a broken one like my parents had.  My mother had nothing to worry about on that count.

When I was 18, I was allowed to start a midwifery apprenticeship.  This involved moving out of my mother’s home into the birthing center where I was working.  This was deemed acceptable because it was in a house instead of a college campus, the owner was a Christian, and my mother would rent a house right down the road where I would go on weekends.
*Insert Snoopy hyper happy dance here.*

I have to say it again:  Midwifery was one of the absolute best things that ever happened to me.  It was like getting on jet skis after spending my whole life floating on driftwood wherever the current took me.   My training finally gave me a purpose and (shhh!)a goal to achieve. But that was okay because I was called by God to be a midwife (actually true) and midwifery was deemed intrinsically a godly calling and appropriate for stay at home girls.  Whatever.  It was 1988, and I was brought into a place that had not been influenced by the teachings of Bill Gothard or ATI, into a profession where independent adult decision making skills by women (the midwives) were of paramount importance.  Although as an apprentice I attended the births of homeschoolers, and even some ATI families, I also attended births of every ethnicity , Christian denomination, religion and demographic present in the DFW area at that ime.  I rubbed shoulders with a lot of very strong independent opinionated women in an environment where those traits were defined as good and not bad.  It was a true 1980s sub-culture.

Not only that, but midwives had to study and research and think for themselves on intimate and controversial topics, and then pass that information on to clients for them to make informed decisions- that might differ from mine-but that was okay too.
But for that year and a half, from 1988-1990, I thrived.
In conclusion, becoming a midwife was the antidote to almost every lie I had been told about what I couldn’t and shouldn’t do up to that point.  There would be other lies later, so strong that even being an independent thinking midwife wouldn't be enough inoculation to save me from believing them.

To be (further) continued…

(Sorry about dragging it out, but hey, I'm a busy working midwife and homeschooling mom, I can only write so much at once.  Stay tuned, if interested. And please. Comment and tell me your story too.)