family, gifts from God

A Brother is Born for Adversity

A Friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity. – Proverbs 17:17

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:24

I always thought that these two verses were saying basically the same thing, but now I’m not so sure. I took it to mean that good friends can be truer than family. Certainly we all know someone whose family is absent from their lives. Maybe they live physically too far away, or maybe they are just so different in personality and life that they can’t seem to make the jump to close relationships. Friends are those people you choose, so we often find those deep soul connections with our friends rather than our blood.


But I think adversity has helped me see that a brother may not be born to create adversity, but rather for times of adversity. Sure, my brother teased me growing up. Sure he still mocks me over an incident where I ran screaming from a bottle of shampoo and another time that he convinced me in my groggy state that my teddy bear was talking. But when push comes to shove, my brother is the one I turn to. (And I’d like to add this is just as true for my sister.)

house sale

When my father died months before my wedding, who waked me down the aisle? Who showed up at my house to watch my kids when I was in labor, or we needed to make a run to the ER? Who did I text a thousand times from my mother’s bedside? Who stood next to the grave the day we buried our son? Please don’t misunderstand, I have many a good friend that showed up at these and other hard moments, but I know I can count on my brother and sister in a deeper way, in a “we’re all in this together” sort of way. My siblings have been my rocks through more adversity than I thought it was possible for one person to bear.

I am so very fortunate to have friends who love at all times, but I am all the more blessed that I had a brother born for adversity.

siblings 2

Christian, family, grief and loss, mental health, parenting teens

Borrowing Trouble From Yesterday

Proverbs 17: 21,22
21 He who sires a fool gets himself sorrow,
    and the father of a fool has no joy.
22 A joyful heart is good medicine,
    but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Please let me be clear right upfront. I am not calling my children fools, any more than I might say of anyone. We are all fools at times and in certain areas of our lives.  However, I wanted to make an connection between the fool and the struggling or wayward child. It doesn’t matter exactly what the details are, but a child whose life looks different from a parent’s dream for their child, can result in a parent who struggles with sorrow, grief, and a lack of joy. This could be physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. It could be illness. It could be a prodigal child who has rejected the faith their parents have so prayerfully tried to instill in him or her. It might be a child who is simply making foolish or risky decisions regarding academics, alcohol, dating, or a host of other areas.

life disasters

Parents, if this is you, please listen up. You are hurting, fearful, broken, grieving, disappointed, angry, sad, anxious, or any combination of these and many other emotions. You had an image of what your family would be, and it hasn’t turned out that way. You were sure you’d be a good parent, and you promised yourself you wouldn’t make the same mistakes your parents made. Maybe you didn’t; maybe you made different mistakes. I can only promise you that you most definitely made mistakes. It would be impossible for you not to have. We all do. Don’t try to evaluate your mistakes by comparing them to others. You can’t take them back. Personally, I know I can’t seem to let mine go. If you are anything like me, you can’t let yours go either. Please believe me that hanging on to them is only hurting your child and yourself more. Do what I say and not what I do.

flaming grill

Perhaps the mistakes you made directly resulted in the exact negative choices you desperately wanted to avoid in your child. Maybe you held on too tight, or maybe you were too lenient. Maybe you are wracked with guilt and “what ifs”. Maybe you are grieving the happy home you though you’d have or the parent you thought you’d be. Maybe the issues your child has have absolutely nothing to do with you and you know it. Maybe it was the results of genetics, accidents, or someone else’s sin. Maybe you’re angry with God or someone else. I really can’t say for sure. If you’re like me, then you deal with stress and anxiety about the long term future of your child(ren) and how their life will turn out. Maybe you fear for your safety or the safety of your loved ones wether because of depression, violence, or physical ailments. I’ve talked with so many parents who have walked various challenging roads with their kids. Some need to establish care plans for their children in their wills, some worry about access to weapons. Many are on their knees in broken hearted prayers every single day.

Life is hard, and you have become skilled in borrowing trouble from tomorrow. You are even more skilled at borrowing trouble from yesterday.

pills 2

Stop it.

Hear me.

God has this. I know it’s easy to say this, and it’s near impossible to do this. I don’t mean to suggest that you stop worrying forever; I mean for right now. Stop.

This is robbing your joy and destroying your health. I don’t think it was a mistake that Solomon put the next verse where he did. The stress and worry that is marking you life is shortening your life and making you unhealthy. So for just this minute- stop. The worry and anxiety will come back soon enough, so for now count your blessings and embrace something wonderful or beautiful or good that also marks your life. Maybe start with all that is right and good with your difficult child, all that you love and deeply want to see flourish. And when the worry or fear or guilt returns, stop again. It’s going to be a constant battle. Don’t set up some unattainable goal like “never worry again,” that when you fail to achieve will leave you defeated. Stop for just a moment, for as many moments as you can, as often as you can. Start making a new normal.

Your life isn’t what you dreamed of or hoped for, but that doesn’t mean it is without it’s joys. Find those joys. Live in those joys. You need your health to care for those kids (big and small) who are struggling through life. Your kids need the best you, and your best medicine is joy.


book review, Christian, social justice

Love Does: A Review (the book and the organization)

The name Bob Goff came up so frequently in the past year or so I had to check him out. I didn’t know much about him, just a mention of him by other authors, a forward in a book, or someone mentioned reading Love Does. Hearing he had a new book coming out, I made reading it a priority. I borrowed it from Hoopla, because I almost never have time to read a paper book and Hoopla fits my budget of FREE.

I’m not used to a book that immediately draws me in, but right from the get go I couldn’t stop listening. At first I was trying to reconcile a man who was a great mentor to others, a human rights lawyer who put human traffickers away, but who also thought flying out of a Jeep in an auto accident was cool. How could all be the same person? But it was.

The stories were highly entertaining, but the book had real meaning and purpose. It helped me think about some of the relationships I have. I felt like I understood love a little more. I wanted to love better.

That led me to look up the organization that Bob Goff runs that works to secure justice for the oppressed and underprivileged in Africa (Uganda, Somali) and Asia (Nepal, India, Iraq). Love Does is doing amazing work! I must say that the idea of traveling with them sounds like an amazing chance to go on an adventure, but that’s not in my budget…nor do I expect it ever will be.

The only thing even remotely negative about this book is that Bob Goff’s life seemed unattainable for me. I tend to like to think that maybe one day I could be as wild and crazy as the authors whose lives I read about. But Bob, well, I’m never going to have the funds to take my kids to visit 27 different nations, even if the the leaders of those countries invited us over. I have no desire to sail across the pacific with rudimentary navigational tools. Now, my dad on the other hand, he’d have loved it. Maybe there in lies the draw. I’m not like Bob, and I don’t have his resources, but I know and love people who are similar to him in spirit and passion and that makes Bob relatable even if he’s unattainable for me personally. I bet Bob would be an awesome person to chat with over dinner or go on an adventure with.  I loved reading every word of Love Does. I can’t wait to get my hands on his next one Everybody Always. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy.

So, check out the book Love Does, but more importantly, check out the organization. Support them with your resources and prayers. And if you ever get the chance to travel with them, share your pictures. I’d love to see them.

And Bob Goff, our house probably isn’t as nice as the houses of some of the world leaders you have met, but the food will be good, the conversation lively, and there is a key to our house just waiting for you. Come on by.

Adulting, family

Living the Dream

Sometimes when I write about my life being a mess, I include #livingthedream or something similar. I enjoy making light of the hard times, but life isn’t all hard times. Life is full of beautiful moments, adventures, and love.

A couple years back, a friend of mine encouraged me to start keeping track of my kid’s accomplishments (awards, activities, etc.) in a document which could later be used to help them in writing out their college applications. She said that they are often busy and don’t keep track of these things, and then they forget about them when the time comes to list their accomplishments.  It made me start to think that I should do the same for myself. Not for a job resume, but simply as a reminder of the amazing life I have been fortunate enough to live.  I called it my Reverse Bucket List.

I thought I would share it with you in hopes of inspiring you to do the same thing. These are in no particular order.

Things I have done in my life (aka – The Reverse Bucket List)

  • Worked security for Mexican rock star, Yuri (AKA The Mexican Madonna). (Missions trip to Mexico)
  • Helped judge a spear throwing  and gum boot tossing contest among Masai warriors in Kenya. (This was more honorary than real, but I’m okay with this.)
  • Set foot in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans as well as the Caribbean Sea.
  • Snorkeled in the Caribbean. Swam with sharks and sting rays.
  • Sang the National Anthem at a Phillies Game (twice). (HS choir)
  • Marched in the NYC St. Patty’s Day Parade (twice). (HS marching band)
  • Visited prisons in the US, Mexico, and Belize.
  • Won 2nd place at the Stockton State science fair (NJ) and advanced to regionals in PA where I won 3rd  place. (MS-Physics).
  • Taught sex education classes in high schools, drug education in a detention center, and tutored in an adolescent rehab facility.
  • Visited with Mayan Indians in Belize and a Masai village in Kenya.
  • Traveled solo into the city of Amsterdam for a short walk and breakfast downtown.
  • Slept in a tent in the African plains while on safari in Kenya. (resort camping)
  • Was a grave digger! (Mom and Sean’s cremains.)
  • Won writing contest at a writer’s conference (GPCWC 2016)
  • Been to 41 of the 50 US States and 5 other nations.
  • Helped rebuild/repair homes in KY and NJ through ABCNJ-Youth Work Camp.
  • Taught numerous children how to read.
  • Earned a BA and an MA from TSC / TNCJ.
  • Wrote the first draft of a book.
  • I have hiked with llamas in Massachusetts, got a little too close to a bear in the Smokey Mountains, touched snow on the top of the Rocky Mountains, gone caving in West Virginia, saw a lion on safari in Kenya, and been white water rafting in Tennessee.
  • I have raised a family of 4 great kids and been married to the love of my life for over 2 decades.
  • I’ve run in an official 5K race (twice).
  • I have successfully navigated the NYC subway system solo. I have also flown solo internationally, and taken and cab and a train (either alone or with only a child in tow.)5Kmayan temple

Spear throwingwhitewateramsterdamKenya beachlion


I am looking forward to adding to this list of all I have seen and done. Life is not all adventure, but it is far more than the daily grind. I don’t want to forget what I’ve done for fear of forgetting that there is so much more left to do. This life is good, and I want to savor it.


After the Fire: A Family History

On December 16, 1956, an arsonist set fire to several churches in Trenton, New Jersey, including the 3rd oldest United Methodist Church in North America. When the pastor arrived at the church, he convinced fire fighters to allow him to enter the blazing building and retrieve documents and artifacts that dated back to the 1700’s. I cannot imagine the horror his 22 year-old son must have felt as he witnessed the collapse of the Sunday School building roof just near where his father had entered. The fire fighters who had entered the building with the pastor would protect him by pressing up against the wall as the roof came down mere feet from where they stood. They would escape unscathed, but would later re-enter, saving some of the treasured history that, in an age before the internet, were irreplaceable.

A local sixteen year-old-girl would read the Times the next morning and clip the article from the paper. She knew no one involved, but was impressed by the heroic deeds of the pastor.

It would be many years before that girl, my mom, would meet the pastor’s son who would later become my dad. (Dad was only 17 at the time of the fire; my uncle was the one on the scene that night.) Mom would tell us the story about her clipping out those articles not knowing that within a decade she would be married by that brave pastor to his son and in that very church.

Last week, a woman who had known and loved my grandparents, mailed me a variety of newspaper clippings and other papers. She had tracked me down using the Internet and my birth announcement from one of the church bulletins. I can’t even tell you how it felt to receive these things in the mail, to read the articles, and to hold these pieces of family history. I’d researched the fire online, but how different to hold the fragile, yellow paper in your hand. It’s like the different between swiping your finger across an e-book and curling up with a nice paper book on a Saturday morning. I was touched by the effort she went through to send these to our family.


I must admit. I have numerous boxes stashed in different corners of my home filled with family history in the form of pictures, scrapbooks, old letters, and such. I repeated promise myself (and my husband) that one-day I will go through them all, digitalize them, and reduce all the clutter. Yet there are a few things that I know I won’t be able to part with. These will make the cut.

Are you holding on to bits of your family’s history? If you have something that has been passed on and doesn’t have much meaning to you, consider sending it on to someone who will treasure it. You just might fill them with a little extra joy.

elder care, family

Super Sulky Super Bowl Party

Me in response to my siblings telling me what Mom wanted to eat for the Super Bowl: She will be getting a small hoagie, a small French bread pizza slice, some buffalo chicken bites, loaded potato skins, potato chips, chips and salsa, and Diet Dr. Pepper. I’m running a geriatric Super Bowl party not a restaurant. She doesn’t get to choose.


I’m a red-blooded American. This means that even though I don’t actually care about football, I watch the Super Bowl. Most years I make some traditional Super Sunday foods, like wings and nachos, and then we watch it as a family. Once in a while we’d attend a party, but with neither my husband nor I liking loud parties, we typically turn down all invites. This year my husband decided he wanted to attend, and as much as I don’t like the crowds, I hate being left out more. I’d already committed to stay home with Mom so my husband RSVP’d for one less, and I sulked on the inside.

Mom had been home and bed bound for several weeks leading up to the big event. Mom, unlike me, was a football fan. To be more specific, Mom was an die hard Eagles fan. I tried to make the day special in part for her, but to be honest, I was thinking mostly of myself. I was suffering from a severe case of FOMO and a healthy bout of self-pity. So, I bought some appetizers (mozzarella sticks, loaded baked potato skins, pigs-in-a-blanket), hoagies, chips, and soda. I brought over my schoolwork and laptop and set myself up in Mom’s full size bed, situated adjacent to her hospital bed/football watching sation. I turned on the oven and started cooking some simple party fare.

Mom wasn’t hungry.

Fine, more for me.

As kick off approached, Mom turned on the game and that’s when it hit me. Mom doesn’t have a large flat screen TV. She has a miniscule screen. With the TV facing directly towards Mom, and from my angle and distance, I could barely read the score. With the lesson plans and grading I was doing, I couldn’t even follow the score. I began to cry silent tears. I was in full-blown pity party mode, complete with snacks. Snacks which I was eating alone because the only other person at my party “wasn’t hungry.” It wasn’t that I really wanted to be at a party, I just didn’t want my life to be put on hold to care for my mom. I didn’t want to be stuck changing diapers when I could be doing something else, anything else. I was selfish. I knew I was selfish. I was ashamed of my selfishness. And I can assure you, misery really does love company.

Mom and I chatted that night, and not everything was the tragedy I had played out in my head. Except for the buffalo chicken bites. They were more putrid than the diapers I was changing. (Pro tip: Spend the money to buy real wings from a real wings joint. If you can’t have a nice party, at least you can have well earned heartburn.) Surprisingly, Mom enjoyed the game. She didn’t know how much she was missing out on by not watching the game on a screen large enough to be able to read the numbers on the jerseys. She did express her disappointment that she wouldn’t live long enough to see her beloved Eagles win a Super Bowl even though she faithfully draped her t-shirt over her hospital-gowned chest every game that season. Like a good daughter, I assured her that even if she lived to be 100 she wasn’t going to get to see that, so she really wasn’t missing out on anything. I’m empathetic like that.


Truth be told, I knew that day that she wasn’t going to see another Super Bowl regardless of who was in it, and that alone almost made me an Eagles fan just for her. When the Eagles finally did make an appearance at the big game only a few years later, I would wear my green and white and wipe the buffalo sauce off my face with Eagles napkins I inherited from Mom. I sure hope heaven has a massive flat screen, and Mom had her front row seats to that game.

Jay is “helping” the Eagles win in Mom style. Caleb told him to straight it out so they could read it better. LOL!
Christian, marriage, ministry, women

He Sits at the City Gates

Her husband is known in the gates
Where he sits among the elders of the land.
(Proverbs 31:23)

It isn’t easy to be married to me. Let me give you an example of a recent conversation. (These interactions happen regularly in our home. This is just one area in which out views diverge.)

Me: You say you believe in a literal interpretation of “An elder must be the husband of one wife,” but you don’t. You believe an elder must be a man because of this verse, but you don’t believe the verse literally.
Jay: Yes I do.
Me: But you don’t think he needs to be married. You’d be okay with a single guy being an elder. If the pastor’s wife died, you won’t say he needed to step down because he didn’t have a wife.
Jay: Yes, because I don’t think that’s what that verse is saying. It’s saying that if the guy is married he can only be married to one woman.
Me: So, you’re okay with saying that the elder doesn’t need to be a husband nor does he need to have a wife, but you still claim to “literally” interpreting the verse to mean it must be a man because of the word husband even though that man doesn’t literally need to be a husband.
Jay: Yes.
Me: But you can’t possibly interpret it to mean that in a male dominated culture, where men were the vast majority of leaders and women were often uneducated, that the author was speaking to an all male audience, and not that he was specifically excluding women.

Jay: Correct.
(It was a lot longer than this abridged version. Obviously choosing the parts that make me look particularly witty and bright.)

Let me tell you why my husband sits at the city gates. That man needs a break. He has gone out to “sit with the elders of the land” just so he can hang with the guys. I suspect they have gone to the gates of the city so that they can be as far away from home without actually leaving the city. And because they are guys, they are probably out shooting each other with paintball guns, which I expect that they find less painful than listening to all the words that their wives and kids have. Maybe instead, they will go fishing and sit in utter silence. They’ll come back home ready for the chaos of kids, the endless chores, and the day in and day out grind of their jobs. They might have discussed theology or politics or what would be the best way to beat the land speed record without causing severe harm or death.


The all male Elders Board and Board of Trustees at my church, along with the other male leaders of our congregation, are good men. They are doing hard things. While they are doing it with limited input from women based on their convictions, they are doing it with prayer, integrity, and pure intentions. Most of the men in the God fearing churches I know are living lives of servant leadership. And if they were to included some women in those decision making teams, I am sure they would still be “sitting at the city gates” trying to snag a few minutes of guy time. I not only can’t blame them for this, I fully support this. Guys need that time, and society doesn’t encourage it in the same way they encourage girls to build friendships. Too many men don’t have close male friends, and we are all the worse for it. When they come back from these times, whether they are weekend retreats or a weekly time of coffee and conversation, they are better equipped to navigate this crazy life. They are better leaders, teachers, husbands, fathers, workers, and better Christians.

So yes, I hope I am the kind of wife whose husband sits at the city gate.


Side note: Yes, I know that the city gate was the place where business was transacted and the leaders sat. I understand the author wasn’t talking about guy’s poker night. I am somewhat twisting the line for sake of humor and to make my point. However, society has changed. The closest walled city I know of is Quebec City, and I don’t think Canadians are more spiritual as a result of this. The word of God transcends time, but I think its wise to look it scripture keeping this in mind.

And to the Godly wife whose husband isn’t sitting among the elders be it at the city gates or among the church leaders: it may be no reflection on you at all. You might sanctify your husband through your actions, but it’s neither your job, nor within your capabilities to make that happen. God’s got that.