This morning as I sit reading through social media outlets, I see posts as varied as the people represented there. Looking for the good, I am encouraged by people who choose to speak about love and grace and mercy.

My eyes wander to our dining room wall, where Kyle recently hung a favorite quote of mine I came across last fall. It states, "Come on in, there is always room at the table for you." It's a welcome beacon over my dining room table, reminding me of what I as a Christian am called to do.

Love my neighbor.

I think about Jesus's life on earth, how he invited people into community who were very different from him, including his enemies. I remember that he was called a drunkard and a glutton--not because he was those things, but because he chose to hang around people who were. I'm reminded of the words my pastor so frequently offers us, "You can belong here before you believe."

It was just a couple of months ago when we got the call about Kyle’s Aunt Mary passing away. It already had been one of those weeks when you feel like you need to just stop, take a breath.

I’d been fighting off illness, my body willing me to stop, but obligations kept me going.

And so as we drive to Mary’s wake, a priority in an already busy week, we explain to the kids about death once again. How Mary’s body will be there, but that she’s in heaven now. They sit in the back and nod, appearing to understand.

Not all, but many of the cousins.
As we walk into the church, we’re immediately greeted by familiar faces. Aunts. Cousins. Family. These people who’ve been together and lived together and created what has now become a rather large group of people.

Our people. Who hug big and laugh loud. Who smile and encourage you. Who look you in the eye and tell you how much their mother loved you. Who aren’t afraid to shed tears and share stories. I tell Kyle as we drive home, “Your cousins are so kind.” Authentic. And I am humbled by their love. It's a mirrored reflection of their own mother’s love over the years.

“Look, I know you don’t want to hear this, but if anything should happen to me…” He pauses, takes a breath. 

Heart stuttering, I rush to interrupt.

“Stop. Just – stop. Nothing’s going to happen to you–” 

Ignoring me, he plows on, “Talk to Chris, he can give you the password you need – everything’s on there.” 

 Calling my husband as I left the doctor's office, I choked up as the words came out: "Honey, thank God - there is actually something medically wrong with me."

As I sat in my car after I hung up with him, I wept hot, hard tears.

A little over a week ago we had the privilege of once again helping at a Sinlge Moms Retreat in the central Minnesota area. This event has become one of our favorite things to help with and be a  part of. We always leave incredibly blessed and humbled by the profound stories of faith, courage and hope the single mamas share with us. Nancy attended this year and we wanted to share the amazing story she learned from one of the women who attended. 

In May I had the opportunity to help at a retreat for single moms. These moms come from every walk of life and are single for a wide variety of reasons. Some are rich, some are poor; some are divorced, or widowed, or never married at all. Some have white-collar jobs, some blue-collar jobs, and some have jobs that might raise your eyebrows. I don’t know about you but sometimes I’ve had a tendency to put single moms into a category of one-size-fits-all while at the same time throwing out just a little bit of judgment about their choices. I’m not proud of that; I’m just being real here.
But you know what? I was oh so wrong. These single moms are simply trying their very best to feed, clothe, and care for their children. Like any mom, they are worried about doing it wrong. They suffer from mom guilt, just like the rest of us, and many of them go hungry at night so their kids won’t. At the end of a hard day, when they might need a little break, or help getting the kids into bed, there is no other adult to help them.
One mom told me a small piece of her story. I’ll call her Patti (not to protect her so much, but more so because I can’t really remember her name.)
Patti has had seven children: FOUR of them have died; two died in an accident, one died from SIDS, and I believe the fourth one died from an illness of some sort. She has had to bury FOUR children. I can’t fathom! You would think she’d be walking around depressed, but she isn’t. I doubt it’s because she doesn’t mourn for her kids. I think she’s CHOOSING to stay positive because she still has three boys to raise; three boys who need a mom who isn’t sad all the time. Though I’m sure she has her sad moments, she just doesn’t allow herself to dwell on them.
Money is tight at Patti’s house – so tight, in fact, she almost didn’t come to the retreat. She didn’t have enough money to pay for the gas to get there. When she told one of her sons that she thought she’d just stay home for the weekend he wouldn’t hear of it. “Mom,” he said, “You’ve got to go! You have money – it’s in the piggy bank!”
Want to read the rest of Patti's story? Click over to Nancy's blog.