Want to Know How to Lighten Your Load?

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Usually our son is a pretty good hiker.  Today’s journey started out rough!  Usually a good hike is packed full of very valuable life lessons today’s hike did not disappoint!  As we embarked on our adventure our ears were plagued with continuous whining and complaining from our son!  My husband will soon be fifty and I will soon be forty seven,  we reminded our twelve year old of our older more worn bodies pushing through the physical strain.  The complaints continued on.  We had him stand next to me to show that our legs are actually the same length after the excuse of “your legs are longer than mine”, was spewed out! The attitude was rough and put quite the damper on this beautiful day!  Finally God placed a thought in my mind that was ever so true for myself more often than I like to admit.  “Son you are being weighed down by your bad attitude.  It is heavier than your own body is!”  If you take that attitude and throw it far down that hill your load will be so much lighter!!  You are missing the beauty around.  You are missing the warmer air, the sunshine, the fact that you can see so much farther while the leaves are off the trees!!  Even the muddy path is kind of fun!  It’s fun to get dirty!”  It took some coaxing, but praise God the “tude” started to dissipate!  The guy found a pocket knife off the beaten path as he did some exploring!  He even sang a little!  Toward the end of our 6-7 mile travel I heard “the sun looks so nice going down over the river”!

We all really have those moments when our bad attitude and self absorption really weighs us down. It truly weighs down everyone around us!  As I explained to our son I used my hands to tug at my chest and then flung my arms in a throwing/tossing motion toward the steep of the bluff,  I felt a sense of relief within myself even!  Throw that bad attitude away!  It boils down to our bad attitude is actually sin creeping in.  A bad attitude steals our joy and we miss out on the beauty surrounding us.  Even in pain or trials there are blessings God pours upon us if we have our eyes open!

Hebrew 12:1-3 says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

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Lessons from Our Adoptive Son

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The heart of man kind is such a mystery to us, but not to God.  Our son continues to teach me more and more about human nature and God’s love for us all!  It is amazing how people can go through tough circumstances in life and come through with basically two very different outcomes.  The circumstance will either better us or make us bitter.  Really the choice is our own and is based on our heart!  So often I hear “John has a good heart.” from teachers, people at church,  friends, and family.  He of course has a ton to learn like anyone, especially at age 12.  He does indeed have a very loving heart.  With what he has gone through in life, yet still has such love, forgiveness, and remains “teachable” is quite amazing.

He has been bullied a lot and in a very recent case continues to find forgiveness in his heart.  He tells me “Everything is good mom, we are friends now!!”  It amazes me how his ultimate desire seems to just be buddies with the whole world no matter what anyone has done!

He asked me today “Mom, if you could choose any job you wanted what would it be?”  After a second of thinking about what I truly enjoy in life I said a park Ranger!  I have loved being in the woods since I can remember at age four begging my dad to take me for walks in the woods by our house!  I told John I love the woods and I love taking kids on hikes too!  Hikes teach a lot of life lessons!!  He says “Yeah!  I think all the hikes you take me on have helped me get more mature and responsible!!!”  Oh my gosh that is that sweet heart of his, God love him!!  I then said I love to fix up and restore old houses too!  A park ranger that also fixes up houses those are my dream jobs!!  He agreed and was satisfied with my answer!  😂

Recently we redid our laundry room.  My husband tore out a closet that just wasn’t very functional.  Our home was well built with a LOT of plaster and wire.  It sure wasn’t like the fix up home shows that seem to always just take a sledge hammer to bust out walls a lot of different tools and grit were needed.  This wall had resilient layers of plaster with a strong fine mesh wire, and a strong studded framework!!  After the walls came down and stubborn tacks in the floor were removed we were able to restore this space to a pretty little room maximizing the potential of the space.  I was reminded of what God can do with a human heart!  He wants to restore us, tear down the walls of bitterness, and maximize us to the full potential He created us to be!!

There is so much in the Bible about the heart!  We all sin, after Adam and Eve sinned we all have the curse of sinful nature.  Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?”

We all are in different stages of restoration and need of restoration.  When we look at others how God sees them it sure helps to protect our own hearts from bitterness.

Every person God has used in His great plan has sinned, but He always considered their heart.  It was the condition of their heart that caused God to use them.  Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, Moses, David, Paul, Peter, John… the list is so very long.  All sinners, yet had hearts that were repentant and teachable, loving, able to receive and give forgiveness.  The scripture of course speaks better than I.  Here are just a few verses that really touched my “heart”!!  ❤️

1 Samuel 16:7 “But the Lord said to Samuel Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.  For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Jeremiah 17:10 “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”

Psalm 119:2 “Joyful are those who obey His laws and search for Him with all their heart.”

Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.”

Proverbs 21:2 “A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.”

Proverbs 4:23 “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

How is your heart condition?  God is continuously working on mine!!!

Do not Grow Weary in Doing Good

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The older I get the more I love to hike and the more reasons I have to love it!  Simply enjoying the outdoors, I can be “still” and listen to God the best, each hike is an accomplishment that no one can take from me, it is therapeutic, it is a great time to learn more about whoever is with me, it is great exercise, a goal is reached… I can go on and on.

Just a couple weeks ago my sixteen year old daughter was upset about our family’s hospitality being taken advantage of.  One of her statements was “I am tired of our family doing things to be nice and it always being taken advantage of!”  A few years back our now nineteen year old had a similar statement after witnessing me having to take some pretty rotten verbal abuse from a birth parent.  “Mom why was he so rude to you when all you have done is try to help?!”

My answer was and still remains the same.  Just because our kindness isn’t always well received, or we are taken advantage of, even if a thank you never comes, we are to never stop doing good.  When God calls you to something it doesn’t matter what human beings say or do.  If God has put it on our hearts to help someone He has a plan.  We don’t always get to see the bigger picture.  We have no idea what is going on with a person or another person’s heart.   Truth be told anything good that God has called us to is not really about us.  If our hearts our right it is all for God’s glory.  Every good deed He calls us to is sharing His love with a broken world.

Jesus healed ten lepers and only one returned to say thank you. Luke 17:11-19

It has taken fortysix years to be where I am in this and God is continuing to work on me.  Even when someone has a completely different lifestyle, beliefs, and views it is becoming more and more my prayer, “God show me how I can love this person the way you need me to!”   God help me be more aware of this hurting world around me even if the world tries to hurt me.   Help me to point to you, show love, show grace, show mercy, and not cast judgment.

If we have done what God has called us to do then that is it.  Let it go, shake off the negative, and trust that God is using our obedience for the good of His perfect plan!!

Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Like hiking when my muscles are tired and my joints hurt the end result is worth it!  The result is always going to be worth it to continue doing good even when it seems useless.

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When We Sabotage Our Own Lives

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Once again I am preparing myself to pack up another child’s room.  Once again I feel the sting of grief.  My hope is that as my heart is shattered into more pieces that God can use those pieces to love that much more greatly through me.

As Mike and I think and look back we feel no regrets.  I pray and ask God was there something else that needed to be said or done.  There is nothing, but a peace He gives that we did all we could.  We loved whole heartedly we provided chances, forgiveness, teaching, true sacrificial giving of time, energy, and resources.

There has been nothing that has painted a better picture of what Christ has done for each and every human being than this ministry of Foster care.   We are born into a sinful and broken world.  Why are innocent children abused and neglected at such a young age?  Why are so many people succumbed to addictions to drugs and alcohol?  Why are we so prideful and full of ourselves?  Why are we so selfish?  Why are we so ungrateful?  Why do people who show nothing but love and kindness get taken advantage of?  It is all because of sin.  God gave us all freewill.  I can not make choices for any other human being and can only control my own.

We become comfortable in our situations of sin self inflicted or inflicted by others.  It is what we know.  It is why so many victims of domestic violence just keep returning to the abuser. When love steps in, when God calls to a person’s soul, we become uncomfortable.  We start to realize there is something far greater and bigger than us and it is scary.  The thing about our human nature is that so often we start to see and realize what true love, true abundant life can be and we sabotage it.  We retreat back to old ways because it is what we know.  Our sinful habits are what we think will make us happy.   It is a deceitful lie that leads us down a painful and deadly path.

The image of Jesus dying on the cross taking all my sin and shame as well as every human being’s remains the strength that keeps me going.  Christ was rejected by his very own.  He is rejected every minute of every day.  So many curse Him, turn their backs on Him, and run straight into the pit of destruction He came to save them from.

Oh, but when a person finally does realize their great and desperate need of His love and forgiveness that is when life truly begins.   Life is hard and the consequences of our own bad choices are very hard.  God gave us a way out of the pit.  He gave us a way to true life through Jesus Christ.  As my relationship deepens more and more I yearn for each breath I take to be for Jesus.  Because of my own sinful nature I still have so much to learn about full surrender and trust.  The more I breath Him in the deeper my peace, joy, and realization of how loved I am becomes.

My heart breaks when the love I give is rejected.  I can only imagine how Jesus feels to have paid the penalty for all sin through death on the cross only to be rejected by so many.   In fact the love I give doesn’t even come from me it is Christ loving through me.

So my eyes will continue to look that much more intently on Jesus and His way.  Everything I do is for His Glory and not mine.  God has a plan and perfect will.  My hope and trust is that anything done for His Glory will not go in vain and that He will take the seeds planted and continue to water His truth on them.

Philippians 2:1-5 “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and one of mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…”

Once Going Organic There Aint No Going Back

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Two of the teenage girls my life has been blessed with came out to talk with me on our back patio yesterday morning.  I was actually getting to sit and study God’s word in peace.  Truly one of my most treasured happy places that I need to be in so very much more.  There was conversation about some tough things and tough parenting going on in our home right now.  The words and analogies that come out of my mouth sometimes most definitely do not come from my wee little brain.  We were talking about how conviction hurts and we get angry with whoever and whatever points out our brokenness.  We don’t want anyone telling us we are wrong no matter how kindly it is done.  Our human nature wants to stay in our sinful nasty ways.  We tend to make excuses and cast blame on everyone but our own self.  It hurts, but once we have surrendered to God’s ways and we truly desire to follow Jesus with our life then we start to experience true joyful, pure living!   I told them it is like drinking Organic Milk.  A few years back when I went through total detox for health purposes I started buying Organic Milk for the kids.  Now that we have tasted what is more healthy and pure the regular milk taste terrible.  Regular milk actually taste like chemicals with a hint of card board.   The words coming from me were that once we truly surrender to following Jesus the sin that we clung so tightly to starts to become like the regular old milk.  Once having the true taste of freedom, peace, and joy that Christ brings then the old sinful temptations start to look and taste like pure poison.  The closer we grow to Jesus the greater our desire for His ways and not our own.

We all have our different weaknesses, we all sin, and it all is disgusting.   No matter what our weakness is Jesus can heal us, purify us, and help us to live abundant life that He planned for us.   When God is convicting us it is painful to see how broken and dirty we truly are, but we can not experience true living without realizing how broken we truly are.

John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

A Whole New Kind of Grief

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One never knows what a new year will bring.  This year has brought a whole new level of heart broken.  This picture is with puffy sad eyes of a turn of events breaking this momma’s heart.  Praise God for a sweet sensitive family pet that knew exactly what I needed in the moment. Sunday morning during our pastors sermon I had a short little prayer “God is it time to move forward with adoption…should I ask Mike about it again?”   The answer to my prayer was practically immediate and not what I ever dreamt or thought.  To protect privacy I can not write about the behaviors of our child that ensued immediately after our church service while we were still at church.  It was more of the tough stuff we have been enduring the last nine months with great intensity.  The afternoon improved and Mike and I once again were given apologies.  Once again we forgave without hesitation and then it seemed that what had become our “new normal” family life resumed for the rest of the day.  That night our child made a very dangerous, pre meditated and planned choice.  It was a choice that greatly endangered our entire family.  The realization was overwhelming that God was protecting us in a mighty way that night.

With prayer and consultation through the proper channels of foster care workers it became very evident that the next layer of healing would not be in our home for this young one.  God had answered my prayer with a big NO regarding adoption.  Not what I expected.  The message that followed was “you did exactly what I needed you to do and now it is time for the next step in the plan I have”.

This Sunday morning I sang the special music at our church.  It was a song that I had heard weeks prior that grabbed my attention in a powerful way.  As I listened to the words I thought “oh my this is my prayer that I have been praying through our journey!”  “These are the images of Jesus put to words in a song that have been sustaining me moment to moment.”  The song is “Abide With Me” by Matt Maher.  As my life journey continues my relationship with Jesus is deepening, but nothing has required a further growth and complete reliance on Him as our foster parent journey.   One of the images has been the image of Jesus on the cross carrying the burden of all the sin of all mankind.  As we have carried the weight of the EFFECT that sin has had on just one young life the understanding of the magnitude of Jesus’ love has blown my mind.  The burden has been so heavy and I have not been able to even carry one person that has been so sinned against without Jesus’ love.  The next image has been Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He prayed alone, abandoned by His sleepy disciples.  He prayed with great anguish knowing the magnitude of the weight he was about to endure.  His anguish was over the burden of sin and separation from God the Father more so than the physical torture.  Now with this week’s events there is a deeper level of Jesus’ pain that is becoming more clear.  Not only was he giving the ultimate sacrifice for those who would choose His healing.  He was fully obedient to carry the weight of those who would completely deny and reject Him.  This was something I knew, but haven’t had the depth of understanding as I now have.  To pour every ounce of love, energy, and sacrificial giving into a person who may not ever choose healing has been very eye opening.

God goes to extreme measures to reach each and every human being.  He will place people in the paths of others so that everyone has the opportunity to know the truth.  The workers are so very few.  (Matthew 9:35-38) As a follower of Jesus I feel so gracious and honored to get to be used by Him.  To understand that there is so much work to heal this broken world and that God would use someone so inadequate as me to touch the life of another humbles my soul.  God continues to provide a peace that nothing has been in vain.  That His purposes are eternal and we may not know on this side of heaven what work He has done through us.  If we went back in time to the day we got our license to foster the answer would still be “yes” to our first call.

We do need some time for “self care”, healing, and to pour love into our daughters.  We are not going to quit and still feel the call to open our home to children who have been hurt by this sinful broken world.  There are so many lessons that are priceless.  I will always love this child that is still learning how to receive true love.  Any child that has been in my care will always be one of my children.  This young life will remain in my prayers.  My hope is that one day I will be reunited with this young one in heaven.  I pray he will choose goodness, love,  and healing that only comes from Jesus.

Here are the words to the song “Abide With Me”.

I have a home, eternal home

but for now I walk this broken world

you walked it first, you know our pain

But you show hope can rise again up from the grave

Abide with me, abide with me

don’t let me fall, and don’t let go

walk with me and never leave

ever close, God abide with me

There in the night, Gethsemane

before the cross, before the nails

overwhelmed, alone you prayed

you met us in our suffering and bore our shame

Abide with me, abide with me

don’t let me fall, and don’t let go

walk with me, and never leave

ever close God abide with me

Love that will not ever let me go

Love that will not ever let me go

You never let me go

Love that will not ever let me go

You never let us go

And up ahead , eternity

we’ll weep no more, and sing for joy, abide with me

 

Chaotic Souls

It has been a while since I have written about our journey as foster parents.  It remains a journey with extreme ups and extreme downs.  There is a challenge and spiritual battle nearly everyday. There are also amazing teachable moments and victories nearly every day.

Today was an unplanned foster son room major clean up.  These have been required anywhere from every 2 weeks to monthly.  In preparation for Christmas today was my last chance to get the house in order before all the holiday festivities.  We now have a house rule that bedrooms and personal belongings around the house need to be picked up before computer time can be granted.  During school  homework and violin practice needs to be completed as well. So our foster son went into his room to clean to earn computer time.  At one point a bed was moved out and our son was sweeping all the toys and clutter out from behind it.  This initiated exuberant praise from me.  “Yes that is how to truly clean!!  Great job!!!”   Moments later when our child said he was done the time spent did not match the task at hand.  As I went in to inspect I noticed that trash that I had noticed on the floor as the child was sweeping was not in the trash can.  The wrappers I witnessed were nowhere in plain sight.

Then it happened. I discovered that a room that appeared and had been appearing pretty clean on the surface was not truly clean at all.   I began moving furniture and emptying drawers.  There was hoarded food, dirty laundry (I had wondered where all his socks went), pieces to games, trash, legos, chewed up wads of gum,  you name it.  In a mind that thinks like mine it requires far more effort to shove stuff behind and under furniture than to just put it where it goes.   There was some role playing to help the child see why mom’s mood went from happy to grouchy, having the child to look me in the eyes as we talked to truly connect,  there was teaching yet again on where things go, everything has a place, etc…  With each discovery of stashed messes our child became more and more angry with me.

Finally after moving the night stand and finding another huge chaotic mess words came from me that I had not had time to think of on my own.  Pointing to the mess I said that is what we look like on the inside before we ask Jesus to come in to clean us up.  We hide our sins, stash our pain, our trash, all our junk into the deep corners of our soul so no one else can see it.  God sees it though and that is why he gave us Jesus.  Jesus is the only one who can find our clutter of junk and clean it out.  Your room is not truly clean until all the junk stashes are sorted out.  Our hearts are not truly clean until we ask Jesus to clean us.  We can’t truly feel joy until our stash of trash in our hearts are cleaned out. There was a lot of tough love and firmness going on  as I have had to learn to be much harder than ever before.

With tears of frustration being shed by our child during this process we did finally reach smiles and happiness upon job completion.  Mom was also told “I’m sorry I had a nasty attitude.” and forgiveness was granted by momma.   For a child that is from hard places there is much more meaning behind the chaos of a messy room.  The control of things because that is all that a traumatized child could have any control of.  The hoarding of food because it has not always been readily available or possibly used as a punishment.  So much happens in lives of children from a hard place that we just never even really know about.  Often the child can’t even remember the trauma let alone make the connection of past experiences effecting behavior choices.  On so many levels we have had to start from the very beginning with teaching, socialization, and emotional development.

We just keep repeating and repeating teaching, loving, and tough loving.

I too had to have my heart cleaned by Jesus.  I have to cry out everyday for Him to purge the messes in the corners of my heart.   Sometimes it hurts I cry and get a little angry.  Once the junk is purged my eyes are opened to my nasty attitude and I can ask my Lord Jesus to please forgive me.  Once the chaos of my soul is clean I experience true joy and contentment.  Thank you Lord for showing me tough love and grace.

 

I Love You Because you Exist

There are daily life lessons to learn as a foster family.  So many I really can’t share.  Many things I have known, but God is driving a deeper and deeper understanding within me.

What a messy world we live in.  It seems that so many people desire to completely change who they are and are never satisfied within their own skin.  There is a desire and push within this world to completely change the things about ourselves that are clearly defined when we are born.  It is hard enough to figure out things like what school to go to and what career to choose let alone the things about us that are actually very cut and dry.

God continues to reveal to me the deep problem of humanity and what His cure for the problem is.  The greatest need of every human being is to know that there is at least one person that loves them merely because they exist.  A love that has no condition, a love that has no selfish goals, a love that is there even when we are underserving of it.  From the day we are born we are in need of this kind of love.  You cry I will be there, you cause me to be unable to meet my own needs at times…I will be there, you lash out at me…I will be there…   I will still look at you and smile, my eyes will light up when you enter the room.   We all need this kind of love and fewer and fewer are receiving it…even as a small helpless child many never receive this kind of love.

Love like this opens our heart to realizing that we exist because God cared enough to create us and plan our lives.    It opens our hearts to realize that God gave us free will because He wants us to love Him in return because we choose too.  Love like this opens our hearts to understanding that God sent Jesus because He loves us despite our wickedness, flaws, and our unworthiness.   God loves us just as we are because He is.

No matter the struggles and challenges the answer to the deep dark pains of this world is LOVE.   God is helping me love and understand on deeper levels daily…sometimes minute to minute.  To look at every human being with eyes of love merely because of their existence.  Because they are a creation of God.

Ugh When I Feel the Mother Hen in Me Trying to Unleash

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Every so often and sometimes far too often I am reminded of the battles my oldest child and I have trudged through together.  From the very beginning even her time coming into this world has been a battle to overcome.  I seriously could write a battle book for her from the day I found out I was pregnant with her until now nearly sixteen years later.   There will be many more chapters to add to the book that will grow in greater intensity.  Somehow these far too frequent and early battles will have prepared her for what God has planned for her.  Since the day I knew I was carrying her I have felt this overpowering desire to protect her from a world that loves to tear down who it views as weak.

Her shyness and quiet spirit is all I can account to the reason why others have singled her out and  left her out from day one.  Usually it has been people who should be in her corner backing her that I have watched leave her out and mock her.  Most of the time it has been the  most appropriate for me to sit back and immediately treat her wounds with encouragement, positivity, and instruction how to learn from the world’s harsh reality, rather than confronting the source directly.  Oh there have been times I have had to pray, choose my words wisely, make phone calls, send emails, do research, present her case, and stand up for her as well.  There have been medical battles, school battles, sports battles, child bully battles, etc…

Yesterday I was reminded as she was in goal for an intense game of soccer that I still have that mother hen.  As she was making an appropriate choice to keep her post in goal and let her defenders do their job I hear a scream “COME ON KEEP” from behind me.  It was a tone that if I were a child and yelled at in that manner I would have been crushed and cried.  The tone was like fingernails down a chalk board to me.  The tone said “you are terrible and not doing your job” to me as the mother.    No goal was scored and my daughter had chosen wisely.

With  Easter having just been this last weekend my thoughts went to Mary the mother of Jesus.  In all her humanness I can’t imagine what her own “mother hen” felt like watching her son being mocked, tormented, falsely accused, cursed, beaten, and murdered on the cross.    I can’t imagine being in a crowd that is screaming “CRUCIFY”  and having your one small little voice saying, but he has done nothing wrong…he has done nothing to deserve this…he has never done anything wrong…   With those three words I mentioned above screamed harshly at my own child every nerve in my body stood on end.  I can only imagine with each strike, whip, and each hammer of the nails how Mary’s nerves would have been completely frayed.  She was there at his miraculous conception, his birth, and witnessed so many instances in the life of Jesus that clued her in to the fact that He indeed was the Son of God placed in her womb and entrusted care.  Her Son has the ultimate battle book and fulfilled God’s ultimate plan to fight life’s ultimate battle death.  He alone conquered death for all of mankind.  Mary in her humanness as she watched her boy hang from that cross being cursed at and mocked still did not understand the extent of God’s plan, but kept a mental record of it all.   “She pondered it all in her heart.”

There is nothing we can face or give in this life that is greater than what Jesus did for us.

As a mother I know God loves my children even more than I do and that every challenge faced is to teach them and prepare them for the next.  As a parent God continues to increase my wisdom on how to build up, encourage, and go to bat for my children out of love.  Even with our next journey in life with fostering I feel this mother hen in me desiring  to protect children who are weak and have no one to battle for them.  Sometimes it will be taking a stand for them and sometimes it will be providing the encouragement, love, and instruction to help wounds heal…   I really don’t like the feeling of my mother hen rattling the cage, but God has put this drive and fight within me for a reason…