There are so many things I should express to you today, but the English language only has so many words. Truth be told, there will never be an adequate way to share my feelings. There will never be enough “I love yous” to convey how much I care, or enough “thank yous” to demonstrate how grateful I am. Even so, I have decided to try and do you justice in this letter.
Mom, thank you for your big bear hugs. Thanks for wrapping me in your arms and holding me close. Thank you for the happy embraces and the sad ones. You are a constant source of comfort.
Thank you for countless pep talks and endless support. Thank you for standing on my sidelines, both literally and figuratively. You were my first (and loudest) cheerleader.
Thank you for helping me with homework and seeing past my frustration. Thank you for instilling a love for education within me and always encouraging me to learn more. You were my favorite teacher (but please, don’t tell the others).
Thank you for kissing the cuts on my fingers and bandaging my scrapes. Thank you for drying my tears and sending me back on my bicycle. Without you, I would have never learned the importance of rising after the fall.
Thank you for sharing a wealth of knowledge and understanding the value of your wisdom. Though there were times (hello, teenage years) when I pretended I didn’t want it, your advice was always appreciated. Now, I share many of those words when my advice is solicited.
Thank you for always having my best interests at heart and guiding me. Thank you for knowing my needs and understanding my desires. You know me better than I know myself most times.
Thank you for teaching me to say my prayers and for reading me Bible stories. Thank you for singing “Jesus Loves Me” and practicing my memory work with me. You taught me about my Savior and helped form the foundation of my faith.
Mom, thank you for being you.
Your Loving Child
Pregnancy centers have earned an unfair, ugly reputation among members of the media. Many major news outlets have chosen to label these centers as deceptive. Learning about pregnancy centers through a variety of unnamed sources, journalists claim that they spread misinformation and provide unwanted advice. Painted as cruel and manipulative, those not familiar with pregnancy centers might envision a villainous organization.
The Huffington Post describes pregnancy centers as, “faith-based, anti-choice organizations that masquerade as medical facilities in order to trick people who are experiencing unplanned pregnancies. West Virginia is burdened with 34 of these fake clinics.” Meanwhile, Allure magazine wrote, “But these centers also resort to manipulation or even outright deception to prevent people from accessing abortion care, obscuring their religious affiliation, spreading health misinformation, and failing to inform clients of the full range of reproductive options available to them.”
Understanding that these claims can influence opinions of pregnancy care centers, WELS Lutherans for Life wanted to take the opportunity to respond. Listed below are three common myths associated with pregnancy care centers and the truth about each of them.
Myth One: Pregnancy Centers Are Unauthorized to Provide Medical Care
Women who visit pregnancy centers are offered a variety of services. These may include pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, medical referrals, post-abortion support, parenting classes, and material assistance. Clients receive these services for free, and their privacy is protected according to regulations set forth by HIPPA. Those performing medical services are trained professionals, and centers operate under the medical license of a practicing physician, who oversees the medical care being provided.
Myth Two: Pregnancy Centers Lie to Women About Abortion
Advocates talk with the clients, learn more about their story, and review their options. Information on pregnancy and abortion is provided. The material is medically and scientifically accurate and is designed to be educational. Pregnancy centers do not refer clients to abortion clinics, but they do provide information on the procedure. They review the abortion process for each trimester and discuss what to expect during an appointment. Just because these centers do not give abortion referrals does not mean they lie to women. Clients are fully aware of their right to abortion via the supreme court decision in Roe V. Wade and can locate an abortion provider by performing a simple Google search. Pregnancy centers present clients with information regarding all of their options and then allow clients to make an informed decision.
Myth Three: Pregnancy Centers Deceive Women Regarding the Impact of Abortion
The physical and emotional impact of abortion has been debated between pro-life and pro-choice groups for decades. Pro-life groups have provided examples of women who have experienced physical side effects and emotional stress following an abortion, and pro-choice groups have said these situations have been dramatized. The trouble with the latter statement is that they cannot, as they claim, disprove every woman’s experience. Even if only one woman admitted to experiencing mental duress or physical pain, there would still be a reason to discuss the possible implications of having an abortion. Given that many pregnancy centers provide post-abortion support, they have seen the impact it has on women and they share these experiences with their clients. When pregnancy centers discuss these situations, they are not implying that everyone will have the same experience, they are simply informing clients of the risks involved.
These myths, which the media perpetuates, are not only inaccurate; they are harmful to women seeking help. Pregnancy care centers, like the one operated by WELS Lutherans for Life, provide women with free and confidential care. They offer accurate information and support through the decision-making process. By blacklisting these centers, the media is limiting the options for women facing unplanned pregnancies and discouraging them from seeking compassionate care.
While it is unlikely that the media will stop making these attacks, there is hope that women will see beyond these unfounded, scathing claims. Pregnancy centers have grown rapidly and they now outnumber abortion clinics in the United States by a 3 to 1 ratio. Client satisfaction among these clinics is tremendously high and client reviews are consistently positive. Between Care Net and Heartbeat International (the leading affiliate organizations for pregnancy centers), over two million families are served on an annual basis. These pregnancy centers are thriving. So, let the media say what they will, because they cannot stop these organizations from empowering women.
Meteorologists are calling for snow tomorrow (yes, again), and the opportunities to get outside may be limited. Understanding how challenging this can be for the family, we have compiled a small list of family-friendly movies that are perfect for a cozy day indoors!
1.) The Parent Trap
This story of twins separated at birth is a classic. Starring Lindsay Lohan (or Hayley Mills, if you prefer), it details twin daughters that accidentally meet at summer camp and scheme to reunite their parents. The girls’ antics will keep you laughing and the ending will warm your heart. If your children haven’t seen it, you will be introducing them to an instant favorite; and if they have, they will love re-watching! (Rating: PG)
2.) The Sandlot
This movie will make you feel all kinds of nostalgia. Remembering the time when kids would spend all day playing outside and your best friends were families from your neighborhood, the Sandlot is the story of the ultimate pickle. Telling the story of neighborhood boys who spend all day on the local baseball field, one of them gets them in trouble when he sends his step-father’s baseball, signed by Babe Ruth, over the fence of a beast. The plot they devise to retrieve the ball results in hilarity and an unlikely friendship. This movie will teach lessons in friendship, honesty, and dreaming big. Plus, it will have you dreaming of summer! (Rating: PG)
This cute movie follows Judy Hopps, a rabbit who is trying to make it big as a police officer. She takes on a missing person case and enlists help from an unusual ally, a fox named Nick Wilde. Throughout the film, the pair works to solve the mystery and prove they are capable. While seemingly lighthearted and fun, this movie has a deeper meaning and will provide the perfect opportunity to start a conversation with your kids! (Rating: PG)
Sometimes you just need a little magic! Matilda details the story of a young girl who is misunderstood by her family. Matilda discovers that she has a secret set of powers, and while she mostly uses these to benefit others, she doesn’t fail to have fun herself! She is the ultimate heroine and you will find yourself cheering for her as she searches for love and understanding! (Rating: PG)
5.) Rookie of the Year
Henry Rowengartner goes from being an unskilled little leaguer to a superstar major leaguer in Rookie of the Year. After breaking his arm, Henry’s tendons have healed too tightly, enabling him to pitch at an unremarkable speed. This is discovered when Henry throws back a ball at a Chicago Cubs game. Blowing everyone in the crowd away, the struggling Cubs recruit him and he earns a spot on the team. Through the unlikely plotline, this movie teaches the importance of staying grounded and putting family first! (Rating: PG)
6.) The Wizard of Oz
The ultimate classic, the Wizard of Oz is a must-see for every family. Following four strangers who become friends and embark on a journey to the Emerald City. Filled with enthralling adventures and vibrant imagery, this is one story that has spanned generations. Though the friends overcome the obstacles and reach their destination, they come to realize that there really is no place like home. (Rated: G)
7.) The Princess Bride
This movie has something for everyone! Featuring exciting adventures, witty lines, and a romantic tale—this one is a fan favorite! The Princess Bride features a grandpa telling his grandson the story of a woman named Buttercup and her two suitors. One of whom is her true love and the other to whom she reluctantly married. Throughout the movie, her true love, Westley must overcome a series of obstacles to rescue her. Appealing to both adults and kids, this one is sure to please everyone in the room! (Rated: PG)
Monday brought news of devastation from Paris, France. The Notre Dame Cathedral, a historical icon, was engulfed in flames. Destroyed spires and ravaged roof, the beloved cathedral stood in an unprecedented state of destruction. Still, among the ashes and through the billows of smoke, there was a glimmer of hope. The cross on the altar remained unscathed, a beaming symbol amidst tragedy.
Standing in the rubble, staring at the ruins of our sin feels like being in the Notre Dame Cathedral. There is damage in every direction. Our relationships tarnished; our reputations tainted by sin. Permanently stained by ashes and polluted with smoke, our lives are much like the demolished cathedral.
We recall our eagerness to shout, “Crucify him!” with the crowd; our enthusiasm to place the crown of thorns on Christ’s innocent head; and our encouragement to pierce his side. Reliving these events, we are painfully aware of the cost of our sins. Created to be perfect, we were once the beautiful crown of God’s masterpiece. Now, we are charred by sin and it’s hard to imagine that beauty ever existed within us.
Among the debris of our lives, however, lies a promise of hope. Through the devastation of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, the cross stands. When the flames overwhelm us and darkness envelops us, the cross stands. When tragedy strikes and smoke suffocates us, the cross stands. When fear overcomes us and we are completely brokenhearted, the cross stands. We know Easter is coming.
The plan for rescue has long been in place. Jesus—the one we sentenced to death—has saved us. The empty cross stands, reminding us that Jesus rose victoriously.
For many of us, the gospel message was shared within the confines of our own homes. Reciting a dinner prayer was a daily ritual, and singing “Jesus Loves Me” at the top of our lungs was not abnormal. From little on, we were taught about the Father’s love for us and we always understood the symbolism of the cross. Our relationship with God was formed through baptism and our parents continued to faithfully instruct us, ensuring that the next generation would know their Savior.
These experiences, however, are not included in everyone’s story. Many were raised to believe that Jesus was an inspirational leader, and that God is nothing more than an elaborate myth. They were brought up by parents that prioritized sleep over worship and insisted that the Big Bang Theory was a viable claim. There was not a focus on Christ and now they find themselves spiritually lost.
Understanding the juxtaposition of these experiences helps us understand our role in spreading the gospel. God has commanded us to make disciples and we strive to accomplish this through our ministry. Our theme this year is “Generation to Generation.” Focusing on those who have not been given a foundation with Christ as cornerstone, we work to ensure that our clients hear the gospel message and know their Savior. Our advocates embrace the opportunity and spread Our advocates are embracing the opportunity and spreading the gospel from generation to generation.
And the impact from these conversations does not stop there. The powerful gospel message permeates through our clients as they build the foundation for the children they are raising. Through the Holy Spirit, the people we serve are brought to faith and are able to equip the next generation.
The work we do, though physically impactful, extends far beyond pregnancy tests and packages of diapers. Through this ministry, we are changing and saving lives. We are supporting families and standing alongside of them as they make life-affirming decisions. By encouraging our clients through the words of the gospel, we are ensuring this message is being spread from generation to generation.
“Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created,” (Esther 4:14).
*Translation is not direct*
If I had to count the number of times that I have felt dangerously out of my depth, I would imagine the number would be somewhere around 3,898,706,412. When God presents me with challenges, I consistently respond with, “You picked the wrong girl. You must have me confused with another Megan. You have the wrong one.”
These moments, when life has culminated in what feels like a category five natural disaster, you can feel as though you are incapable. Sure, you have had trouble in the past, but something about this challenge feels insurmountable. This one feels daunting, completely impossible.
For me, one such challenge involved completing my college degree. Taking 17 credits, managing three jobs, and leading two clubs—I was sure I would fail. There were several instances where I seriously considered catching the next plane to Bora Bora.
Perhaps you can relate. Maybe for you, these doubts stem from being a parent to a child with special needs. Listening to the specialist describe the challenges ahead, you think, “Lord, you have the wrong mom.” Your paralyzing fear leaves you feeling entirely inadequate and unable to provide the support you know your child needs.
Maybe your uncertainty comes from the new promotion you received. Reading the description of your new responsibilities, you find yourself saying, “Lord, you have the wrong employee.” Your anxiety makes you believe that you will disappoint your team.
Maybe your concerns are connected with a parent recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Reading the materials provided by the doctor, you are sure, “Lord, you have the wrong child.” Your inability to provide a solution makes you certain that you are incapable of caring for your dad.
These fears are not small, they are not insignificant, they are not unfounded. They are, however, unnecessary. They are unwarranted because God has prepared you.
Read that again. Then read it once more.
YOU. Yes, you with the crippling anxiety. You with the self-doubt. You with the uncertainty.
He has designed you for this very moment. You have been created to navigate through these troubled waters. He has spent time preparing you, training you to be a skilled sailor. God has given you these challenges because he knows you can handle them.
He knows this because He was the one who knit you together. He was the one who formed you. He was the one who built your bones, crafted your DNA, and constructed your features. He knows you because he made you.
Your Heavenly Father also knows that you are not alone. Because while he has allowed these challenges to enter your life, he has not abandoned you. He understands that these appear to be big problems, but He knows that He is so much bigger.
Jesus reminds us of this truth in Matthew, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” (Matthew 19:26).
His words in Esther and Matthew are reassuring us that we can handle these challenges. We can overcome these obstacles. We can conquer these fears.
Remember these words when you experience job relocation. Meditate on these truths when your colicky baby refuses to sleep. Read these passages when the doctor informs you the cancer has returned.
Because these are the moments for which you were created.
When you hold your baby those first moments it’s hard to imagine there will be battles ahead. When I had my firstborn, my great aunt told me to enjoy all the moments, especially before she could walk and talk. I would learn soon enough that shortly after a toddler learns to talk, they learn to say no.
As time passes, and especially if other children join the family, it is easy to become weary of the discipline. Notoriously as soon as you start nursing the baby, the two year old decides to climb on a chair and into mischief. Your first efforts, verbal scolding and even cajoling, often do little to encourage a change in behavior.
The first obstacle is mustering the stamina and strength to deal with the endless battles each hour brings. The second is to keep your composure as a Christian mom while doing so.
Now that I have teens I see the importance of facing the battles, even and especially the ones we’ve faced and dealt with a hundred times before. I don’t want to face them. I don’t want to put the emotional effort into the barrage of excuses of why this particular rule doesn’t make sense.
But I’ve found discipline is worth fighting for, and though they aren’t quick to admit it, older teens respect you more for sticking to the rules you decided were worth fighting for. Several times after a battle, one of my teens has sent a text letting me know I am loved and they are just struggling.
It’s a pretty safe bet that if we don’t instill Christian values our kids aren’t going to “pick them up” elsewhere. The world and the army of evil are battling for our children.
We don’t discipline to make them into puppets or to earn favor or to make us look good. We discipline our children to teach God’s rules are not meant to be a burden, but a blessing. And we discipline to teach our children self-control and to look outside of their own interests to notice others. These are lifelong issues.
Even if our children turn away at some point, it is our job as Christian moms to stand firm. We love, certainly and unconditionally while continually standing on the truth of God’s ways.
When you don’t see the intended outcome with your 18 month, 2, 15 or 32 year old don’t give up, but rather pray and gently, but firmly press on, heeding the apostle Paul’s advice to the Galatians: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (6:9).
Press on and fight the battles. Your son(s) and daughter(s) are worth fighting for.
This article was written by Amber Swenson.
“Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!”
Reading those lyrics may have invoked a vivid childhood flashback for you. Perhaps you immediately attached the melody and sang along as you pictured your younger self, spinning in a circle, tightly grasping the hands of your friends. United, you sang, “Ring around the rosy, pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall down!”
We all fall down. Sin, death and the Devil bring us down—and not in the playful way we experienced singing this song. No—this fall is far less graceful and far more painful. Envision the worst injury you have witnessed in sports. Picture Lawrence Taylor enveloping Joe Theismann, Kevin Ware crashing to the hardwood floor, or Zach Miller pounding the turf. (For those uneducated in gruesome athletic injuries, just imagine bones placed in unnatural positions and facial expressions that would make you cringe).
These images describe the falls we take with every sin we commit and every temptation we accept. These falls are debilitating, and without assistance, we cannot come to our feet. There is no amount of mental fortitude or physical determination that can make us stand. Only God’s outstretched hand can give us the strength to make a comeback.
And (thankfully), that’s exactly what God does—He gives us His hand and pulls us up. Throughout the Lenten season, we are thrown to the ground as we remember how our thoughts, words, and actions nailed him to the cross. Then Easter comes and the risen Lord lifts us higher than we could ever imagine.
His complete triumph and unwavering hand serve as the hand, reaching out to save us. With this, we are able to be like the children singing “Ring Around the Rosy,” and immediately rise again. We are able to take help and live as redeemed children of God.
Today, as we begin the Lenten season, we come to our Savior in repentance and humbly seek his outstretched hand. We remember the sacrifice that was made and recognize that only He can provide the strength to stand. Unlike the childhood tune, “we all fall down,” is not the end of our story.
Becoming a parent is an exciting, joyous, overwhelming, terrifying, and anxious experience. Or so I have heard. Though I have cared for children through several jobs, I have yet to become a parent. So, I have enlisted the help of several seasoned professionals for this piece. Today, we are discussing the adventure of parenthood through the lenses of mothers at various stages in the journey!
Here are the things that no one tells you about being a parent, and the things you never imagined you would do as a parent!
“I didn’t receive much advice before becoming a mom, most of raising my children was trial and error! My mom once told me to be careful about punishing my children after I grounded one of them. She said by grounding them, I was basically grounding myself! She was right. Longest week ever!”
-Lorna, mother of two grown children
“No one told me how much my children would teach me about relationships. Before I became a mom, I never realized how much I would intensely and instantly love them the second they were born. This love taught me more about God’s love, and the love I have for my husband. Children taught us to manage our changed relationship and challenged us to make each other a priority. Being a mom has also taught me about my relationship with myself. I never realized that I would have to “re-discover” myself once they were semi-independent. The truth is, parenting never gets easier, the challenges just change.
On a lighter note, there have been several things I never thought I would do, but motherhood has pressed the issue. I never thought I would sit by idly while my two-year-old daughters played in a mud pile at the park (also never imagined taking pictures to document the moment)! Using my children’s first and middle names to communicate that I meant business is a technique I never thought I would need, and finally, I never dreamt I would cut up hot dogs for a tank full of crayfish!”
-Mel, mother of two sets of identical twins (ages five and eight)
“I never thought I would be the parent who packs anything and everything before leaving the house, but I totally am!”
-Bethany, mother of two-month-old
“You never stop worrying about your children, even when they leave your house. Your heart is always with them, and it will break with every trial they encounter. No one tells you how challenging it will be to endure these heartbreaks.”
-Carol, mother of two grown children
“I remember thinking, ‘I would never do/say that with my kids.’ Oh how ignorant and high and mighty you can be when you’ve never been a parent. You can plan how you want things to go in your life as a parent, but life can really get in the way... things can very suddenly take an unexpected turn, but it’s important to stay in God’s word and go with the flow as long as it doesn’t compromise your faith.”
-Sarah, mother of four children (ages one, three, five & eight)
Sometimes, between everyday stresses and responsibilities, we inadvertently lose sight of what is important. Cooking dinner or cleaning the house becomes the priority, instead of connecting with those we love. While managing your career and maintaining your household is important, prioritizing quality time with your spouse or your significant other is essential. Here are seven date night ideas to refresh and reconnect!
For the Hopeless Romantics: Skate the night away at Red Arrow Park! Spend the night holding hands and taking laps around the ice. Skate rentals are available and a warming house, complete with Starbucks, will provide the perfect break when it becomes too chilly!
For the Brew Masters: Visit the World’s First Crowdsourced Brewery! Mob Craft Brewery features craft beers that have been created from fan suggestions! Each month, the brewery receives submissions and places the ideas on their website. Fans then vote for their favorite by pre-ordering the beer. The flavor with the most pre-orders wins and is brewed! Experience this unique process with a tour of the brewery and taproom! Each tour includes a branded pint glass and two complimentary pints of beer!
For the Intent Investigators: Use the knowledge and skills you have learned from those Criminal Minds binges on Netflix! Breakout Games in Milwaukee has several Escape Rooms, perfect for relationship building! Work together to solve the puzzles, crack the codes, and breakout! Game times vary, so visit the website before you make the trip!
For the Lifelong Learners: Learn how a Wisconsin classic, the cheese curd, is made at the Clock Shadow Creamery! Visit the creamery for a tour and learn about the history of cheese making, the production process, and sample fresh cheese curds! Sounds like a day well spent!
For the Kids at Heart: Enjoy a childhood pastime, mini-golf, on your own terms! Spend an evening at Nine Below, an indoor mini-golf course in Milwaukee. Unlike traditional courses, Nine Below offers “Maker’s Golf,” where participants design their obstacles. Players spend the first hour building and the second hour playing the course. Following the game, players can celebrate victory at the indoor beer garden!
For the Comedic Couples: Laugh out loud at Comedy Sportz! Featuring the elements of a sporting event, these shows include two teams, four competing players, and a referee. Every show is entirely different, with players making everything up on the spot. Shows take place every weekend, Friday through Sunday.
For the Sports Fanatics: Go behind the scenes at Miller Park with an exclusive tour! Groups on the Classic Tour will experience the Visitor’s Clubhouse, bullpen, Club Level, Uecker’s Broadcast Booth, and more! Visit the Brewers’ website for available dates and times!
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