A Pity Party for one, please!

This is the transcript of a sermon I preached at the Methodist Campground in Des Plaines, IL on Aug. 12, 2017 based on Matthew 14:22-33, 1 Kings 19:9-18.

Aftpityparty_02er a rough day I would often come home and say, “A pity party for one, please!”

You know, a lot can happen at a pity party. Like I can eat or drink whatever I want. I can be silent or listen to music. I can set the place settings however I want. We all have pity parties. Elijah was having a pity party in today’s Old Testament passage and for a split second Peter was having a pity party too. In both passages, Elijah and Peter witnessed God’s power. Let’s look at Elijah.

“There he went into a cave and spent the night,” verse 9. Sounds like he found a location. The cave Elijah ended up at was not a random location, it was the very place where Moses encountered God, where Moses received the 10 Commandments. This isn’t any ordinary mountain or pity party location it is believed “The mountain is Ho-reb (v. 8)—probably synonymous with Mt. Sinai… (Exodus 19ff.) ­­— and the place where the Lord protected Moses by covering him with his hand while the Lord’s glory passed by (Exodus 33:22).” https://www.sermonwriter.com/biblical-commentary/1-kings-191-21 Sometimes our pity party leads us to some place comforting and familiar.

In verse 10, we have the reason for his pity party, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

This might be a good reason for a pity party. He has been on fire for the Lord. God showed up when he battles the Baal priests in the previous chapters. But still no one is listening….those Israelites will not turn from their wicked ways. He had expectation and things didn’t turn out the way he thought they should. We’ve all been there; when everything seems to be going wrong in our lives and we feel alone in our misery.

But what led him here? What leads us to reserve our pity party?

Pity party reservations just don’t happen overnight. If we go back a bit in this chapter we see that Elijah was being pursued by Jezebel because he killed all of her priests. He is being chased. But the cave isn’t his first stop. His previous stop was under a bush. Where the Angel of the Lord appeared to him and fed him. Where Elijah slept. Then he got up and headed to Mt. Horeb. Interestingly Mt. Sinai is only a 7 to 8 day walk from the bush where he was sleeping but the bible says that it took him forty days and forty nights. I wonder if Elijah realized that he did not get hungry during this journey. Did he realize that the food the Angel provided sustained him for 40 days? The bible doesn’t say why he takes the long way. But I can imagine Elijah wandering around the desert; kicking a rock, thinking about all the things that went wrong and all the things that God had done to show Himself to be the one true God and the Israelites still didn’t get it. He risked his life and killed the priests, now he was on the run and is all alone.

When making the reservation for your pity party think about what has lead you there:

In Elijah’s case he was overwhelmed. He was paralyzed by defeat and fear. He felt that the Israelites were ungrateful. He felt alone. https://bible.org/seriespage/15-crisis-elijah-1-kings-194-14.

The most interesting part of this passage is that God does not allow Elijah to stay in the safety of his pity party. God forced him to move on and not as a command but as a still small whisper reminding him he still had work to do. Imagine the sound of the wind, the sound of the rocks falling all around from the earthquake and the sound and smell of the fire. Yet Elijah only hears God in a whisper.

Can you hear God’s whisper among all of the noise around you? The demands of your life? Caring for your ailing parents, the campground flooding issues, the political climate in our state and our country? Can you hear God above the talking heads on TV? What is God whispering to you?

“What are you doing here?” God asks in a whisper for a third time. Elijah gives the same response. “The Israelites aren’t listening and I am alone in this fight.” God does not go into small talk with Elijah. He doesn’t try to explain anything. He does not rebuke him. He simply gave him instructions. What is God instructing you to do?

In the midst of our pity party we lose focus. Just like Elijah, we cannot hear or see that God is calling us. I’ve had my share of pity parties. Sometimes I know exactly what has led me there, I know the route and the scenery and the rock I kicked along the way. The first 3 years of my walk with Christ, I experienced significant loss. In 2000, just weeks after my adult baptism, my Aunt, my mom’s oldest sister was killed in a car accident. She was only 55 years old. I asked God, “Why?” The tragedy of 9/11 in 2001like so many of us, rocked my world and caused me to ask, “Where are you, God?” In 2002, my cousin, age of 32, died of a drug over dose, my grandfather passed away and a dear friend died suddenly at the age of 28 all within a month. So much senseless death. So many unanswered questions. My heart and my faith were shattered. I would go from being angry with God; to feeling guilty for being angry and my lack of faith.

I applied to Moody Bible Institute in the fall of 2002 and in August 2003. I went there with all the shards of my heart and faith; I wanted God to show me who he was and what a better place than Bible college…”Bible” after all was their middle name. I wanted to believe that he was real even if he didn’t answer my questions or my prayers for healing and protection or spare me and my family from these tragedies and pain. The Moody campus became my cave.

I was in over my head in so many ways, I was 11 years older than my classmates, I did not grow up in a Christian home; therefore many of the theological terms were foreign to me although many of my classmates were very familiar with many of the terms. I commuted an hour each way; every day. I listened for the voice of God in my bible classes, my theology classes….I learned so much but it was a lot of noise. My soul was still restless and I wasn’t focused.

Until I entered into my second semester of my freshman year. I had to take an English 102 course. In that class we read “A Grief Observed” by C.S. Lewis. The book is Lewis’ private journal entries during the time after his wife died. Lewis was angry with God. He wrote that Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.’ … Of course it’s easy enough to say that God seems absent at our greatest need because He is absent— non-existent. But then why does He seem so present when, to put it quite frankly, we don’t ask for Him?” (A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis, p. 6-7). I imagine that was what Elijah was thinking while in the cave. Why wasn’t God dealing with those Israelites? Why was God bothering him in the cave? I was thinking that in my cave, I was in danger of believing such dreadful things about God.

But God did not leave Elijah in the cave. He did not leave C.S. Lewis in the cave. He didn’t leave me in the cave. And he will not leave you in your cave. But we have to listen in the mist of the wind, earthquake and fire; we have to listen for the small whisper with our spirits. C.S. Lewis concluded that his wife knew him in his most rotten places; she knew him in his pity party and loved him anyway and the same was true of God, despite the ugliness of the world. Lewis said, “So can you. Rebuke, explain, mock, forgive. For this is one of the miracles of love; it gives—to both, but perhaps especially to the woman—a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted. To see, in some measure, like God. His love and His knowledge are not distinct from one another, nor from Him. We could almost say He sees because He loves, and therefore loves although He sees,” (A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis, p. 72).

Things will go wrong. We will have pity parties. God doesn’t always speak to us in a windstorm, in an earthquake or a fire. Sometimes He speaks to us, like he spoke Elijah in a whisper. God saw Elijah at his pity party and met him there in that cave. God saw me in my pity party; He met me in my English 102 class. God sees you. His love does not stop no matter how many rocks we kick along the way. His love comforts us in the still small whispers in our souls.


This Mother’s Day is Different

Definition of Mother.

Mother’s day is a bittersweet day for me. I often think of the “mothers” I’ve had throughout my life who have left this world, I think about the women who long to become a mother but cannot and I think about the rocky relationship with my own mother.

Last year, my daughter announced right before mother’s day, she was spending her birthday at the end of May in New York. I was heartbroken. It was her first birthday away from me. She was leaving me on her 22nd birthday! In retrospect, I was going through so much more than my daughter going away.

Whenever I am hurting, I find an outlet. Sometimes, it’s writing or a creative expression of when I am feeling. During this painful time, I created a slide show set to “Photograph” by Ed Sherran. I went through hundreds of photos of my children throughout the years. Through this project, I got to see that my youngest son was no longer so dependent on me and was ready to start school, my older son had grown into a strong but gentle young man and my daughter was a beautiful woman.

I saw that it was time for me to let go of my older children, especially my daughter. She was my first born, the first to call me mama, the first baby I carried and cried over. But here she was a strong, confident, independent woman…all that I raised her to be.

I also saw something else while I was working on the Photograph project, I began to see what a great mom I had become. I had made it-if one can ever make it as a mom, lol. When my daughter was born, I was a teenager living without hope…living for my next paycheck. As I went through the photos I saw the joy in my children’s faces. I saw their hope for a bright future. Mostly, I saw love. My children always knew that they were wanted and that they were loved.

I know that not all children grow up feeling wanted or even loved. Some grow up feeling like they are more of a burden than anything else. Sometimes, that pain is so deep that it’s hard to move on and even harder not to repeat the cycle. Turning off that inner voice that says “you’ll never make it.” Holding back the name calling because that’s all you know but you also know how much it hurt. Never laying a hand on your child because while words hurt; it is also confusing that the same hands that hit you want to comfort you.

Breaking the cycle is speaking life into your children, being their biggest cheerleader, admitting when you’ve made a mistake and apologizing, loving them when they go against your beliefs, holding them when it hurts, never ever speaking bad about them to anyone and always being the realest member of their team.

This mother’s day is different. I am excited to spend the day with my children. These beautiful souls that call me mom fill my life with unspeakable joy, they have healed me in ways that they will never know and I love that they will never know.

Home Ownership 101 or something like that!

We purchased our first home little over seven months ago. After more than 18 years of apartment living, we are living in a single family house…it’s beautiful, spacious and for the most part it was move-in ready. Over the last few months our trips to Home Depot have increased. New locks, a new door bell, lawn bags, lots of lawn bags. Of course living in Chicago, we bought rock salt and a shovel.

But going to Home Depot or any of those big home improvement stores has always stressed me out. It’s so overwhelming! And there is never enough associates on the floor. If I do see someone there is usually a line of people asking for help. So I wander around, hoping I find what I need. But I really just waste time. I see all that lumber and I want to build my own house. I see plumbing and I think about all the pipes that could break in my new house, I see all of those light fixtures and I begin to dream of all the new lighting and I keep hoping I see a mirrored disco ball to hang in my bedroom (always a house head 🙂 ). But all I went into Home Depot was for more rock salt and a lint catcher for the washer. Simple! I go in with my cart and head straight for the salt. That’s an easy find. I’ve purchased it before….but they moved it to a more convenient location. Nice blizzard marketing move, Home Depot!

Now for those lint catchers. I think, “where would I put the lint catchers if I was in charge of the world? Of course, next to the washers.” And I head to the appliances but before I get there I remember that Home Depot isn’t that simple. And they aren’t going to make it that easy for me. So I head to the plumbing department. I start wandering around thinking, “when you buy a house there should be some sort of orientation about where to find these simple products. like a ‘home ownership 101: taxes, minor home repair and navigating a home improvement store’. I pulled out my phone to  email to my favorite Realtor and tell her about my wonderful idea.

Instead, I opened my chrome app and GTS (Googled That Shit). “where are the lint catchers in home depot?” It took me to home depot’s mobile site. It showed me there there were 43 in stock at my local store. and right beneath that, there was a button that said “store map”. Could it be that simple? I click the button and there it was a map of the store with the exact location of the lint catchers down to the aisle number and bay number. It was like a real treasure hunt, a map and all. I found exactly what I needed in the very next aisle. I grabbed a stack and I walked up to the register beaming from my accomplishment.

cancer, what cancer?

“No Mark!” was all I heard. “No Mark…” followed by weeping. My co-worker and I had been waiting all day for the call. Our prayer warrior, our light, our shining example of hope and God’s grace had a mass growing in her ovary. We wanted it to be just a cyst. It was not. We cried. We asked God why?

As the fog began to clear, it was ovarian cancer and she would need chemotherapy. She and her husband, Mark had just adopted a son. They had planned so much. And now they planned chemo treatments. We still asked God why?

That was a few months ago. We had lunch this week. She was so full of life. She laughed as she told me about her wig and showed me her battle wounds from the chemo. She was smiling from ear to ear, telling me all about her son, her church and her journey.

She is half way through 17 weeks of her chemo. “Sometimes we just sit around with our wigs off and talk,” she said with a giggle as she talked about her days at the Cancer Institute. 

“One of my new friends is an 80 year old woman. When we met, she told me that she had never been sick until the cancer and now she is only known as what type of cancer she had. I’ve made lots of friends there.”

As she spoke, I listened intently, her energy and hope was contagious. 

“My oncologist said to me, ‘you are so encouraging to me’, she said with a smile.

Over lunch that day, Cerna was encouraging to me…encouraging me to believe God’s plan and to always cling to hope.

Ride or Die….Love hurts, Friends help!

Me with Cathryn Michon (star, director, producer and writer) and Nellie

A few weeks ago, I attended a movie premiere playing one night in Chicago. I was invited by a very dear friend, Mary-Carol, who is friends with the movie producer. Mary-Carol gave me two tickets and said, “invite a friend!”

I thought, I could make this into an incredible date night but after watching the trailer, I decided to invite my friend, Nellie.

Muffin Top: A Love Story  was tagged as a rom-com, according to imdb.com,

Muffin Top: A Love Story” is the story of Suzanne (Cathryn Michon) a Women’s Studies Pop Culture professor at Malibu University, who studies images of women in the media for a living, and yet is made insecure by the constant parade of female perfection that is our airbrushed culture. She has been going through IVF treatments to get pregnant by her network executive husband (Diedrich Bader), but discovers on her birthday, that her husband has knocked up his younger, skinnier, co-worker (Haylie Duff) and wants a divorce. Happy Birthday! She goes on to find a more authentic version of who she really is, despite the delights of being suddenly single in Los Angeles, where low self-esteem for women is our number one export to the world.

Total chick flick, right? As I watched Suzanne’s life fall apart on the big screen, I noticed that her friends rallied around her. They cheered her on, they laughed with her, they ate cake with her, they drank wine with her, they believed in her and saw a greater version of her than she could see in all the mess.

In one particular scene, she asked her sister to return an item that was a part of the divorce settlement. Her sister, one of her biggest cheerleaders, says she would take care of it and she does in an over the top kind of way. My friend, Nellie, lends over and says, “She’s a ride or die!”

I laughed. A ride or die chick is what every woman needs. Someone who holds your hand when you can’t face the world. Someone who holds your hair back when you’ve drank too much and you are hugging the toilet. Someone who sits next to you in a movie theater not sure what she’s gotten herself into but enjoys every moment.

Muffin Top was about empowering women but not just on screen. Its actually written, directed and produced by a woman, Cathryn Michon who also stars as the lead character. She intentionally hired women to work behind the scenes. She even went to extreme lengths to find a female composer for the music. We need people like Michon, according to a recent study by the Center for the Study of Women in TV and Films women are underrepresented in the movie industry.

the stats:

  • Females comprised 15% of protagonists
  • 29% of major characters
  • 30% of all speaking characters (we TALK a whole LOT more than men in real life).
  • Only 13% of the top 100 films featured equal numbers of major female and male characters, or more major female characters than male characters.
  • Female characters were younger than their male counterparts and were more likely than males to have an identifiable marital status.
  • Female characters were less likely than males to have clearly identifiable goals or be portrayed as leaders of any kind.

For minority women, it’s even worse:

  • 73% of all female characters were Caucasian
  • 14% African American
  • 5% Latina
  • 3% Asian
  • 3% other worldly
  • 2% and other

With those stats and women often being are hard on other women; judging and dismissing each other without a second thought. We are a part of the same sisterhood, trying to define ourselves in our mess. It was refreshing to see this displayed on the big screen in not just one supporting role but many.

I’ve had a few “Ride or Die” chicks in my life. Sometimes distance or changes in life styles have caused us to go our separate ways. But its always been the kind of woman who helped me define myself and I have walked away feeling empowered and most importantly loved. Whether it’s been a road trip when we laughed til we cried, changing an alternator on my car because it needed to get done or experiencing the still small voice of God at a conference with thousands of other women…these women have helped me through many of my messes and I will always be grateful for my ride or die chicks!

Muffin Top can be seen video on Demand click here for a complete list. Have a party and invite your “Ride or Die” Chicks!

Parenting Sucks

I didn’t think it would ever happen to me. Having the bonus child 4 years ago saved me from the empty nest. My older children were 17 and 14 years old when the bonus child was born. I always thought, I’ll never have any empty nest because by the time they all leave I’ll be busy with the little one and when he leaves I’ll have grand-babies to fuss over.

Then it happened.

Last night, it was so cold in Chicago. Too cold to go Trick or Treating. Too cold for trick or treaters to ring the bell. The bonus child dressed up in his Captain America costume ready for the trick or treaters that never came. When the door bell did ring it was the pizza being delivered.

And it hit me. As we sat at the kitchen table eating pizza.They were gone. The children I’d spent 21 years celebrating Halloween with were gone. I began to cry into my pizza. They were out with the significant others (a story for another post) and I was home missing them like crazy. Aching to hear them laugh, tell me about their day, listen to them talk to each other, listen to them argue over who got the most candy, talk about all the crazy costumes we saw. But silence filled the room. My face streamed with tears.

The bonus child was concerned and interrupted my silence, “what’s wrong mommy?”

“I’m missing your sister and brother,” I replied.

“Don’t worry, mommy. Meme is dressed like Starfire. And AJ is dressed like Batman. Papito is with Tori. They’ll be home later,” he said laughing at me.

The voice of reason from a 4 year old. Still my pizza filled with my tears.

I was not prepared for this…it’s like a break up. You spend years building a strong relationship…loving, crying, celebrating, arguing, growing together…then they just move on with their lives. You have to watch and be happy. I know this will pass and I will be too busy to get lost in the silence. But I also know that there will be more growing up to do…I just hope I can grow up without them.

dealing with an addict


sitting at a bedside vigil for 24 hours…praying that things are better when you are taken out of the drug induced coma, praying that the ventilator keeping you from further damage is doing its job, praying that your children don’t have nightmares from seeing their dad strapped to a hospital bed, praying that you’ve learned your lesson.

thinking that maybe we gave up on you too soon, dealing with you and your addiction was too much for us to handle. for more reasons that you will ever know. but still the guilt creeps in.

we still love you. but we’ve done it from a distance. it was too much to bring our kids to watch your addiction take over your life. We built relationship with your kids, poured the love we have for you into them.

Now, we are just where we always knew we’d be….watching your addiction control you.

none us of know what its like to be you. none of know how to help you deal with the storm inside of you, the drive that tells you “its no big deal, i can stop whenever i want.” yes, you can and you did and you landed in ICU. no one wanted this not us, not your kids, not your sister, not your mother and especially not you.

the doctor told us yesterday that it generally takes 5 tries for an addict to get clean. for recovery to finally take place. that sounds like a very long journey.

Step on the Flowers

Image courtesy of thaowurr.deviantart.com

One of the greatest difficulties of being a teen mom are some of the missed opportunities because you are trying to grow up and raise a child at the same time, it’s often difficult to stop and smell the flowers. But there are moments that you know matter, not only to you but to your child.

I had my first child at 18, my second child at 21 and my third child at 35. When my older children were younger, they loved picking the dandelions. They would bring them into the kitchen and I would stick them in a glass until they wilted, which was usually very quick. I always made a big deal about their humble gift to me, it mattered to them so it mattered to me.

A few days ago, my third child aka the bonus child noticed the dandelions as we were walking to the car.

He stopped mid-step and asked, “can I step on the flowers?”

“Yes, you can step on the flowers,” I replied.

He gingerly stepped on the dandelions, watching them crush under his captain america light up shoes. He giggled.

The next day, as we passed the same patch of dandelions, he stopped and stared.

Bending down to study the weeds he asked, “can I pick them for you?”

The memories of the bouquet of weeds I received 17 and 14 years ago flashed in my mind. My heart remembered of all those moments that mattered to my older children and how important it is to pay attention even to the weeds.

I pause more and try to see the world through the eyes of my bonus child. I know one day, he will bring in his bouquet of weeds and I will receive them as if they were prize roses, just as I did when his sister and brother brought them. The gesture of a child is so pure, if only we stop to step on the flowers.

A Thing for Dates!

Since I was a kid, I’ve had an amazing memory for dates. Birthdays, anniversaries of all types, it’s pretty obvious from my blogs. As I sit at home working on some freelance editing, ironing in between but mostly thinking about the fact that today is eve of another important date. Tomorrow we will celebrate 21 years of marriage. 21 years of laughter, fear, joy, pain, tears, celebrations and disappointments.

I was 18 yrs old when I got married and became a mother. Life was rough, we had no education or much family support. We struggled in every way possible. Everything was against us, even ourselves. We both came from very broken homes. Neither of us knew what unconditional love was or how to do it. It took many years of fighting, crying, growing and learning but we did it. We learned to love and respect one another. Do we struggle? Yes! But when I think about my life and what it is like to love unconditionally I am so grateful that we were stubborn enough to make it to 21 years.


2013-11-09 14.21.46

You are Now in Bedford Falls

“You are now in Bedford FallsBedford Falls

At the age of 13, I wanted to take my own life. My small world was crashing around me. I was doing horrible in school; my parents had transferred me out of public school back into a catholic school, a very small private school, with uniforms and the not so cool kids. My boyfriend had broken up with me to go out with someone who called herself my friend. I was told often that I was ugly and fat. No one understood me. I believed no one loved me.

I thought many times how I could take my life. I would write, “I want to die, everyone hates me” on my school books. One day my parents discovered it but I assured them that I was fine. I really wasn’t, I was lost and lonely. I got the all the Fs on my report card up to D minuses to get out of 8th grade. I chose to go to a small all girls’ catholic school that was a ten minute bus ride or about a 30 minute walk from home. Things got slightly better once I got to high school, my grades improved and I started to make some new friends. But I was still sad, still thinking about taking my life.

In the first semester of my freshman year, my English teacher thought she would torture us by making us watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” right before Christmas vacation. At that time, there was no real respect for the movie; it was on TV every day between Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, surprisingly I had never seen it. Each day, as I went to English class I fell in love with George Bailey but most importantly, I discovered the impact of one person’s life on so many. I began to see the value of life, even my life.

For the last 20 years I’ve kept a little ceramic sign (in the photo above)  where I could see every day that says, “You are now in Bedford Falls”. It serves as a reminder that I may not be exactly where I want to be but I’m exactly where I need to be. Our lives intersect with some many others, we matter to more people than we realize.