The Best Advise I Ever Got

shoesMany years ago, a few months after taking over management of a struggling orphanage, the lady who ran it for years came down for a visit. She had been gone for quite a while before I got to the orphanage and I had never met her. I was terrified. Everything I tried to do, I was told, “Well, Agnes never did it that way.” After six months of working in the shadow of a legend, I was finally going to meet her. I just knew I was going to be judged by her the same way everyone else was judging. Yikes.

Twenty-five years later I still remember the meeting, where we sat, the time of day, everything. She turned out to be incredible, very gracious and encouraging. She told me two things that I didn’t fully understand or appreciate at the time, “It’s OK to leave now and then.” She wanted my wife and me to make time away from the ministry. The second thing she said was, “Buy good shoes.” Agnes had wrecked her knees walking miles around the property wearing old, donated shoes. She hadn’t wanted to “waste” the money on herself and paid for it in other ways years later.

It took me a very long time to fully understand the advice, and much longer to start to put this sage wisdom into practice. What she was saying was, “It’s OK to take care of yourself. If you’re going to survive orphan care, or any full-time ministry, learn balance.”

Full-time ministry is hard. Yes, I know this sounds cliche or self-serving, but a lot of the time ministry just sucks. There can be a great deal of joy, but there is also a relentless stream of problems and challenges that wear away at a person. Every week you can read of another pastor or ministry leader who falls into deep sin, suicide, substance abuse, etc. You can attribute this to spiritual attacks, pride, or just the broken world we live in. But whatever the cause, there are a lot of casualties in ministry.

In the ministry leader circles I run in, I can list a suicide, a couple of people battling substance abuse, and a few that are so worn down they are just going through the motions at this point. I know others who’ve not only walked away from ministry, they’ve walked away from the faith.

While working through this article, I happened to meet with the head of a children’s ministry working in the middle east, and I brought up the topic of burn-out. Although he said he was doing pretty good now, he shared that he had considered “swerving into oncoming traffic” a few times over the years. I know for me I’ve gone through some very dark times in ministry, usually not relating to any big issues. Oddly, the big challenges can energize me, but it’s the day-to-day that can wear me down. More than a few times I’ve been smiling on the outside while sharing with a group or spending time with a child, and inside I was screaming and wanting to run and hide. I could relate to my friend’s “wanting to swerve into traffic” moment. Been there a few times.

We are called to serve. It’s biblical; it is Christ’s example to us. But it’s so important to find a balance, find a support system, and keep strong in our walk with the One who provides our strength. Jesus spent a great deal of time alone, getting up early to pray. He also had a small team around Him, and He would ask them to pray along with Him. The battle is real; we need fellow warriors when we’re weak.

A few years ago a young pastor came into my office, and I asked how everything was going. He gave me the standard boring pastor answer, “Doing well, some challenges but excited to see where we’re going.” I’m not sure why, but I asked again but with some force, “No, honestly, how are you doing? I know as a pastor it’s hard to find people you can talk to. Nothing you say will leave this office.” His eyes widened, he paused for a moment, and he broke down. He unloaded so much pain over the next hour. He shared about his loneliness; he shared about the strain the ministry was putting on his marriage, how the people in his church had hurt him, he just shared. I had no great advice (I’m not that bright) he just needed an ear, a safe place.

If you are in full-time ministry, a caregiver, or are just worn down by life, please find people or only one person who will listen. Find someone you can be transparent with. Find someone who will not judge you or try to “fix” you. If you’re leading a life of service, odds are you spend a great deal of time giving of yourself to others both physically and emotionally. We can not give to others if we have nothing left to give. I want to re-emphasize this: find someone you respect that you can go to and be safe when you’re hurting. We all need support. It’s sad how few people have this in their lives.

If you feel you’ve reached the point where it might be clinical depression, please seek help. It’s not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of bravery to confront this real problem. It’s not your fault, it’s life.

Taking care of yourself is OK. It’s OK to “buy good shoes.” It’s a long walk to the finish line, you want to be able to keep walking.

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Peter Was a Jerk

Silhouette legs reflectionWhen we look at “our” ministry or walk with God, we frequently fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to the “great men of God” that we’ve seen or read about. Today, many people reflexively bow their heads when they speak of Frances Chan or Rick Warren and ask “Why can’t I be like that?” In orphan care, Jorge Muller is the legend that everyone refers back to. He was a Christian evangelist and the director of an orphanage in Bristol, England in the late 1800s. He cared for over 10,000 orphans during his lifetime. Everything written about him shows that he was impressive, Godly, and upright. I can’t relate. I identify with the apostle Peter; he was a slow learner and a profound jerk. My kind of guy.

You might be thinking, “Wait a minute, Peter was one of the big guns, he was one of the foundations of the church.” Don’t be so impressed. When you read about his actions and responses you have to ask yourself, “What was God thinking?”

Let’s take a real look at Peter:

Jesus called Peter as an uneducated man. He didn’t have a degree, no training, he never set foot in a seminary. He was a fisherman, a worker, not overly respected in the culture of the times, but God called him anyway. Matt: 4:18

He was the one who was told to walk on water and proceeds to screw it up by taking his eyes off Jesus and sinking in a panic. Matt 14:25-31

In Mattew 16:21-23 he reprimands Jesus and starts to argue with Him. (not a bright move, ever)

At one point speaking on behalf of the apostles, Peter shows an astounding lack of humility or servant’s heart by basically asking Jesus, “Hey, what’s in it for me?” Matt 19:27

You would think Peter would start to catch on but at the foot washing after the last supper, he was the one who fought with Jesus when Jesus tried to wash his feet. “Not my feet, no way.” Jn 13:6-9

We read that Peter was one of the ones Jesus asked to go and pray with Him in the garden before He was to be betrayed. And…Peter falls asleep…twice. Matt 26:36 & 40

When the High Priests’ slaves come for Jesus, Peter is the one who pulls out a sword and cuts the ear of the slave. At which point Jesus AGAIN has to clean up after Peter’s temper and poor judgment. Matt 26: 51 (named in John 18:10)

The high point (low point?) of Peter’s story might be when he denied Jesus three times after swearing he would never deny Him. Matt 26: 33-35 / 69-75

Peter was a temperamental, argumentative, prideful person. He would never be asked to work in an established ministry today. He would never pass a background check. He was immature, emotional, divisive, and a little slow. When you look at the breadth of what we know about Peter at this point, he was the WORST apostle ever. So what was Jesus’s reaction to Peter? Peter was one of Jesus’s favorites. Like a puppy that poops all over the house but is still loved, Jesus knew that Peter would learn eventually, and the Peter could be shaped and trained. Jesus was very fond of Peter.

Jesus asked only three apostles to go with Him up the mountain were Jesus appeared with Moses and Elijah. He wanted Peter to see and experience this interaction. Mt 17 1-3

Although he screwed it up, Peter was the one Jesus asked to walk on water. This was a huge privilege. Jesus wanted him to experience stepping out onto the waves, to learn to trust Him in all circumstances.

In Luke 22:7 Jesus asked him to go and prepare the last supper. Although Jesus could have had anyone do this, He knew it was essential and that Peter learned how to serve in this way. Peter was trusted in spite of his history of screwing up.

Jesus didn’t ask everyone to go and pray with Him in the garden; He called the ones closest to Him. Praying at that level is no casual event, Jesus wanted Peter with Him in His darkest hour. Matt 26: 36 “Pray with me.”

Jesus says about Peter in Matt 16:15-19 “On this rock, I will build My church.” I’m sure more than a few people questioned Jesus’ selection, but He knew what He was doing. Jesus needed a flawed, broken individual to lead flawed and broken people. Anyone else would have seen the broken part, Jesus saw a rock in the making.

When you think you don’t have what it takes to make an impact for God, you’re right. That is the perfect place to start. Realize we’re ALL broken, but this is what God uses. A farmer will talk about needing to break the soil for it to be used. Seeds need to crack and be broken before they will grow. When a new building is going up, it can be a messy endeavor and can be very hard to see what the architect has planned. But the architect does have a plan; he can see the building in his mind. If we allow Him, God wants to be the architect of our lives.

Walk humbly, trust in God. As Moses reacted to God’s calling in Exodus 3: “Who am I that I would speak to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Rejoice in the fact that God uses the Peters of this world. We’re all a little, or a lot, like Peter. Rejoice in your brokenness.

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People Are Irritating

fightPeople frequently ask me, “What’s the biggest challenge of running a large orphanage?” It’s not funding, it’s not dealing with childhood trauma, it’s not even dealing with government bureaucracy. My biggest day-to-day challenge is keeping “grown-ups” from killing each other. Think of any group you’re involved in (work, home fellowship, whatever). Now imagine living with those people seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. If you’re honest, you might want to kill someone also.

All human beings are flawed, weird creatures with their own baggage, wants, and needs. When people work and live together for long periods of time, all that baggage tends to go on display. You’ve probably heard the saying: “Fish and houseguests go bad after a few days.” Anyone can live together for a while, but over time the quirks and irritating habits come out and grate on each other. Most of the groups we host at our ministry come in for a weekend or maybe a week. When a group books for two weeks we try to have them take a break mid-way through to spend time apart decompressing and to catch their breath. We’ve seen well-intentioned groups self-destruct after having to live together for more than a week. One group gave up and left five days early not speaking to each other. People are complicated.

In our home, we have over 100 children and about 30 adults that all live together. Our large staff is made up of multiple cultures, a wide range of educations and backgrounds, and an even more extensive range of personalities. In spite of the many interpersonal challenges that come up, along with the occasional romances, everyone gets along remarkably well. Not that we spend a lot of time discussing it, but the reason most of our team gets along so well is a sense of humility. A humble servant’s heart helps in any situation or relationship. Listed below are a few thoughts on ministry relationships, in no particular order.

Know that you have your own issues. You’re no picnic. It helps to realize you are as difficult and irritating as everyone you work with. Being self-aware is a challenging and complicated goal. It’s incredibly healthy to hold up the proverbial mirror and take a long look at yourself. “What am I doing to add to the conflict?” There is one person that I need to work with daily who is about a third of my stress. When I feel my blood pressure rise, I’ve started to look inward. Why is this bothering me so much? Does this matter? How am I hurting the situation? Sometimes it is the other person, but it’s pretty hard for any conflict to be entirely one-sided. When you’re frustrated with someone, it’s good to realize; you’re not so great yourself.

Lose the pride. Most people react from one of two places: pride or humility. I know some people who seem to be offended by EVERYTHING, I’m sure you know the type. When someone is always offended, it screams pride. “How dare they do that / ask that / expect that? Don’t they know who I am?” Pride really is the basis for all sin; it’s amazing how it can screw up relationships, workplaces, and lives. People reacting from pride are hard to work with and impossible to correct. You probably thought of at least one person after reading that last sentence, but ask yourself: “How do I respond to correction?” Do I get defensive? Or do I take an honest look at myself and see if changes need to be made? It’s a huge symptom of pride when we can not see our own faults. Throw several prideful people together, and it never works for long. Humility is needed in a ministry, in relationships, and in society, if we are going to survive.

Have grace for others. God has shown wild, abundant grace to us, way more than we could ever deserve, we need to have that same abundant grace for those around us. We need to show that grace to others, pour grace over others, and see them through our Father’s eyes. It’s easy to focus on what someone else is doing wrong; it’s harder to look at the person and see why. Everyone has been hurt; everyone makes questionable decisions, everyone is looking at life through their own warped lens and history. We need to “walk a mile in their shoes” and try to understand them as the valued individuals that God sees. When we see people with God’s eyes, they appear very different. When we truly hurt for someone, it’s hard to be hurt by someone.

When we’re looking for new staff, the most important thing we look for is a servant’s heart. Skills can be taught to anyone willing to learn, but a servant’s heart is essential for living in a community. A humble servant’s heart means someone has an understanding of what it means to walk in Christ’s example. Christ was a humble servant, and people were (and are) drawn to that. Christ was honest, He was OK with calling out sinful behavior, but it was always to teach, never to yell “gotcha.” He wanted what was best for all those around Him.

People are irritating, ourselves included. By walking in Christ’s example and seeing people as He sees them, living and working with others shifts into what God desires for us. We can live and work with others in peace, if it’s not about us.

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Life Isn’t Fair

salvery2In running an orphanage, we get asked the same questions by many different people. One concern or question that comes up a lot from child sponsors is, “If I get a gift for the child I sponsor, won’t the other children feel bad?” Maybe I’m a jerk (it’s been brought up before), but my response is, “These kids are growing up in an orphanage, they know more than anyone: life is not fair.” Our kids have been dealt a lousy hand. Through no fault of their own, they have been abused, abandoned, and left alone in the world until they are brought into our care. Are they any less worthy of a family than the children they go to school with? From a very young age, our children understand at a deep level; justice is hard to come by in this broken world.

At some level, we all think the world should be fair. Listen to young children and the idea of fairness come up a lot. “He got more than I did, it’s not fair.” “You won because the sun was in my eyes, it wasn’t fair.” As we get older, we understand the world better, and we experience more and more that “fair” is hard to come by. One person gets laid off, and others don’t. One person comes from a broken home; the next person has both parents. A tornado or fire moves through a town, destroys some homes and jumps entirely over others. We can scream about it not being fair, but fair and just are terms that don’t apply in too many circumstances in this broken world.

Our Heavenly Father is fair and just, but this world is a dark messed-up place. We face injustices all around us. So what are we to do? We need to work to balance the injustices we can. We can’t control natural events or illnesses, but there are some things in our sphere of influence that we need to be aware of, and we need to be working to solve. We need to push the scales in the right direction when we can, to bring the world into a fairer more just place.

Micah 6:8 says: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” The reactions to justice and mercy are very different. Love mercy, but ACT justly. To act justly requires us to move, it requires effort, it’s working to change the outcome or circumstances.

We’ve all read the story of the good Samaritan. He came across an injustice and acted accordingly. He couldn’t solve all the world’s problems, but he could address the one injustice before him. He is the perfect example of “acting justly.” He knew what the Lord required of him.

If we open our eyes, there are ways to work against injustices all around us. Some big, most small, but all important.

I’ve had the privilege of visiting and building a relationship with City of Refuge Ministries in Ghana; they give a stable, loving home to children rescued out of slavery (yes, slavery is still a massive issue in much of the world.) Recently, IJM, another great organization rescued two boys from slavery and placed them with the City of Refuge team. You can read about it here: police-rescue-children-from-forced-labor-in-ghana. Some might say, “It was just two boys.” This is how change happens, one or two people at a time. These organizations are doing incredible work. Are you called into rescuing children from slavery? Maybe, probably not, but you can support others who do this frontline work. Even if you don’t address huge injustices or hurts in this world, there are small acts we can all do; everything counts, we need to ACT justly.

The good Samaritan didn’t rescue child slaves, he didn’t change the world as a whole, but he changed the world of the one person in his sphere of influence, he helped the one before him. If you know how to cut hair, offer your services to a homeless shelter. Volunteer to read to children at a community center or mentor a child from a broken home. Find out who is out of work in your church or school and offer to bring them a meal (or surprise them with an anonymous box of groceries on their porch). Through small acts of kindness, we can tip the scales in the right direction.

The Christian faith is not a spectator sport. We need to be that light on a hill this world so desperately needs. Jesus spent His time addressing the injustices he saw around Him; this is the example he gave to us, this is what we are called to do. Acting to move the world towards justice does nothing to ensure or enhance our salvation, Jesus did that, but a big part of our faith is taking on His image and representing Him well.

Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. Good advice.

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You’re Only As Big As Your World

pexels-photo-1008155I know an older person (not really old) who lives on their own in Southern California. For many reasons, mainly their own decisions, they’re not as active as they once were. Their only real excursions out of their home are for church, weekly grocery shopping, and an occasional doctor appointment. They’re not a big reader, and they don’t watch the news, they just kind of exist. Their world, over time, has become small. There is one aspect of the way they live their lives that’s interesting: anything that goes on in their world is HUGE. If the mailman is 20 minutes late, it throws off their whole day. If the cat sleeps in a different spot they don’t know what to do. Their world has become so small, the weight of any detail can bring it crashing down. We need to keep our world big.

Any of us can get into a rut, doing the same thing over and over again. Work, home, church, repeat. There is nothing wrong with this, but if we never break up the normal rhythm of our lives it’s hard to grow, its hard to keep a healthy perspective, it’s hard to see the bigger world. We need to get out of our comfortable routines and stretch a little. This is even truer when it comes to our faith and our Christian walk. Routine is the death of passion; suddenly we lose the enthusiasm and wind up going through the motions. Any small test or trial at that point can bring us crashing down.

We’ve all seen the effects of people living in their own small world. How many of us have witnessed truly trivial decisions at a church become massive drama when they’re being discussed by people who don’t see the bigger picture. People with small worlds get very upset when the font is changed in the bulletin; they threaten to leave the church if the service is moved 30 minutes later, they don’t understand why the donuts table doesn’t have maple bars anymore. This sounds silly because it is. These are silly, stupid, trivial trials when you look at the bigger world of faith, our Christian walk, and the challenges of the body of Christ around the world.

I’ve gone through seasons like this in my own life. Several years ago, my world had gotten smaller. I had been helping to run an orphanage in Mexico for a very long time. In spite of the ever-changing challenges, I found myself walking in a routine. My life revolved around working with the kids, raising money, helping to facilitate short-term missions, etc. There’s nothing wrong with that but our orphanage, the kids in our care, and the people who came by had become the bulk of my world. One day a regular visitor approached me and shared how she was helping a small orphanage in Africa. She asked if I’d be interested in going with her to visit that home for ten days and help with some training. I went and it rocked my world.

Our small team spent the bulk of our time at a poor orphanage in one of the poorest countries in the world. It brought into focus what was important, what children in those types of situations need, and how much need there was in the world. We spent one day visiting another orphanage that was incredible: well run, beautiful, great education for the children in their care, etc. Visiting that home was profoundly humbling and showed us how far we still had to go to improve our own orphanage. Even the travel through several airports and countries to get to our destination worked to give me a bigger perspective on the world around us. I hope we made a difference in the orphanage we went to help, I know my life was changed through the experience.

Expanding people’s worlds is why short-term mission trips are so important. There are needs around the world, but short-term missions changes and expands the people who go on these trips. At any age, we need to be constantly looking for ways to see a bigger world, to experience life through the eyes of someone in another culture. We need to hear, smell, and experience life far from what we’re used to. Short-term missions can be kind of a selfish experience. Yes, we’re going to work hard and try to make a difference, but short-term missions change us at a fundamental level for the better. It keeps our eyes open to the bigger world around us, and it lets our own vision grow; it helps us attack life and our Christian walk from a much larger and healthier perspective.

Take a short-term mission trip. If your church doesn’t have a trip scheduled, organize one. It will help to make a difference in the world, it will help your church, and your world will expand. The problems we will encounter in life shrink in direct proportion to how big our world is. Make your world huge.

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Fear the Goat Guy

goat-animal-horns-black-and-white-86594A famous pastor once said there are exactly three ways to crash in ministry: pride, lust, or greed. The way he put it was: “Avoid the glory, the girls, and the gold.” It’s a great lesson. If you’re in ministry and doing it right, it’s so easy to fall into traps that will slowly damage you, and the ministry, beyond repair. The enemy knows us well and knows how to draw us into areas that will destroy us. Men and women of God better than you and I fall every day. We need to be alert at all times and remember we are broken, messed up people.

It’s impossible to cover the countless ways people in ministry, or people in general, fall into sin. I do want to share one story where God reminded me about the need to stay humble, to avoid the glory. As I am constantly reminded, I have much to be humble about.

A few years after my wife and I moved to Mexico to take over management of a struggling orphanage, things seemed to be coming together. The children in our care were doing well, the staff was learning the ropes, things were flowing along nicely. One day, I had several local leaders and officials scheduled to come in for a string of meetings. My usual “uniform” was flip-flops, shorts, and a t-shirt. Not exactly business attire. With the officials coming in I went all out: dockers and real dress shoes. (there is a point to this clothing detail.)

After a day full of meetings, I felt pretty good about myself. “Look how professional I am”, I thought as the day moved along. About 4 pm, after the meetings had wound down, an older, scruffy looking gentleman came to my door and informed me he was here to kill a goat. We had a few goats on site, and I knew we were planning on butchering one, so this wasn’t a big surprise. Usually, our maintenance guy would take the local goat butcher back to the pens, and point out which unlucky goat was on the menu the next day. For some reason, our guy wasn’t around so I told the “goat guy” that I would show him. Now, being raised in Southern California, the idea of raising and butchering your own meat was still new to me. But I thought “Sure; I can handle this, how hard could it be.”

After walking the goat guy back to the pens, and pointing out the future taco meat, he asked me to hold the goat for a minute. “Ummm, OK.” He had to show me what to do. I entered the pen and straddled the goat between my knees like I was going to try to ride it. I then held on to the two horns to keep it still. I assumed as I held the goat he was going to get a rope, or needed to prepare something else so that I could get back to my “important day.” While I waited, I was talking softly to the goat to try to calm it down. (I’m an idiot.) Just then the goat guy walked over and, without warning, slit the goat’s throat causing it to thrash around while it bled out. I was kind of freaking out at this point; the goat guy, on the other hand, was enjoying this little display immensely. I honestly think to watch this “soft American” hold the goat while it went to the great goat beyond was the high point of the goat guy’s week.

After I got out of the pen and my adrenaline dropped a little, I walked back to our house. I had blood splatters on my shirt, my dress pants below the knees and my dress shoes covered in goat blood, and I had bits of straw sticking to me. As I staggered into the house, my wife asked with wide-eyed panic, “what happened to you?” I looked like I had been part of a murder scene. I told her, “I think I’m fine, but I am now marked for Passover.”

The point of this little story is to show how God will give us what we need. I had embraced pride. The ministry was growing, and in my mind, I had more to do with it than I did. In spite of all my “important meetings,” the local goat guy showed me that I was not that important. I needed some humbling, I needed to look foolish, I needed the goat guy in my life at that moment.

The battles we fight in ministry, and in life, don’t stop. We need to be aware of these battles, or we’ve already lost. Even the greatest men and women of God stumble and fall, we all need to seek God’s help and guidance to avoid the subtle snares the enemy has laid out for us. We all need a goat moment now and then.

(For anyone offended by the demise of this poor goat, please know, people eat goat meat in most of the world. I can also personally vouch that this particular goat was delicious.)

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Mother’s Day Sucks

pain2Anna Jarvis is credited with “inventing” mothers day back in 1908, and it became an official US holiday in 1914. Shortly thereafter, Anna, realizing what the day had become, spent the rest of her life fighting against what she considered her enormous mistake. (footnote) She fought to abolish the holiday not just because of the pain it brings out in so many people, she realized that it had become just another reason to sell flowers and expensive greeting cards. Mother’s day had turned into another pointless commercial endeavor. I’m all for making a buck; the thorny issue is the agonizing emotional pain this day can bring.

Few holidays elicit such an immediate and emotional response as Mother’s Day. Father’s Day? Yawn. Presidents Day? Big deal. Fourth of July? A BBQ, big whoop. Thanksgiving is bigger than most holidays but not exactly an emotional event. Mother’s Day brings along a tangled string of emotional responses in almost anyone. When one hears the word “mother” it’s part of our shared human experience to have memories ripple through our minds, some loving, some not so loving, but the memories are almost never without deep sentiments.

The mother-child relationship is one of the strongest and most important in our lives, for that reason, it is so celebrated. Because it can be so remarkable, it makes sense that is can also be one of the most painful and damaging of relationships when it goes wrong. For a large percentage of the population, the emotions that this day brings forth are a long way from joy. For anyone involved in ministry, it’s important to be acutely aware of the land-mines this holiday places all around us.

Writing here as one who runs a large orphanage, you can imagine the pain Mother’s Day can bring out in the children in our care. We stopped attending church in our town on Mother’s Day years ago because it was just too agonizing. For our children to attend a service dedicated to honoring mothers, it brought up way too much baggage. They would sit there and listen to how wonderful all the mothers in the church were, they would watch as flowers were passed out to the mothers present, and they would sit quietly holding back the tears. Besides church, every year our kids have to participate in the public school’s Mother’s Day program knowing their biological mothers will never see it. They watch other children being hugged by their mothers and wonder what they did wrong to make their own mothers abandon them. Our staff here does a phenomenal job of loving and caring for the children in our home, but it can still be a very complicated and painful few days around here.

It’s not just the orphaned who suffer through this day. For women who have lost children through illness or accidents, Mother’s Day is a vivid, annual reminder of their tragedy and the dull pain that radiates through their lives. While others are celebrating motherhood, they are mourning the graduations, weddings, and all life’s events they will never see their children experience. Along with the many mothers who’ve lost children, are the 20% of women who, for medical and various other reason, will never have children. Society still tells women they are not complete unless they have offspring, for many, this is not within their control.

For many people, Mother’s Day is a painful reminder that the women who gave birth to them failed at motherhood. Not every mother is Mrs. Brady; not every mother is the ideal that we celebrate. Too many mothers abandon their children, too many are mentally or physically abusive. Too many mothers have drug or alcohol problems or just don’t care. For anyone raised by a women who should never have had children, this day is a painful reminder that they never had a normal childhood. They were never held when they were scared; they were never read to at night, the tooth fairy never came. Not a lot to celebrate here, just an aching void where their childhood should be.

So, what are we supposed to do if we have a church, school, or some other organization that needs to acknowledge this upcoming day? Honor all those mothers who get it right, who have sacrificed so much to raise their children in a loving, healthy way. Encourage them, recognize them, shower them with the admiration they deserve. The mother-child relationship can be a profound, wonderful, literally life-changing experience. The mother-child bond is incredible, and it should be celebrated when it’s done right. BUT, please do so in a way that is sensitive to those in the room that dread this Sunday in May every year.

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footnote: http://mentalfloss.com/article/30659/founder-mothers-day-later-fought-have-it-abolished