Giving Thanks When There Isn’t Much To Be Thankful For

I, like most, focus my attention on thanksgiving around this time of the year. With the falling of leaves, the pumpkin decor, and the baking of pies, my heart is most tender towards gratitude. I enjoy reading what others are thankful for as well. Our general focus is on family, friends, jobs, health, happy moments, and so on. We call these things our “blessings”, because well, they are good things.

I, like most, feel nostalgic around this time of year. With Christmas around the corner, memories of childhood and family are easy to access. Shopping lists for our current loved ones provoke emotion that is unique to this season. The scent of a Christmas tree or the sound of a carol can flood one’s face with tears in an instant. Nothing like the holidays to buoy up sensibility.

I, like most who have lived enough years, know the pain of loss. Many of my “blessings” have been peeled away. I think of dear friends who are suffering unimaginably in bereavement and grief. So what do we do when our dreams and hopes are stripped naked? People die. Health fails. Happiness dissipates giving way to depression. Families fall apart. What if we don’t have fond memories to look back on? How do we cope with a bleak future and the powerlessness to change it? What can one be thankful for when sadness wins?

Here is my gratitude list. It is quite short, but it packs a punch! It is not based on any good thing on earth. It includes true blessings that are accessible to anyone upon request. These gifts come from God and do not discriminate. They are not based on family history, personal achievements, or present circumstances. They are the truths that will never pass, change, or fade. So here it goes:

  • Forgiveness. Yes, it is marvelous when our loved ones forgive us for our wrongdoings, but there is no greater power in one’s life than the forgiveness that comes from God himself. Regardless of how others feel or respond, we have access to perfect pardon when we ask. God is merciful and never turns away a contrite heart.
  • Presence. Loneliness sucks. God knows that. So He can live in us when we ask him. This sounds a little fantastical and infantile, but ask anyone who has experienced the presence of God, and they will tell you it is real and powerful. The company of the Spirit is not an equal substitution for human relationships. Loneliness will still suck, but God provides comfort, strength, even joy, in the midst of heartache.
  • Perspective. When life gives us lemons we need sugar. Because, who wants sour lemonade? The story of Job (pronounced ‘Jobe’) is one of pain and misery. And God was totally in it. It is a story of perspective. We can have insight and a unique viewpoint if we can see our lives the way God sees them, not the way they look and feel to us in the moment. Finding perspective is not necessarily easy, but it is available. Sometimes all it takes is a quiet moment with God. Other times it takes diligent study of God’s thoughts and writings found in the Bible. Oftentimes the Spirit communicates through people around us, a counselor, a friend. The point is that when in pain, we often lose our outlook or our footing, and God is willing to share his point of view when we ask Him. When we have nothing else to be thankful for, perspective can be the tipping point from despair to hope. Yay for sweet lemonade!

So from my heart to yours, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving full of real blessings and gratitude for the things we can all have at all times in all places.

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When tribes define us

For my viewpoint, there’s this trend, getting stronger and stronger in our country. My friend, Jeremy, pointed out that it’s called tribalism, defined as “the behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group”.

I’ve seen people identify themselves in a people group, adopting all the views which encompass that identity. Their tribe represents whom they are and what they believe, and also whom they are not, and what they won’t tolerate.

I’ve also seen people identify others in people groups, not because they’ve asked to be pegged like that, but because of the assumption that if they share a belief with one tribe, that must mean they identify with the entire set of views or convictions.

Belonging to a people group is not essentially negative. A sense of community is healthy, promoting security and love. But I’m talking about the “us -vs- them” (as my friend Ashlee puts it) mentality.

This is not new. In our history we can easily remember how we hunted for witches or reported the communists. However, this trend seems to be more wide spread than I can ever recall in any American history book. Tribalism defines our society. One group against another, highly emotive reactions, little tolerance for others’ views, and destructive group-think ideology. Tribalism is not one idea versus another idea, one conviction against another; these are inevitable and a wonderful reality of being human and sharing the planet with other humans who think differently than one another. Tribalism is one group against another group: Republicans -vs- Democrats, Trump supporters -vs- Trump haters; political, religious, or moral conservatives -vs- liberals. Depending on the tribe one belongs to, the assumption is that one tribe loves while the other one hates, one is right and the other is wrong, one is rational while the other is idiotic. Stereotyping is not only tolerated, but fed into our minds through the wonderful world of social media. We call people names which are associated with tribes we persecute, like “the liberals”, “the media”, “the homophobes”, or “the tree huggers”. We put pressure on each other to not belong to this camp or that camp. How dare you believe this? If you do, I cannot associate myself with you, I will de-friend you (in social media lingo), I will not like your post, even if it seems reasonable (it can’t be reasonable, because it belongs to the other camp), I cannot be seen with you because others will think I agree with you…

Seriously, it is so incredibly hard to read real news! One newspaper is liberal, one TV channel is conservative, most report based on opinion, omitting certain news and emphasizing only the ones that fit the tribe. It takes hours of research to find out what really happened! Can a president I dislike do things I like? Not according to the tribe! Can one be a democrat and pro-life simultaneously? Nope, don’t think so. Can one believe in gun control and still hold other conservative values? What? Can a religious conservative hold a conviction of right and wrong and call certain behaviors “sin” and not be pegged as a bigot? Does love always mean tolerance of certain things and intolerance of other things? Or is it possible that we have just become a society that thinks that people who agree with us are loving and people whom we disagree with are the hating kind? Or that only our opinions are valid?

I would like to propose a change; not a big, societal change, since my little blog will reach only some. I would like to propose a personal challenge and baby steps. How about we make a pact to:

  1. Put relationships first. Get to know people, ask questions, refrain from making assumptions about what kind of people they are based on what they believe in, give others the benefit of the doubt, engage in civil and open minded conversation.
  2. Allow ourselves and others to not fit into one camp. Think outside the box. There might be something we’re missing. Analyze issues individually, not in packages.
  3. Approach each other with boldness and courage, not afraid or reluctant of good conversation, the kind that can get heated, yet not personal. Let’s not discourage one another from associating with “those people” who believe differently than we do. Our country is a great country because of discourse, engagement, and varied points of views. Let’s not cave into the peer pressure of needing to be like the majority or the group on the correct side of things. We might actually learn from each other!

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose

Dr. Seuss

This antibiotic will ruin you. 

Mountains and Mustard Seeds

4739Hi there, we need to talk. My name is Amy Moser. I have almost written this post at least 20 times and got too overwhelmed and abandoned it. Well here goes…

The antibiotics you took or are taking for your sinus infection, UTI, skin infection, laser eye surgery…ect…may have already damaged you.

Cipro, Levaquin, Avalox, nearly every generic ending in “quin”, “oxacin,””ox,”…are all part of a large family of antibiotics called “Fluoroquinolones.” The FDA finally updated their warning on these antibiotics as of July 2016. They site “multiple system damage that may be irreversible. Permanent you guys. Here is the link for the warning if you are a doubting Thomas: https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm500143.htm. Take a gander real quick if you are reading this with an eyebrow raised. Trust me, I wish I had been given the opportunity to soak up this information before it was too late.

In 2010, I took…

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Our Day Trip to Tangier Island

Thanks to Groupon, several weeks ago I bought a couple of tickets for a day cruise at Tangier Rappahannock Cruises. With the end of summer approaching, Juan and I found the perfect day to take advantage of the acquisition!  The temperature was a perfect 74H/71L. The clouds gave us a breathtaking display of beauty, without shedding a single drop upon us, and the Chesapeake Bay was bigger and lovelier than I had anticipated.

Tangier Island is tiny: 5 miles long and 1 mile wide, and only 3 feet above sea level. Its population is less than 500 people, but it’s rich in American history. Back in 1608, it was visited by Captain John Smith, who named it. On July 9th, 1645, the Virginia Council took all the male American Indians in the area, ages 11 and up, prisoners, and transported them to this isolated spot, in order to prevent further organized attacks against the English colonists. Governor William Berkeley’s own ship transported and abandoned them there.

More than a century later, during the War of 1812, thousands of enslaved African Americans gained freedom by fighting for the British against the American coastal communities around the Bay. The Virginia militia deflected a British attempt to take Norfolk in 1813, and engaged British forces throughout the war. More than 2,000 African Americans gained their freedom aboard British ships.

Today, fishing is the largest industry of the island, and most especially crabbing, mainly the soft-shelled blue crab (which is de.li.cious.)

The second largest industry of the island is tourism. There are daily cruises, mostly seasonal, and they pride themselves with having a handful (I counted 3) of restaurants serving succulent seafood. We had lunch at Lorraine’s and I must say that their crabby fries were so finger-licking good!

Back to history, in 1686, a man by the name of John Crocket  settled in the island, and his sons’ families did the same in 1814. As we rode through the island, we saw more gravestones than I’ve ever seen in one place, and so many of them had a Crocket name inscribed. Graveyards are found at the church, in backyards, in fields…

We rented a golf cart, which is the choice mode of transportation, even for the natives. We saw a church, a library, a tiny post office, a medical building, a school, and a few inns. We also visited a tiny, yet interesting museum which holds pictures and artefacts of the history and the present culture of this place.

Interesting fact: The Rev. Joshua Thomas (1776-1853) was a waterman so he moved from the mainland to the island, converted to Methodism, became a licensed preacher, and was ordained an elder. He served the Chesapeake region for more than four decades. He traveled in a canoe called “The Methodist” and conducted services for the British forces during the War of 1812. He advised the British troops not to attack Fort McHenry near Baltimore. In a prayer, he predicted they would fail. The expedition was not cancelled, and the British fleet was defeated.

Our Chesapeake Bay experience was unique and relaxing. Being in the island for just a few hours felt as if we were trapped in time. We often wondered how these people stand to live in such an isolated and tiny place! And then we were happy to return, bellies full, minds opened, hearts rested. God gave us a little reprieve from reality, surrounded us with beauty, provided us with more memories and marital friendship, and recharged our batteries to get us back to work tomorrow, first thing in the morning!

A Prayer for Refugees

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Lord, you are no stranger to the suffering of wandering people. Your written story is all about those who are lost, those who are impoverished, those who are hopeless. Your own son was born in a borrowed bed in a foreign, inhospitable land, open to attacks and dangers from those who hated you.

You know the struggles of the persecuted; You understand the pain of the displaced. Please open our hearts to see refugees the way you see them, not through the lens of fear, but through the lens of compassion and grace.

Forgive our nation when we close our borders. Forgive us individually when we love our comfort more than we love people. Break us, Lord. Help us to feel their pain. Move the heart of our president to be wise in the way he leads this country to protect its citizens, while continuing our long lasting tradition of welcoming the tired, the poor, and those yearning to be free.

Protect and provide for the many who are in need of finding a place to call home, access to safety, shelter, food, water, medical care. We cry to you, Abba Father. Use us, somehow, to bring healing and health to the wanderers of this world.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Emma Lazarus

Tomorrow is Moving Day

Tomorrow is moving day.

He had the kindest smile and the brightest and biggest brown eyes a little baby could ever have. He happily slept through the night just weeks after appearing in my life. He filled my heart with thanksgiving and praise and brought joy to my existence.

Tomorrow is moving day.

When he was 3, he broke his arm. We rushed him to the hospital and he courageously kept from crying while the doctor manipulated his bones back into place.

Tomorrow is moving day.

In preschool he fell madly in love with a beautiful little girl and he told me he wanted to grow up and marry and have brown babies.

Tomorrow is moving day.

It took him forever to talk. I drove him to speech therapy and celebrated every clear word. His best friend, Mitchell, understood him perfectly well. They had hours and hours of fun with cars, legos, and pretend games. They never argued or fought. They just played.

Tomorrow is moving day.

I taught him to read. He was exhilarated every time he finished a book. The stickers on his chart were an outward expression of the pride and happiness he felt. He was a joy to homeschool.

Tomorrow is moving day.

There were very few things Daniel hated. Among those, are vegetables. He sort of still mostly hates them.

Tomorrow is moving day.

He always had a girl crush growing up. From kindergarten through high school, he was (and is) a romantic at heart.

Tomorrow is moving day.

Ryan became his buddy. Ryan is now his best man.

Tomorrow is moving day.

His love for animals was contagious. Nothing like a trip to the zoo or aquarium. He knew the name of every imaginable dinosaur, along with eating habits, time periods, and habitats.

Tomorrow is moving day.

He always had an incredible sense of direction. Lizette and I always relied on him to get us to the right place when we were lost.

Tomorrow is moving day.

I could always count on him when I needed someone to kill a palmetto bug.

Tomorrow is moving day.

The more he grew, the more he resembled his dad, both in looks and personality. Yet, he took after me in this one thing: his love for dancing. He was not shy about hitting the dance floor. His signature move was the worm.

Tomorrow is moving day.

He also loved the spotlight. I guess he gets that from me also (OK, he took after me in a couple of things). He found a love for theater and performing. He loved playing the bishop in Les Mis.

Tomorrow is moving day.

He served in Jamaica a couple of summers. He loved everything about it.

Tomorrow is moving day.

In high school, he fell in love with a long-time friend. Her name is Geneva. They officially became a couple on senior prom night.

Tomorrow is moving day.

He has always been and continues to be a very faithful friend.

Tomorrow is moving day.

His love for his family, especially his siblings, moves me deeply. When his sisters call him with a need, he’s willing to help at the drop of a hat. He is committed to Gabriel and I feel peace in knowing that Daniel will never leave him, but will watch over him with great care and love.

Tomorrow is moving day.

“Danieeeeel!” is what you hear at my house any time an electronic device freezes or malfunctions.

Tomorrow is moving day.

Goofy. ‘nough said.

Tomorrow is moving day.

He has become quite a fabulous young man. He is responsible, interesting, tech savvy, fun, engaging, respectful, and faithful.

Tomorrow is moving day.

Geneva has captured his heart and mind. He is a lucky duck. The two will wed in 2 1/2 weeks and ride into the sunset together.

Tomorrow he is leaving father and mother in order to cleave to his beloved.

My heart is full. I am proud, happy, excited, hopeful, as well as sad, nostalgic, and utterly surprised at how quickly time flew by.

 

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The Impossibility of Obeying God

One of the pastors at Third Church RVA reminded me yesterday that God calls us to do things we can’t do without him. In his sermon on Luke 9, referring to Jesus feeding the 5,000 people in the crowd, Rich Hutton pointed out that after hearing the request from the disciples to send people home to feed themselves, Jesus gave them a directive instead. “You give them something to eat,” he said. But how would the disciples do this, when they were hungry and tired themselves, as well as broke and needy? Impossible.

God calls me to do the impossible. And God’s calling to you, dear reader, is unattainable as well, at least in your own power. What is God’s calling? What are his commandments? How are we to obey him?

“One of the teachers of the law asked Jesus, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.'” (Mark 12: 28-31)

In my youth, I used to think I could do these things. I believed I could love God with everything in me, and I could love other people. But the more I grow and live, the more I realize it is absolutely, unequivocally impossible for me to do this! I look back at my life and realize that the main motivation for my actions, even the “good” ones, has mostly been self-centered. Not that I realized that. Not that I am that discerning even now! But I’m taking a hard look at myself and finding that even what I do in service of others is often tainted with pride and self-indulgence. Have I ever truly loved God and loved my neighbor? Yes. But have I obeyed God’s commands well, faithfully, and consistently? Absolutely not.

Just as it was impossible for the disciples to feed the crowd, it is impossible for all of us to do what God requires of us. And just like in the story of Mark, we can find comfort in the fact that Jesus not only understands our inability, but is willing to step in and do the work with us and through us!

God calls us to do the impossible, SO THAT HE CAN HELP US! This blows my mind! I so desperately need God’s help and He is so willing to give it! Jesus was the one who fed the crowd, but the disciples were the ones handing out the bread. Their reluctance turned into joy, and their burden into gratitude.

Lord, will you help me today? Will you come to the aid of my readers as well? Do what we cannot do ourselves. May you empower us today to love you with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, and may you love others through our service to them. May you purify our hearts so that our motivation for living and our purpose for serving is God-centered and not self-centered. May we pour out honest love and kindness towards those whom are closest to us, spouses, children, parents, friends. May we desire your glory to be displayed for all to see as we serve people outside of our inner circles. May we not seek self-satisfaction from our good works, but instead experience true joy and gratitude that stems from a sincere place of worship to God and service to others.

I thank God that in giving us commandments that are impossible to keep, He also demonstrates his love for us by empowering and supplying for us, to us, and through us.

“The Lord is the strength of his people” (Psalm 28:8a)

 

Great Friday

Today is like no other day.

Today I remember that all the ugliness of my soul and the sinfulness of my heart have been dealt with.

Even on my best days, I end up saying the wrong thing, thinking the wrong thought, or feeling the wrong emotion. Even when I try my hardest to be a great friend, a loving mother, or a selfless wife, if I’m honest with myself, I stink at it! I fail over and over again, and the more I miss the mark, the deepest my tendency to despair.

There is one thing I want more than anything else in life. I desire great faith. I would like to be a strong believer with great love for God, devotion to his Word, and undivided trust in his sovereign will. But in this I fail as well. I pray little, I read lightly, and I do not believe God when things don’t happen the way I want them to.

But this day I remember that God so loved me, that He gave his only Son,  so that He would pay the penalty for all my faults. I cannot comprehend this love. He, who was sitting in heavenly places, became man, clothed in frailty and humanity. He lived life perfectly, and then, at the appointed time, gave his life willingly. Unlike any other god of any other religion, Jesus became a cursed sacrifice. He received God’s justified wrath for my sins and the sins of the world. The punishment that should have been mine, was taken by another. And now, I walk in the freedom of forgiveness. Such astonishing grace!

Therefore, today I am beyond grateful. I am not condemned, even though I should be. I am not an object of wrath. Instead, I am highly valued by God, lavishly loved, and generously pardoned. And the suffering of this life do not compare to the incomparable riches of his mercy.

Today is like no other day. Today, I receive the comfort of the knowledge of my place in heaven. Today I REST. Today I crawl up under God’s embrace and feel the joy of the salvation he has provided. Today I’m OK with being a sinner, because I am secure in Him.

Colossians for You

May you be filled with the knowledge of his will

Through all spiritual wisdom and understanding

That you may please God in every way and bear fruit in every good work

Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might

So that you many have great endurance and patience, joyfully giving thanks to God

He has qualified you to share in his inheritance and rescued you from darkness

He has brought you into his kingdom where you have redemption of sins

So see to it that no one takes you captive through deceptive philosophies

Do not let anyone judge you based on outward, religious customs

For you have been raised with Christ and your life is hidden with him

Therefore set your minds on things above, not on earthly things 

Put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature

And clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience

Bear with each other and forgive each other’s grievances, just as the Lord forgave you

Over all thing practice love, which binds all things together in perfect harmony

Make the most of every opportunity and let your conversations be full of grace

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts and his Word dwell in you richly

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of Jesus

The Book of Colossians

sunset in richmond

My Son is a Genius

My son is a genius. No, I’m not kidding. He is a spacial genius. I don’t know if there is a specificity for the genial kind, but as a mom, I’m telling you, Gabriel is incredibly special and highly talented in spacial understanding and memory.

I know you are dying to hear my anecdote, so let me explain:

For the past few months: Gabriel has recently discovered the stimulating world of Google Earth. He has spent numerous amount of hours virtually navigating the streets of Miami, where he lived until four years ago. He has communicated to us that he wants to move back and that he has found a few spots where we can get a “new house”. He has a special spot in South Miami that he really likes. One day we found him looking at rental properties around the area, strategically planted within walking distance of a Pizza Hut.

Three days ago: My husband called me urgently to come into Gabriel’s room and see what his computer screen was displaying. We stared at it in total and absolute amazement, while Gabriel casually “visited” Seaquarium in his tablet.

24 years ago: When Gabriel was 1 year old, Juan and I, along with our two little ones, moved to “Kendall Club Apartments” and lived there for two years. When our third son was born (he was exactly 8 days old), we moved to a single family home nearby. Gabriel was 3. I do not ever recall returning to that apartment since our move. We drove by Kendall Drive many, many times throughout our life in Miami, but never did we enter the apartment complex again.

Three days ago: Gabriel was virtually standing in front of the exact apartment he lived in when he was 3 years old. Simultaneously, in his tablet, his finger moved through the streets of Miami, from the Seaquarium in Key Biscayne to Kendall Club Apartments. First the causeway, then US1, then Sunset Drive, passing by Pizza Hut, of course, to 87th Ave, to Kendall Drive.

He remembers it all. He can navigate it all. If he had the ability to drive, he would get in his car and drive straight from VA to his favorite spot in Miami. He could also take us, practically with his eyes closed, to Marco Island, Disney World (of course), Steve Reed’s house (inside story), Delaware, DC, Virginia Beach, or anyplace where he has been only once.

This may not seem like a genial trait to some. But for an autistic adult who has never driven, never seemed to pay attention to his surroundings, hardly ever looked out the window of a car, never asked or received verbal directions, nor ever studied maps up until recently, this is quite outstanding. None of my other children (who speak and drive) would be able to get to most familiar places of their childhood without any help or hesitation.

Of course, we already knew this about Gabriel. When he was 8 he got upset when I was driving him to school one day, and told me to “turn right”. I obliged, because when Gabriel used words we all made sure he was rewarded for that. After several commands to turn this way or the other, I found myself in Parrot Jungle. Gabriel smiled. He had only been there once before, but when he directed me there, he did so via an unfamiliar road, one that we had never taken to get to Parrot Jungle. Another time we discovered that he had drawn in his pad the entire way to Marco Island, one picture frame at a time, after we visited there once. The pictures took us to the hotel (and the exact room) in which we vacationed. These pictures were drawn several months after the fact.

Autism puzzles and intrigues me. Gabriel amazes me. I thank God that often times He gives, who are closest to him, glimpses of the complexity of thought and depth of personality in him.

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Gabriel elated to get a computer for his birthday

Gabriel and I

My boy and I

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Kendall Club Apartments in Gabriel’s computer screen