Breastfeeding: How I Came to Love One of My Greatest Struggles in Motherhood

Breastfeeding.

Just the word can strike emotion into the hearts of new and veteran Mamas. For some? It was easy from the get go. For others? The struggle was R E A L.

I would like to start by making a disclaimer:

 A fed baby is BEST.

I don’t want to write this post as an argument that a Mother can only nurse her child. The reality is that many mothers, for a variety of reasons, are unable to nurse their children. THIS IS TOTALLY FINE! A fed baby is best!

What I would like to do in this post is give helpful tips and tricks which allowed me to nurse my baby one year and beyond and reflect on my experience as a whole!


You might be asking yourself, “Ok- so which Mama are you? The one that it came easy? Or the one who struggled?”

Oh, I struggled.

Then it got easy.

Then I struggled some more.

The reality for nursing Mamas (at least in my case) is that the breastfeeding journey can be like a rollercoaster. I struggled from the very beginning primarily due to the “trauma” I went through while giving birth to Theo. For those who are new to my blog or are interested in reading Theo’s birth story, click here.

Shortly after Theo was born I overheard the nurses say to me about three or four times, “you’ll need to feed him in 5 minutes or his blood sugar will go down..” While I am sitting there thinking … OK … well does anyone want to show me how to do that?

I actually didn’t learn to breastfeed until my older sister came into visit me and was able to show me some of the ropes. Crazy, right?

I had a VERY sleepy baby, trouble latching, and was overall fatigued from delivery. These components were the perfect recipe for  having a baby struggle to get back to birth weight. At the end of my hospital visit, I was informed that my baby had lost 6% of his birth weight and they would be putting him (and me) on a three step program which included pumping and using donated breastmilk.

My milk came in the day I left the hospital… so let’s just add engorgement onto the list of struggles.

I was so discouraged.

It wasn’t until I was feeding Theo every 2 hours during the day (waking him up if he was asleep) and every 4 at night (again, waking an angelic SLEEPING baby) that he was finally able to get back to birth weight and the stress of his weight loss could be off my shoulders.

By 4 months I was enjoying breastfeeding and the bond I was able to form with my baby. It became second nature…. 1. cover on 2. unstrap bra  3. Latch baby boy! Unfortunately intermittently I was plagued with horrible clogged ducts that made the breastfeeding journey feel like a very real rollercoaster.


Here are my top four tips & tricks for being able to nurse my baby successfully for 14 months:

Probiotic: Near the beginning, I was desperate to find something to help with the gas bubbles and frequent spit ups that Theo was having after feedings. A friend of mine suggested a probiotic and although it was pretty pricey (eeek), it was completely worth it! Gas can be a struggle for the nursing Mama because the little baby may have problems latching due to how bad the gas is or it can even throw their appetite off in general. I put a few drops on my breast before nursing Theo and he was able to consume all the wonderful benefits of a probiotic. (Also, my first pediatrician told me that although breastmilk contains HUNDREDS of amazing nutrients- it doesn’t contain probiotic unless the Mom is taking a probiotic supplement.) A probiotic helps with putting GOOD bacteria in the body and helping with digestion. It CAN’T hurt!

Gerber Soothe Probiotic Colic Drops

Water: This one was a tough one for me! After pregnancy I was looking forward to the stress free living of not having to down liters of water a day but I was sadly mistaken. In order to keep up a healthy milk supply make sure that you are drinking plenty of water!

Supply & Demand: This one is BIG and incredibly hard to control! There were months were my supply would go down because Theo wasn’t nursing as much but whenever new teeth were popping through my supply shot through the roof because Theo was nursing all.the.time. If you are trying to build supply- try getting your little one to nurse more. If you are trying to decrease supply- try to supply with other food (when they are old enough) or distract them from the constant desire to nurse. This can be a bittersweet thing!

Perseverance: The final tip I have is to not grow too discouraged and PERSIST PERIST PERSIST. I can’t even tell you how many times I thought of giving up- but I knew that I had a goal I wanted to meet and I was going to show myself AND my son that I could do it! There will be ups and downs in the process but if you truly desire it- keep trying and reach out to others who have found success or lactation consultants that can help.


IMG_8219(Popped a squat in Target to nurse my one year old. Gotta do what you gotta do Mamas!)

Weaning my son after 14 months was bittersweet. I operated for the duration of the time I nursed him on a “you never know when the last time will be” mentality where I tried my best to embrace every time I got to nurse Theo but – I was ready. If I really think hard about the “last time” I nursed my son… it will spiral me into a heaping amount of really ugly sobs. I am sure other Mom’s can attest to the tearful goodbyes of nursing in general or of a specific child. It comes with its roses and thorns.

My time with nursing Theo taught me: how to “roll with the punches”, sacrifice, persevere through difficulties, embrace all the moments and breathe in the littleness that babies offer.

The days are long but the years are short, my friends.

 

 

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Cure for the Lazy Blogger + Major Book Goals

Hello readers!

I have realized that my blog has become an “occasional” “once a year” or “major life change happening” place of writing. I have become an exceptionally good L A Z Y blogger.

I admit it.

Well… in the spirit of living out my “word of the year”, discipline (you betcha’ I will be writing a post of how this word jumped out in prayer), I have decided to become a more faithful blog writer. My hope is to write blogs at least every couple weeks (if not weekly).

Also, I have developed a REAL big itch to read! Hence a monthly book goal has now commenced! Keep on the lookout for reviews of these wonderful books as I check them off my list…

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MayOne Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler

JuneMy Sisters the Saints by Colleen Cambell (Ministry of Moms read!)

(maybe read Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis if possible.)

JulyPraying the Rosary Like Never Before: Encounter the Wonder of Heaven and Earth by Ted Sri

AugustBrideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

September: Momnipotent: The Not-So-Perfect Woman’s Guide to Catholic Motherhood by Danielle Bean

OctoberThe Domestic Church: Room by Room by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle

NovemberNorth and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

DecemberImitating Mary: Ten Marian Virtues for the Modern Mom by Marge Fenelon

January: The Other Side of Beauty by Leah Darrow

FebruaryAn Immovable Feast: How I Gave Up Spirituality for a Life of Religious Abundance by Tyler Blanski

MarchLittle Women by Louisa May Alcott (who doesn’t love reading some classics!)

AprilThe Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (re-read)

Along with this book “feast” I will be partaking in I will still be leaving at least 10 minutes of prayer time in sacred scripture and will attempt to have a reflection from scripture at least every couple of weeks. (My bible is the ‘Blessed is She Catholic Journaling Bible’ and its AH-MAZING- get it here.)

Updates to come!

Prayers for you all! Please keep my little family in your prayers as-well.

-KM

 

 

 

The Mommy Bod and Struggle to “Bounce Back”

“By His wounds, we are healed.”

Wounds.

I have talked about them in blogs before when I talked about my struggle with disordered eating habits. For those that may not know, for several years I struggled with sitting down and having a full meal. I forced myself to starve, thinking I was being “healthy”. Moderation is key my dear friends.

By the grace of God, through the Holy Sacraments, and due to prayers from many – I recovered. I started to think less and less of myself and the vanity that I had been plagued with and changed my habitual thinking. My primary motivation for recovery was my deep desire to have children. At the time I didn’t know that anorexia could lead to infertility.


I remember looking in the mirror the day after I gave birth to my son.

Pale. My face swollen. My belly deflated but still looking 6 months pregnant.

I couldn’t look away fast enough.

I remember the embarrassment.

Turning away from my husband each time I got dressed. My body had completely changed. Granted, it changed when I got pregnant so I should have been used to it, right? Wrong.

For 9 months I was growing a beautiful baby boy inside. The weight gain, although scary for someone who struggled with an eating disorder, was for a purpose.

What I was unable to see in those early weeks after Theo’s birth was that my body was still beautiful.

Yes, the beauty had changed.

But it was still there.


Now, let’s reflect on Christ’s passion and resurrection…

He suffered during His passion more than we will ever be able to comprehend. He was beaten, broken, and removed of all modesty. Yet, on that glorious Sunday He emerged stronger. He was victorious. “Oh, death, where is your sting?” [1 Corinthians 15: 55] Even though Our Lord’s resurrected body was glorified, do you want to guess at what he still possessed?

His wounds.

His perfect and beautiful body still shown the marks of his suffering and of his sacrifice. The God of the universe could have very well had his glorified body erase the markings which brought him such sorrow, but instead they stand as a visible sign of his sacrificial love.

Child birth is a beautiful and immensely difficult experience. I remember crying after each and every push for hours. I remember the feeling of thinking that I couldn’t push anymore, that I didn’t have any strength left to give. Here was my first lesson in motherhood—

There’s A L W A Y S more room to give.

God gave me the strength to push beyond what I thought was possible. Giving birth was the vessel in which God was showing me, yet again, that I am enough. He was showing me that my body, strength, and will power could be victorious in the face of suffering.

The reality? My body will never go back to the way it was before and I never W A N T it to.

The loose skin, stretch marks, wider hips are all signs that I held LIFE inside of me. Christ embraced his wounds… why shouldn’t I embrace mine?

To those Mama’s who are standing in front of the mirror and critiquing your new body- instead- I encourage you to close your eyes, open your hands, and offer a quick prayer of thanksgiving.

“For you Jesus, I thank you for this body and for my baby. Be with me when I look at my reflection and allow me to see what You see. I offer it all to You sweet Jesus.”

Today, I don’t turn away or fear looking at the reflection in the mirror. Rather, I feel empowered.

“Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul.” St. Augustine

On the Night You Were Born

 

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If you were to have told me a year ago that exactly one year from now I would be a Mom, writing a blog post during one of my sons many midnight feedings, I wouldn’t have believed you.

But…. here I am. Writing this blog as I nurse my son at 12:30AM.

As some of you may recall- the news that my husband and I were expecting came as quite the shock. This was due largely because we knew that this little one was a wedding night baby. If you would like to read that story- click here.

Pregnancy is nothing short of a miracle. At the very earliest stage my little Theo was the size of a poppy seed— a POPPY SEED. That amazes me when I look at his little face and all the features that make it up. He is a m i r a c l e.


I loved being pregnant! Watching the belly grow and feeling my baby move inside of me was something that I will forever cherish and something that is indescribable. Although I loved being pregnant it didn’t mean that it was always easy. There was the lack of energy, nauseousness, and lack of mobility. Near the end of my pregnancy I was waddling so bad- I looked like a duck.

6 weeks before our due date my older sister gave birth to my little nephew, Leo. I had been through the experience before of waiting in the waiting room for my sisters to have their babies but this time felt very different. This time I was imagining myself going through the same experience so every time I saw my sister in pain I knew what was awaiting me in 6 weeks. Although watching my sister go through so much pain wasn’t fun, getting to see the end result and getting to hold my nephew and see his beautiful little face was something so incredibly amazing. I also knew THAT feeling awaited me in 6 weeks which was far more exciting than the pain.

The weeks came and went and same with our due date.

No baby yet.

This is totally normal for first time Mom’s and I was actually preparing myself throughout the entire pregnancy that I would at least be 41 weeks pregnant before I would have this baby.


Much to my surprise only one day after our due date, I went into labor.

The pain was real but I was ready. I truly felt that the Holy Spirit was helping me fight the contractions as much as I could throughout the night and to do it with a smile. With every contraction, I offered up a prayer for a family member or friend with specific intentions. Some contractions I just stared at my flash cards with the names and intentions of those individuals and tried to think of nothing else but gratitude that I was given the opportunity to suffer for them.

Giving birth to Theo was by far the hardest thing I have ever done.

I pushed for 3 1/2 hours before I heard the cry of my sweet boy and he was placed on my chest.


During the Mass there’s a particular part of the consecration that I have grown to appreciate more and more. The moment when the priest repeats the words of Jesus in saying, “this is my body given up for you.”

I love it even more now as I cradle my newborn son.

See, I never understood the kind of love that drew Christ to the cross – until now.

Labor and delivery was beautiful, difficult, and ultimately a little scary. After I had finally given birth to Theo, I needed only to look at my midwifes face to know that something was wrong. I was bleeding…. bad.

I had suffered not only a pretty bad tear but also what is called, “postpartum hemorrhage”. This is when a women suffers an immense amount of blood loss in labor and actually is the primary reason for maternal death (mother dying during labor) now-a-days. I didn’t know the severity of my condition until I saw the look on my family members faces when they saw me.


As I cradle this beautiful- BEAUTIFUL- gift of God (meaning behind the name Theodore), I can’t help but think of the words the Christ says, “this is my body given up for you….”

I always knew that I would give my life for my child but never knew how much my of my body I would have to give up. From the weight gain, stretch marks, and overall occasional discomfort- my child needed every bit of me and I wouldn’t change a single thing. I would do it over and over again.

A mother’s love is unlike anything in the world and in Christ’s words I see a tiny reflection of myself. I would give my body, my everything, up for my child.

To end this post (which has taken me f o r e v e r to write due to the nature of Motherhood) I want to steal a few lines from my favorite book that I read to Theo…

“For never before in story or rhyme (not even once upon a time) has the world ever known a you, my friend, and it never will, not ever again…

Heaven blew every trumpet and played every horn on the wonderful, marvelous night you were born.” (On the Night You Were Born. Nancy Tillman)

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Finding Joy in the Unordinary Life of the First Year Teacher

I am a first year teacher.

I have tried to write this post 7 times. Each time I have tried to sit down and write, I find something that stops me. Some of those reasons could be; copies that need to be made, student conferences or issues, meetings, lesson planning, or grading- to name a few.

My life is consumed with early mornings finalizing lesson plans, constant questions, little answers, and 45 young eyes that watch my every move…. every single day.

I can’t seem to find the words that can perfectly explain what my life has been like for the last 3 months and how drastically it has changed, the only thing that I can think of is a phrase that is taken directly from the catechism…. “Jesus Christ makes man fully alive“. 

I have repeated this phrase many times when asked how my first few months of full time teaching has gone… “I have never felt more exhausted…or fully alive.” 


These last few months have been ones of tremendous change in my life… I moved out of my childhood home, started my career, got engaged (thank you, Jesus!), and am living by myself in Denver. There is so much I have to be thankful for…. However, I have never felt under so much spiritual attack.

Everyday there are 45 kids that come through my classroom who become my responsibility. They rely on me to teach them skills in writing and reading which can help them further their education. Yet, the most daunting task that I have felt is the responsibility of caring for the souls of my 45 students.

The battle has already begun for my students young souls and, in conjunction with the holy spirit, I am charged with the task of helping fill their souls with tools to help in their relationship with Our Lord and the bridegroom, the Church. I have never been so intimated before and on more than one occasion have cried thinking about how inept I feel to lead these young ones.

I am no Saint.

Saint’s are the ones who are supposed to do this, right? The “holy” ones are those who are meant to lead the young and nurture their souls to find Christ. Well, that’s not me… at least not yet.

I know full well what these students are going to face if they choose to follow Christ when they leave our tiny community.

How can I protect them when I myself am still trying to figure out this whole prayer thing?

They are going to face the enemy head on. The world outside the walls of our school and church are a playground for the enemy and it prowls, lurking behind every “pleasure” in the world, and seeking to break the strong.

Well, what I have learned in the past few months is that we are not living out our Christian faith if we don’t offer up every moment, little or big, in witness to Mary’s words at the time of the Annunciation and say “be it done unto me according to Thy word.”

It’s in our little “fiats” that we are truly becoming saints. It is in the everyday and mundane walks of life where we answer ‘yes’ to Christ’s call to us, that we are becoming not just who we are meant to be- but we are becoming fully alive in Christ Jesus.


I have never felt more fully alive than when I am with my students and encountering Christ alongside them. They are showing me Christ’s love in a real and profound way.

My students are teaching me the reality of Sainthood. I may not be totally enough for my them on my own, but I have help. The God that I fell so in love with is there with me each and every single day as I enter my school, as I collaborate with co-teachers, as I pray with my students, and as I fight for their souls. I am not alone.

1 Peter 4:10 “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”  

Please pray for me.

 

 

True Love | Mama Edition

As I am doing the consecration to Jesus through Mary I have been growing in my love and curiosity of Mary, Our Mother. In height of that I decided I would like to write a little bit about my own Mama, JoAnn Willis.
In case you all don’t know her…. she’s the bomb.


My Mama has been such a vital role model in my life. She has been with me through it all… I mean IT ALL.
She was there when I lost my first tooth.
She was there when I went through my very first break up.
She was there and continued to call me beautiful even though I was in middle school. And awkward.
She was there when I struggled with friends in middle school.
She was there in high school when I was going through the “difficult teen” stage.
She was there when I went on my first date… and hated it.
She was there to take me out of school to go see a movie… all while telling the school I had a dentist appointment.
She was there when I got my drivers license and drove away for the first time by myself.
She was there during every track meet- no matter the weather.
She was there when I walked on the stage to receive my diploma and graduate high school.
She was there when I packed my bags to head off to college.
She was there when I came home all giddy about a boy named Tim.

She was there when I walked across the stage to receive my college diploma from Colorado State University.

Finally, she was there when the love of my life got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.


You know what? As I have grown up I have realized more and more that I am becoming more like her and wanting to become more like her.Growing up whenever I was with my Mom there would be strangers and family alike who would say, “oh you look exactly your mom”. As I have gotten older the more I realize all that my Mom really does for our family and because of that the more this compliment means to me.
You talk to anyone who knows her they will say that she throws the best parties around, has a deep love for her children and grandchildren, can survive on virtually no sleep, and has a laugh that will make anyone in a room laugh with her. What they don’t know, and what I sometimes forget, is how much she truly gives. My mom’s day does not revolve around herself but rather those around her because she makes sure that they can live with ease and comfort.
I know that each time she see’s us cry, she can see the little girl who just wanted to be picked up and cuddled by her Mom.

More than anything my Mom has taught me to love completely and expect nothing in return. She does this in her faith as she learns to love Christ more even in the midst of tragedy and heart ache. But the most selfless act that my Mom has ever done is when she gave Our Lord her children.
She told us that she realized that we were God’s… Our lives would be used for His glory…
What beauty is that? The true gift of self because my Mom went through pain and discomfort to bring me into this world in order to realize that we weren’t hers to keep… but God’s to use.

Do me a favor.

Hug your Mom. Tight.

If your earthly Mother is no longer with us or she struggles in her role with Motherhood, look to Our Mother in Heaven. She is the model for our Mothers here on earth and begin your relationship with her. She will intercede for you to Christ- and there’s not much Jesus will deny His Mother.

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Gotta give some love to our Heavenly Mama:

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Society’s Waste | You Don’t Have to Join FOCUS to be a Missionary

A few years ago my sister, author of the blog In My Father’s Vineyard, wrote one of my favorite posts about the society’s view on homelessness. The blog post was written shortly after she changed professions and began serving the poor of Northern Colorado, which is neither an easy task nor a desired one. Many put their blinders on to suffering and pass the homeless on the street not even acknowledging their existence. The culmination of the post was a beautiful reflection on the concept of being “pro life” while serving the homeless. She talked about the fact that the right to life isn’t just for the unborn or elderly but for every single human being: old, young, wealthy, poor, loved or unloved. Feel free to read it here. I’ll explain why I mention this a little later.


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These last four weeks marked a big move in my college career, I began student teaching.

The process to actually get placed at a school was an absolute nightmare. From the beginning of my college career I had wanted to student teach at a Catholic School. Only a private Catholic school. The only problem? Every time I came close to that happening it seemed like a huge door was being shut right in front of me. I had almost lost all my hope until I was finally able to get in contact with the principal of a local Catholic Middle School in Fort Collins about my interest in teaching at her school. Only a short 2 weeks later I got an email notification that I was officially placed at that school and would be in communication with my cooperating teacher.

I cannot describe to you the joy of receiving the email “Congratulations! You have been placed!” from CSU. I immediately emailed my teacher.. and then I emailed her again.. and then I emailed her again.

No response.

I called my cooperating teacher the week before I was supposed to take finals and once again got no response from her. After calls and emails I finally went to the only source I could find, the principal of the school. We arranged to meet the following Monday of finals week and I am so thankful that we did. Goodness. If we hadn’t met that Monday I very well could not be student teaching this semester and I would be forced to push my whole college career back one semester.

“I talked to your teacher and she doesn’t want to do it. She won’t have the time or receive the credits she was expecting.”

My heart dropped when Sister Rose Mary said those words. My dream of student teaching at a Catholic school was gone.

Throughout the next few days I had to come to grips with the fact that I had been telling God what I wanted instead of allowing Him to place me where I was needed.

Thankfully, a few days later I got a notification that I had a new placement. I was placed at a public school in Greeley, CO and my first reaction was complete and total relief at finding myself a new place I could finish out my college career, then my second reaction was total and absolute fear.

Shortly after I began sharing with friends and family that I was going to be in Greeley at John Evans middle school, I was met with so much negativity. One friend of ours even looked at my Dad and said, “Is there anyway she could switch?”

My Dad and I both knew why she said this …. the school I would be student teaching at is surrounded by low socioeconomic housing, 70 to 80 percent of the students are Hispanic, a small percentage are refugees and the rest are white, and all of the students are confronted with the very real issue of gang violence.

Is there anyway she could switch?”

That statement came from a place we have all been, a place of fear.

I could have listened. I could have chosen another route. I could have given up.

But a voice deep inside kept repeating to me,”You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13:7)


I walked into my school two weeks later full of anxiety, fear, and worry.

I had always thought I would be student teaching at a Catholic school in my own safe Catholic bubble. Now that I wasn’t going to be doing that, I was fearful of what God was asking me to do because He was calling me out into the desert and asking that I follow where He leads me…. obediently. How scary! I was afraid that if I taught in a public school I would have to pretend to be somebody I wasn’t. I was afraid that I would have to hide the deep love I have for my Catholic faith and Jesus Christ. Amidst all that fear and anxiety I still had a peace that God had flipped a lot of things around in order to place me here, therefore, He would never abandon me.

The past four weeks God has been allowing me to discover why He placed me at John Evans Middle School

Some of the students that I teach fall under the following criteria:

Over half of them has a parent that is in jail.

Gangs. Some are in them, some are trying to be.

Some are just beginning to understand English and they come from various parts of the world including: Somalia, Thailand, Mexico, and many others.

Some students read at a kindergarten level and others at 5th grade level, what they all have in common is that they don’t read at their own grade level.

Some students are constantly told they won’t amount to anything… by those that should love them the most.

Some students are in between coming out of jail, others have left because they have gone back to jail… And yes…My students are only 11 and 12.

Some students only know how to roll a joint.

Some students are homeless.

To the rest of society, these students are a waste. They will never go anywhere. They’re never going to amount to anything….

At least that’s what they’ve been told.

What the students at John Evans need is hope.

Hope is Jesus Christ.

Just as my sister noticed a need for people to respect the dignity, suffering, and humanity of the homeless… I, too, have noticed a need for people to increase their understanding of the dignity of each one of my students. Many judge John Evans and fear the students that we are teaching without even taking the TIME to hear their stories.

I preach the fact that I am pro-life and the reality is that comes in more forms than just respecting the life of the unborn. It calls out the respect for the hopeless, destitute, lost, and lonely.

Let me tell you… I have no doubt questioned my desire to become a teacher more than once throughout these last 4 weeks, but I also couldn’t be happier where I am. That is where the paradox lies.

I find myself giving all that I am to these students and it is exhausting. I care for them even though they don’t care for themselves. In this exhaustion I also find there’s a peace that at least I am trying and I am fighting for them and I may be one of only a few adults who is actually doing so.  I may not say out loud “you need Jesus, do you know Him?” like your FOCUS missionary would do, but I serve them as best I can.

You don’t need to be a FOCUS missionary to evangelize and bring Christ to others. You can do it wherever you are and in any part of your life. Missionary work isn’t just for college campuses and other countries, it’s for the students that fill the schools marked with the dreaded “Title I” reputation. It is for the students that people believe have already failed. The answer is simple to battle this… we bring Christ to others when we act like Christ to them. We do this through loving even the most hardened of hearts, through serving others in both simple and complex ways, through holding one another accountable, through giving and not counting the cost. I could keep going.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I ask that you pray for my students and all those who are struggling in this life. Please pray for those who find themselves hopeless so that they can indeed find hope in Christ. Finally, pray for all educators and those blessed with the job of supporting these future generations.