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Help, my parent is dead! Four ways to support me!

“God doesn’t have angels show up in the flesh to bring us meals and dole out hugs. He sends you and me to be His hands and feet!”

One of the most tragic things that will happen in your life is the death of your parent. Unfortunately all of our parents will die one day. We wish, we hope, they will live forever but they won’t. I have had four parents/stepparents die in my lifetime and I have learned more each time. In the past, I too didn’t know what to do. Death scared me, but the love for my friends has helped me overcome the fear. Instead I have come to realize they need my support! I have spent many hours in funeral homes and I have personally been to countless funerals. I have gone to support friends, relatives, and have needed the support myself. The one thing I have learned over the years is that people don’t know what to do or they are afraid they will do the wrong thing so they do nothing. Nothing is always the wrong thing to do.

When a person loses a parent they feel very alone and vulnerable. They need your support! Friends are especially important to those who live out of town from immediate family, are not close to their immediate family or who do not have any immediate family. So prepare yourself now. Your close friend will one day lose their parent, and you may be the only support they have.

Listed below are four ways you can support your friends. Do as many as you can. Don’t just say to your friend, “Let me know what I can do.” Most of time they don’t realize what they need until the event is all over. Be specific and take action. Your friend may be in shock, full of grief, and numb for many days. Their parent is gone! It is not possible for you to be there for them too much but you can surly be there too little. Your absence will be noted, and there will be nothing you can do to fix it. Their parent will only die once. Remember what Dr Martin Luther King Jr once said “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friend.”

1-Plan on Attending
Plan now that whenever your friend’s parent dies you will be there. Be there for all of the events if possible but at least one, the more you attend the better. This applies even if you have never met their parent. Remember this time is not for the deceased but for those grieving. Nothing is sadder than a family being all alone in their grief. These events are scheduled for the specific purpose to support the family. Your friend needs you there.
If for some reason you cannot make any of the funeral events you must tell your friend ahead of time. Do not tell your friend after the event why you could not make it. I guarantee your friend looked for you every time the door opened hoping and wondering when you would walk through that door. I know because I have had very close friends fail to tell me they were not coming, assuming I knew the distance was too far to travel or that they had to work etc. I waited hours longing to see their face and feel their embrace.

2-Send Flowers
Lots of flowers are always better to see at a funeral than too few. Many families request donations be made in lieu of flowers. This case is the exception to the flower rule. However, if you are related or are very close to your friend- you speak on the phone weekly or get together in each other’s home still send flowers. If the family does not request donations be made at the end of the obituary then realize they are hoping flowers will be sent. In some cases there may be a cultural reason or a personal reason. My mother who was German loved flowers and in Germany you always brought flowers for any occasion. When my father died the funeral home was filled with flowers and it brought great comfort and much love to my mother.

If it is known you cannot afford flowers but are attending, your presence will be enough. However, if you cannot attend you really should try to send flowers. In your absence the flowers will represent you. Call a few other friends and each pitch in $10. I promise you, a $30 basket of flowers will mean a lot to your grieving friend. Remember just because you might not want flowers does not mean they don’t want them. If the obituary does not say to donate in lieu of flowers, they are happy to receive them. If you know your friend through your neighborhood, work, a group, club or study ask everyone to pitch in and send flowers! Don’t worry about what kind of flowers to send. Simply call the local florist and tell them your budget. They will know what other items have been ordered and will do a great job putting something together.

The newest funeral memorial gifts on the market are ceramic items. If you have enough people pitching in you could have the florist add something small to the floral arraignment. Over the years groups I have been a part of have given floral arrangements with small angels or wind chimes added. Something small is better than a large item. If you want to give something large it is appropriate to inform the friend ahead of time and allow them to pick it out themselves. I love the items I received from my friends, but that is not always the case for everyone. It can be awkward telling your friend you want to exchange it for something else, or would prefer something smaller. So most people don’t. It’s also overwhelming to receive multiple large ceramic gifts and feel obligated to display them all. I had a friend ask first and I was so glad she did, it would have been three large ceramic items received in honor of my mother.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure it is done in time for the first funeral event. The exception to this rule would be if you are taking them to pick out a large memorial item, in this case still send a floral arrangement and notify them of the memorial gift as soon as you see them. There is nothing worse than sitting through five hours or more at a funeral home with nothing from your friends and no explanation as to why. It doesn’t matter how big the gift is the day after when you were feeling rejected and abandoned by your friends during the visitation time at the funeral home. Believe me, they will appreciate the flowers. If you can afford them-send them, even if you plan on attending all of the events.

3-Help with the Children
If your friend has small children or even out of town grandchildren, offer to sit with them during the funeral service. Bring quiet activities for them to keep themselves occupied or take them to a park or to dinner midway through visitation. Most viewings can be up to 5-6 hours with the family hour before hand. Your friend will not be able to leave. They will have to stay to greet everyone. However it is appropriate for children to leave or take a break. Call ahead of time and offer to help if you are able. I promise you the first thing a parent-mothers in particular, or a grandparent is thinking about when they are making the arrangements with the funeral home director is; “What will I do with my kids for that long!?” They are racking their brain with ideas and worries. As soon as you hear about the death offer to help. They may or may not take you up on it, but I promise you they are relieved you offered.

In my case no one offered and I did not think to ask anyone so I allowed my children to bring electronics. I was a bit embarrassed but I didn’t know what else to do. I needed them occupied while I talked with my mother’s friends. Thankfully when they got hungry my teenage son was able to drive them to Mc Donald’s for a quick dinner, but not everyone has children old enough to drive. Having my husband take them was not an option as I really needed his support. So offer to help, occupy and feed the kids.

Also consider offering to take their children ahead of time to buy the funeral clothes, this is especially helpful with teenage children who may need to try clothes on. In my case picking up a size 10 boy’s suit for my younger son was an easy purchase. However the worst part of my week after my mother died was taking my teenage daughter shopping. In the middle of the first store we entered I realized I should have asked a friend to take her. At one point I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, “My mom is dead!!!!! You can’t wear that!” Whether they realize it or not, if your friend has children they will need your help, so offer it.

4-Bring Food
During the final week of my mother’s life and the following I didn’t cook a meal. The only meal that I ate for a solid two meals that did not come from a restaurant was the one meal a friend brought over. What a stark difference from 25 years ago when my father died and our house was filled with food from friends. I’m not sure why we don’t bring meals over anymore but we don’t and we need to start! Bring food to their house, and ask if you can bring something to the funeral home. Sometimes there will be an area where the family can take a break and have a snack. We didn’t think of this ahead of time, but a friend brought a pie to the funeral home. The funeral director showed us an area where we could enjoy it. It was a welcome snack half way through. Always, always bring food. Even if you are out of town and need to have it ordered in, bring food!

In Conclusion
Have I always done all of these things for my friends? No, not always. I typically try to send flowers and drop a meal off. I have tried to help with the kids. But it wasn’t until my mother’s death that I realized how important having people offer ahead of time to help with the kids so you have a plan. Or how devastated you can feel when people don’t attend the funeral events not explaining why they are not going to attend. So I felt the need to share my experiences with all of you.

I am a changed person, I regret not doing more for those of my friends who have already lost parents, and I plan on doing even more in the future. I hope you are educated and encouraged to be the support God wants you to be for your friend. God doesn’t have angels show up in the flesh to bring us meals and dole out hugs, He sends you and me to be His hands and feet! So show up and support your friends, they will need you now more than ever during this time!

Romans 12:15 NIV Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

With love and encouragement-Mary

Finish the Project!

I am mailing it today!!! This project has been hanging around my house since 2014, dread and procrastination hovered around it. Really it is a simply binder, with a few questions inside. To receive life experience credit for an on-line university I am enrolled in, I needed to type up a report and supply evidence. Sounds simple right? WRONG! Hole punching the programs, new clippings and endorsement letters I had was simple but writing it all down, facing the hours I had given to events and having someone decide whether or not the lesson I learned are worthy of credit…..

The fear that when my life was all put down on paper someone would measure it and say it was not worthy…. But perfect love casts out all fear and this is not about my actions being found worthy, I am found worthy through Christ alone! This project was actually an eye-opening learning experience showing me why people have come in and out of my life, lessons I have learned, and how I am very different person than I was seven years ago!

For me the timing was right, but what about you? What is hanging around your house, what undone project are you dreading? Ask yourself-Why? What are you really afraid of, what is the worst that can happening and then move forward with your goal…… I bet in the end you will feel like I do….. lighter! 100 lbs have left my shoulders and whatever the outcome I know that I did my best and the rest is up to God….. You know Maker of Heaven and Earth, He’s got this!

 

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An Open Letter to President Trump, from a woman legally considered “not created equal.”

An Open Letter to President Trump, from a woman legally considered “not created equal.”

Thank you Mr President for signing a pro-life executive order during your first days in office. As a Pro-Life woman I am so proud that I rallied those here in Michigan to vote for you. I am confident you will nominate pro-life judges for the Supreme Court and I know you will sign pro-life bills when they are placed on your desk. However the big question I have is; will you continue signing them if they discriminate against my people group? Will I continue to be a part of the last group of Americans who are still legally discriminated against?

At this point I have lost you, right?

“No people group in America is discriminated against Mary….”

“We are all created equal Mary, everyone including you, are protected by the Constitution….”

Yet I am not. It may say we are “all created equal” but you don’t view my creation as equal with others, on the contrary you view my creation as the one reason women should have the right to choose abortion. You don’t see that I was created equal because my conception occurred from rape. I understand why you have taken up this policy. I call it “confused compassion,” your compassion for the rape victim clouds your ability to realize there are actually two victims. In my mother’s rape I was victim number two, and no matter what people say, the reality is, ending my life would not have made the memories of the rape go away for my mother. It would have only added more tragedy and pain to her heart.

So what is a politician to do? You are all told to sign the bill even if it has a rape exception otherwise it will not get passed. Yet that is a fallacy the left wants you to believe. Michigan has never passed a pro-life bill with a rape exception. When republicans pass pro-life legislation the democrats asks for a rape exception, instead of the politicians defending their position they allow us to defend ourselves. Those of us who were conceived in rape show up, hold a press conference or as we did in other states testify to the committee. We explain why we and all of those conceived as we were, deserve life.

Protect me too Mr President, don’t continue to have confused compassion, don’t be “pro-life except in the case of Mary Rathke,” but rather be pro-life for all. Because I’m pretty cute, smart, funny and there are a whole lot of people in this world who are thankful I was born, including my mother and especially my children. Let me and my hundreds of friends, colleagues and acquaintances defend ourselves when the bills come to your desk. It is time the world sees our faces, knows our names, and looks us in the eye before they claim we should not have been born.

Conversation with a Satanist

Over the years I have encountered many different people. Including those who are seeking God but have yet to accept Him. Typically these people have the most questions. Knowing this I have taken many classes on a variety of subjects to be able to present the gospel. Paul said, “To the weak he was weak, to the strong he was strong, to the Jew he was a Jew, to the Gentile a Gentile.” In the same matter to the homeless I must be lowly in heart, to the non-Christian Jehovah Witness or Muslim I must have basic knowledge of their faith and fallacies. Through all this preparation I found myself lacking in the area of the Satanist, or Luciferin as I later found out.

The person had many questions and would quote “scriptures” only instantly I recognized the “scriptures” were not from the Holy Bible. The quotes were from “Satan’s bible.” Within a few minutes my volume and sternness of my voice increased. This actually surprised me as I like to approach strangers in a calm and friendly voice when sharing the gospel. However I feel in this case the Holy Spirit was giving me the words to say and was taking authority over the situation. I was happy to have many more opportunities to speak to this person. I soon discovered they were ready to denounce Satan and accept Jesus but something was holding them back. Finally I discovered what it was and in that moment I had wished I had been better prepared, because the earthly fleshy Mary did not know what to say. Thankfully the Holy Spirit within me did.

“Mary, you don’t understand God can never forgive me.”

“Yes, He can.” I replied.

“Mary, I have sold my soul to the devil, and I can’t ever get it back. How can God ever forgive me?”

A long pause at this point….. I had anticipated some awful admission, animal sacrifice, cursing a priest or a church, but this….. what would I say. Lord please give me the words…..

“Well you can’t sell something that was never yours to begin with. God created your soul. It’s His and He will get it back in the end and will decide what to do with it.”  Wow, that good I thought and so very true……. I wish I would have thought of that, thank you Holy Spirit!

I went on to explain, “If you get a loan for a car, it seems like the car is yours right? You drive it, take care of it, maintain it….. but technically it’s not yours to sell, it’s the banks.”

The person begins to nod with understanding, a light and excitement begins to fill the eyes.

“Satan is a liar,” I say, “He wants you to believe God won’t forgive you, but God will. God loves you and knows you were lost.”

After some more discussion this person prays with me to ask God to heal and restore their soul, accept Jesus, and denounces Satan.  It was an awesome experience, I was able to encourage this person again about a year later and hear how they were doing.

I know in my heart God gave me the right words to say in that situation, but it was just recently that the actual realization came to me on how true the statement is….. Our soul is God’s, not our own.

As I was singing the song, “He is jealous of me…”  (Exodus 34: 14 Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.) It hit me….. God is jealous, He is not envious!!!

To understand why this is so important you must understand the difference in definition of these two words.

When I want what you have, I am envious. “The neighbor gets a new convertible and I wish I had it-Envy.”

envy2      ENVY-I want her plant!

However when I am worried you may take something I have I am jealous. ” The neighbor takes my spouse for a spin in their new car, and I worry they may take my spouse-JEALOUSY.”

If-you-have-Jealousy

JEALOUSY-No one can have my spouse!!

 

You see God is jealous for us, we are His and He doesn’t want anyone or thing to take us away from Him. Whereas the devil is envious of us. He wants what God has. He will lie and trick those he does persuade to keep them from ever going back.

The issue of sin comes up a lot with talking to people about Jesus. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, shame and guilt stops many from turning back to God. Yet Jesus did not come to condemn us but rather to save us. (John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.) It was the shame of the sin they committed that initially separated Adam and Eve from God’s presence, God showed up that night, they ran and hid. In that moment God prophesied, for the first time, He would send Jesus. God knew mankind would continue to sin and the only answer to allowing us back in His presence was an ultimate sacrifice. Now when I stand before Him, it’s Jesus’ righteousness that makes me worthy. I don’t have to feel shame about my unrighteousness, because I have Jesus’. So while you may not have sold your soul to the devil, you may still be allowing the shame of your sin to separate you from the presence of God. I am telling you, He is jealous for you. He wants you back in His presence fellowshipping with Him. Don’t let shame keep you from Him. Do not stay a slave to sin anymore. Repent, God is faithful to forgive you. You will sin, but when you stand in the light letting it be exposed to God you are no longer condemned. Come to the light so your humanity will be seen clearly, you can’t clean yourself up but He can.  Put on Jesus’ righteousness!

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Traveling Supermom Comes Clean….

I smiled at the lady behind the check-in desk. I had been driving for over 6 hours with three of my children across Canada. Two days earlier we had driven over ten hours from Michigan to Quebec. I was tired of hotels, tired of the car and getting sick of granola bars! Despite how I felt about the travel, I put a big smile on my face when the motel co-owner asked, “Did you travel so far by yourself with all those children?” A smile and nod were my response to her, yet my thoughts went wild as I laid in bed that night. My thoughts went to the many times I have traveled “by myself” with my children. Two day drives to Texas or to Florida, long drives to North Carolina, Chicago, flights to various beach vacations, including notorious Miami. What I find interesting is that when I have traveled alone to Europe, Texas, Washington DC and various places those trips do not bring about the concern that I have received from the trips I have taken with my children. Many times concerned women have commented on the fact that I am traveling alone with my children. It makes me wonder, is something wrong with my judgement? If these women think traveling with your children alone is inappropriate, should I as well?

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I laid in bed and began running these familiar thoughts through my head…. Half way through it dawned on me that the belief held by these skeptics of my parenting skills were a reflection of their beliefs, their fear -not mine.  They believe a woman is unable to protect, care for, drive and maintain a vehicle all at the same time. Now my thoughts switched to the many crises’ I have encountered while traveling. Flat tires, radiator issues, vomiting children and potty issues, yikes let’s not even think about those! Smugly I laid in bed and thought only a woman could handle the unique situations traveling with children can present. My proudest moment was when I had my tire replaced and had two children get haircuts all at the same time. A huge revelation now came to me. “Wonder Woman that is what I am, who needs a man….. Well I do, since it’s my loving husband back at home working right now, paying for this trip. But still- while traveling I am doing it all. Supermom has got it!”

Still the worried look I saw on her face that evening I have seen before.  It’s more than vehicle worry, it’s a safety issue. Women feel safer when their prince charming is with them. I understand the feeling. I love it when my husband is with me. Despite all the wonder woman abilities and supermom savvy I have, when my Superman is beside me I feel content and safe. I would be lying to say there have not been moments while traveling alone with the children when I have wanted my husband and in some cases a loaded gun, with me.  Safety, in this day and age with reports of terrorism and child trafficking, is one of the most important issues for parents. So why do I continue to travel despite the uncomfortable situations that I have encountered and the continued reports I read. I laid in bed and continued this thought journey. At this point I found myself asking God, “Why  I am able to travel with confidence…” and then the pride fell away.

I am not Wonder Woman, my bracelets do nothing but jangle as I wear them. I am definitely not Supermom, rather Monster Mommy if you wake me too early in the morning. No, I as began seeking my Father to answer my pondering, I realized I am nothing without Him. I am simply a child of God. Just as my children look to their father and I to protect them, I look to my Father to answer all of my late night questions. I expect Him to surround us with angels. To have the Holy Spirit whisper in my ear, urging me when to pull off for a caffeinated drink or snack when my eye lids get tired. And to give us favor with the check-in clerk as I request a roll away when the oldest child decides, at the last minute, he will come along for the ride.

You see when I travel with my children I am not “by myself” rather I am surrounded by His presence. God gave a message to Joshua in Deut 31:6, 8 He said, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you… The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” We think because we are not tasked with leading all of Israel that this message is not for us, but we are wrong. As parents we are tasked with leading God’s children just as Joshua was. While I may not be leading thousands, the four I do have are just as precious to God as those Joshua led. Repeatedly in God’s Word we read, “Do not be afraid.” One of my favorite passages is in Matthew 28 where twice the women are told by the angel who rolled away the stone and Jesus Himself, “Do not be afraid.”  You see by the time I drifted off to sleep I was no longer thinking of the fear others feel, or the confidence I walk in, instead I was rejoicing in the power and ability my Father has in keeping me and my children safe as we travel. The next day as I thought about the question that has been posed to me so many times before, I was so very thankful for the true answer to it. No I am not traveling with my children “by myself” rather I am traveling with my Father, the Holy Spirit and the many angels assigned to each one of us. The car seemed a bit more crowed as we headed home, and that thought made me smile once again.

5 Back to School Hacks for Busy Moms

Like many other moms I was doing the happy dance on the first day of school. However with each new school year comes overwhelming piles of school papers, stressed out mornings and rushed evening chauffeuring. So this year I thought of a few ways to stay on top of everything.

  1. School Papers

EVERY kid comes home with piles of letters, notes, fliers and reminders. In the past they would sit in a pile and I would frantically dig through them trying to find the spelling list the morning of the test. This year I took dollar store clip boards and created an organized space. Now immediately when the papers come through the door I clip them in place.

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2. Lunches

If your kids eat cold lunch, you have felt panic while frantically searching the cupboards for something to quickly pack as you hear the bus coming up the road. To make mornings easier I put a shoe organizer on the back of our pantry door. I marked five compartments Monday- Friday, and fill each one with non-perishable items for the lunches, so all I have to grab are the ice packs and sandwiches.

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3. Outfits

Getting dressed in a matching outfit has been problem in our house. Especially if my husband is helping our five year old daughter. To remedy this situation I hung up pre-approved matching outfits in a special spot in my daughter’s closet. She still gets to “pick out” her outfit, as long as it comes from this special area. Win, win for all.

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4. Evening Dinner

I have four children and running them to practices, appointments, and games can fill up every evening of the week… oh and I’m supposed to feed them something other than fast food. Add to that wandering through the grocery store wondering what I should get. To keep things simple this year I have a simple meal plan posted. I plan on crock-pot and leftover meals on our busiest nights, and I know what protein to grab when at the store, since it’s already been decided.

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5. Forms

Have you ever arrived at the school or doctor’s appointment and realized you forgot the form, insurance information or birth certificate you were asked to bring. Rushing out the door with kids, making sure their faces are clean and shoes are on is stressful enough without having to try and remember everything you will need throughout the evening. I have turned around one too many times to retrieved something I forgot. This year I attached two more clip boards to the garage/back door. Here I put the paperwork I will need in the next two days.  I also added a post-it pad to write reminders I need before heading out the door.

 

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These hacks will only work if I take some time to prep and use them, but I know the amount of time I will save in the long run will be worth it. Feel free to share these ideas with your friends. Busy moms you will make it!