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Susan Wanderer has worked with families in kids ministry for 20 years, with the last ten years serving as Kids Minister at Mount Ararat Church in Stafford. Susan and her husband Ed reside in Fredericksburg and have three amazing kids who joined their family in 2011 and who fill their days with adventure. Come join the conversation over at www.susanwanderer.com 



My Stomping Grounds

A Note To My Fellow Pro-Lifers

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Sometimes I feel the need to call a family meeting with Team Wanderer. Just to clarify a few things.  When we call a Team-Wanderer-Family-Meeting it's to clarify what we believe and how we make choices and live this life we’ve been given.

Lately, I feel like the ones of us that wear the tag of Pro-Lifer need to have a little family meeting. With this current climate in America the waters seem murkier and more confusing than ever. A family gathering to regain some clarity feels right.

All you pro-lifers, pull up a chair, grab a cup of your favorite beverage and let’s chat.

I personally am gonna take a big gulp of my unsweetened iced-tea and a deep breath.

Please do not take this as scorn or anger.  These words are as much for myself as they are for my fellow friends.  I am pointing to my own heart harder than I am pointing at yours.

As tangled as this topic is, here are my thoughts (on a very tension-filled issue).

Sometimes I think we pro-lifers need to be reminded that being pro-life means that we are for life outside the womb as well as inside the womb.  We may need to reminded ourselves that we are Pro-The-Whole-Span-Of-Life.

Do we picket for the unborn-baby-clinics yet we are unable to feed the hungry adolescent whose only hot meal comes from public school? Do some of us wag a finger at the pregnant mama but are unable to help diaper her newborn she chose to keep?

Pro-Life means caring for life for a Lifetime. Cradle to Grave.

And if we aren't showing human decency, compassion, grace & love towards humans throughout the entire life-span then we perhaps need to rethink our title as a pro-lifer.

Let’s think why we believe in life and the kind of life we hope for others.

I am a pro-lifer because I personally believe all of humanity has been created in the image of God. And we are His masterpieces. And I believe it matters how we care for and treat His masterpiece. Both in the womb and outside the womb.

I understand that is a loaded phrase in the pro-life vs. pro-choice world. But remember, this is a pro-life family meeting. If I just offended a pro-choicer with that, please know that’s not intentional, we just happen to stand on different sides of the Roe v. Wade aisle.

Here’s what I mean about Pro-The-Whole-Span-Of-Life: We Serve Others.

If there are people that are hungry, we feed them.

If people are tired and hurting, we provide comfort.

If groups of people need to be reminded that they matter, we become that voice.

If a pregnant, scared pregnant girl or woman isconsidering abortion or adoption and needs comforting, we choose to comfort. We choose to hold her hand instead of a DO-NOT-MURDER sign. We choose to tell the truth of life-importance with grace, mercy and love.

No offense needs to be had on WHY someone is hungry or WHY someone is hurting or WHY a group of people need a reminder that they matter. We simply serve them. By serving them, change happens and the unraveling of WHY becomes clearer. 

We need to be reminded: We don't have to approve or agree with the choices, situations or life circumstances of others in order to honor and serve them. 

What if we decided to pour out compassion to prove to others that they are valuable, they matter and they are loved?

Compassion changes hearts. Compassion moves people towards greater understanding. Compassion leads us closer to the mission of loving humanity well.  

Pro-Lifers, we affirm the life of humans.

We affirm the born and the unborn, we affirm women, we affirm men, we affirm children and adults, we affirm all races and nationalities, we affirm humanity because we are made in the image of the very One who created us.

Let’s go serve people well by loving others well.

Go to a homeless shelter and fix dinner, go to a pregnancy center and take maternity clothes and gift cards for mani-pedi’s, call up the local refugee services and provide a refugee family a meal, sponsor a foster child to attend summer camp, deliver meals to the home-bound in your community, make blankets for the local cold weather shelters.

There are hundreds of ways to honor the lives of those around you.  Pick one and move forward. Your kiddos will follow your compassionate example.

Pro-Lifers, I love our team, I love that we choose to love life and love humanity. Let’s cheer each other on as we seek to serve those around us.

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Mammograms and Pancakes

Two years ago, upon the arrival of my 40th birthday I had my very first mammogram.  Yes I did. I experienced one of the things that women do when they wave goodbye to one decade and say hello to the next.  I was much more nervous than I ever anticipated.

I thought: I wonder if it is too much to ask for a bit of happy medicine? Like... completely-knock-me-out-and-sleep medicine.

My anxiety was a bit ridiculous.

I woke up that morning and immediately texted some of my friends: First Mammogram Today! In honor of being squished, I think I'll have pancakes for breakfast! 

As I entered the waiting room of the mammorgram office and saw all of the women, I wanted to hug them all and say "Women Unite! Be Strong! We can do this!"

As they took me back to the changing room... I was a nervous wreck... complete with sweat.

The very kind technician said "Do you have deodorant on?"

My immediate thought: Oh my word, am I sweating THAT bad?!

Apparently, to get a good read, you need to rub your armpits raw and make sure there is not one single ounce of smell-blocker present.  So, I did. And my hands shook the entire time.

They walked me back to the machine (which in my head sounded like THE. MACHINE.) and I confessed to the technician that I was a nervous sweating wreck (now without deodorant) and I wanted to know if there was a put-you-to-sleep option.

The technician smiled graciously, told me everything would be fine... and she got to work.

After we were done, I just looked at her... in complete shock.  Wait, are you done? Are you sure? Are you going to go back and then come tell me that the real procedure will begin soon?

Yes, the entire procedure was a bit awkward (I mean really... I need not go into detail on the fact that my girls (AKA: boobs) were being held with plastic gloves and shoved into positions that, well... I digress... ) and also uncomfortable (seriously, every woman deserves pancakes after this procedure is complete).  

However, my level of anxiety was MUCH higher than what was actually warranted. 

When I got back in the car, I felt such a beautiful sigh of relief... S I G H.

The entire trip back to my office I began to have a moment.

What other things do I obsess over and freak out about that are much less full-blown-anxiety-worthy and more awkward-and-uncomfortable-reality?

Either way... all I could think through on my ride home was a verse I learned in middle school that helped me through some serious anxiety-filled years "Be anxious for NOTHING... but in every situation, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God... and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:4-7)

As I type this, my heart hurts for the women in that waiting room that were not going to experience a beautiful sigh of relief that day. Some of them were about to get a diagnosis that started a new-normal beyond anything that the rest of us can understand.

For them, those verses in Philippians take on a whole new meaning and level of trust. That night, they went to bed viewing tomorrow differently. 

It makes my anxiety seem so small. My nervousness about my mammogram paled in comparison to what those ladies had to share with their spouses when they got their results.

Sisters, this month of October, National Breast Cancer Month, acknowledges the journey that comes with such a diagonsis. May the peace of God which transcends all understanding guard the hearts and minds tonight of the women (and their families) who are walking this road.

These women are true warriors.

 

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7 Ways To Help A Family In Crisis

Our family has been in crisis-management-mode for the last many weeks.  My mom is currently on her fourth hospital stay (three at UVA and one at UVA-Health South) since August 11. In this time, I have learned a lot about being a family in crisis and trying to juggle the health situation, family, work and daily life. Crisis happens. Life happens. It stinks, but it’s real. You probably know someone right now who is in the midst of a crisis-management situation.

Here are a few things I have learned in our encounter with crisis-management as a family:

Allow Disappointment. It’s such a real emotion and crying about that disappointment is okay.  The tears serve as a release valve to the stress and sadness that is building up within one’s soul. When your friend or loved one is sitting in distress, hold them close and allow them to be disappointed.

Embrace Community. People’s physical presence is important. As much as I adore modern technology, there is something better about a physical body standing beside you saying “I’m with you and we can do this together.” Hand-holding, tear-wiping, remember-when-stories, hair-brushing, laughing-til-you-hurt are as important as prescribed medication.

You Are Not Forgotten. The texts and phone calls of “let me pick up your kids”, “I’m in this with you” are life-giving. It makes you feel like you have not been forgotten. When my mom receives these, she knows she is loved and she has a cheering section.

Don’t Ask, Just Do. If you are on the outside looking in on a family in crisis-management-mode, offer ways to help instead of a “Let us know if we can help..." Sometimes that means just going by Hallmark and buying a card. The cards Mom received this week brought rays of sunshine into a gloomy situation.

Take Care of My Kids. Offer to pick up kids and show them warmth and love because they are scared and unable to process exactly what is happening. They seem fine, but under the surface, their little minds have so many questions. Buy them a milkshake, take them to the playground. Loving my kids is an extension of loving me and their grandmother.

High Five The Husbands.  The load the husbands carry is real. I’ve seen that. God designed them to be fixers and in crisis situation, they can’t always fix. This leaves them feeling helpless. I’ve observed this with my own eyes this week. Remind them: you are doing a good job loving your wife. Sometimes that affirmation is enough to carry them until the next medical decision that needs to be made.

Get A Village.  Mom has come a long way. Her medical team is sensational. Her family is awesome. Her friends in both Fredericksburg, Charlottesville, at Mount Ararat (our church) and other parts of the country have shown up big time. They have written cards, sent flowers, sat by her bedside and cheered her on. But the main reason I love this village – their knees are worn out from prayer. They genuinely are asking God for provision and care for my mom. And as an only-child-daughter this means the absolute world to me. His plans for her are better than our plans ever could be.

If you are a family in crisis. I am genuinely so very sorry you are walking this journey. I know the ups and downs of it all too well. I pray you have people around you lifting you up and cheering you on.


If you know a family in crisis… circle up and love them well. You have an opportunity today to be better medication than anything purchased at the pharmacy.

 

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Tweezers Are A Girl's Best Friend

On Sunday night my mom had emergency surgery.  Four weeks ago she had back surgery and we thought she was well on her way to healing.  Yet on Sunday morning her incision decided to open and display on the innards of her back. Or as my farmer-father described it to the Emergency Room resident on call over the phone “Her back looks like a split watermelon." (Hope you weren’t just drinking coffee or enjoying lunch. Because: Gross.)

Mom and Dad jumped in the car (well, Dad jumped, Mom hobbled slowly) and made their way back to UVA Hospital to meet with the surgeon and his team. By that evening Mom was being rolled back into surgery.

I got the call from my dad to meet them there. I hurried home, threw randomness of clothes, shoes, pj’s, etc… in a bag and headed to Charlottesville.

I arrived to the lobby to meet my dad and my cousin and we waited by ourselves in the very large atrium of The University of Virginia Hospital.  I think sleep deprivation took over our souls because the three of us howled with laughter at the slightest bit of story-telling and people-watching.

Mom returned to her room about 10:00PM and I stayed the night in her hospital room on 6 West. The two of us slept 3 hours and 2 minutes that night (my FitBit told me so) and by 8AM, I high-fived my cousin (who took over Mom-watch duties), drove to her house in Charlottesville and took a shower and a nap.

When I woke from my slumber, THAT is when I discovered my horrible moment of forgetfulness.

I am 42 years old.  There are certain toiletries you need every single day and can’t go without. I had forgotten ALL OF THEM.

In case you are ever in a family crisis and must pack quickly, I am your friendly blogger, here to help you gain wisdom. 

Here is my list of items I now know must be kept in a pre-prepared bag to take with me in case the call comes to come right-this-second.

The most important of these items: Tweezers. Bless all the 42-year-old bearded women. Raise your hand if that is you. Go ahead, don’t be ashamed. My arm is waving way above my head as well.

I have learned though, in my Poly-Cystic-Ovarian-Menopausal-State-Of-Living that all unwanted whiskers facial hair can be exterminated with a good pair of tweezers. Not the 99 cent kind… you MUST spend north of $7 in order to get the optimal tweeze-experience. Bless the estrogen-gone-wild-way-of-life.

On Monday morning I discovered I did not have my beloved plucking utensil and therefore I grasped my chin most of the day as medical staff, friends and family came in and out.

I looked like I was a great ponder-er. I clearly belonged with the great Academics here at the University of Virginia, AKA: The Harvard of the South. Little did they know I was hiding my menopausal chin.

The next most important item I forgot: deodorant.  I need not say more. After an evening of sleeping on a window sill, I had an aroma I was able to blame on hospital smells. Yet it needed to be remedied immediately by Secret, Dove, Degree, or even Suave before walking beyond the hospital doors. Any product that would not put me in a Seinfeld episode about body odor would have been useful at that particular moment.

Haircare Items: I looked like cotton was laying on top of my scalp. I had no shampoo. No conditioner. No product. No hairspray. Bless all the natural-curly-headed-women. I’m not one of you. I'm sure my hair greeted the surgical team of residents, interns and doctors in beauty-pageant-style.

Last night I went by Harris Teeter to their travel size section and loaded up on these items and my toiletry life returned to normal. My tip for you today, grab some travel size items, place them in a cutesy cosmetic bag and you will be set on your next last minute grab-and-go experience.

Or at the very least you will own a fabulous pair of good working tweezers.

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Ten Things I Love About Back-To-School Season

Some of you Summer-Hard. And you love every inch of the season. The non-routine, the kids being home, the heat, the chlorine, the sand, the salt, the coppertone, the slurpees, the neighborhood kids choosing your yard as the cool spot.  While others of you went and celebrated the start of the school year with a two hour massage and a mani/pedi while singing a modern edgy version of the Hallelujah Chorus.

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If you are a summer person or a SEND-THOSE-KIDS-BACK-TO-SCHOOL-NOW person, here are some of my favorite things about Back-To-School:

  1. School Supplies – seriously, I adore the scent of new crayons, pencils, glue sticks, spiral notebooks, backpacks.  It’s like a new car smell, only a a few thousand dollars cheaper.

  2. Back To School Night – yep, I’m THAT mom.  It took me forever to become a Mom so I seriously ADORE the BTS Nights and all the excitement. I want to sign up for everything. But by the time week two arrives, WHAT-WAS-I-THINKING hits me in the face. I un-sign myself up and apologize. My child’s current excitement will be gone by Thursday, and the teacher is clearly not surprised. Go Team Wanderer. Bless our hearts.

  3. Bedtime – the first week of school is a bit brutal. I feel like an 80 year old woman and my kids absolutely have no understanding of rational thinking past a certain hour in the evening. “It’s 6:00pm, let’s start getting ready for bed.”

  4. Routine – it is no longer the land of never-ending randomness. Routine has returned.  Routine, you are my soulmate. You complete me.

  5. Pumpkin Spice – sure our country has gone a weeeeeeeeeee bit overboard in its addiction and love of ALL THINGS Pumpkin Spice (seriously, who needs Pumpkin Spice Deodorant), but the first week of school announces its grand arrival. My spice candles are lit and I eagerly anticipate the first sip of the Starbucks Goodness.

  6. Field Trips – I love field trips. And fall means a Pumpkin Patch adventure with my second grader. My first rookie-mom field trip when my oldest daughter went on her kindergarten Pumpkin Patch trip I was reminded that September/October in Virginia means heat. But I wore fall-ish attire in order to snap a good few photos. And I looked like a wet-rat by the end of the trip. My head was soaked from sweat. Such a first world dilemma. Now I realize the name of the game is layers… bless my rookie-mom-wanted-a-good-photo-heart.

  7. Kick Off Sunday – our church, Mount Ararat in Stafford, has Back-To School Sunday this week and we are reminded why Sundays are our favorite days! My kids ADORE going to meet their new small group leaders for the new school year. Seeing other adults investing in my child is a gift.

  8. Quiet House – my house has not been quiet in eleven weeks. I forgot what quiet sounds like. While I did adore having my kiddos home and hearing their sounds of laughter, squeals, arguing and singing, I was reminded I also like quiet.  Quiet has a lovely little lullaby to it. Quiet and I were reunited this week.

  9. Stories – we play high/low in the evenings. Each person shares one high experience and one low experience from their day. It’s my favorite. I love listening to their stories. Celebrating their highs and consoling the lows. This part of our day makes us a team.  It makes us realize that family is something bigger than sharing a home. It makes us each others' cheerleaders and support.

  10. Uniforms – my kids go to a school that has a uniform dress code. I adore it. No more “you can’t wear that, you wore it when you were four, its too tight.” A set uniform means a little less grumbling. Which makes my ears celebrate. Bless all the Mary Janes and knee socks!

Like it or love it, the Back-To-School season is here! Lets embrace it with a pumpkin spice in one hand and a pom-pom in the other as we cheer our kids on in each of their fall endeavors.

Happy Schooling, my friends!

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Bikers Against Child Abuse, Inc. (BACA) exists to create a safer environment for abused children by empowering children to not feel afraid of their world. Imagine how an abused child feels when a group of large bikers rides up to their house, inducts them into their club and then escorts them to court to testify against their abuser.

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