Monday, December 21, 2015

What You Don't See

I am a fiercely private person. I am also fiercely loyal. I will do anything for anyone I love, but I have a very hard time opening myself up to others and asking for help, prayers, or encouragement when I need it. I have trouble showing my emotions to others, with the exception of my husband and parents...they see the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

And one more thing: I am fiercely protective of the family that G-d has entrusted to me. I have always struggled with how much to share about them, because I want to protect their (and our) privacy. But maybe I have gone too far the other way. The problem is: people talk, people judge, and even when you do explain things, people don't really understand; they still just usually judge. 

Our family is unique. We get a lot of stupid questions. A LOT. Like, where did you get them from? (Oh, you know, I found them wandering around the parking lot....) What language will your baby speak when he grows up? (Ummm...English?) Are they adopted? (Well, DUH!) Are they real siblings? (What other kind are there...fake?) Most of the time, I actually just laugh later at people's ignorance and wish I were mean enough to answer their questions with what I am saying in my head! My favorite questions are the ones from children, because I know they are being innocent; they are honestly just trying to figure out this whole thing of how a white mamma can have brown kids. The parents always jump in and apologize, but the kids are interacting with me in the way ignorant grown ups should. I don't mind honest questions about my family.

My favorite experience to date was at our local family dollar store. A beautiful and special grown up kid came up to my daughter and I, and asked the usual kid which her embarrassed mother kept apologizing. Once she had it all clear in her mind (which took many repetitions of the same questions from her and the same answers from me), she took a hold of my hand and said, "Can you adopt me?" Oh, how I laughed! I took that as a HUGE compliment! She made my day!

But this post is not about adoption, per se. I want to write about kids with special needs/disabilities. Kids with special needs who look completely normal. Sometimes I think that parents have it easier when it's visibly obvious that there are disabilities. But don't get angry with me; I know that's not true. We all have challenges, it's just that they are different. Whether your child/ren are biological, adopted, "typical," "non-typical" (haha), we all have challenges. Parenting is HARD WORK. So please don't feel that I am minimizing your job if you do not deal with what I do. I just need a place to vent for a few minutes.

My children--all three of them--have special needs. One was born with several heart defects and has related issues/needs that are on-going. My other two have special needs that they did not ask for--that were purely, 100% preventable. I do not dwell on that fact (the preventable part), because it does not change today. I only state that to say that it is sad when innocent children must grow up with disabilities that are due to someone's poor choices...much like a person who may be permanently disabled because of a drunk driver. It is something that must be realized, but then not dwelt upon. Forgiveness and grace needs to be extended, but then reality must be faced. I did not necessarily ask for the awesome responsibility of raising three kids with special needs. But G-d chose me, and I feel honored to be their mother. We were meant to be a family; each one is a miracle, and wow! I am blessed beyond measure! My kids are a gift! If you know me, you know how fiercely I love them and want the best for them. I want to see them reach their G-d given potential. My kids have overcome incredible odds and it is a miracle that each one is alive. I pray that I can continue to learn how to be the best parent to them and prepare them for life. I want to see them soar in G-d's strength and goodness. He will change the world through them...if they will commit their lives to Him (and I pray fervently that they do).

Here's my issue and main reason for this blog post today: do not judge a parent or a child by the child's (or in our case, sometimes--the parent's) behavior. Disabilities are not always visible. You DO NOT KNOW what a family may be dealing with and you DO NOT KNOW the best way to handle someone's child and they DO NOT WANT your unsolicited advice. Thank you. The next time you see a child (or a parent, hehehe) making a scene, just smile kindly and pray for them as you pass by. 

Sometimes I feel guilt, I feel shame, I feel embarrassment, I occasionally ask "why me?" even though I would not trade my kids for anything. I see G-d's sense of humor in choosing Tom and I for these kids, because we feel so incapable and don't always know what to do, even though we've read enough books to earn an honorary doctorate degree in the various special needs we have going on. He must laugh at us a lot; I know I do! I am thankful for a good sense of keeps the despair at bay. 

If you ever see my oldest son's chest, you will see a scar. A visible reminder of the physical disability he has. But my other two carry invisible disabilities. And for me, this is more difficult to deal with. I get comments from friends, family, and strangers--who are all well meaning, but think that I am maybe not parenting them "right." I need to be more strict, I need to be more lenient and gracious. I need to not worry, I need to...whatever. I have even had well-meaning friends tell me my kids are normal (whatever that is), which makes me angry, incredulous, and in the end just feel more sad and alone because no one gets it. Unless you are parenting children just like my younger two, I'm sorry, you just don't understand and I will never take your "advice" seriously. And to my friends who are in the same boat as me: I need you! We need to pray for each other, support each other, and encourage each other. I feel so desperately alone sometimes. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Gift in the Mail

Yesterday I received a gift in the mail, a treasure, really. I received God's word in my mailbox, free of charge.  Of course a donation was requested, but even if I choose not to make a donation, the book of Joshua is mine to keep, at no cost!  Do you ever have a seemingly simple, mundane even impact you in a profound way? When I was holding my treasure in my hands, leafing through the pages, thoughts and snippets came into my mind of books I've read. Books about missionaries risking it all to smuggle God's word into closed countries. People who have risked their lives to even meet together to worship God. And here, in America, where we do see our freedoms slipping away a little at a time, we must still thank God that we have the freedom to worship, to read his word. And take into account that there are brothers and sisters in other countries, today, who would give anything to live in a country where God's word unexpectedly shows up in mailboxes, for FREE.
Don't forget our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. Pray for them. Don't take anything for granted, for we too may soon face persecution. Yeshua warned us in John 15:20, "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too...."

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Little of This, and a Little of That

   I hope you all had a blessed weekend with family and friends. We hosted two Passover Seders, one on Friday with a group from our synagogue, and one on Sunday with two families that we meet with bi-weekly for food and fellowship.  Saturday night was a nice quiet family dinner.  Miss Joy got sick Friday night (allergies/asthma acting up), so I'm sure it was an extra tiring time for her. Now it is back to school and work!  I'm sure by the end of the week we will be ready to eat some leaven!  This week will be a learning experience in creativity with Matzohs!
    The two things I wanted to write about today is ancestry and head-covering. A cool thing that happened after we began attending the synagogue is that due to one of the boys having a homework assignment in history, we began looking into our family trees.  We were excited to discover some Jewish roots, and perhaps that is why we were so drawn to Judaism.  Tom discovered that his Jewish ancestry is on his mother's father's side. And it's the same for me. My maternal grandfather's grandmother's last name was Hevel, which is the Hebrew name for Abel (as in Cain & Abel).  I wish I could figure out their history, but it has been slow going for me. Slowly it is coming together and every now and then I have a new breakthrough, but I may have to settle for not ever knowing much about our ancestry.  Tom's mother seems to recall someone telling her as a little girl that her family was Jewish and Tom's great-uncle remembers the family having many Jewish friends who spent a lot of time in their home, sharing meals with the family.
   The other subject on my mind is head covering.  As a teenager, I remember reading in Corinthians about women covering their heads.  I, personally, felt convicted that I should do this.   I have since read many commentaries and debates on both sides of the issue.  I have come to the conclusion that it is one of those things that each person must decide before God if that is what he/she feels God wants them to do.  I am including "he's" in there because Jewish tradition is that men wear a kippah (skullcap/yarmulke) as a sign of reverence and respect for God--much the same as women would wear a covering to show respect and headship to God and her husband.  After years of feeling convicted about this, I finally decided a year ago to take the plunge.  Before ever going to the synagogue, I decided that I liked the Jewish style of wearing headscarves the best because they are so colorful, beautiful, and there are so many creative ways to wear them.  As an aside, I am usually the only woman in our synagogue wearing a headscarf.  Many women will wear a covering if they are participating in the service, or during the praise and worship time.  And that is totally okay...each person must do what they feel in their heart is pleasing to God.  There are definitely times I wrestle with this and wish God would not be asking me to do this, but those times are few.  Overall I love covering my hair, and know that I am honoring God and my husband by doing this.  Also, I love not spending time and money on my hair.  I usually wear it in a braid down the back with a knitted cap, or in a bun with a headscarf tied on.  Super easy, quick, and cute!
Here's a new style I tried this week.  Tom loved it.  I wore two scarves and braided the ends together before wrapping them around my bun.

Smile for the camera!
I'd love to hear your thoughts on anything I post about.  It is great to have discussions about things and we can learn so much from each other.  I have received the most encouragement in my journey to head covering from my Mennonite sisters (and dear friends) in the Lord.  There are many grey areas in life where God has given us the intellect and ability to decide (before Him) what honors Him and, in this case, our husbands.  Some things that we think may be a burden actually free us when we give it to God (and I am obviously not just talking about head coverings here).  We serve a great God!  As I get older I am learning to just joyfully submit to Him when He asks me to do something.  I have learned by now that He knows what He's doing, He is righteous, and when it's not a sin issue, but just an obedience thing, all we stand to lose by not submitting is a HUGE blessing.  
May God bless you all this week!
P.S. I just thought of something I really should address in this post.  My Mennonite friends asked me what the Messianic Jewish standpoint on the Corinthians passage was because it says men should not cover their heads.  This led me to look up the Greek word in the passage and it is talking about a veil (specifically something that women wore).  It does not seem to be speaking about a turban, or skullcap, or any type of men's traditional head covering in this passage.  The word literally means veil, which was something only worn by women.  The best commentary on scripture is scripture and we know in scripture that God addresses...for lack of a better term...cross-dressing.  
Deuteronomy 22:5
"A woman is not to wear men’s clothing, and a man is not to put on women’s clothing, for whoever does these things is detestable to Adonai your God."
This would be consistent with the passage in Corinthians.  I looked into a NT Messianic Jewish commentary to see the author's thoughts and it is consistent with what I found.  The Complete Jewish Bible, I feel, best conveys the meaning of the original Greek and I will post it below:
1 Corinthians 11:3-7
"3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is the Messiah, and the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of the Messiah is God. Every man who prays or prophesies wearing something down over his head brings shame to his head, but every woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled brings shame to her head — there is no difference between her and a woman who has had her head shaved. For if a woman is not veiled, let her also have her hair cut short; but if it is shameful for a woman to wear her hair cut short or to have her head shaved, then let her be veiled. For a man indeed should not have his head veiled, because he is the image and glory of God, and the woman is the glory of man."
I know this is a touchy, controversial, and often confusing subject, but I was just hoping to clear up any confusion of those who think the Jewish custom of wearing a kippah is going against scripture.  I, personally, do not believe it is.  But these are just my thoughts and opinions...everyone needs to do their own studying on the matter. :)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Why Messianic Jewish?

   Some of you have been wondering what led us into Messianic Judaism. Well, about a year ago, Tom told me that he wanted to start celebrating the Biblical feasts and special times appointed by God. I can't speak for Tom, but for myself, I have always taken the Bible very literally, so I was all for this! I can remember being a teenager and reading the Old Testament (or Tanakh) portions about dietary law. I immediately started eating accordingly. In fact, it is only since moving to Georgia that I began "cheating" because the fresh shrimp right off the boat is amazing...especially deep fried. I feel very guilty when I cheat on my diet, but that's off-subject. :)
   As we talked, we realized that God was leading our family to follow the scriptures more closely out of our love for God. We knew that we would not find a church in our area that celebrated all of the Biblical holidays, so we decided that we needed to find a group of Jewish believers in the Messiah (Yeshua).  We looked online in early spring and there was nothing near us, so we decided to learn more about the holidays on our own and left it at that. I traveled with the kids to Pennsylvania for most of the summer to catch up with family and friends, and so our boys could attend camp with their former youth group. 
   When I came back in August, Tom and I began talking again about Biblical holidays and how we felt God was leading our family. This prompted me to do one more search on google. Lo and behold, there was a Messianic Synagogue in the town next us, and they taught educational classes on God's holidays! (Our Rabbi and his family moved from Florida--they felt called to start a Messianic Jewish Synagogue in the Savannah area. Their first service was in June.) We were so excited to visit! I remember feeling so afraid that we wouldn't be accepted because we were "Gentiles," but I was so wrong. We were welcomed and loved from that first Saturday, and we have not looked back. We found exactly the home and family we were looking for! 
   I love to read, so I have been doing a lot of reading and studying on my own. I love how deep God's word is. When you study God's word from a Hebrew roots perspective, you realize it just keeps going deeper and deeper. The Bible is a book about Jewish people, written by Jewish people. Yeshua was born and raised as an observant Jew. The more I learn about Judaism and continue to study my Bible with Hebrew eyes, the more blown away I am! I will leave you with some links and books I am currently reading.

First Fruits of Zion - (Messianic Bible Study Materials) If nothing else, sign up for their weekly edrash and edisciple; they are very short devotionals from a Hebrew roots perspective.

Torah Class - This teaching will change your life. You can listen via the website or they have a podcast you can download for free on your phone, tablet, or iPod. The teacher is not Jewish; he teaches verse by verse through the Bible from a Hebrew roots perspective. Tom listens in his truck every day while he's driving to appointments, and the kids I listen to one podcast every day while we eat lunch. Work it in to your day! I would suggest starting in Genesis, since that is the beginning, but you could pick any book of the Bible you want and start there!

I am currently reading God's Appointed Times, which is an overview of Biblical holidays from a Messianic standpoint. Each chapter covers a holiday and they are very brief and easy to read. Each chapter includes recipes, crafts, and songs.

The other book I am reading is Our Father Abraham. It covers the history of the church and Judaism, again, from a Messianic perspective. It is very deep and interesting, so instead of going into a lot of detail, you can look it up on Amazon and view the table of contents. It is excellent and informative; very thought-provoking! 

I have several other books on my shelf to read next that came highly recommended by some friends:
God's Appointed Customs: A Messianic Jewish Guide to the Biblical Lifecycle and Lifestyle by, Barney Kasdan
Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith by, Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg
Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewish Words of Jesus Can Change Your Life by, Lois Tverberg and Ray Vander Laan

I picked up a video that we have only started watching, but it is very educational and informative:  

Any of these resources can be found on or
You can try your library, but I have not had any luck here. :)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


From the Complete Jewish Bible: 
Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Sh’ma, Yisra’el! Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad [Hear, Isra’el! Adonai our God, Adonai is one]; and you are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, all your being and all your resources. These words, which I am ordering you today, are to be on your heart; and you are to teach them carefully to your children. You are to talk about them when you sit at home, when you are traveling on the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them on your hand as a sign, put them at the front of a headband around your forehead, and write them on the door-frames of your house and on your gates. 

   I have always loved this passage. It sums up our jobs as believers and parents; to teach our children (by example) to love God. Listen to the link above...this is the Sh'ma, the words of Deut. 6:4. We sing this prayer every Saturday morning at our synagogue services followed by reciting the rest of the passage in Hebrew and English and we usually sing it with our little Joy every night as we tuck her into bed. One of the many things I love about Judaism is that prayer is incorporated into every aspect of one's life! Messianic Judaism is much like Judaism in that you will find some people/congregations that are more orthodox than others (and our synagogue just so happens to be the most awesome one ever :D). Tom and I are in the learning stage and trying to decide before God what he wants from us as an act of worship. Our salvation is by grace, through faith, but out of our love for the Lord, we want to please him and give him honor and respect. We believe each person and family must decide before the Lord what he wants from them and that looks different for each one of us. I really love the reverence that Jewish people have for HIM and HIS NAME. Tom and I have been so touched to the very core by so many aspects of Judaism that it will probably take me several posts to go into what he has been teaching us and how we've been led this past year.

   Tom and I decided that we wanted to take this passage of scripture literally and have God's word on the doorpost of our house, so a few weeks ago, we got our very first Mezuzah! 

As they say in Savannah, "Shalom Ya'll!"

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

It's Been Awhile!

   I am honestly not sure how long it's been since I've written a blog post.  Very likely 2+ years!! For my faithful former readers, you know that our family went through a lot prior to moving to Georgia. We needed a fresh start in a new place and time away...including time away from Facebook and blogging. I rejoin Facebook and the blogging world very apprehensively with mixed feelings...almost a kicking and screaming feeling. I don't want to be "connected" again, but at the same time I miss my far-away friends and family and know that this is a great way to keep in touch. 
   So, what have the McBratneys been up to the last few years? LIVING! We have not been without difficulties, believe me, but we are feeling very blessed. We LOVE coastal Georgia. We love going to the beach, hiking, bike-riding, fishing, etc.
   Tom is working for a wildlife and animal control company.  He does very well there; each day is different and he works very independently, which he likes.  He can set his own schedule, but he is so busy that he often works long hours, sometimes (most times) 6-7 days a week, and sometimes out of town (NC, SC, GA, and FL). He traps wild animals and always has interesting (and scary!) pictures and stories to share.
   I have been busier than I would like the past few years. I am still chipping away at general college courses. I have recently been re-considering my pre-vet major and am praying about transferring to another college and majoring in Messianic Jewish Studies...which I will save for another post. I am homeschooling Michael and Daniel, and will soon be adding my little Joy to the homeschooling gang since she just turned 5 in January.
   Michael is 14 and in 9th grade. His favorite activities are climbing trees, riding bike, trying to shoot squirrels with his slingshot, and other "boy" stuff. He has been applying for jobs and can't wait to start working and saving for a car. He also loves attending synagogue services and being involved in the youth group at synagogue. In less than two weeks the boys will be going on a weekend youth retreat, which they are really looking forward to!
   Daniel is 13 and in 7th grade. He enjoys many of the same activities as Michael, minus the dangerous things like tree climbing. He is really into learning tricks on his skateboard and is learning to play the guitar. We had a little family-band debut at our congregation's Chanukah party, and who knows? Maybe some gigs are in our future! LOL! He also enjoys involvement with the youth at synagogue and is looking forward to the retreat as well.
   Little Miss Joy is 5 and probably enjoys bossing her big brothers around more than anything! However, she makes it a point to tell EVERYBODY that they boss her and call her a baby. She loves to play outside, particularly in the mud. Making messes is her specialty, but she also enjoys being a princess and occasionally being girly. She is learning to ride a bike (with training wheels), but mostly likes to ride her scooter around the neighborhood with the boys and neighbor kids. She loves attending synagogue and going to her Shabbat School where she learns about the Bible, Bible verses, Jewish holidays, and Hebrew language.  
  That's the very, very shortened version of what we are all up to these days.  More to come!