Esther Pavao
Well, today's the day I get to practice what I say.

I talked about not being grateful, and then "thanksgiving" day comes up. So I want to say several things that I am grateful for.

My mom. A common misconception is that a single parent will raise bad kids because they're alone and they get tired. This can be true, but my mom is the perfect example of the opposite. My dad moved to Utah when I was 9, leaving my mom with 5 kids living in a bus. Eleven years later, one of the kids is opening a coffee shop, one is living in a gatehouse, one is going to Mexico, one is learning to express God through art, and one is still in school, but is incredibly smart. Not bad for a single parent. (Not to brag or anything :)....)

My mom never allowed being a single parent to slow her down, or as an excuse for our bad behavior. She never felt sorry for herself or allowed us to run wild because she felt sorry for us. She encouraged us to find God in every situation, and still does, even though two of us have had passages and moved out. We never lacked in love, and even if we couldn't afford all the new styles, we never wanted for necessities.

She always encouraged us to be strong, (which I'm afraid to say that my brother and I may have taken a little too far) but always sent us to talk to other adults when we weren't. And she never assumed she had everything we needed and made us make relationships with other adults.

There were times that couldn't have been easy for her. I was a hard child to raise, and my little brother isn't a piece of cake either. On 9/11 when the airports were closed down, all of us kids were in Utah visiting my dad, and we were scheduled to fly home within days. My mom drove all the way to Utah to bring us home. Such expressions of love never go unnoticed, and I didn't even realize how big a deal it must have been for her. Her kids were all the way on the other side of the states and the country was in chaos.

We've all come crying to her with heartbreaks and hard times, when friends leave and when God's dealing with us. We've all celebrated with her when good things happen and when God moves. She's been faithful in making God the center of her focus, and teaching us to do the same.

Anyway, that's the main thing I'm grateful for this morning. I have to go cook for Thanksgiving dinner, so I'll try to get on and list the rest later.
Esther Pavao
It's never fun to find out your weaknesses, and God decided to reveal a few of mine to me.

Let me start with the fact that since my passage was scheduled, I've been hearing a lot of "It's time for you to behave like a woman.", to which I frequently respond, "But I'm still a kid!" Probably not the most mature response, but there you have it.

My prayers have an addition now. After praying for my grandparents and friend in Africa and friends in Memphis, I ask God to show me what it means to be a woman and give me opportunities to do that. Some are easier than others. For example, he allowed me to go to Memphis and help them move. I considered this a privilege. Esther, Ashelie, and I had a wonderful time together. And though some people might have considered it a work, we had so much fun doing it, I really couldn't.

However, started talking to me one night about how ungrateful I am. I complain a lot, even though I really have nothing to complain about. He has blessed me again and again and given me more than I deserve, and somehow, I still manage to find something wrong with the things He has given me. How can I go from writing a speech asking people to consider the orphans and homeless in Africa, and then stand, walk to fridge and open it, and loudly exclaim, "Why don't we have any food in here?!" Makes no sense whatsoever, and yet there are situations like that all the time.

So that was one thing that God has asked me to remember. Be grateful.

Another was that I can't stand alone. I don't really like to rely on people, and am one of those people who say, "If you want it done, do it yourself." I spout opinions like a fountain, but I don't really like to confide in people. And I don't know how to explain the difference to you, except that one makes you vocal, and the other makes you vulnerable. I do NOT like being vulnerable and I do NOT like feeling weak. But as God would have it, that's a weakness, as much as it feels like being strong.

Things come up sometimes in my house, or with my family, and I just deal with it on my own. Yes, I talk to people for advice, but never to break down and need help. I always told myself, "People need me to be strong." True, but people need me to be real, not just strong. It's hard to talk to someone who looks perfect. I know that from experience. And somehow, I keep trying to look perfect.

Well, I don't know if this is a confession or just a statement of the obvious, but I'm not perfect. I'm not always strong, and I do need people. I make a lot of mistakes.

Well, that's about as emotional as I can handle being on paper...screen, whatever.
If I keep going who knows what I'll say? :)
Esther Pavao
As I write this, I'm sitting in total terror. My stomach feels like a particularly violent swarm of butterflies has inhabited it, and my head is spinning. My body temperature keeps spiking and then plummeting. I have to face one of my worst fears tonight.
Public speaking.
Somehow, standing in front of 100 people who all know and love me, and talking to them about stuff they already know is one of the most terrifying things to me.
Let me say that I have good reason to dislike public speaking. Nearly all of my experiences have been bad or humiliating. I develop this embarrassing stutter, and then all sense of reason, logic, and memory abandon me. I start sweating profusely, and my face burns red. Not blushing pink, scarlet stop light/stop sign/autumn leaves red.
If I don't have everything I'm supposed to say right in front of me, I tend to forget whatever I'm supposed to say. I swore I wouldn't do it again several times, and in spite of that, I continue to find myself doing it.
Because God won't let me have my own way. He continues to make me overcome my weaknesses and my fears.He loves me and doesn't let me settle for doing less than I can.
Because I've seen pictures of these children that I'm speaking for and I've seen Abba's face when he talks about them, and I've seen the conviction on his face when he talks about the gross waste in other countries. I've seen the missionary teams we've sent over changed entirely by just one week with these children. And somehow, that gives me the courage to face a fear that suddenly seems much smaller and insignificant compared to these people's lives. If one person is touched by what I say, and is inspired to help, and steps forward to make a difference, it is totally worth it.
Esther Pavao
Another hero long gone, but her story is still very much alive.
I doubt anyone who reads this does not know who Queen Esther is. Another hero of mine, not simply because she was raised up from normal girl to a queen, but because she used her position to save millions of lives, putting her own at risk to do so. That's not even my favorite part though. My favorite part, hear me out because this will sound weird at first, was that she hesitated.

When she was first asked to go and risk her life, she was scared. She isn't painted as a fearless saint. She is still a human. She asked to have all the Jews in Susa pray and fast for three days before she would even go before the king. But then she does offer up her life to save her people.

Often, when we read about martyrs and heroes, they are made out to be perfect. They have no flaws, feel no fear, and perform amazing miracles. I always feel I could never measure up to these people and too often just give up trying to. I'm nowhere near perfect and if I ask myself whether I could willingly die for people, I'd like to say "Yes, I would." But in all honesty, I don't know. I wish to God that I would have the courage to sacrifice myself if I every got into a situation like that, but very likely I would hesitate, just like Queen Esther did. Because even the people we look up to are only human.

So all that to say that it's okay to be afraid, and it's okay to make mistakes. What separates the heroes from the cowards is not the way they feel, but the choices they make.