Looks just like who?

Do you have a kid that you have no idea where they came from? I mean the kid looks nothing like either parent! That’s the way I feel. I look a little more like my dad, but then some like my mother, and who knows who else. :/

I’ve heard that we are a combination from the DNA of our 16 great-great-grandparents. Living on a dairy farm, that’s one thing farmers learn quick when breeding to a pure herd. It takes four generations to out-breed a trait. It’s uncanny the similarities between cows and humans. 😉

With my dysfunctional family tree, I have very little knowledge of my great-great-grandparents. I have a few names, but that’s about it. Heck, I only have pictures of two of my grandparents much less anyone farther back! Which means my great-grandchildren will be the first in my line to know the features of their 16 great-great-grandparents. I’ll be long gone by then…

So when someone says, “Oh he/she looks JUST like so-and-so!”

Hmm…

They don’t have a clue.

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.” ~ Psalms 127:3-4

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Was I really meant to be here?

Here’s that mood again. So tell me…what if a person was not meant to be born? How is their life justified? Does the life that was not meant to be actually have purpose?

Deep questions for a dreary rainy day.

I know a lot of babies these days born outside of the traditional home. I feel a sense of connection for those born out of wedlock. Do they use that word anymore? I don’t know. I guess it’s the new norm. Seems no one even knows what virginity is these days, maybe we never did. Every generation drifts farther and farther from that biblical “family unit” we were taught from our grandparents. I’ve read the generations after the Baby-Boomers are more likely to live together than risk getting married, to risk getting divorced. I don’t agree, but I thoroughly understand.

So mom gets pregnant. Sometimes dad stays, mostly he moves on. Sometimes we have two moms, and sometimes, two dads. Seems there is no “norm” these days.

In some ways I sure do wish the “anything goes” philosophy wasn’t accepted back in my day. Do the kids of today feel the awkwardness from being born as the result of a “non-biblical” situation? Has society evolved enough that no one cares?

I felt it…the rejection. In some ways, I still feel it. The lies Satan whisperers in my ear:

  • My parents had to get married because of me.”
  • Their hardships were my fault because I came too early.”
  • Six months after our wedding? Oh no, our baby was early.”
  • We’re so sorry we got pregnant, it was an accident.”
  • You’re nothing but an embarrassment.”
  • I see another zit…are you ever going to clear that thing up?”
  • You’re just a fat whore!”
  • So you survived those illnesses, surgeries, and accidents? Maybe the world would be better off if…”

Oh yes, I’ve heard it all. The excuses, the cover-ups, the lies. So, what it boils down to is, I wasn’t supposed to be here. Right? Maybe. But doesn’t God himself breathe life? If so, why did He breathe life in me if I was not to be? Would I not have survived those near death experiences if I were not to be here?

I wonder if my own experience is the basis for my deep pro-life stance. My empathy generates great passion for the unborn, unwanted, and unloved. What right do I have to life if another is aborted or abandoned? Why me and not another?

 

Sometimes…I really do wish I could take their place…

 

“Even though my mother or father rejected me, the Lord will accept me and adopt me as his own.” ~Psalm 27:10

“Even though my mother or father rejected me, the Lord will accept me and adopt me as his own.” ~Psalm 27:10 (MSB)

 

 

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Another church debate?

And the church is now debating youth groups…

The newest movement in the church world today is the “Integration of the Congregation”. The concept is such that our kids are falling away, as argued in one of many circles such as in this article; Charisma News; which discusses statistics showing youth groups are driving Christian teens to abandon the faith. The trend is leading the church to abandon their youth groups.

The debate seems to be about destructive peer pressure in church. The new thought process is that separating youth from parents in church waters down and annihilates any teaching of Godly principles, leaving youth abandoned to seek total downfall with their church peers. By integrating the youth with the adults, they will learn to become exemplary, well rounded, Christian grown-ups. In all the articles I’ve read on Family Integration, statics and scripture references are used to back up this theory: Deuteronomy 16:9-14, Joshua 8:34-35, Ezra 10:1, 2 Chronicles 20:13, Nehemiah 12:43 and Joel 2:15-16…to quote a few from the above article. But, if you look at these scriptures, they talk of feasts and assembly gatherings (you know…church), but do not mention youth groups. In fact, I don’t think anyone has found any scripture stating youth groups are not allowed. (Yet, the bible doesn’t mention cigarettes either. Just sayin’!) One of the verses used by most when it comes to family worship is Deuteronomy 6:4-7, which instructs fathers to teach the statutes to their children. Yes…the fathers to teach their children. So, is this proof we need to abolish youth groups and put everyone together?

And then…finally…here is a common sense article by Ed Stetzer debunking the theory that all youth groups are bad, posted in Christianity Today. Actually, he debunks the statistics used by arguments for the bad youth group theory. When the statistics are skewed, we are compelled to take another look at our theories. I am not at all against Family Integration, rather I am for it. But I am not against abolishing our youth groups either.

This post is obviously just my humble opinion…but my opinion is based on experience…from my own youth. You see, I had a drug problem. My parents drug me to church every week! (Bet you haven’t heard that one before! 😉 ) Seriously, that is about the one thing my parents did right. Part of my “testimony” is that I hated church…and youth group…from being a pretty messed up youth myself. I felt all the kids were either hypocrites or dorks. They were not the kind of kids I preferred to hang out with on a Friday night…and I didn’t. I partied. And partied. But, that’s another story…

In spite of hating youth group…the Gospel got in.

It. got. in.

And I came back. Not to church. I came back to Jesus.

Yes, some of my most pivotal memories are of little words, verses, or phrases, Ron or Lindell spoke here and there. And then, there are the Sunday school teachers who put up with us one hour a week speaking into our lives.

And the list goes on…

I’ve often wondered over the years how many of them thought they were wasting their time. How many of them thought I was a waste…

I wonder where I would be if the church my parents attended (quite by default due to my Grandma) did not have a youth group. Would I have created less trouble for myself and others? Would I be here today? No, I don’t believe so.

Listening to the many in favor of abandoning youth groups, I hear a resounding argument that the youth would be naturally sitting at home on daddy’s knee listening to him quote scripture every waking hour.

Maybe in a bubble.

Not in my family.

Not in today’s world.

Yes, we were a “Christian” family. We went to church. We talked the talk. But not once do I remember my dad leading in anything other than prayer before dinner on Sunday afternoon. Even if he wanted to, how could he? He was either on a ship somewhere or working 2nd shift during the week. Neither did his father, or his father before him. I don’t blame them, they were living as their fathers before them taught. They were doing the best they could. Our forefathers believed the way to show love to the family was to work and leave the teaching to Momma and the Public Schools.

Hey Church! That’s the real world.

Yes, I gathered some instruction from my family. But when a teenager is “troubled” their parent is the last person they will follow. That’s reality.

What would have happened if I did not have a youth group? Where else would I have gone for instruction? The very places that encouraged my self-destructive behavior to flourish: the world. Yes, the public school and, of course, peers.

Now, they say times have changed. We watched a clip in church this morning interviewing several Millennials about their perception of the world and what it was like to be a Millennial Christian. Their words took me back to my own youth. You know what? Nothing has changed. Not really. As a child of the 60’s & 70’s, I had the same outlook…round peg in a square hole. I have a sneaky feeling youth have experienced the same moods since Adam & Eve. We can blame it on almost anything, but common sense says the human body changes and we grow up, during which time we search for purpose…that inner longing for the choosing between right and wrong…searching to fill the hole created by our own sin. That hole which only God can fill. Youth grow to adults, and in the process, we all seek to fit somewhere in society. Heck, even the disciples jockeyed for position…trying to “fit in”.

Youth of any millennia will seek their place in adulthood. Where is the best place to navigate those roads? I believe both the family and youth groups are the answer. The best place is the place where they can find Jesus. If the youth are in a spiritually non-existent family, would they receive instruction outside of church? No. If the youth are in a spiritually non-existent church, would they receive instruction sitting in the pew next to their parents? No. Are there churches with youth groups that are simply play-time? Yes. Are there families who are only “Christian” on Sundays? Yes.

As for the theory of separation, in most American churches, after “Sunday School” is over, when the kids are old enough to sit for a spell (older than toddler age), the youth are always sitting (Integrated) in the church service…sometimes bored to death. But…the Spirit can work years later to bring back God’s word to a broken heart. God’s word which we never realized will reach into our deaf ears. And the “youth groups” that are in question? They always meet outside of Sunday morning services, such as a Sunday evening or mid-week night. Most active youth groups meet more than adult life groups! Would you rather your youth go to the parties I attended on the weekend or to a church youth event? I didn’t think so. Are there “bad” activities going on during church events? Sometimes…for we live in a fallen world. Are there “bad” activities going on during social, non-churched, events? Of this, I can assure you, almost always.

If you want to “fix” our youth, abolishing the group is throwing out the baby with the bath water. Preach to the fathers. Yes, instruct the fathers in how to teach their children. And in all reality, that may fail. Bad stats show somewhere around 50% in the church are divorced/single parent households, where it is more likely around 25-30%…which is still huge no matter how you look at the issue. Embrace those kids, as well as kids whose parents are unchurched. When the fathers are absent, create churches that will hire Youth Pastors and not Youth Directors. Train leaders who will be examples of Jesus to kids. Create an atmosphere where youth have a safe place as they learn to break the parental apron strings and grow into adulthood.

Then, and only then, will you have an explosion of salvation in our youth culture….our future!

God's Spirit will bring His word back to our hurting hearts!

God’s Spirit will bring His word back to our hurting hearts!

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Do you really want to be a step-parent? Part 2

(For the 1st half of this post, read here… “Do You Really Want to be a Step-Parent?” Then come back!)

I started this post quite a while ago, but decided with the negative nature of lengthy blogs, I would divide it into two posts. I’m afraid it’s still a bit lengthy. 😉 This post may not make sense without reading through the first post, but they are thoughts from two different directions…this one being my “bullet” list…which I’ve read are not very popular, but I feel effective for multiple points within the same subject. We’ll see if anyone agrees…bullets or no??

Most of these two posts on step-parenting have already been written in the volumes of blended family self-help discussions…I’m just trying to post my own “journal” from experience through my studies, my friends, and my own life. My prayer is that someone…at least one person…would be able to improve our world by avoiding the pitfalls of so many others.

In all these years, I have seen very few cases where all the ex’s were mature enough, and secure enough, to be amicable. We live in a society where offense runs skin deep. The innocent children are tossed back and forth continually being used as weapons against the ex. The competition quite often becomes childlike and immature. And it doesn’t have to be. It takes maturity and love to be amicable.

What is a step-parent to expect? Below are snippets of common and worse-case scenarios from my research and experience (not necessarily my own experience). As you read through these bullet points, some will resonate with you, and others will remind you of a friend or two. Hopefully, you will see a running theme.

The pitfalls of step-parent/step-children:

*No matter how much kindness is shown, or how much love is given, the step-parent is typically seen in the negative.

*No matter how many years the step-parent helped raise the child, even in cases where the spouse has full custody, the biological parent will always take emotional precedence.

*The step-parent is not welcome in their ‘family time’. The kids learned visitation is “me” time while their parent was single and is not interested in having to share their mom/dad with someone they view as embezzling their parent.

*A step-mother is expected to carry the load of the household chores while the step-kids spend play-time with their dad.

*A step-father is expected to ignore the undisciplined step-children with no rights to scold when his favorite golf club (insert favorite personal belonging) is used as a baseball bat.

*The step-child’s disrespectful attitude is overlooked due to the pity given by parents, grandparents, and extended family. The child is not taught that even though there is no requirement they respect the step-parent (usually due to their hurt from the family division) their parent’s divorce gives no excuse for the child to behave disrespectfully (Oh yes, I have plenty of experience in this one!).

Respected

* Research shows the hardest position to be in amongst a blended family is that of the step-mother. She is expected to be the caregiver while despised at the same time. If a step-mother steps in to create an atmosphere of a normal working family, with expectations of equality for every family member, they are met with hostile opposition. The new in-laws will revile her as the outsider. If discipline and chores are expected, she will be met with the position that the kids need a “vacation” on their visitations. The excuse is they don’t see their dad near as often since their parents’ divorce. However, the responsibility for the respectful behavior of the children falls on the biological parent, not the step-parent. It’s called “parenting”. (Note: Every piece of literature I have read from the experts indicates that discipline, consistency, and structure create the best environment for security…not vacation time!)

*Most non-custodial parents do not “engage” due to the separation during the space of time between visits, or out of fear that discipline will cause the child to draw away, when in fact, the opposite is true. Spoiling out of pity only leads to disrespect and dysfunction later in life.

*Through jealousy and insecurity, all too often, the ex will saturate the child with defamations regarding the step-parent. Since the parent/child bond runs deep, even when a parent is dishonest, the child is easily persuaded against the step-parent, causing irreparable damage to the relationship. (Keep in mind, lies will always backfire when the child becomes an adult and begins to think for themselves.)

*More often than not, the new step-parent will not only have to deal with the belligerent attitudes of the step-children from hurt and insecurities created from their parent’s divorce, quite often the new spouse will also need to deal with the manipulations of an insecure and over-protective or jealous ex.

*Never reply to the ranting of a jealous ex. Learn to ignore false accusations and brush them off. As they say, sometimes the reasons are obvious as to why they are divorced. For your own emotional well-being, forgive and let God handle your justification. Oh yes, I know how hard it is to let go of justification! Sometimes, it never comes. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” The opinions of men/women do not at all indicate your value.

*All too often the ex (and/or overly doting grandparents) will sometimes try to out-buy or spoil the child, or outright belittle everything the child says about the ex’s household, especially the step-parent. Too many times, I have witnessed a parent withhold visitation and badger the ex in the presence of the bewildered children, not realizing their manipulations only destroy the child’s future relationship capabilities with their own spouse, choosing against marriage in favor of living together. Their attacks on the step-parent will eventually backfire. If only the vengeful parent would realize the depth of anger they have fueled in their own child’s heart (causing the child to sin), anger that only causes children (no matter what age) to lash out toward those in authority. Thus, the number one cause of the “troubled teen” syndrome plaguing our society.

*If the children are allowed to take a higher priority than the spouse, whether from guilt or pity, the home will be filled with dysfunction and the subsequent marriage will suffer. Discipline falls on the shoulders of the biological parent, and if not enforced, the family can expect nothing but chaos.

And on and on and on…volumes have already been written so hopefully you get the picture.

What can a step-parent do? Is there hope? Can a step-parent possibly have a good or even great relationship with their step-child?

Yes! Both families can have amicable and loving relationships! But it takes work. It takes patience. It takes thick skin. It takes maturity. It takes prayer. It takes love. Lots of love.

Do some heavy research to be informed on the negative and positive impact of step-parenting, both to the child and the adults, so these pit-falls can be avoided. Look for classes offered by your church, or a local church, on blended families to help you navigate through the initial adjustments. My husband and I took an invaluable class early in our marriage. Not only is seeking help beneficial for your marriage, it is essential for your children. Again, you are not alone in your struggles. Do not be too proud to seek help. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”Proverbs 15:22

Always keep in mind, when you enter in a relationship with someone who already has children, the presumed “rights” are automatically diminished. A blended family can be successful if both spouses (parent & step) prioritize, keeping their marriage as the most important family relationship. It is imperative to build that “three stranded chord” with God as your head.

Peace will come into the home and heart when you take responsibility only for that which is yours. That does not mean the atmosphere in the home will be calm. It may take years for the child to mature enough to accept and actually like their step-parent. Most of the step-parent’s success is dependent on the support of the spouse, the biological parent. The step-child’s happiness is not the step-parent’s responsibility. Yes, step-parents should continue to try and convey areas that need improvement for the benefit of the whole family. But, always remember if others do not choose to live with integrity; the results are not your responsibility. Learn to ignore. You are only responsible for you.

Though being a step-parent is a thankless job, and you may never receive the credit or recognition for your sacrifices, never grow weary in doing good. Even though you may never be fully appreciated, and a greater chance you will be resented, never ever grow weary in doing good; for no matter what the opposition, you are contributing to the future. It’s up to you whether your influence is positive or negative. The Lord above is the one you need to please, to look for approval. You will never find affirmation in people.

But most of all…pray! Pray for God’s comfort and strength. You will need it…and He will give it.

“For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” ~ Galatians 6:8-10

Matthew 11.28-30

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The Pain of a Child

We all have our crosses to bear. If your child is perfect, count your blessings and ignore this post. If your child is imperfect, join the crowd. You are one of the gazillion humans who’s beautifully innocent baby evolved into a normal human. Imperfect. Fallible. Normal. So, why are parents everywhere beating themselves up?

Just what is “normal” in our world? I have several friends who have offspring deemed handicapped, or the PC term, special needs. I’ve seen firsthand the agony they feel as they navigate through social barriers. It hurts. It’s not fair. It’s humiliating. But I also see more patience, care, and genuine love from these parents to their special children than from anywhere else.

One time a close friend confided that even though she would never trade her child, she sometimes grieved for a “normal” child. She grieved for the sports that were never played, the parties never attended, and the weddings never planned. She dreamed of having just one day that her child would not embarrass her in public with weird noises and gestures. Just one day where the awkward stares were of jealousy and not disgust. Oh, to have just one day with a “normal” child…

And then there’s my other close friend…the one with the “wild” child. How many times did she get a call in the middle of the night? I watched as she stood in court next to her son, dressed in orange. I would be upset too. I hate orange. It totally washes out my complexion. Orange is only good on a pumpkin…and then only in a pumpkin latte…or pumpkin ice cream…or pumpkin pie…with whipped cream on top. Autumn is the best time of year…the fall color of changing leaves…and pumpkin. Ahhh…

Pumpkins & Mums

Oh yes…back to court…

Can you imagine the pain a mother feels standing with a judge staring down in front and her son’s friends staring from behind? The boy she gave birth to made a few bad choices, yet, society blames the parents. I saw her teach right from wrong. I saw her love. Then I saw the very life she gave turn on her, lie about her, and hate her. My friend always said she did not expect her child to be another Albert Einstein, Peyton Manning, or Brad Pitt, yet, how she longed to have that “normal” child. Just one day where the awkward stares were of jealousy and not disgust. Oh, to have just one day with a “normal” child…

Why do we long for what is not ours to have? We want relief. We want acceptance. These two mommas were human. Just a small longing of a world without the difficulties of life. That’s all it is. But, are we willing to walk the path of those we perceive as normal? I once heard the recount of a musician in a symphony who was sought after by several fans. One commented they would give anything to play as well as the musician, to whom the musician replied, “You can, if you are willing to give up everything to practice sixty hours a week for most of your life.” The fan sadly walked away…not willing to make the same sacrifice.

Would my two friends trade places? Would they be willing to walk in the other’s shoes to have what they deem as normal? I also have friends who have those “perfect” children. For the most part, they cannot relate to parents with difficult children. But, are their lives perfect? Is their world free of difficulty? No. In every case, in every life, drama digs in its evil claws through some small area of their lives. One friend is riddled with financial burdens, while another is plagued with health issues. One friend is aching for the loss of children from a barren womb, while another wrenches from miscarriage. One friend mourns the death of her child from a reckless driver, while another reels from the death of her child from suicide. Would anyone want to trade places with either of those friends? I didn’t think so…

Thanksgiving Holiday can be a very grim time for people in rough situations. How can we be thankful when we face so much adversity? How can we explain the situations we have no control? Why is our pumpkin never a silver-lined coach? Character. Yes, God is building character. Think about it…don’t the best people in life have a trail of tears? It’s been said the biggest problem with the next generation is ingratitude with an entitlement mentality. I believe it. We give trophies for participation. What do they learn? Self. What happens when the pressures of life surround them? And, they will. Most young people crumble. Looking back…I did too. But I got back up. I survived. Experience has a way of not only maturing, but of strengthening.

If I can convey anything in this post…it’s hope. Only when we stop looking at the supposed successes of others will we see our own. We are each unique. We are each made for a different path. Quit longing for someone else’s path. Mow the grass on your side of the fence first. When we realize that God in his great love did not place any greater value on Albert Einstein, Peyton Manning, or Brad Pitt than he did on Jane, Sally, or Mary, then we will appreciate the little “thorns” in our life. For when we look up past our thorns…the rose of God’s love holds us in his palm.

 

Can we be content? Can we be satisfied? Can we be Thankful??

Romans 5.2-5

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Warning! This memory is not for weak stomachs! But there is a point to my drama…

I’ve wanted to get this memory out for three decades. I may lose some weak stomach readers. I may make you laugh. But some stories are epic. And we always wonder…why??

Christmas Vacation ’84. My daughter was 2 ½ (middle of the terrible two’s!), and my twin boys were 9 months. I came down with a 24 hour bug mid-way through our visit, missing out on a whole day of visiting with relatives who only cared about visiting with the grandchildren. It was perfect. Three days later, on our return flight home, we flew out of Chicago where my ex-in-laws traveled the four hour trip to send us off. I guess back then, the tickets were quite a bit cheaper to fly out of Chicago than at a closer airport. Half-way to Chicago, my fastidious daughter declared she was nauseous. The poor thing up-chucked all over the back seat of her grandparents car…spraying vomit on her Grandma! While I was cleaning her up my ex ordered his dad to pull to the side of the road so he could exit the vehicle as he almost lost his innards from the smell. Men usually do have weak stomachs.

The grandparents treated us to lunch at a very nice restaurant in Chicago, and my ex still felt ill. I assumed he was still reeling from the 2 year old’s puke. Regrettably, he waited until we were half way up in the air to decide his innards were not staying inside. The stewardess told him to return to his seat, to which he asked if she wanted him to hurl in the isle. Stepping aside, she let him go to the restroom…during the ascension. I was too busy wrangling three babies by myself to care if he had his seat belt on or dangled out the window! He then continued to vomit throughout the whole flight, using every barf bag on the plane. I wonder how much those lined tiny little bags cost…

About half way home, 40,000 feet or so up in the bright blue sky, my 9 month old decided to get sick…from the other end! Do you know how small those old airplane restrooms are?? There is no imagination wide enough to envision me cleaning diarrhea off a very active baby in an old airplane bathroom!! The toilet water was blue, with no lid, thank you very much. The sink was not large enough to wash hands properly, much less a whole baby. He kicked. It flew. That’s all I am going to say about that. Thank goodness we had baby wipes back then. In case you are wondering, I did leave the tiny restroom sterile, along with his butt.

One more little person to go…

An hour later, back in our seats, on our descent down, I smelled it again. Of course. After all, they are identical twins! We did not have booster seats back then, in the “stone ages”, so he was on the airplane seat. A cloth airplane seat. Now, a wet cloth airplane seat. I would not risk taking my baby to the tiny little restroom due to the plane descending, as most accidents happen on ascent or descent. So the seat got…more…wet.

Oh, the stares…the glares…the rejection! I waited until everyone vamoosed off the plane before grabbing my puking-pooping little family and headed for the nearest airport restroom. Again…there is no imagination wide enough to envision me changing a wiry 9 month old boy on the restroom floor (before the days of baby changing stations) in the Houston International Airport! My good friend who picked us up at the airport stood in front of us with the skirt of her sundress spread wide to keep the onlookers from looking. The midnight travelers were quite entertained…I was simply humiliated so bad I could not stop laughing. We were a first class three-ring circus. If you ever find someone who will live through that kind of smell with you…keep that friend for life!!

Oh…and to top that off…

We finally arrived home, it was midnight, and we had no food in the house due to us being gone the previous week. So after tucking every sick little body in bed, I headed for the store. The only reason I ventured out at 2:00am on that very foggy night was due to having only one vehicle…which my ex took to work every day, leaving me stranded in nowhereville with three babies. I drove to the edge of the neighborhood, about four blocks from home, and the car sputtered and died. Someone had siphoned our gas while we were on vacation! After walking through fog so thick you could cut it with a knife, I woke up my ex, who woke our neighbor back up, who took him to the gas station for gas…and milk.

Three months later…we moved four states away… 🙂

I’ve often wondered why. What possesses a person to endure this kind of drama…and yet, the next morning, hug, hold, kiss, and love the little ones God entrusted us. Motherhood. Hormones. The beauty of creation.

God, in his love, showed me a picture of His love. We puke on our creator, and he still loves us. We poop on his creation, and he still loves us. Yes, human parents are fallible. They screw up. Sometimes big-time. Sometimes, human parents don’t love their children. Sometimes parents physically or emotionally hurt their kids. Yet, God’s parental love is infallible. Perfect. God created the human parent-child love as a glimpse of his love for us. That gives me hope. No matter how far into sin that child (us) falls, God still loves his children. When every relationship on this sin-ravaged planet falls away, our creator God, in his grace, longs for us…for me…for you…

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” ~Matthew 7:7-8

 

Three Babies…

Momma & Babies

 

More babies…

Baby Kittens

 

And more babies…

Baby Bunnies

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“You’re a bad mother! But Happy Mother’s Day anyway.”

What does it take to be a good mother? Perfection? And whose perspective of perfection do we strive to achieve? Yours? The Governments? Or possibly, that perfection of the “Proverbs 31 Woman” the church promotes?

We went to the movies this Mother’s Day…and we saw a Mother’s Day movie…just because. Normally, I would only pay money at the theater to see movies where the action is lost on my home TV. But the previews looked pretty good, and I was in the mood to smile. Moms’ Night Out actually made us laugh, relate, laugh, and relate some more! It’s lighthearted fun. Yet, the mainstream criticism hurled at the movie was directed to the mom’s choice of staying at home…and homeschooling. The movie actually celebrates mothers. It has a good plot, good actors, and good quality cinematography, and of course, Trace Adkins stole the show! What’s not to love? Yet, some just had to complain. And complain. And complain some more.

Our culture has reversed. Before the industrial revolution, mothers were ridiculed and condemned for working outside the home. Now…mothers are ridiculed and condemned for staying home…and mothering. When my kids were young, I was pretty good with my replies to belittling questions such as, “What do you do?” followed by blank looks of boredom. Like I actually sat on my derrière all day watching soap operas and eating Bonbons! I was busier during the times I spent my days “playing house” than when I brought home a bona fide paycheck! But our culture does not put great worth in mothers who choose the “old fashioned” life, the “lazy” life, the sacrificial life. So…we leave our children to the arms of another and climb the corporate ladder.

My reply? “I’m a Domestic Engineer and CEO of a corporation responsible for training future agents to aid in our quest for a better society.” I liked it.

Momma's Love Never Ends

I’m not against women working. Sound contradictory?? I occasionally worked. And occasionally…full time. Sometimes it is necessary. But mostly…not. Do we really need the material life? The deciding factor is in the priorities. Proverbs 31 gives a pretty good description of the kind of woman God appreciates. Does she sit at home wasting away? No. Does she shove her husband and children off to build her own empire? No. She works…for her family. Proverbs 30:8 says to give me neither riches nor poverty. Balance and priorities…lost treasured words.

So, does being a stay-at-home mom always produce perfect little adults? No. Though time proves most healthy adults are produced from solid, secure childhoods with one parent who is a “constant” in the child’s life. Thus, the biggest reason divorce is so destructive to the family. Divorce automatically creates a single parent home. Yet, there are no guarantees. I have often seen good kids come out of bad homes and bad kids come out of good homes.

Part of the degradation of the stay-at-home mom is a longing for control of our children. If our children are placed in the hands of outsiders, we have lost our future. And the societal parent-bashing begins. Do parents really know best? Have you watched TV lately? In the past decade? The parent in our society has been dubbed the recipient of demeaning jokes, especially the father. Parental rights are diminishing. Even our president has turned over to the “experts” teaching his daughters the century old art of driving a car. One of my fondest memories is the day my dad took me to the local race track when I was only 14 and let me have the wheel. Oh sure, the track was closed, and we were in an empty parking lot so it wasn’t as exciting as actually driving on the track, but I was with my dad. Who do we want our kids to look back and remember being by their side throughout their childhood?

When normal childhood problems arise, do we help or hinder?

Our society claims bad behavior is the parents’ fault. We are masters at blame-shifting. If we take responsibility for our actions, we may be right…but we may also be wrong. Blame-shifting our problem on others is a characteristic rooted in pride. And that pride thingy won’t allow us to be wrong! But, shifting personal responsibility from children to those in authority is inadvertent control. When we cannot control ourselves, we attempt to control others. Parental boundaries are crossed…by our family, our friends, and especially by our government. Our over-reaching government seeks to eliminate families altogether. I see headlines almost daily reporting on parents being threatened with their child’s removal from their home from a child service worker on a witch hunt. The most effective wave today is through medical blackmail.

Everyone, especially our government, seems to know what’s best for little Johnny…disregarding the very people who brought him into the world. Authority bashing becomes fair game. So little Johnny grows up lacking in allegiance to family…his allegiance is transferred to self, and anyone who can fill his desires.

Global Warming? Terrorism? Natural Disasters? No…the greatest threat to our country is the breakdown of the family. When parental boundaries are crossed, whether it be by a relative, teacher, or the government, the child formulates a belief that their parents’ values are worthless. This belief eventually spills over into their remaining authority figures. Our court systems and jails are full of those who believe they are above the law, those who believe they are wiser than the learned, and therefore, they are unlearned. Stats show that more than 80% of inmates come from broken homes. We have more laws on the books than ever in our history, and our country is more incarcerated than any other on the planet. Morality cannot be legislated.

What about those closer to home that cause division in our homes? Not only do we have our government interfering in our families, we have school teachers, physicians, and yes…relatives.

The popular philosophy of parent-bashing hits all levels of society. Parent-bashing is a phenomenon that reverberates not only from rebellious child to parent, but from parent to child to grandchild…even in the most of subtle ways. Grand-parenting is easy. You load them up with hugs, love, and send them home. Right? Except sometimes, the love is self-promoting, placing the grandparent over the parent and thereby dividing the parental relationship. Little Johnny brings home a horrible grade in school due to his homework negligence…and Grandpa tells him to ignore Mommy’s reprimand because Mommy made bad grades too. Little Susie insists on attending a party with very questionable characters, and when Daddy says no, Grandma pulls in the drive to give her a ride. And what disciplines does little Johnny learn? What character trait does little Susie pick up?

I have seen whole families torn apart, separated, and divorced due to a grandparent or two who insist on being the primary love in the child’s life. Jesus said, “A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” And he says in the last days, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” Unfortunately, I have seen this in my lifetime. People do not put others above themselves. I have seen grandparents lie to and about their own children, turning the family against them in order to take control of their grandchildren, so that the grandparent will be the center of their grandchild’s world. Lies disintegrates trust that takes a lifetime to rebuild. Grandparents remove personal responsibility from the grandchildren and blame-shift on the generation caught in-between. If that interfering grandparent were an exemplary parent themselves, there would be no need to interfere in the parent/child relationship, for the parent would automatically be a great parent. If the grandparent does not agree with the parenting philosophy of their own children, maybe they should realize that they were the very people who raised the parents, and may not be qualified to give unwarranted advice! The presence, influence, and mentor-ship of the extended family, especially the grandparents, are very important and imperative in the development of children, but never to the extent of over-ruling the parent. Grand-Parental interference not only will destroy the parent/child relationship, left unchecked, it will destroy the whole family.

One of the best books I have read on the role of a grandparent is: A Call to Grandparenting, by Mark Adcock which celebrates the role of the grandparent. Again…it boils down to balance.

Sadly, many divorced parents lie and brainwash their children against their ex, severing their child’s relationships with the other parent, usually the father, out of jealousy and revenge, especially if the ex has remarried. These interferences cause years of broken relationships…and since God is a God of Justice…the damage done eventually and always will backfire. Eventually children grow up and most of the time will figure out where the lies lie. The anger and rejection grown children felt against the parent who was lied about will then transfer to the parent/grandparent behind the lies. And sadly, without forgiveness, more broken relationships ensue. Maybe we would not have as many broken relationships if we took to heart Jesus’ words to heart; “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.” Encouraging a child to turn against a parent for your own benefit, to hold them closer to you, is causing a little one to sin. Period.

Most people don’t realize that even God taught each person is responsible for their own sin and their own actions. If we continually enable our children to escape responsibility for their actions, how will they ever come to the place where they realize they need forgiveness? If we do not teach our children proper authority structure in the home, how will they learn to respect outside authority? If we turn our children against a parent to benefit ourselves, how will they learn structure? Even atheists believe there is structure in nature. Without structure, children do not learn respect for others, which leads to self-centered lives, which leads to an “anything goes” morality, which finally leads to chaos and death.

No one describes the pain of broken relationships better than Rich Mullins in his song: We are not as strong as we think we are…

Rich Mullins Songs

Now, what do the above paragraphs have to do with complaints about mothers not working outside of the home? It’s all in the priorities and the covenant of the nuclear family. The big question is; what does it look like to selflessly want the best for others, especially our children? How do we show unselfish love? Most of the time, it means simply to mind our own business! From our government all the way down to our relatives. When we only take responsibility for that which is our responsibility, not only will our lives be more peaceful, but our relationships with others will be richer. Most of the time, this philosophy requires a dose of common sense. Naturally, if you see physical abuse, you need to step forward and intervene. But, most of the time, divisions in families are caused by selfishness in those who are determined to control others. When little Johnny or little Susie have an issue, step back and let the parent be a parent first. Your grandchildren, students, citizens will respect you more if they have their root in the parent-bond.

Let us put some order back into our society.

Let’s let the parent be the parent.

Let’s stop demoralizing moms who need to work outside the home.

Let’s stop making working mothers feel guilty if they have no choice.

But, let us take a look at what materially we can do without to be the one our kids will remember by their side.

Let’s all stop equating stay-at-home moms to old-fashioned ignorance.

Let’s all stop degrading those who want to raise their kids in a two-parent, stay-at-home mom, type family. Can we respect their choice?

Can we celebrate motherhood?

Holly & Mommy Easter 1985

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” ~1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Pregnant…Again??

“What? You already have three kids and you’re pregnant again? Don’t you know what causes that by now?”

ultrasound

And on and on the condemnations flew…

So here I am. One failed marriage, another on its way. This one was promised to be my “Knight in Shining Armor” soul-mate. Yes, one would think that I of all people would know better.

My first husband was my high school sweetheart…but, less than eight years later, I found myself disillusioned, emotionally broke down, and bitter. Deep in my soul, all I wanted was the typical Tom Sawyer family complete with the little white picket fence. In a sense, I was trying to create a perfect life in restitution for my so-called “wild” teenage years. After a few years of trying to please everyone, my world crumbled when I realized I wasn’t pleasing to anyone. I was belittled and devalued. My self-worth diminished to my lowest point. I believed the lie that God had turned his back on me and did not care that I was doing everything in my power to live perfectly. So I turned my back on God.

But this post is not about my first marriage, I’ll save that for a later date. But I say all the above for a bit of background information to show my state of mind. This post is about a baby…a precious little human.

When I started dating my second husband, I was exhausted. Divorced with three young children, I was working over-time and living with a spirit of failure all around me, trying desperately to find value in my life. I was always busy, yet very alone. Being ten years older, he gave the illusion of being omniscient. My family was ecstatic, mostly my dad, mostly since he was always looking for someone to take me off his shoulders. Ha! Plus, he was related to my brother-in-law and they gave me only good reports. I thought this was the relief I desperately needed. My “Knight” swooped in with romance, worldly achievements, and showers of silky words. I was bait.

Since my first husband claimed no one would want me, especially with all those kids, I was more than ready to prove everyone wrong. That’s the problem with some men, their arrogance leads them to believe if they do not want a girl, then no one else would want her either. Then, they are shocked when they find out, whether he is good or bad, someone is always waiting in the wings. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure! Boy was he shocked! On the other hand…some girls have been devalued to the point they settle for what they believe they deserve instead of understanding that God’s love really does have the best for us.

We dated less than six months. I was deceived into believing this “Knight” was going to provide for me, be a fun step-dad for my kids, and yes, it was he who continually talked of having more children, even writing letters of his longing for his own children. He was in his latter thirties and felt the biological clock tick. I knew there was no chance of having more children with my first husband, and even though by the world’s standards I did not need another child, I secretly longed for more babies. Caring for my children put me in my element. I don’t know if that longing is put in women by God at creation, or if I was rebellious against the American 2.5 kid family. Consequently, and at his urging, I found myself pregnant with my fourth child. I remember being extremely excited to give him the news…he was finally going to be a father!

“We’re not ready yet. You need to get an abortion. I’ll not have anything to do with it.”

Those words still reverberate in my mind. How could I be hearing this? Was not this the man whom was to be my Knight in Shining Armor? Was not this baby his idea too? Even if neither of us needed this pregnancy, this was a little human. This was a soul. This was life. I know more than anyone that most women who have abortions are not bad people, they are victims of their circumstances. They are women who have been sold a lie. But, I could never fathom ending the pregnancy…for any reason. And my Knight wanted me to murder our baby? My world spun around and stopped.

Where was God now? Why was I being rejected again? I felt I deserved nothing. Walking a path on the dark side of heaven, while longing to be in the light, I felt abandoned once again.

After four months of marriage, I realized he had issues unknown even to his family. Manic depressives can and do live completely normal lives when their condition is managed well. I won’t go into the struggles they face in this post, but if you, or one close to you, face manic depression or bi-polar depression, please research and be well informed in order to live a nonviolent and productive life. To deny the existence of the condition only creates chaos for everyone involved.

My last straw came when he lost control of his temper with my son. After throwing me across the room when I confronted him, I packed up my kids and my belongings, and left. How was I going to take care of three children, pregnant, with very little support, and no job?

Pride…It really is an ugly thing. I was not the kind of person to ask for help…from anyone. What would be the world’s answer to my situation? Yes, I heard it again. Abort. Welfare. Abort. Start over. Abort.

But how could I look into the faces of my children and live the rest of my life knowing I killed their sibling? Would I have been able to abort any of the children I had if the birth order were reversed? Scientifically, the unborn is a separate human life! In the end, I ignored the comments of destruction and clung to that which I knew to be right. With no place else to go, I humbled myself, faced an abundance of criticism, and asked for help.

In every circumstance, even those created by our own bullheaded mistakes, our sins, God always provides a way to find an open door. We live in a fallen world. We are fallen. We are subject to the corrupt things of the world, even those who are blameless. The bible book of Job is a good study on this subject. God always restores. Sometimes not the way we expect. We will always carry the consequences, but He will restore. The Lord gave me that open door when I humbled myself to His care, and His forgiveness. I cannot tell you it was easy or without tears. But, He provided for me, for my children, and my unborn baby. God promises over and over He will take care of His children. His promises are true. He created us. He loves us.

An adult now, that baby is the joy of our family. God provided people to step in and give us a roof over our head until I could get on my feet. He also provided money for me to pay for our own food, provisions, and utilities. He later provided a father who adopted my baby as his own; a perfect reflection of our heavenly Father adopting us, in all our ugliness, and accepts us as His own. Now, that beautiful life is a college graduate, happily married, and a vital asset to our society.

Did I make the right choice? In my mind, there was no choice to make.

Your situation may be quite different. It may not be an unplanned pregnancy you are facing, but the solution is still the same. Two wrongs do not make a right. Never listen to the lie that God has deserted you. I did, and God showed me He was always with me, waiting. When we find ourselves on a crocked path we need only to pray. There is no sin so deep that God’s grace cannot draw you back.

 

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”
~Isaiah 43:18-19

BabyCakes

 “Even though my mother or father rejected me, the Lord will accept me and adopt me as his own.” ~Psalm 27:10 (MSB)

 

 

The Home That Love Built

A little story about my ancestors…

Great-Aunt Mildred Golden, Great-Grandma Gladys Golden-Frantz, and Little Me!

As a child, Bethany Children’s Home deep in the back hills of Kentucky left an indelible impression on me. Nestled in the bottom land by Holly Creek, the first sight looked like a brilliant painting by Thomas Kinkade. The Appalachian Mountains protected the home from modern civilization. Magnificent, aged trees hovered as angels spreading their wings. The only clearings were the fields on the farms, and the hillside where the old buildings seemed to harmonize with nature.

Living in the city, I rarely had the opportunity to breathe in the air God created our lungs to inhale. The aroma of huge oak, beech, cedar, and pine trees mixed with the tickling of the dust from the dirt road steadily lifted the soul. Pennyroyals and goldenrod lined the road creating a natural landscape along the curb of the forest. I often miss the simple beauty of a landscape created by God alone. A city offers neat little houses lined up in perfect rows. Shrubs, trees, plants, and flowers are precisely placed within utopian gardens. While the perfect houses and the precise gardens are charming, nothing compares with the picturesque beauty of nature.

With scarcely a motor vehicle traveling back and forth, we could hear only the sound of nature. Maple, hickory and walnut leaves played their stringed instruments in the wind. Cardinals sang harmony and mockingbirds sang backup. A woodpecker led the percussion. Only the fighting of my siblings interrupted the earthly orchestra.

Throughout time, Bethany Children’s Home, a place we call Bethany, seemed unchanged. The plain, wood buildings always needed paint. An old windowless, three-room, two-story log cabin was on the property when a local man donated the land in 1926. It stood silently still. The original wooden church burnt to the ground before I was born; therefore, they built the new church of cement blocks. No steeple stood on top of the church, just a small wooden cross on the front attic roof. Sounds from the “Liberty” bell in front of the church called all to worship. The two-story dorms were endlessly long. They reminded me of old government apartment buildings. Several smaller buildings just as dilapidated as the first, were scattered on the hillside. The home began with only three little orphaned girls. Known as “The Bethany Orphanage” in 1926, in just a few short years, by 1956 the home gained a Board of Trustees and became “Bethany Children’s Home, Inc.” The home was started by three women : Marjorie Burt and Laura Wendland, missionaries from the Free Methodist Mission in Oakdale, Kentucky, and Lina Miller (from the Chicago Evangelistic Institute class of 1924, Miss Burt’s Alma Mater, who resigned her position in the office of a business firm in Dixon, Illinois to join her two friends). Mildred Golden joined the three women the next year in 1927. With love for the children, their mission began in the bottom land of Holly Creek with nothing but a dream, a prayer, and a miracle.

I visited the home as a child and my Great-great-aunt Mildred was the first to greet us. Great-grandma Gladys was waiting anxiously in the background. I never fully appreciated the sisters. As any child would, I only saw them as old. Born in 1898 and 1900, they wore the dress of spinsters. Their gray hair projected a crown of righteousness. Thick glasses kept secret the direction of dissenting looks. When Aunt Mildred welcomed us, her voice was not a loud voice, yet she commanded attention. Great-grandma Gladys, being the elder, had a quieter nature about her, yet she never went unheard.

Aunt Mildred had an abundance of spirited energy. Always working, she expected an equivalent effort from others as well. She gave orders with an air of sternness, apparent even when she smiled. A well-deserved air of authority emanated from Aunt Mildred. The children knew, in her devoted manner, she loved them deeply. Somehow, through her gruff exterior, she obviously loved her stature in life. Called to the mission field by God, she originally set her sights on India. Aunt Mildred graduated from Asbury University in 1925, and subsequently began nurse’s training at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. Through a series of events, she left Ohio and arrived at Bethany on March 29, 1927, the year after its conception. There she stayed; a towering rock that helped build Bethany Children’s Home. Nearly sixty years later, her declining health forced her to move in with my grandparents in 1983, just before her death in 1986. Her primary position was a school teacher and nurse. She became the first clerk at the Bethany Post Office on July 28, 1928; Acting Postmaster in 1950; and Postmaster, April 19, 1951, maintaining that position until May 31, 1970. During her nearly sixty years at the orphanage, as a pioneer nurse she delivered 267 babies without a doctor being on the case at the time of delivery. Aunt Mildred never married. The orphanage became her mission…and her family.

Quite a bit shorter than her younger sister, Great-grandma Gladys walked with a limp, crippled from polio as a child. Deep down inside this quiet spirit lay a gentle sense of humor. During evening assembly, great-grandma acted out one of her many readings. They were always funny, and some were quite ornery for a conservative great-grandmother. I enjoyed her peaceful demeanor, but being an inquisitive child, I eventually ran off to find some adventure of my own.

In the dining hall, everyone ate on long tables with a staff member on the end of each. That was quite an experience. They always expected proper manners from the children. The food was home-grown, and the milk was fresh from the cow. I didn’t care for the vegetables, but I always begged for more fresh, raw milk. The flavor was sweet and strong, a very different flavor from the city, store-bought milk. Great-grandma packed a jug for our trip home, just for me. My most memorable time came on a walk across the road to the farm which supplied most of the food and milk for the orphanage. Being from the city, I was unaware of the shock I would receive when I unconsciously grasped the electric fence to aid my hike up the hill. While I was listening to the bellowing cows, and the yellow-bellied sapsucker in the Forrest, I suddenly found my backside in the middle of the dirt road! While the laughter flowed easily from the children, aside from my embarrassment, I sensed an air of contentment.

Great-grandma spent most of her days running the used clothing store. An old tin building, it was more of a shack that reeked with the aroma of moth balls. All the clothes at the home were donated by outsiders. The staff rationed the children out what they needed, and the children could buy extras with money they earned from chores. My mother gave us spending money to buy items in the store, not because we needed any clothes, but as a means to help support the children’s home. Great-grandma always smiled and patted our heads, as older people do, when we gave her the money for our purchase.

Through her peaceful spirit, given to her by God himself, it was apparent Great-grandma’s life had not been easy. She was young when she married. While pregnant with her second child, my great-grandfather left. No one ever saw him again, except in the features of the two children he left behind. After living at Bethany for the school year of 1927, she returned to her parents home in East Liverpool, Ohio, in March of 1928, to raise my grandmother and her brother. During that first winter in Bethany, it was not unusual for her and the two kids to find streaks of snow across the bed clothing in the morning, after a night of snow that had blown through the cracks in the walls of the side room that had been added to the store where they lived. During her years in Ohio, Great-grandma visited the orphanage often, and in 1939 she returned to Bethany to take care of the Home Girls and was in charge of the used clothing store until her death in 1977, thirty-eight years later. Great-Grandma never remarried, finding contentment in her position at Bethany and the many children she cared for. My Grandma had such fond memories of Bethany from her childhood, she actually sent my dad and his two siblings to live with Great-Grandma Gladys and Great-Aunt Mildred to attend school for three years in the late 40’s, giving three generations to have lived in the bottom land by Holly Creek.

Unwanted children…that’s what they called them. I never thought of my newfound friends in that regard. We played on the large iron swings, and ran through the fields just the same as my friends at home. The children were loved and well adjusted, a far cry from the horror stories about orphanages in the media today. I remember stories of the mountaineers leaving children to the door of the orphanage during the night, especially during the depression years. They had no means of feeding their families, yet loved their children and wanted for them a better life. At the orphanage, instead of a mountain shack, they were placed under a roof with heat on their feet. The children were fed, schooled, and definitely loved.

I have not returned to the tranquil valley in the Appalachians since the sisters passed away. Often, I consider taking my own children to the place which holds a few very dear memories for me. They need to experience the natural tranquility of the bottom land near Holly Creek, to experience the joy of giving love to those who have so much to give back. I cannot give this priceless heritage to my children for the Bethany Children’s Home we knew no longer exists. Government red tape forced the orphanage to close in the 1980’s. The home then became a private Christian school in 1986, leaving the mountaineers to fend for themselves or depend on government handouts. My children will see the orphanage only through my eyes when I reminisce on my own experience.

I often wonder, since Great-grandma is gone, since Aunt Mildred is gone, and since the home where so much love abounded is gone, who will take care of the orphans?

 

My Daddy, Great-Aunt Mildred Golden, Great-Grandma Gladys Golden-Frantz, and Little Me! Visiting @ Bethany Children’s Home.

 

My Mom, siblings, and Great-Grandma Golden-Frantz…and of course, Babette our Poodle!

 

Mom with my siblings visiting Bethany.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Loneliness

Job’s wife. Not a lot is known about her that is not negative. We know the end of the story. Of course, Job was right. His wife was wrong. But was she?

Job 19:19 says, “All my close friends abhor me, and those whom I loved have turned against me.”

Walk in peace...

Loneliness is all too common, even in urban locations with dense populations. Mark Twain called New York City “a splendid desert—a domed and steepled solitude, where the stranger is lonely in the midst of a million of his race.” Psychoanalysts have discovered links between loneliness and physical, as well as emotional, health problems. We’ve all heard the phrase “lonely in a crowd”. In the late ’50s, Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, a Jewish psychiatrist, who had come to the United States from Germany to escape Hitler, was known for insisting that no patient was too sick to be healed through trust and intimacy. Loneliness, she said, is the want of intimacy. She then helped pave the way for Psychoanalysts to become Psychobiologists, taking a hard look at the physical effects of the psyche. Since the ’50s, profound discoveries have been made linking our emotional state to health issues such as obesity, arthritis, heart issues, diabetes, hypertension, etc. There has been an abundance of studies showing married people live longer than single people. Suicide rates are highest among lonely people. Sounds depressing just talking about where loneliness leads! But, in Psalm 68:5-6, God’s word says, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families…”

Families. What if the family is no more? The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. What better way to accomplish his means than by way of the family? As soon as intimacy fades, when the marriage crumbles, before the divorce, loneliness has already infected its subjects. We sleep in the same bed, we ride in the same vehicle, we attend the same baseball game for little junior. Yet, we are strangers. We are together alone. Hopeless. Ambitions and dreams…lost. Even God seems but a distant memory. Our survival mode kicks in. The human psyche screams for escape from our prison of loneliness. In desperation, we turn to vice instead of relationship, for the relationships we have known are void of intimacy. Like empty barrels rolling down a steep hill. We turn in circles, rolling faster and faster, only to break in splinters when we reach the bottom. We take the broken barrel, and with the splintered pieces, we build walls, barriers, dams. We associate intimacy with vulnerability…pain. Divorce and death are but the same. The ripping apart of two souls. Marriage makes two become one. Sound biblical? I’m not talking physical. A prostitute can be one physically, but not intimately. To be vulnerable enough to become one with another equates to intimacy. When intimacy is shattered, families disintegrate, societies fall.

What great loss to bear. Right along with Job, his wife lost her home, her knickknacks, her children, her station in society, even her friends. Her cry for Job to “curse God and die” seeps from the depths of a shattered life. In her deep despair, she needed answers, she needed strength, she needed to be rescued. She could not see past her great pain. I may be wrong, but have my suspicions that she was a good person, in spite of her negativity born from deep pain. Have we not all said things in the midst of battle that later turned into regret? Are we any less guilty of turning a deaf ear to the Lord when in the midst of our own deep pain? Yes, there have been times when I have found myself on my bathroom floor in a fetal position internally screaming, “Why Lord, Why?”

And then came Job. Her strength. Her rock. Intimacy? We can guess that through the pain and disagreements, they remained a marital one. The story does not indulge on Job’s wife’s character, not even giving her a name. But in the end, she lives. In the end, she is doubly blessed at Job’s side. Some stories have a greater level of inspiration than meets the eye.

Where is hope? Where is God? Questions asked of Job. When everything is lost, who or what fills the hole? Do we follow our friends, just to avoid loneliness? Do we blame-shift, just to hang on to our pride? What do we do with our pain? Yes, Job was right. We will eventually find our way to the other side of our pain. Even after broken relationships, we will pick up the pieces and go on, pushing through the consequences. But the choice to fill the deep holes in our soul comes only through a God filled heart. Choosing the eternal over the temporary. Job knew God was his source of life, and death. He knew we humans do not have the capability to see the whole picture, the future, or the eternal. Society does not have answers, only assumptions. But, trusting our existence to another entity is creating vulnerability. Do we dare to be intimate? Even with our creator? Do we have a choice? Of course. We can choose to be lonely…or choose to step into the intimacy of God’s love.

Job’s family had problems, but he stood faithful. Job’s wife had doubts, but Job not only stayed faithful to God, he stayed faithful to her. He did not cast her off like most would have when she only had the strength to curse. He stood faithful. In the midst of her pain, even though she succumbed to cursing Job…and God, she did not leave, but stayed by Job’s side. She chose the faithful.

Though we question, though we doubt, God has the same (yet perfect) character as Job. He does not cast us off when we lash out through our pain. He stays faithful to us. He loves us when we behave badly, for he sees our pain. He knows the other side. Through His faithfulness, blessings flow. The “Job” people are the ones who keep families together. The rocks who build. They are the rocks we trust with our intimacy, because of their intimacy with God. And when we do not have a “Job” in our life? God sent Jesus. His redemptive Holy Spirit will gather you to Him.

Intimacy. Disintegrates. Loneliness.

Isaiah 43.18

Resources:

http://www.biblegateway.com/

www.newrepublic.com/article/113176/science-loneliness-how-isolation-can-kill-you

http://nymag.com/news/features/52450/index1.html

https://www.google.com/

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After Divorce…A New Drama Begins…

Continued from my very first post, here: Divorce…Necessary Drama??

So…after the divorce…The parents move on. The kids adjust. Everyone establishes a new life full of peace, without the fighting and drama from their former marriage. We all blissfully co-exist…

Oh, if only this scenario were true. In reality, the lonely parents try to find new love with guarded hearts, now full of baggage. The kids build walls to guard against further relational hurt. Friendships shift into his or hers, or not at all. Family members pick sides. A new drama begins.

When marriages crumble, the Trinity is severed. Our God-reflection is shattered. The culture of our world is forever marred. Future generations walk a broken path. Consequences follow us the rest of our lives.

Children look at the family unit as a reflection of the God-head, the Trinity (see Eph. 5:22-33):

God… the Father

Jesus… the marriage

The Holy Spirit… the family unit (the children)

In divorce, no matter what the cause, when the family is split the Spirit is severed. The God-head correlation is distorted. Their security in the unity they once trusted has disappeared. The consequence is a warped view of what constitutes real love. Children lose sight of God’s love for them when the love of the family grows cold. They wonder how God can love them when the example of the God-head before them has split into two households.

Emotionally, everyone, especially children, will experience the same stages as in mourning of death. Bitterness sets in and their lives become self-destructive. Children see the broken trust between their parents and that brokenness is transferred to their own hearts. Children of divorce are more likely to experience divorce themselves. They do not have true commitment modeled before them. It is easier to walk away from their own marriages when they experienced their parents walk away from their marriages…and they feel their parents walked away from them.

After the separation, the children face the adjustments of an empty house and/or a new home. Babysitters and latch-key kids replace the constant of a nurturing parent. Children long for the connection of their missing parent. Resentment sets in for the parent most blamed. Some will blame the custodial parent; feeling like the custodial parent pushed out or ran off the other parent. Or, some will blame the non-custodial parent; with feelings of desertion, rejection, and failure. Most of the time, the children blame themselves. The reality of a separated family is indescribable.

The authority structure is shifted causing the children to lose respect for anyone who attempts to lead, whether it is parent, teacher, or government. Discipline becomes either non-existent or rejected. Studies show once well-adjusted children (and especially teens) become unruly, disrespectful, and bitter. Most of the damage from the parent’s divorce is neglected, ignored, or stifled, thereby carried into their own subsequent marriages. The experts say the Millennial Generation has chosen to cohabitation rather than to marry. Unfortunately, this arrangement brings up another host of dysfunction.

At the first separation, the parents (especially the mother) are so consumed with surviving; they do not recognize the hurt inflicted on the children. Each spouse believes the children will “believe” their side. After all, if the parent does not like someone, naturally, their children will not like them either…right? Except in this case…the other person happens to be the other parent. No bond is greater than the parent bond…with both parents, no matter how bad the parent. Have you ever sat on half a toilet? The result has the same correlation in the life of a child of divorce. They feel nothing works right and every time they try to succeed, they end up with a mess all over the floor. Since the trust has been severed with the parents, they run to the closest “janitor” to help clean up their family mess. Unfortunately, the people the children seek help from are usually their friends who are going through the same. They gather advice from wounded healers, driving the bitterness deeper while learning to put on masks of false strength.

Is there hope? Is there help? Family and friends tend to pick sides, without seeking unity. Most in the church are too busy condemning the break-up to unconditionally love, forgive, and restore the rejected or the wayward. Where does a hurting person turn? We look to the beginning. Would not the One who created mankind know what is best for mankind? Don’t look at the picture mankind has created of the Godhead…look at who the Godhead really is. Search Him out for yourself.

My biggest goal in writing this blog is to help hurting people. Sometimes, we have to see the darkness on the other side of the door to keep us from opening it and walking through. I have been on both sides. No matter which side of divorce you are sitting, please realize; the side that has the greenest grass is the side in which you cultivate, fertilize, and water. Start watering with the Word. Not the word of religiosity, but the Word of God’s infinite love. Are you seeking revenge for the person who wounded or deserted you? Trust me; your actions will only backfire. Let it go…out of your heart. Leave the revenge, judgments, and the other person to God. Your peace will only come when the truth of God’s love fills your heart.

You do not have to get cleaned up to take a bath. Neither do you have to be religiously perfect before you can experience God’s love. Realize God loves the person, while hating the sin. Pride, bitterness, and revenge only destroy you, not the other person. Seek forgiveness for your partThen extend forgiveness to those who sought to destroy you. Repentance, forgiveness, and restoration are for anyone who trusts in the Lord. Rest in God’s love. God created you. God accepts you. God can turn your ashes into beauty!

 Isaiah 61.3

Isaiah 61

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Divorce…Necessary Drama??

The crumbling of mankind…

Where does it start? With one word. With one lie. With one man. Adam. Where does it end? With one word. With one truth. With one man. You.

Society’s breakdown? The family… Like the frog in the pot of boiling water dying one degree at a time, one lie at a time. Then, one day, the steam is so thick that reality is completely distorted. Finally, we wake up to find ourselves immersed in dysfunction.

mt-olivet-cemetery

These are just my rambling thoughts on divorce. Some of my writing are my observations from the many divorces around me, but most are from my own experience. You may or may not have similar experiences. But, we can all glean from other’s mistakes in some form or fashion. I only wish I knew then what I know now. If you’re on the road to divorce, have you considered where you will be in your old age? Have you talked to the aged who’ve been there?

We live in a transient world. Not just physically, but socially, philosophically, and emotionally. As I am in the final laps of life, I have seen divorce destroy families, friends, and society. I’ve been there. Nothing hurts more than the death of a dream, the death of a unit. The ONLY thing divorce can be blamed on is selfish pride from both parties. Our society is set on blame-shifting, which comes from the pride of never being wrong. So, it becomes his/her fault. Personal responsibility is taboo, and the cycle of destruction continues.

Ecclesiastes 4.9

The divorce rate in America is over 50%, with the church not far behind depending on what statistic you look at. The media proves to be pro-divorce and anti-family. We have lost the generations who modeled stability. If ‘everybody’ is doing it, the grass must be better on the other side, right? The reality is; we only trade one problematic life for another. What really happens to our lives after divorce? Is not the divorce supposed to take us out of our tumultuous situation into single bliss? Will not the kids be better off without mom and dad fighting all the time? What about commitment? What kind of example are the kids following? These questions and so many more receive varied responses depending on which side of divorce you stand, pre or post.

Long before the marriage ends, emotional separation begins before the first one moves out or the papers are filed. I love the frog in the boiling water description. That frog could have croaked for help to get out of the pan and into the pond long before the water boiled. Was it ignorance? Maybe. Its own comfort? Possibly. A wise man (Solomon) once said, Folly brings joy to one who has no sense, but whoever has understanding keeps a straight course. Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. Pride keeps us (especially men) from seeking counsel, asking for help, or even admitting the marriage is less than perfect. So we stay in our rut of dysfunction, until the pot boils dry. Marriages can be saved. God really can turn your ashes into beauty (Isaiah 61). We need to set aside our pride and learn the art of forgiveness.

Unrealistic expectations are often the cause of many a conflict. Frustration creeps in when someone does not live up to your desires and wants. In their quest to satisfy unrealistic desires, women tend to turn to soap-operas and men tend to turn to pornography. Women feed the emotion while men feed the physical. Women evolve their world around her kids and men evolve their world around his work. Both live in false reality.

Typically women expect their husband to be their “everything”. God did not create any man to be their sources for wholeness (see Isaiah 54). Women depend on men to be their provider (or at least a co-provider), their protector, best friend, etc. Men are expected to be a warrior as well as an empathetic confidant. Men are expected to be a conqueror as well as provide the emotional fulfillment of a fluffy girlfriend. Bitterness creeps in when the girl realizes their man was not created for both roles and is not able to fulfill their every need. After the honeymoon when she wakes up to find he is not Prince Charming, her resentment begins. Respect is quickly lost. The lack of respect for men in our society is the root of the “man-bashing” mentality. If only women would realize that God is their only source for wholeness and the only one who can fill their desires, then they will have the freedom to release their husbands of unrealistic responsibilities and appreciate him for the person which he was created.

God’s path teaches husbands to love their wives and women to respect their husbands. Scripture has several examples, as in Ephesians 5:33, Paul points out, “Each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Wouldn’t it be easier the other way around? After all, men do not love naturally, they only want to conquer. And, women do not respect naturally, they only want to control.

In our society, the Women’s Liberation movement exposed the sin-nature that causes women to seek to control man and causes men to avoid women. No matter how you feel about “submission” and “head of the house” you must admit we were all created for individual purposes. Not just in marriage, but in work, in church, in community, etc. We all function best when we are doing what comes naturally. When envy creeps in, we stop being satisfied with the station we are in and seek to overtake those in our path. This overtaking has been going on since the garden. Just like a church, a business, or a government will not function without a hierarchy, or what we call “the pecking order”, neither will a family function properly without order. When an establishment does not have clear lines for each position, they only have chaos. The same goes for a church, a sports team, and especially the family. The problems begin when one or both cross the line of unity and one or both set out to control the other. Sin makes everyone want to be in control…not only of their own lives, but also the lives of the ones around them. Love makes everyone want the best for the other person or the family. No matter what the station (family, work place, sports team, etc.) submission is fought and lost when the one in authority demeans and controls the counterpart. No wife willingly respects and submits to a controlling husband…and no husband loves a controlling wife. When someone tries to control another, respect is lost on both sides. When respect is lost, so is love.

For men, the same is also true when they expect their wife to completely fulfill their desires. After the honeymoon, when he wakes up in the morning to find she is not the woman on the Vanity Fair magazine cover, his disgust begins. Typically, men expect their wives to physically remain the same as the day they met, not accepting the decay of the human body. Men are generally creatures of sight, not emotion. Countless marriages are lost to mid-life crisis and skinny girlfriends twenty years younger; indicative of a shallow society stamped by our entertainment industry. The porn industry is rampant due to men searching to fill needs that only God can fill. The saying, “Looking for love in all the wrong places” is ever so true. So long as men have perfectly formed, airbrushed, young women before them on TV, internet, etc., they will never be satisfied with their imperfect, flawed, and aging wife. These images overflow into the bedroom. She will never feel acceptable to her husband, which then flows over into all other relationships. She begins to see herself as inferior and unworthy, which in turn, causes the husband to lose interest and find satisfaction elsewhere. (More on the pain of porn: here.) Porn is not the only distraction or addiction to a man. Often times it is work, or fast cars, or sports, etc., or car salesmen get rich money-making schemes.

Bitterness and anger sets in when he begins to view his wife as a liability rather than an asset. He feels resentment when his paycheck is used for the family, when his time is engulfed in the family, and when he is faced with the everyday responsibility of family tasks. God says in Genesis 2:24, and Jesus repeats the same in Matthew 19:5“A man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” And also, Jesus states in Matthew 5:28“But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” So, if a man treats his wife as if he is looking in a mirror, as he would want to be treated, would he not want to leave all others and have eyes for her only? A husband is not married in the way God intended unless he is united as one with his wife. Anything less is only a room-mate. Paul states in Ephesians 5:32“This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” And in verse 25, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Now if Marriage is a correlation between Christ and the Church, should the husband feel comfortable dabbling in addictions outside the marriage by placing value on others above his wife? (This pretty much sums up my experience. I not only had to deal with not measuring up to his unrealistic standards, I had to deal with knowing the marital love and unity) would never exist.

So, how does our modern society handle marriages that have disintegrated? We divorce. After all, a no-fault divorce is much easier than being vulnerable enough to work through hard issues, admit faults, and rebuild on better ground. Pride refuses to let couples be vulnerable to each other. Not only out of fear of being hurt, but no one wants to find that they may actually be wrong. The fault is always the other person, right? Everyone is a victim. No one is the villain. Even when one spouse refuses counsel, the other is still blamed. Lies begin. Lives are destroyed.

Who wins? No one.

We find ourselves battered and torn apart.

Alone.

 

Continued … A new drama then begins…

6254_name_Malachi_clipart

The words of Malachi 2:13-16:

“And this again you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor at your hand. You ask, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness to the covenant between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Has not the one God made and sustained for us the spirit of life? And what does he desire? Godly offspring. So take heed to yourselves, and let none be faithless to the wife of his youth. “For I hate divorce, says the Lord the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless.”

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