Wise Words from A Son of Divorce

Both of Erick’s parents were married and divorced from multiple partners. When he and I married, he was marrying for the first time at age 30. He asked that I never mention the possibility of divorce. I so wish I could say I honored that, but being my old sinful self, lacking in deeply needed control at the ripe old age of 25 when our journey together began, I admit I have mentioned the words he most hoped to never hear again. Of course I readily apologized after anger ceased on the few occasions that I rose up in hostility and hurled hurt at one so kind and true with regret I still carry upon every remembrance…

I hope it’s clear to all who read my posts, both facebook and blog, that this is not about me. If, with my failures and the grace that relieves me and continues to guide me toward Christ’s ways and away from my sinful inclinations, can spare someone else from making the same errors, then so be it that my sin be laid bare. It’s no secret, my failures are grave and many.

Thankfully, though, I’ve learned some things worth sharing. I’ve learned there are things Christian folks should never utter. We shouldn’t invite, encourage, or even joke about breaking fellowship. It’s not okay, especially when children are listening. Inviting others to depart sheds light on lack of love and care. It’s that simple; when it was me saying what my dear husband asked me not to ever say and it’s that simple when anyone else says it.

I’ve grieved this past year and continue to as I see and hear of divisions deepening and widening as a result of love being secondary to other agendas. Scripture could not be more clear than what it is about love among Christ followers.

Churches and schools that bear the name of Christ carry a heavy responsibility, unparalleled by any other entity. I cringe to think of the devastation that is done to young minds and hearts when the message of love is compromised. Again, my own life bears this weight of guilt in the past and I never want to add to it by what I do and say now. I know better. For all of us who do, now is time to speak up, stand up, and call on others to minister grace and heal instead of inflict wounds. Our words matter.

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For His Name’s Sake

First of all, I’m rising from rest to write what is pressing to be shared. I woke before the sun not feeling well and have battled this bug all day, but far more troubling than this physical distress is a troubled heart. I make no apologies for the journey I’m on or the many grapplings I readily share as I see it all as gift. I’m pressing for truth, to know what matters most in spite of the hurt it may render. Quite a long journey already at my forty-six year mark reminds me the quest for truth began 40 years ago in a young and tender place of questioning.

 

Interestingly enough, I’m teaching a psychology of religion class this semester as I’ve done in the past but using different texts and coming to it further along on my journey than before. We are examining the writings of Freud and C.S. Lewis. Lewis honestly admitted his reticence to believe in a Sovereign God because of what it would cost him, yet the truth refused to be denied and surrender brought not only relief, but surprising joy to him as well. The Lord is gracious like that, always giving what is best when sought.

 

I never wandered into the field of atheism as Lewis did, but surely spent much time in anguish over the condition of my own soul. Though “saved” I was according to the doctrine of the church I attended, the feeling of conviction of sin always brought again a question and sense of impending doom. “Am I safe?” This question would wake me in the night and terror engulf. I would pray yet find only further turmoil in my mind. Scripture proved helpful at times, but others it added to my confusion. What I found in The Book didn’t always square with what came from the pulpit, so I suffered on…

 

These matters of the soul are no doubt life’s most pressing for all whether all realize it or not. No way could I be convinced that there is no universal moral law and that evil and good do not exist. The evidence is overwhelming and individuals far superior in intellect to me have concluded the same.

 

I finally got to a place of so needing clarity that I plunged deeply into scripture looking for answers to my many unanswered questions with something I had never before had. I was willing to find and honor truth regardless of what that truth had to say about me and my soul. I was already completely convinced that Jesus was The Christ of the Cross, The One Righteous, that I put it this way to my husband: “Jesus is worth honoring even if I cannot spend eternity with Him.” What an odd statement that must sound to others, but it was something I had to acknowledge as I determined, still with insecurity about my “salvation” to find resolve in truth regardless of the pronouncement truth might make on my own soul. Another way to say it is this: even if my sins were determined to be unforgivable, I wouldn’t want anyone else to end up in the same condition so truth was worth finding and sharing.

 

See…I’ve been in some very dark places. I feel no better than anyone regardless of what their life is like, what they do, what they believe, etc. Yet, “for His Name’s Sake” truth matters.

 

As silly as this may sound, too, because I was married very young, divorced, then later remarried, and the church rules of which I had been a member no longer extended membership to me and those in my state of “sin.” I couldn’t shake that feeling of being outside, somehow less. Though they said of course I was still “saved,” I couldn’t participate in communion or have membership in the church. (I’ve been married to Erick for almost 22 years and as I write these words the tears threaten and spill as if this wound were fresh.) How can I be heaven-ready and not welcome to the table, not allowed to wash my sister’s feet? I could not reconcile these two messages. I still can’t.

 

I share this not to criticize my dear folks from home nor to cast a negative reflection on them or their ways. I simply share to get to the heart and depth of my journey. So you can believe me when I say I take seriously how my words and beliefs and behaviors come to bear on others. Everyone matters to me, and in a sense, everyone is just another war-battled soul in a fallen world, some struggling more than others, all having great need. Oh how truth matters, for His Name’s Sake.

 

So I struggled and suffered, and dug into scripture and autobiographies written by Christian theologians and people like Corrie Ten Boom. My list is long. The hours in study uncountable. And I continue…

 

What I’ve found is grace beyond measure. I’ve found Jesus loving me through my questions and attending to both my tears and prayers with unparalleled compassion. I’ve gone into His life and ministry through the New Testament Scriptures and found His message startling, convicting, humbling, and restoring. Indeed…I am His. I’ll never get over the gift of His grace, and I’ll never tire of sharing His goodness with others.

 

I also found, though, that He cares very much about what we do and why we do it. Sin really is a big deal. His nail-scarred Hands proof of my sin and yours. The answer to the question, “what did Jesus save us from?” must be addressed. He saved us from our sin. Sin nature remains as long as we have this body of flesh. But we are no longer slaves to sin once freed by His Sacrifice and filled with The Comforter, The Holy Spirit, The Spirit of Truth. I didn’t earn my salvation. By grace through faith alone, He did it all. How could I believe yet He drew me? The dawning of my condition, conviction, was the beginning of faith. His grace, unmerited favor, saves…So we are saved from sin unto good works. So we are saved from and for (there should be a stark difference between the sin from which we are saved and the works we do after.) I guess there are many good works, but I tend to see good works as being those that minister grace and beckon to others to follow Him. There is no better work than living for His Name’s Sake, always pointing others to a grace so amazing; no other can compare.

 

So why hurt over sin? Why concern over celebrations that degrade and dishonor (especially when it claims to do the opposite?) The answer is “for His Name’s Sake.” Either Christ is Lord and we are surrendered to His Lordship, or we are walking our own paths, carving out our own way, declaring our own “truth,” and in so doing, being our own god. This, folks, is what it’s all about. If sin doesn’t break my heart, my heart is not surrendered to Christ. How do I know? Because I know what price He paid on Calvary. He hasn’t forgotten. Neither have I.

 

Someone must continue to honor the greatest love, freeing love, love that does not seek it’s own and does no harm. There is no greater harm than deception. May we seek Him for His Name’s Sake, not our own. I wept this morning asking Him to bring about in me, in us, pure worship. We cannot serve two masters, not even when those two masters are The Lord and ourselves. Just one can be Lord and certainly only He is worthy. So, might we seek to know what matters most to His heart? It’s all right there in His Word. Anything that is not just, merciful, and humble that we do opposes Him. It’s that simple and, for me, sobering. Even in what is required of us, He gave us clear instruction in old and new testaments alike. Micah 6:8 tells us to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. Jesus clarified the greatest of all concerns that we should have: Love The Lord  above all else and love our neighbor as ourselves.

 

What we glorify in our nation disturbs The Holy Spirit that dwells in me. I watch and listen and I remember truth that says our bodies are not our own, bought with a price, precious to The Lord. He died to cleanse and cover us, to protect us, to free us. A great value He placed on our bodies, souls, and lives. Are we His? Do our hearts break over what breaks His? Do we honor purity or do we celebrate the opposite? These are clarifying questions answered by the lives we live. May we answer well for His Name’s Sake.

 

 

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This Fine Line

When I look back honestly over the course of my life and reflect on the changes in my thinking, I’m sometimes overwhelmed by it, sometimes ashamed of where I’ve been, and cautious over what I think and say now as a result of understanding I still have so much more to learn. This process has truly given me caution and for that I’m grateful.

Noah made a comment yesterday about something he saw on television, quite a condemning comment. As he was leaving the room I gently said, “their sin is no greater than mine.” He turned to look at me with confusion. I added, “it’s true” and Erick spoke up and said, “yes, Noah, sin is sin.”

In all our effort to teach right from wrong, we must carefully address the natural inclination in us all to count ourselves a little better than another. This, too, is sin with as much harmful reverberation as any other.

These spiritual matters are rooted in the down and dirty world of the human experience. I realize every single day while raising my son that I battle the very same nature in myself that I’m trying to help him learn to discipline in himself. We are journeying together…

We aren’t drinkers. He knows that. We have a history of alcoholism on both sides of our families so we choose to simply abstain. He has questioned us about others who don’t make that same choice. I’ve been known to honestly say of a dear family member that occasionally does that she is a far better person than I am. I say it because it’s true and I hope it communicates something essential for Noah to learn. I stand by our choice, but I don’t feel superior as a result. I’m not.

Politics is another touchy subject. I’m quite conservative in ALL realms. Erick says he is conservative but I’m on an altogether different level of it than he is, yet some of my dearest friends in all the world are liberal. Not just friends, people who threw me a life raft at a time in my life I would not have survived without their intervention. I have not forgotten and I will not allow political differences to sever relationships. By the way, Jesus didn’t either.

I’m listening. I am listening to all who are offering information and I’m trying to listen through the aid of The Holy Spirit. Caring enough to hear and obey when you know it’s gonna cost you isn’t easy. This past year more than any other I’ve been tested on whether or not I’m seeking to please people and avoid criticism or to please God and grow in grace. Painful…oh how painful, but necessary.

I was thinking this morning how sobering it is when you grow up enough to realize no one is above gross error. No. One. That means we have to seek truth for ourselves. Listen to others? Sure, but not without filtering messages and meanings, and the spirit of both through the sound teaching of Jesus’ life. Jesus’ life…context matters. I hurt in my heart when I see scripture used to accuse and to cast a negative light on someone. That was never Jesus’ intent. Remember the cross? Remember how He forgave those who harmed Him. His love never wavered. He still wanted the best for those who did Him the worst. What an example. How poorly I/we follow. Help us, Lord, to remember that with loving-kindness you drew us and that is your will for us toward others…

Love wishes no harm on others. Love is not puffed up. It seeks not it’s own. It is patient and kind and bears no ill will.

I’m also lifted in encouragement when I know there’s more hurt to come but I don’t shrink back in fear. He’ll walk with me. He promised, and He is faithful. Now, that is something for which to give thanks. That’s fairly new in my faith journey. I thank Him for it.

Back to my liberal friends…I have a beloved friend who visits periodically. She has told me she is not a believer. We’ve had multiple conversations over a period of many years, each of us shedding tears as we worked together to remain united as friends while holding different beliefs. She has lovingly accepted my gifts of books by Christian authors that are dear to me in order to help her better understand my experience, and I’ve assured her my love is steadfast for her whether she embraces my beliefs as her own or not. We’ve gained much ground through honesty and loving patience going both ways.

Might I take her to church with me sometime if she agrees to go? Yes, when I can trust she will be offered the gospel of peace without being shrouded in any political context. Just Jesus. Why? Because that and that alone is what matters most. Without that, we have nothing of peace to offer. If she hears political speech from a pulpit, she will hear nothing else and the trip will be a waste and likely her last. That’s not something I’m willing to have on my conscience.

I will continue, as long as the Lord blesses us to have a home, to open it to those who seek our company, believers and unbelievers. I will offer smiles and hugs and as much gentleness as The Lord will grant me to give. Is this not what He calls us to do?

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Challenges: Even timing is no accident

An unexpected visitor came by my office this morning having no idea what was brewing inside me as I drove in to work this morning. As I listened, my visitor mentioned an encouraging scripture he had recently shared with someone else and I felt the comfort from that same scripture as it applies also to my own struggles.

Facing some uncertainties coming up next month, 2 on the very same day, I had bowed under the weight of it all last night before bed asking The Lord to help me and to keep my thoughts rooted in truth instead of being tossed about by doubts, fears, and even concerns over what others think of me. I shake my head in dismay that that same old issue still surfaces once in a while, the old nagging, “what do they think or say…” I literally named my insecurity in prayer and asked only, “Lord, what You intend, may that be, even in what others think of me.” Comfort is found in truth and nowhere else.

We suffer through trials so that we may learn compassion, gain wisdom, be humble, and grow. All of this so that we may minister to others in their times of need.

Driving in to work I had been thinking of the scripture that speaks of believers and followers of Christ growing up into Christ, being transformed into His image, His likeness, together. We are to help each other along. But we can’t teach what we haven’t learned, thus the hard lessons and the many challenges are for maturing, refining, reconciling.

Aging parents, sickness, parenting a child and an adult child, grand-parenting, friending, teaching, wifing…the commitments and responsibilities seem endless, yet the journey meaningful.

We are taught in counseling classes that we cannot lead others beyond where we have grown.

Maybe all the unexpected challenges are what fosters the deepest growth in faith. Maybe being the ones with histories riddled with mountainous obstacles makes us the ones most able to come alongside in times your eyes find it hard to meet another’s over shame and regret, confusion and hurt too deep to name. Maybe…

For those little ones looking on with apprehension not knowing how to face uncertain days, I’ve learned we have to smile and hug and encourage with the truth of identity determined by a loving Father, not an earthly man. We have to show them the strength faith gives to walk with courage and grace no matter what. No. Matter. What…

These days are numbered along with the hairs on our heads. I must remember that in the coming days, for those I love and for myself. I must lean strongly on the promise of Romans 8:28, “all things work together for good for those who love The Lord and are called according to His purpose.” I used to ask, “how do I know that applies to me?” I know by that deepest of all desires that is ever present in me, to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God; this for myself and for those I hold most dear. May it be so in all circumstances and all will be well where it matters most, in our souls.

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Questions

We dug out some old home movies from Noah’s first three years last night and watched with much laughter and joy. Having had them tucked away all these years, it was quite amusing to Noah. He watched his baby self struggling to learn to crawl, to talk, and cackled as he heard all the sounds he made from his earliest days. What a noisy little guy he was, but happy, bright eyed and busy!

In movie form, I watched and listened to Erick and myself as we interacted with our baby, then our toddler. Noah got to see his sister loving on him, carrying him around, laughing with him and caring warmly for her little brother. He watched as his little arms curled around her neck and looked at her with adoration. How wonderful that those moments are captured and can be revisited…

I especially enjoyed watching Noah as he saw how sweet Erick was with him, how much Erick talked to him before he was able to say a word back. I teased as we watched and said, “that’s the most you’ve ever heard your daddy say!” So precious…

All of this along with so much going on currently has thoughts stirring this morning, questions, still unanswered from long ago filling my mind.

Not all folks bother with unanswered questions. Maybe that’s why so many remain unanswered. Yet, for the sake of those coming after us, might we have a responsibility to seek understanding instead of simply passing on to them that which we failed to resolve?

So I’m back in the question pond this morning, diving deep and swimming around 😉

Psychology. My field of study seeks to answer life’s most complex questions. We seek to understand the mind, behavior, and relationships. Disorder is explored, defined, redefined, and sometimes even no longer deemed disorder at all. That’s troubling!

Every year I find it more important to define mental well-being as opposed to focusing on “disorder” or “abnormal behavior.” The way I see it, abnormal (meaning different from normative) could just as easily signify something favorable as it could signify something unfavorable. After all, normal (meaning commonly practiced) behavior is not optimal. Few live optimally, with high levels of integrity, compassion, and honesty. So maybe normal shouldn’t be the standard or the goal.

I’ve come to loosely define mental and emotional well-being as the ability to experience the full range of human thought and emotion while remaining true to one’s core values, maintaining stable relationships and living up to daily commitments. It is certainly not the absence of suffering (depressed thoughts and feelings, fluctuating moods, grief, struggle, etc.). Suffering is to be dealt with by all as it is a natural response to life challenges.

I’m bothered by all of the labeling and diagnosing “disorders” when truly what is often needed is simply more learning, further development, better skills, not pills. I’m certainly not saying we should have no medications to help when needed, but how we go about determining when it is needed is of great concern. Check the statistics on addiction and you’ll understand why.

Not meaning to be the word police or attitude police, but honestly considering the source of much “disorder” and what I cannot ignore is the level of discord, disharmony, and disrespect that is rampant. It is literally everywhere, and I think it just might be killing us. I know it’s killing relationships and they are central to our purpose and identity.

Some of the kindest most honorable souls I’ve ever known have despaired the most. I go back to the shock of my earliest close loss. Suicide robbed me of kindness embodied in the person of my precious aunt. Her words were kind, her heart compassionate, her life one of service, her home a place of joy for me and my sister. The unanswered question looms…why such an end to such a beautiful life? Was it mental illness? Her mental illness? In my heart of hearts, the answer is no.

When I listen to current news debates of terrorism, I hear some say we cannot defeat an enemy that we have not rightly named. I believe this applies in psychology as well. When we unravel the threads of trouble that leads one to the attention of those in the mental health field, it never ends in the person positioned before us. It is always a thread connecting to many others and we never, ever find the original stitch. From one to another, generation to generation, unanswered questions, unresolved conflicts, unconfessed, unrepentant sin, call it what you wish, the original source is long since gone and with him or her, the answers we seek.

Now…as a person of faith, I know Jesus is the answer to all else unanswered. He is the source of healing and peace. He is our strength and shield. Knowing and speaking this truth, though, I never want it believed that I count those despairing as lacking in faith. I’ve read Job and accounts of King David. Both despaired and languished, along with Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul spoke of being under such great pressure that he despaired of life itself (2 Corinthians). The carefulness with which professing followers of Christ must approach these matters cannot be overstated. Careful, because faith itself, life and death are the issues at hand.

I was told once by a caring friend that because of both my personal experience with suicide being in the family coupled with my 5 years of work in crisis mental health, I am overly sensitive about it. I smile in remembrance. “Yes,” I agreed. My unspoken thought, “as would you be if you walked this same road.” Could I not offer an equal truth, “because of your lack of personal and professional experience with suicide, you are out of touch with the magnitude and reality of it.” I did not say this not wanting to offend. Always, always, the story of my life, not wanting to offend. I’ve come to believe peace seekers and peace makers truly suffer the most.

As I stumbled back through all of this earlier today and at the time of this writing, these words of scripture come and comfort:

Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay saith the Lord.

Romans 12:10-19

I come to this writing exhausted. I close at a place of rest. Only The Good Lord can and will, in His time, make all things new. He will remove the old waste places and there will be streams of water in the desert. He promised heaven, a place of no more tears, no sickness or strife, just JOY and unending peace…Like Jesus, One with The Father. No more division or hurtful words or rebellion; no jealousy, no hidden truth; open, bright, and free.

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I was “that kid.”

After hearing from Noah yesterday afternoon that a former classmate said to him in front of a group of peers, “you are home schooled now because you aren’t smart enough to be at school.” Well, I just about blew a gasket. Oh, every Mama knows the moment, the gut punch from knowing the hurt and for those of us who care about right and wrong we are faced in those moments with the challenge of practicing what we preach, modeling what we teach. We must be angry and sin not. Oh sisters! I’ve got the “be angry” down pat. It’s the “sin not” that I fight!

Disclaimer: My kid (kids) have spoken their own unkind, ugly words. I’ve spoken unkind, ugly words. The goal: To STOP the cycle and live well.

Thankfully, Noah knows the real reasons he is home schooling this year and it has nothing to do with lack of aptitude. However, I’ve pondered, what if that had been true? The anguish upon anguish of one who struggled in that way…Cruel world, huh?

The meanness of kids, it’s not new. Reading from a novel last night, a little girl recounted school days and the difference between schools she attended. One, she said, had typical kid meanness while the other was cruel. There is a difference.

It’s not just kids, though. I remember…

I remember my early years of struggle. Around, oh, age 8, I was in the throws of anxiety, My young body, racked with feelings too intense to process, would do the only thing it could to cope, vomit. I did this frequently. Because of this I often asked the teacher for a restroom break. She tired of my near daily request and decided to halt it. She took a small piece of paper and on it wrote the word, “no.” Handing it back to me she said, “whenever you think to ask to go to the restroom, this is my answer.” Moments later, unable to hold back the nausea, I excused myself to the restroom without permission.

You can imagine this was deemed unacceptable and my parents were called. Daddy demanded I honor the teacher’s rules regardless of my need. In fear I asked, “but what about when I have to throw up?” He replied, “you do it right there in the floor. You had better NOT leave the room.”

The next morning, queasy as usual, I took a piece of gum to school with me, also contraband, but hoped it would ward off my sickness and spare me the shame of what I feared. Not long into the morning with mounting distress, I took out the piece of gum and slipped it into my mouth. Unfortunately, it did not save me. The vomit came forth and right there in front of everyone lay my disgust. Can you imagine the exclaim from others? I wish I could forget.

When yelled at by my teacher, “why did you do that?” My reply, “because my daddy told me to.”

This is a snapshot of being me at age 8. No pity, please. I’m no longer 8. Quite functional and even happy on most days and thrilled to no longer be a child. You see, as an adult, I can choose many things that children are not able to choose. I can choose what I listen to, who I engage, and what I believe. I realize that those beside and all around me suffer the same malady I suffer. I, we, are imperfect, flawed, and always will be. We are far more alike than different. This is something I did not know as a child. I’ve also learned my value is in no way altered by others’ opinions of me. This, my friends, is quite the relief 😉

I remember the dawning even then, the curtain rising and revealing to me, one day at a time, the lack of wisdom of those who were supposed to know better. I lived the lack of care and compassion and understanding that was needed. I forgive. Sure I do, but I don’t forget, nor should I. God gave us the ability to learn from experience. We must remember the learning in order to retain the lesson. The lesson? Care…Live it. Teach it. Encourage it.

As I walk through childhood after childhood with one child and then another (not just my own, mind you, I have loved many a child who isn’t from my own womb) I revisit my own memories noting how little things change from one generation to the next. Sure, we have many influences now that did not exist years ago, but the same old ugly, hateful, mean, and careless is as alive and present as ever. The shape and form change, but the substance remains the same.

I can’t help but question how different it would be if we chose, as adults, to care equally for all. How different would it be if we wanted the same outcome for others’ children as we want for our own. Some do. Many don’t. It’s clear. And it is a problem, a HUGE problem. Teaching your kid, “you are the best!” is not the way to a better world.

It goes back to arrogance and pride. My mama has a funny saying. “Every old crow thinks his little one is the blackest.” Might we realize that the special we see in our own children is seen by others in their children. They ARE all special, just different and the difference is by design. Might we realize we as adults have much to learn from each child as well from one another? My goodness! How did such a divide ever begin?

Could it be that the Good Book is true? There is one who roams about seeking whom he may devour, to kill steal, and destroy. How better to destroy a life than to have one come to believe he is worthless, despicable, pathetic? The question then must be, what role am I playing? Am I one who affirms others? Do I build others up? Do I encourage? Do I foster life and joy or do I demean, discount, devalue?

These are REAL questions that need to be asked by all, regularly, with openness to know the truth of ourselves.

I wonder, every year when I teach about teen suicide, how many wounds it took before the young one could take no more, before he decided all those retorts against him were valid and the world would be a better place without him? Think I’m being dramatic? The statistics ARE dramatic. What are we doing to reach the lost? What are we willing to do? If the answer isn’t “everything I possibly can” then it isn’t enough.

I’m home today with my boy, wondering, wondering how many have decided, like me, that peace and truth matter most, that life is too precious to waste being demeaned. That if I have to give up everything else to know I’ve done all I can to instill in my son that goodness, kindness, and love matter most, I’ll give it up, everything, everything, everything because it matters that much. No life is to be devalued. No throw away people. No hopeless cases. Every life matters. Jesus proved it, and I believe it.

If you’ve taken the time to read this, you have heard my frustration. I have shared bits and pieces of my personal story before. There’s more. So. Much. More. Yet, for it, I have learned to give sincere thanks. I am still far, FAR, from perfect, but I know my struggles have given me insight that I would never have gained apart from them, and this insight lights a fire of care in me for all daily and reminds me how important a life of genuine honesty and care is. If I can bring nothing else to the days I’m granted upon this earth, I can bring a heart that cares and in this world of hurt that is enough.

One more thing…because of all the humiliation in childhood, I am able to stand and speak or write and publish what I believe without wavering because my worth and value is not rooted in the response of my audience. I learned a LONG time ago in a much more vulnerable condition that I can endure rejection, criticism, and harm and these experiences do not and cannot change truth or diminish my value. It was one long, rocky and rugged road that led to this discovery and thus one not easily shaken. May it be so for all those who struggle while young and small that they may be strong and whole and defenders of the weak in days to come…

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Listening…for us Mamas

This mothering, teaching, being a wife and friend requires much careful listening. Listening to hear, to understand, and to connect is effortful. It’s time-consuming. It’s necessary.

When in graduate school, I took a class taught by Dr. Robert Kegan. He stressed to us that those who have learned less cannot relate as those who have learned more on that level, obviously, he argued, because they aren’t there yet. It is, he concluded, incumbent upon those with greater understanding to meet those with less where they are because we’ve been there, we can remember that way of understanding and thinking and making meaning. He did not rate this on a vertical line, but instead on a horizontal line to emphasize a different level of understanding as a developmental issue rather than one of inferiority and superiority. His teaching comes back to me again and again, especially when listening to my young, though thoughtful (meaning one who wrestles with his thoughts), son.

Sometimes the kindest, most honest words I can utter to him is, “I get it.” I can validate his experience and in truth acknowledge I’ve been there. With gentleness and great patience, I’m to offer insights that might help him deepen and further his thinking and understanding. This is NOT easy. When our kids struggle, when we see their lack of understanding, lack of maturity, lack of restraint, we want to fix it NOW. Can’t happen…growth takes time. Remember those long 9 months of waiting for them to just be able to breathe outside the womb? How much more waiting us Mamas and Daddies will learn to do…

I hear my son when he says, “I just want to live OUT. I want to have animals and space. I want to learn to live off the land and to just be…” My reply, “oh Son, I get it.” But in quiet I sit after our long talks, and I hear scripture whisper, “[Jesus] sent the multitudes away, He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, He was there alone.” Relief! I feel it every time I read these words. Alone in a quiet place where prayer is heard and understood exactly as it is offered. No misunderstanding, no deep explanations required. Just an open heart, read with perfect understanding by One who knows and cares…He always gets it completely right.

Jesus took time away, but He came back, always the coming back is necessary. We go away to pray, to rest, to replenish so that we can come back and offer more; more good, more kindness, more patience, more understanding, more relationship, because that is what we are called to do. We are not called to be alone. We are called to walk together, hand in hand, to be encouragers, helpers, healers.

How to teach this? All I can figure out is to live it one moment, one prayer, one day at a time, and always, always, always with great love.

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