Family

It seems appropriate on Thanksgiving to say what I know about family. I think it’s possible there’s a myth of the perfect family we all think someone else has. Nobody farts at the table, brings less food than they should, or cusses in front of the children. The men do the dishes instead of playing or watching football, or the women do them without complaining, or they do them together and then all play football. I do not believe this family exists. Families can be “cussed,” as my beloved Pastor Yaeger used to say. That would be cuss-ed, not spoken ill of. So what do we do about that?

I’ve seen some folks turn their backs on each other. Now, I’m not saying there isn’t a place for that. If you’ve explained to your relative, whom you did not get to pick, that their words or behavior are causing you a problem, let’s say at least three times, and the response is something like, “Can’t help it. That’s just how I am,” a little back-turning may be instructive. That’s assuming, of course, that in your heart of hearts, you are willing to forgive should they repent. See, there’s this stuff in the Book that says if we don’t forgive, God will behave in the same manner. Gives you pause, doesn’t it?

When the family gathers, like today, if the warring parties can put their differences on the back burner enough to acknowledge each other’s presence, that’s pretty good. At least it cuts the other family members a break. We just won’t sit you next to each other, being the considerate folks we are.

However, there are those, who shall remain nameless, who not only refuse to repent, but traipse blithely on dropping bombs on others just to show who’s boss. The outcome being that someone refuses to see someone else. Great, now what? Well, pilgrim, you gonna be having Thanksgiving all over the place. Now isn’t that an Irish way of dealing with it? I say that because the Irish believe you are never lost, you are just enjoying new vistas. These resilient people find a way. So, find a way. Divvy up the fam to various houses, or fly from one to another. That’s grace, right?

Just remember one thing. There is something about blood relation that God planned into us. It’s like our DNA calls back and forth, or something. That relative that drives you nuts is going to be in trouble one day, if not now, then later. When s/he is, all this hoopde goes out the window, and the family rallies round. So, if you can, why not do it now? Save a lot of stomach knots. Just sayin’.

 

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Adults Abused as Children

For about ten years, my husband, the marriage and family therapist, and I led Stepping Stones, a support group for adults abused as children. It was peculiar in that we didn’t sit around commiserating, but studied Scripture on how to climb out of that pit together. The topics are:

  • Face the Problem
  • Assess the Damage and Make the Commitment to Recover
  • Correct Your View of God
  • Set Healthy Boundaries
  • Improve Your Self-Image
  • Overcome Fear
  • Learn to Control Anger and Depression
  • Increase Your Capacity to Trust
  • Deal With Sexual Issues
  • Give and Accept Forgiveness
  • Determine Whether to Confront Your Abuser
  • Life Beyond Survival

So, we’re thinking about putting the material online for people who don’t live near us to use to recover. Anybody out there interested in something like this? If so, what do you think would be a fair price? If you’re out there feeling alone with your secret, I’m talking to you, and praying for you.

You Only Get One Life

When I was  young, the manipulation of some of the adults around me caused me to decide that once they didn’t have control anymore I would make my choices, and I’d make them count. In that thought process somewhere came the knowledge that there is some finite number of choices in each life. As I began to make them, I realized that each choice narrowed the choices that followed it, for the most part, unless I wanted to start completely over. Once or twice I did. But for the most part, the choices were set in concrete. Life, unlike television, has very little channel changing.

So what? So, live. Start right off. The earlier you start, the more choices you get. Don’t wait for someone to come along with the answers. The only place you’ll find answers is the Bible, or your holy book of choice, but even there  you have to apply them to your life. Even people, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, etc. don’t have the answers for YOUR life. They may have advice, but you have the choice.

You  strike out and start a course. Find out what you’re good at, what you enjoy, who you were meant to come alongside, etc. If you head a direction that doesn’t fit, learn from it. Make a course correction. But, for cryin’ out loud, don’t just sit there. Or worse, let the winds blow you here and there, and never set a course at all.

Early on, you  make choices about the meaning of life. Why are you here? What are you here for? What’s your value? These are the ones that narrow your following choices. For example, if I believe there’s no god, I  and my world got here by chance, then I don’t need to obey much of anything. What’s the point? When I make a choice that crosses someone else’s choice, though, the law of the land will narrow my future choices.  On the other hand, if I believe there’s a god, how that affects my choices is going to have a lot to do with whether that God is involved in people’s lives, in fact loves us, or whether he spun things off and went off to do his own thing, or maybe doesn’t really care for us and gets a kick out of the times we go to war, hurt each other, or suffer in other ways.

For me, making my choices count meant to make the world better somehow. I tried the welfare department first. I found it doesn’t make the world better. It maintains the status quo. I tried public relations, helping people put their best foot forward. That was a step better than the welfare department, but just barely. When I came to teaching, which was one of those times I completely started over, I found a place to make the world better. At least on most days.

A choice that’s set in concrete is the one to become a parent. Once you’re pregnant, you’re going to deliver, unless you kill your kid. That choice changes life, don’t let anyone fool you. We all know there are parents, and there are parents. I’ve found that my  definition of love guides my parenting. If love is making sure my kids get everything I wanted but didn’t get, parenting looks one way. If love is grace tempered with truth and truth tempered with grace, then parenting looks completely different. If love is hovering over a child to prevent the natural falls of life and their consequences, parenting looks one way. If love is slowly opening one’s hand over the years, letting children learn from consequences, until they can fly on their own, and have been guided to consider their own choices, parenting is a whole different ballgame.

Jesus told a story about two guys building houses. One put his back into it. He dug down to bedrock and put a firm foundation under his house. The other wasn’t thinking about what might happen next, he chose to build his house in the sand where he stood. When storms came, the house on bedrock stood. The house in the sand was obliterated. His story is a picture of life. He was saying we should do our homework, especially about spiritual matters, like whether He is God. If He’s God, the bedrock, do I build my life on Him? That’s the most crucial choice we’ll ever make. And it’s best if we make it before the storms start.

If you Thought You might Die on Tuesday

So last week, that was me. I was headed to a heart catheterization. The doc, practicing full disclosure, said “There is a 1 in 1,000 chance you’ll die during this procedure.” Now, If I’d been really fast-thinking, I’d have asked, “So, what number are you on now?” Darn it, I’ll just have to tell him next time I see him. That one was too good to miss.

It’s interesting the things I thought about. I only wanted to be with my family, particularly the ol’ darlin’ I’ve been married to for 47 years. We watched Steel Magnolias together because it’s my favorite movie, and you don’t really have time to run to Broadway for a play. We went out to Knights Ferry, planning to walk across the covered bridge, but got too hungry. We ended up eating rich pasta in Oakdale. That put us on a discussion of what made Daniel so unusual, Jim preached on him that morning.

I found myself looking around my home enjoying the beautiful. I had thought about a beach run, but there again, time was an issue. And I thought about getting to meet Jesus before my best friend, who said I better not go anywhere without her. It was just about a year ago that she and I toured Ireland together – and I will never forget it! But even Ireland won’t match climbing into Jesus’ lap and just listening to Him talk with my own ears.

I didn’t talk about dying a whole lot. The ol’ Darlin’ couldn’t stand it, and I figured with the odds being in my favor, why bother. But I did write out everything he’d need to know and letters to each person in my fam, just in case. Gosh, better shred those letters, who knows what might change by the time I really do see the light.

I really did not like being the cause of so much concern and so many tears, but I have learned something from it.

And now, each day I joy away at mundane tasks, like feeding the chickens and picking up their eggs,  and I pay close attention to the wonderful in life. Like this morning I saw two little girls playing rochambeau in the cafe where we ate breakfast. The lesson here is, none of us really knows whether we’ll be alive on Tuesday. So, love your God, your fam, and joy the crud out of life.

p.s. My heart is healthy. I don’t know what I’m going to do if I make it to 83. My great grandmother did, and she had no teeth. You had to turn your head sideways to kiss her. I refuse. The ol’ darlin’ and I had a talk about that this morning. He said, “Maybe you’ll get hit by a car just in time.” I said, “Yeah, or stuck in a room full of poison air.” He said, “Some Japanese fishermen got hit by a cow dropped out of a Russian plane.” I think we have this all figured out.

Birthdays

Yes, I’m coming to a birthday. It seems like a person ought to feel like they know more every year. And yet, sometimes I think I don’t know anything about anything. There must be a balance here somewhere. Like, I know that you should dress nicely when you go out in public. Except that’s not a given. Just take a stroll around Walmart. How about that you should mow your lawn about once a week in the summer. That’s not a given either. All I have to do is walk around the corner and take a look at that house  across from the bus stop. If my mower worked, I’d go mow it for them. Thank God for grandsons. There must be something. I know that the sun comes up in the east and goes down in the west. Ha! Got one! That proves you can count on God. But wait, what about the Holocaust and people who die too young and … I know another thing. God gets a bad rap. He knows everything and can change whatever He wants, so we point fingers at him when something goes wrong on Earth. I’m glad He’s God and I’m not. Not just because I don’t want fingers pointing at me. In spite of knowing we would turn our backs on him in an effort to be Him. In spite of knowing that when He sent His own Son to communicate His love to us we would crucify Him. In spite of knowing all the black-hearted, mean-spirited, disgusting things we would pull, He is love, and He loves us. He gives us freewill because He is love. There can’t be love without free will. So here we are, blaming Him for what we do ourselves. I know that. Maybe I do know more every year, just not everything. Thank goodness.