Holiday Change-Up!

By Deb DeArmond

“Aren’t you just devastated?” my colleague moaned.

“No, not really. I mean, we will certainly miss them,” I replied. “But they are clear that California is where God is taking them. I want them to be where He wants them to be. It was such a gift to have them here for two years.”

My friend and I were catching up on what we had done over the weekend. I had told her about a dinner last Friday evening, hosted by my hubby and I – a gathering for a few family members in our new home. The purpose of the event was to share a meal and bid farewell to my oldest son and his wife as they prepared to relocate back to the west coast. They were set to leave the next morning.

“Oh, that would just be impossible to think about,” she said, shaking her head. “I couldn’t stand to lose my boys.”

Her boys are in elementary school. I can clearly understand her feelings, even if I don’t share them. But I did at one time…

My boys are all grown up with careers, with families – all adults. It takes some getting used to – that awareness that mom and dad are not the central force in their lives. But we did get used to it and appreciate God’s clarity about the concept of leaving and cleaving. “Train up a child in the way he should go….” the Word says. Most importantly, Mama, remember they are to GO.

With summer winding down and the fall holidays approaching quickly, I want to encourage you to remember that God set them apart to stand with their spouses. That can become an issue and a bone of contention when it comes to holiday celebrations. Here are a couple of tips to make the season far more enjoyable for everyone:

• Communicate early. Make sure you discuss what everyone’s plans or intentions are for celebrating the holiday. Make no assumptions, as it will surely disappoint you and them.

• Be flexible as to what and when and where and how – and you may be surprised with the best day ever! Traditions are great, but if they no longer work, create some new ones.

• Be fair. You don’t get to have them 100% of the time. They have in-laws, friends, and may decide that this year is not your year. Don’t pout or punish them. Make your own plans and prepare for a lovely time.

• Celebrate their independence. It’s a sign you did a great job of prepping them for adulthood. This is what is supposed to happen, and because it did, you can rejoice.

So don’t hold so tightly to those adult kids that they want to squirm free of your grip. Make this holiday season one of the best celebrations ever.

Day 18 – Cliché a Day: Quicker Than A New York Minute

By Deb DeArmond

Where is the little girl I carried?
Where is the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older?

These familiar lyrics from the musical Fiddler on The Roof have been played time and again at weddings around the world. A wedding is a natural moment for parents to reflect on how quickly our children grow up.

But there are other times that it occurs to us as well. When a grown child:
• buys a new car or home for the first time
• becomes a parent, him or herself
• expresses concern for your health or well being

Other times may come a bit later on in life:
• When you have to ask a son or daughter for assistance with some task.
• When you consult with a grown child on financial or legal matters.

We’ve experienced nearly all of these, I believe, at one time or another. Where did the time go? It’s flown by, quicker than a New York minute.

Friends who long for the days their children were babies always amuse me. I’ve even known women who continued to add to their families, because they missed the baby stage so.

I loved my boys as infants and toddlers with their sweet chubby faces and sticky hands. Truthfully, I enjoyed every stage of their lives. As grown men with families of their own, I find myself amazed at who they have become. I’m more than humbled and eternally grateful to God for each of them. What an incredible gift they are, as are their wives and children.

To witness the next generation is such a precious blessing. My sweet friend calls her grandchildren her “crowning glories.” She takes it from Proverbs 17:6 that says “Children’s children are a crown to the aged,?and parents are the pride of their children” (CEV).

While I’m not quite yet aged, (and may never admit that term applies) I realize that as my children have grown older, so have I. It happened when I wasn’t paying close attention – quicker than a New York minute.

Day 15 – Cliche a Day: No News Is Good News

By Deb DeArmond

The ringing phone startled me. I glanced at the clock: 11:02pm. Rats, I thought, if he’s calling this late, the answer is not the one I’d hoped for. Good news would have waited till the next morning. Bad news was hunting me down tonight.

My son and his wife had made their decision: they were relocating to the west coast to accept an offer for a fabulous job he simply couldn’t refuse. It made sense. It was wonderful in every possible way – personally and professionally.

So why did I consider this bad news? Because I don’t live on the west coast, that’s why.

“Mom, don’t be sad,” he said. “We will come visit you a lot and you can come out to see us, too.”

“Oh, I know. And I really felt in my heart that this would be your decision. I mean, you’d have been crazy to turn this down,” I sniffed. “But, gosh, after all, this is all about me isn’t it?” He knew I was kidding. Well, mostly kidding.

Truthfully, when they came to live in Texas, we were both surprised and overjoyed. It was always planned to be temporary, but what a blessing it has been – and the Lone Star state has been very good to them.

They had diligently prayed and felt this was God’s direction. They had asked us to pray as well. It was a decision that needed to be made quickly and my husband and I spent intense time on our knees on the issue. We asked that they hear clearly from the Lord – and He answered our prayers.

I’m so grateful that as our kids grow up, we get to know them in a different way. The relationship changes and we parent less and become consultants more. A consultant is someone you invite into a process, a decision or an issue. Consultants don’t just barge in – they have to be, well, consulted.

Now I don’t want to let you think my son and his brothers always consult us – even though from my perspective, that would be pretty great. Their dad and I always have an opinion. But it doesn’t work that way. They might be “my boys,” but they are grown men, leading families of their own. So it’s an honor to be included, never an entitlement.

But now as I think about it, I’m fairly sure there are things I don’t really want to know. Sometimes no news really is good news.

Day 14 – Cliché A Day: (The) More We Learn, The Less We Know

By Deb DeArmond

Have you ever heard the evolution of how our children think of us as they move through life? The story goes like this…….

• At age 5, the little boy says, “That’s my dad! He’s the smartest man in the whole world.
• At 10 years old, he says, “That’s my dad. He’s a really smart guy!”
• The pre-teen at 12 says, “My dad is okay.”
• At 15, he warns, “That’s my dad. He’s a total idiot – just ignore him.”
• At 20, he says, “My dad’s not a total loser.”
• At 30, the young man says, “My dad might know.”
• At 40, the adult son says, “I’m gonna ask my dad what he thinks.”
• “I’m not making a decision till I talk to my old man,” the mid-life man of 50 says.
• At 60, he says sadly, “Man I wish my dad was still alive. He’d know what to do.”

If you’ve ever been down in the valley in this process, you know it can be a challenging place. As teenagers, kids really do believe they know all that needs to be known. You have to be a lot older to know what you don’t know.

How does that happen? As youth, our sphere of life is very limited. It’s almost claustrophobic. In other words, we live in a little world. And then life happens, and we move beyond our zone of the familiar. Maturity may come from the lessons that mistakes teach us. And at some point, we have this flash of understanding: I know very little, and have so much growing left to do.

We realize that the more we learn, the less we know.

The Word of God warns us to be careful about such self-aggrandizing assessments:

• “What sorrow for those who are wise in their own eyes and think themselves so clever” Isaiah 5:21 (NLT).
• “There is more hope for fools than for people who think they are wise” Proverbs 26:12 (NLT).
• “Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others” Proverbs 12:15 (NLT).
• “Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise” 1 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT).
• “At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike” Matthew 11:25 (NLT).

Just as it blesses us as parents when our children seek knowledge and are open to learning, the same is true with our Heavenly Father. A teachable spirit, one that desires wisdom, blesses Him. And as we grow in the knowledge of Him, the more we realize there is much still to learn.

Have a Good Laugh WITH Me!

by Deb DeArmond

The month of April is in fact, the official time set aside to celebrate a good chuckle, a guffaw or a hearty laugh as part of a faith-filled life. It is Holy Humor Month!

The Bible is clear that God believes humor should be on the agenda as a healthy habit. Proverbs 17:22 NKJ “A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.”

When God brought Sarah the baby He had promised, she says, “God has brought me laughter. All who hear about this will laugh with me.” Genesis 21:6 NLT

“Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.” Romans 12:15 MSG

What do these verses have in common? They both talk about laughing with others, not at them.

In this same chapter of Romans that Paul exhorts us “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world.”

Have you noticed how mean-spirited the humor in our world has become? The stuff that passes for “funny” in our movies, our books and on television is often a laugh at someone else’s expense. That includes the host of mother-in-law jokes that circulate so often. While it might be funny to some, to those involved – not so much.

Though cheap laughs have been popular forever, it wasn’t until the 1890s that slapstick became king and gave birth to a school of comedy built entirely on people getting beat up. Slapstick humor has a long history – the Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin. Buster Keaton built an entire career on his ability to “take a fall” – as in take a licking and keep on ticking. So, ultimately we laughed at his pain.

As I researched this article, I discovered a common theme and theory: pain is the basis for all humor. One source explained, “It’s a simple fact that if nobody gets hurt, it isn’t funny.” For example, when Wiley Coyote falls off a cliff, and comes up battered, stars circling his head, that’s funny. If he had landed safely, that’s not funny.

Emotional pain is also the basis of a lot of funny stuff. So let’s add ethnic jokes, gender jokes, even religious jokes to this pile. Weight, appearance, intelligence – it’s open season for the punster.

The only exception to this rule is when the pain happens to you. When you get hurt, it’s not funny. It just hurts. Other people will still find your pain amusing, so be aware that even though it hurts, people are still laughing at you.

So be different. Laugh with someone today. Defend someone who is being laughed at. Comfort someone in pain instead of having a laugh at their expense. It might just even make God crack a big old smile!

Survey Says!

by Deb DeArmond

We are continuing to gather information from our online survey about the relationships between MILs (mother-in-laws) and DILs (daughter-in-laws). If you have not yet participated, please use the tab found on the home page to weigh in and share your experiences.

We’ve had excellent response and are fascinated by what we’ve learned so far.  Take a look at just a few of the stats and comments we have received.

  • 49% of the DILs surveyed said they believed their husbands spent too much time with his mother.
  • 34% of DILs said their MILs had more influence with their husbands than they thought was healthy.
A few of the comments:
  • “ My MIL is jealous of me and/or mad that I took away her son.”
  • “ I took her baby away from her, and she just can’t accept it —or me. She hangs on and injects herself into our life constantly. It’s ridiculous—and it has turned not only me, but her son, away from wanting to be around her.”

Some of the MIL comments reflected just as much hurt and disappointment.

  • “My son told me his wife gave him an ultimatum: ‘it’s your mother or me.’  My DIL has really determined to take him from his family. We don’t even see them much at holidays. It’s breaking my heart.”
  • “I always feel like I have to walk on eggshells with my daughter-in-law. I never know what to say, and no matter what I say, it seems to be wrong.”

Does this mirror your experience? How does this seem to be such a common story? Why is it true, even for families of faith? Leave me a comment and tell your story.

There is hope. Check back later this week for some strategies to enhance, improve or even resurrect your MIL/DIL relationship – no matter where it may be today!