Not in Front of the Kids!!


Children learn
“Not in front of the kids!” was a phrase I recall a mom in my neighborhood using fairly often. It was always whispered through gritted teeth, accompanied by a stern glare, when one of the teenagers in the room used a word she though inappropriate for us little kids.

The teens thought it was hilarious, and did it to show off how grown up they were and to bait her practiced response.

Adults on social media, discussing politics, and specifically the recent world events in Paris and California might benefit from the presence of that neighborhood watchmom.

I am stunned at the hatred and vile comments hoisted into cyerspace from those who claim to love and know Jesus. And if the depth of their anger and vitriol are any indication, I doubt Facebook is their only outlet. They write it because they believe it. And if they believe it, it is invading their attitudes and their conversations with those in their world.

  • I hate them all and cannot pray for them.
  • Kill them and wrap them in pigskins. Then let them try to get to their god.

Both of these actual comments from people whose profiles showed they were Christians. And these were some of the tamer quotes.

This is not just a political issue. This is a family issue.

What about the children? Your kids, your grandkids? What are we teaching them about the very specific commandments Jesus gave us while here on earth?

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you,” Matt. 5:24 (KJV).

“Do to others as you would like them to do to you,” Luke 6:31 (NLT).

It does not instruct us to do unto others as they have DONE to us. And while what has been done is horrific, without excuse, and beyond explanation, we must know that those who have murdered innocents have been deceived by their false prophet into believing they are serving their god.

We have the opportunity to teach our children to follow the Word, regardless of our fears or our feelings. It’s easy to do so when all is well with our world. Much tougher to do when it seems chaotic and out of control. But it begins in us, to reject the fear that breeds anger and hatred and lean heavily on God’s Spirit within to love and forgive instead. Our children learn what they live and live what they learn. What are they learning in our homes today?

Here are three tips to prevent your anxiety from creating fear in your children.

  • Reassure them that God is watching over them. Help them understand early in life that God is on their side, always with them because He loves them.
  • Keep adult conversations among the adults.Discussing the world around us and praying for protection and resolution is important. But allow children to be free of hearing your anxiety or anger expressed. It serves no purpose, but to create anxiety in them.
  • Ask God to guide your own emotional responses. Focus on the scriptures and Christ’s example of loving those who hate you. He was innocent throughout the days leading up to the cross and could have allowed His righteous anger to guide Him. He chose, instead, to ask His Father to forgive them with His very last breath. Ask God to guide your responses and emotions through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

In the Rogers and Hammerstein musical, South Pacific, there is a beautiful song, You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught, that addresses the idea that children are born as clean slates. And yet they learn how to hate. It doesn’t have to come in a daily tutorial or indoctrination. It comes by observing the people they love and trust. Read the lyrics (below) and see if they strike a chord in you. Little eyes are watching, little hearts are forming their thoughts based on the adults around them. They’re counting on us.

You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught

You’ve got to be taught

To hate and fear,

You’ve got to be taught

From year to year,

It’s got to be drummed

In your dear little ear

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

 

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made,

And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

 

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight,

To hate all the people your relatives hate,

You’ve got to be carefully taught!

Solving the Christmas Mystery

Mystery gift“I’ve solved the mystery,” a newlywed recently told me. “I now fully understand why my husband never puts his dish in the sink or picks up his underwear off the floor where he stepped out of them. His mother raised him to be helpless.”

I laughed. She didn’t.

She recounted their cross-country trip for the Christmas holidays, which they spent in her mother-in-law’s home. “It was our first Christmas together as a married couple, but his mom had not been well and she begged us to come. Apparently her son is the cure for what ails her,” she sighed loudly as she recalled the trip. “She waited on him hand and foot. From the tearful greeting at the front door till the moment we left.You would have thought he was coming home from the war: My son! My son has come home! “Just something about that set my teeth on edge. His home is 2000 miles away. This is his mother’s home. He’s a grown man, for crying out loud.”

It was a tough situation. But most men come to the altar with something very real: the other woman, his mother, who has known and loved him far longer than “that new woman.” Mama probably also thinks she loves him more than any wife ever could.

You can come to the in-law party at any age. It’s not reserved for twenty-somethings alone. But the older you are, the more challenging a task to build a relationship with the other woman may be. Accepting and welcoming a new daughter might be easier when you’re 45 than at 60. We’ve spent more time on the planet at 60, selected and become committed to our way of thinking, living and being.

The same is true for the new bride. The longer you’ve been out from under your own mother’s purview and lived on your own makes a difference. Accepting the drama from a brand new mama may be a long way down on your to-do list. And the challenges between mamas and the girls who marry their sons have no expiration date. The distance and difficulty may remain in the relationship far beyond the first year of adjustment.

There are other twists on the scenario with the women in question smiling through gritted teeth at best, snarling and spitting at worst. All as we sit together around the Christmas tree in celebration of the birth of our Lord.

There may have been past hurts in the relationship between the MIL and the DIL. Other variations on the theme may be a factor, as well: today’s families are complex, with blended families, ex-spouses, step-grandparents and so on. Tensions can run high.

So how do we focus on the real reason we’ve come together? A couple of quick tips: don’t dredge it or dramatize it. Drop it, instead.

  • Don’t Dredge It: Don’t make this year’s holidays unbearable by dredging up the past, obsessing about it for weeks in advance and assuming that this year, too, will be a disaster. It will create dread on your part and the potential to read something negative into everything she says. If you go loaded for bear, every movement in the brush gets a backside of buckshot. Let the past stay in the past.
  • Don’t Dramatize It: It’s a brief season. Avoid creating drama over a few days spent together. I spoke to a woman who dreaded the holidays because her woman-in-law was such a drama queen, similar to the woman in our opening example. If she wants to make a fuss over her only son, let her – and stop rolling your eyes. He’s still going home with you when it’s over. And Mama, remember, his wife is the most important woman in his life. If you love him, treat her as he would expect you to.
  • Drop It! Take past issues and hurts to the foot of the cross, drop them and, walk away. Make a decision to leave them there. Jesus is more than able to heal the hurt that comes from rejection by those who are supposed to love you – He experienced it. Whether you are the MIL or the DIL, if you are a follower of Christ, it’s what He expects us to do. I am not suggesting what you’ve experienced isn’t genuinely painful. I am suggesting that if you are waiting for her to make it right, you might wait a very long time.

Why not make this the year you make your move and choose a fresh start in the relationship? Consider it a gift to the man in the middle. Doing it will make more real the holiness of this holiday season – and it will make our Lord smile.

This topic is tough to address in a single post. My book, Related by Chance, Family by Choice, covers the topic of women-in-law relationships comprehensively. Written with the input of my own three daughters-in-love, it’s for every woman whether the relationship is just beginning, already difficult – or good, and you’d like to take it up a notch. You can find it at the links listed here at:
Amazon
ChristianBooks.com
or at your local Christian Book store.

Play It Again, Sam!

Do Over 2

There are days we long for a do-over. Yesterday’s poor food choices or the thoughtless remark made in a heated moment. Small things that add up. But what about the big stuff? Like a look back on your parenting and wondering if you’d do it all again in exactly the same way. Time provides insight and often, important lessons.  I’m pleased to introduce my new friend, Sharron Cosby. She tells her story with transparency, as she looks back on her life as Mom. You may want to take a moment to learn from her story – and change yours while there’s still time.

by Sharron Cosby

A friend recently asked, “If you were granted a do-over with your children, what would you do differently?”

My first response, albeit unkind, was, “Probably not have any!” I quickly let her know I was joking, but there were days when the thought played dodge ball in my mind.

The question was posed after I shared my story of our addicted son. The heartaches our family suffered wreaked havoc on me spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally. I feel like I have PTSD. Even now, with five years clean, his arriving late for dinner or coming into our home when we’re away jerks my memories back to the dark days of his active addiction.

I’ve often wondered what I’d do if a time machine appeared and afforded a second chance at child rearing. Here are a few things I want to believe I’d change:

  • Employment outside our home. If I had the freedom to choose, I wouldn’t work outside the home. As our children got older, my presence in the afternoon was needed. The three-hour gap between school dismissal and the work-whistle blowing left space for mischief— our home became the shenanigans gathering place. I don’t think it would have been had I been at home. At the very least, I would have worked part-time.
  • First things first. Each of our three children had their own vehicles. They had to work to pay for insurance and gas. Anything left over was fun money. Instead of focusing on earning money, their first focus should have been school. Our daughters worked in restaurants with college-aged kids. They participated in activities inappropriate for their teen years, but since they worked together, they were part of the crowd.
  • Delay cars for kids. Cars aren’t a necessity if they’re not working. Of course then, I couldn’t work because they would need transportation. Already my resolve is fading. The responsibility to haul kids around isn’t alluring.
  • Meet their friends’ parents. I allowed our children to stay overnight at friends’ homes without ever meeting the parents. I had no idea what kind of values and standards they had. They probably wondered the same about me.
  • Ask the hard questions. I didn’t ask because I was afraid of the answers. In my heart of hearts, I knew there were problems, but I hoped by denying them they would go away. Or at least not be as bad as I envisioned.
  • Work on my issues. I realize now, I parented out of my own hurts and hang-ups. My white picket fence dream of a perfect family drove my actions and inactions. I was unwilling to face my own inadequacies, side stepping them in hopes our family’s ship would right itself.

As I pondered a do-over, I came to the conclusion that even if I had made these changes I wasn’t guaranteed a different outcome. I could have been Mother of the Year, cooking, cleaning and chauffeuring kids all over town, but at the end of the day, my children had choices to make, independent of me. Would they still make the same heartbreaking choices? I don’t know.

One thing I do know is that I loved them and had their best interests at heart. Their father and I taught them to love God, their family and friends. They were never unloved. There were days I didn’t like them, but they were always loved—and they knew it.

I don’t need a time machine to provide me with a do-over. God’s Word tells me, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning.” Lamentations 3:22-23a NIV.

Every day I have fresh opportunities to know Him deeply, to love unconditionally and to extend grace. I’m still their mom. They’re still my kids. There’s always tomorrow.

 

 

Sharron CosbySharron Cosby: With southern charm and a hopeFULL heart, author/speaker Sharron Cosby reaches out to families desperate for an anchor in their storms. Read her story in Praying for Your Addicted Loved One: 90 in 90 available on Amazon.

I Choose You Today, Ron!


DeArmond-27Happy Birthday to my sweet husband, Ron.
Nearly five decades of Godly wisdom resides in this man. As many noted today on his Facebook page, he is a great guy and gives the best father hugs ever. Being married to me for forty years has been a workout. It’s not always been easy, but it’s always been worth the effort. His commitment, love, and loyalty has never faded. Neither has his pursuit of me. He’s good at this one, me, not so much. So today, I wanted to acknowledge a side of Ron many have never experienced. It’s from my book, I Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last.

————————————————————————————–

Another business trip, another city. The worst part of that first day on the road is taking my clothes out of the suitcase, hanging them up and pressing those that didn’t fare well in the travel process. I had just mentioned to my husband, Ron, that morning how much I dreaded that task— sometimes twice a week, as I moved between client locations.

And now, as I pulled the as advertised no-wrinkle blouse from my bag, an envelope fluttered to the floor. I fetched it from the carpet as I threw the blouse in the ironing pile.

Ron’s handwriting: Mag. His pet name made me smile immediately. I sank down on the foot of the bed and turned the envelope over. “I love you” was written across the sealed flap.

A sweet note inside reminded me of his love for me, how he much he missed me every second I was gone, and dreaded the empty side of the bed. A little flirting, a little prayer for my upcoming week. A sweet surprise, but not a first. Ron has pursued me consistently in the last 38 years.

He’s the romantic; I’m pragmatic. He can recall the date of our first kiss, never forgets an anniversary or special occasion. He has created elaborate romantic surprises for me over the years, capturing my heart again and again.

I could take a page from his book. I’ve been guilty sometimes of saying to him the morning of his birthday, “I didn’t get you a card. Will a kiss do?”

I should be better at this. I grew up in a home where everyday my father said to my mom, “Dottie, did I tell you today I love you?” Her response was always the same: “Yes, but you can tell me again.” They were perfect together. Mom would often appear annoyed when Dad (at age 75) would say to the waiter, “Hey there, bud, look around. The most beautiful girl in the room is with me tonight.” She said it embarrassed her terribly. Truthfully, she loved every moment of his pursuit.

That envelope got me to thinking about the impact Ron’s pursuit made on me. Knowing he always has me at the forefront of his thoughts and affections have created a great confidence, not only in our relationship, but also for me, personally. I’m not 25 anymore, but he still sees me as beautiful; he is still attracted to me. I trust his heart (if not always his eyes!), but it’s his heart he uses when he looks at me. I never wonder whether or not he truly loves me, needs me, and wants me. His pursuit speaks volumes and it draws me to him time after time.

Doesn’t he deserve the same from me? That confidence that comes from being relentlessly pursued? He owns my heart; he knows it. But I want him to feel it. I want him to experience the same thing, the same confidence, and the same assurance that my affection and attraction to him have not only remained steady, but they’ve grown over the years.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” Eph. 5:25 (NIV). I know this is addressed to husbands, but Romans 8:29a says, “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son,” (NLT). God is in relentless pursuit of those He loves. He sent Jesus to pursue us and I am called to follow His lead—to pursue those I love.

So what does it mean to engage in a pursuit? Merriam-Webster defines it like this: to follow and try to catch or capture (someone or something) for usually a long distance or time. I want to capture my someone’s heart for a very long time. I want to be in love with Ron every day I draw breath.

I will admit, it doesn’t come naturally for me. I’m a list maker, a busy girl, and I’m not necessarily wired for pursuit. So it’s a choice I want to make on a regular basis—even if I have to plan it. Spontaneity is overrated anyway.

I find him hard to resist when he’s chasing my heart. I’m betting I can create a major distraction when I’m in full pursuit.

So . . . what will you choose?

Ron DeArmond, I choose you!

 

Three Tips for Great Family Getaways

vacationA recent girl’s night out included some shared appetizers, cool beverages and tons of conversation. It had been a while since this group had all been together and we had a lot of catching up to do.

Eventually the conversation focused on “what I did for summer vacation.” A big birthday and significant anniversary had been celebrated with a trip to Portland. An upcoming New York weekend, including a Broadway show, was discussed. And two shared their version of the Chevy Chase “Family Vacation.” You know the ones: rock-hard beds in tiny shared quarters where you learn way too much about one another. The kayak river trip in a mostly dried up creek, or the beach trip that featured six straight days of rain. People can get cross with the circumstances—and with one another.

We laughed till we cried, but later I thought about the tradition of family vacations. We laugh at Clark Griswold’s family because we’ve most likely been there at some point. All that togetherness can be a challenge.

Vacations with little ones can be stressful; they’re away from the familiar, routines are disrupted, and the items that comfort them are unavailable. Our own summer getaways when our boys were young were spent in the 113 degree heat of Palm Springs at the Oasis Water Park and Resort. Sounds swanky, right? In the winter, we’d have paid a premium price. But in July, $99 a night bought us a two bedroom condo with maid service and daily water park passes for the entire family. Living big, I tell you.

We continued the tradition as our sons became adults, adding their wives and little boys as they appeared on the scene.  We’ve enjoyed snowy mountains at Christmas, Florida’s DisneyWorld, and the many attractions of Southern California. Each trip offered a challenge or two, but we enjoyed them and recall them fondly. It’s been two years since our last trip, and we’ve added four more little boys to the mix in that time, but we look forward to the next opportunity to do it again.

Traveling with adult children is a very different experience and requires a process that varies from when they were little. And even though the traditional summer vacation season is drawing to a close, three day weekends and trips for the holidays are year round. We’ve gained some insights over the years, so  I’m sharing some ideas that surfaced as we’ve traveled together. Here are three tips we’ve discovered that can make a big difference.

  • Include EVERYONE in the planning process. You might be surprised to learn that your services as travel director and tour guide are not always welcome. You may prefer to hit the beach while others would rather see the museums or area theme parks. Let everyone weigh in; we all like to be heard. Does everyone have to do everything together everyday? Or is there room for a freestyle day when the group splits off to pursue varied interests? A break from all that togetherness can be a great bonus!
  • Clarify expectations. What are the financial arrangements? Will the cost be shared evenly across the family? What if one couple has three kids, and another has none? Will they pay the same for the lodging, rental car, and meals you prepare in your condo or cabin? Do the math well in advance so everyone knows what to expect. And what about chores? If you’re in a rental home, consider creating a plan. Rotate cooking, clean up and trash duty. Discuss it before plans are made so no one is surprised. A family meeting to discuss the details will make a big difference.
  • Be flexible. The cabin might be a bit musty, hikes gets rained out, and rental cars break down on occasion. Know going in this stuff happens, and if it does, make the best of it. Air out the cabin, do a rainy day movie marathon, and tell Hertz you expect a big upgrade in the replacement vehicle. Remember the unofficial beatitude: Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not break!

The “vacation” might simply be a family visit to celebrate the holidays together. Will the grandparents be expected to be on-call babysitters? We usually offer a time to let the big kids have some time together while we enjoy our grandsons. Recently we split it up: the girls stayed in with the six little boys one night, and the guys were on duty the next. Again, communicating is key; make no assumptions.

Lastly, remember that one of the big benefits is the chance to be together, to enjoy one another’s company. It should be a feature of the vacay, not a cross to bear. Whether it’s a Thanksgiving weekend, a Christmas trip seeking sunshine, or a traditional summer vacation, a little pre-planning can make it one for the scrapbooks!

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Fonda MILToday I am sharing an abridged excerpt from my first book, “Related By Chance, Family By Choice: Transforming Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships. I hope you enjoy it. You can find the book at Amazon with this link: Amazon

“This is my mother-in-love, Deb.”

The young woman behind the counter in the green apron smiled at me and waved. She was Sarah’s Starbucks boss, and I was glad to meet her. I was thrilled, however, with my daughter-in-law’s introduction of me. “Mother-in-love” was a sweet surprise, and I was once again reminded why this lovely girl has captured not only my son’s heart, but mine as well.

Mother-in-love is what Sarah calls me when she introduces me to friends or coworkers. It touches my heart and makes me smile when she says it. It is a wonderful honor. It also made me think about the terms in-law and in-love. I was intrigued by the contrast of these two titles. Love versus law. The more I meditated on them, the more interested I became. Where did the term in-law originate?

The explanation is simple: we are in-laws because of the legal joining of the couple. We are related according to and through the law.

Next on my quest was to understand what the term law means. What are its attributes? How does it serve? Who does it protect? The law has specific qualities and characteristics that distinctly define it.

• The law limits and excludes.
• The law is a finite thing: black and white, inflexible, ?focused on minute details.
• The law is conditional: if you, then I.
• The law is of the mind and intellect.
• The law seeks to benefit itself. Its only fulfillment is to ?be obeyed.
• The law is without emotion and without mercy, and it ?pronounces judgment.
• The law demands a high price to be paid if it is not ?observed correctly.
• The law is designed to rule by power; it enforces norms ?and standards of behavior.

The purpose of the law includes a coercive effect in regulating conduct. ?If a personal or family relationship is ruled by law, it leaves a lot to be desired, doesn’t it?

The law is inflexible and coercive, enforcing standards established through harsh penalty. It is relationship based on the conditional proposition that if you do as I require, then I will not punish you, or I may even provide you with some benefit. Wasn’t that the arrangement between God and man after the Fall in the garden and before the death of Christ on our behalf?

Relationship between God and man before grace was built on the Law given to Moses. The book of Leviticus provides a thorough and detailed description of the requirements by which man could maintain relationship with God. There was a lot of blood involved. It required daily attention and a constant investment of time. The next required act of obedience was never far from one’s mind, because the penalties for failing to follow the Law were substantial.

Sounds like some in-law relationships I know. Characterized by demand and obedience, inflexibility and personal preference, these relationships choke out the potential for family unity and harmony. Grudges are nursed like babies at the breast. Walls are erected, bridges are burned, and the structure of the family divides like the waters of the Red Sea.

But love is quite another matter. The characteristics of love are very different.

• Love is a living thing.
• Love overlooks, forgives, and grants pardon.?• Love includes and gathers in.
• Love is easily satisfied and does not demand on its own behalf.
• Love is unconditional.
• Love is from the heart and seeks to benefit others at the expense of itself.
• Love is fulfilled when it’s invested and given away.
• Love is full of mercy.
• Love pays the price.

Now that’s more like it. There’s an element of promise, hope, and possibility in a relationship rooted and grounded in love.

So, the burning question is this: Should we be living our in-law relationship in love or under the law?

It’s not a surprise the Word of God provides us direction.

“Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law,” (Rom. 13:8). “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works,” (Heb. 10:24).

Love accomplishes what the law cannot. And love is a choice.

Christ chose to love us when we were anything but lovable. He knew every last secret, every shred of pride and rebellion, every ugly thought. All of it. He loved us still. And He asks us to do the same to a lost and dying world. Even with our woman-in-law.

Demonstrating love on a daily basis is not easy. Some people are hard to love. They are difficult, arrogant, opinionated, prideful, selfish, and the list goes on. It does not matter to Christ. To love those who are lovable is nothing special—those who walk without Jesus can manage that. He asks us to love those whose behavior is hurtful and damaging.

That’s a tall order. Being civil is not sufficient. Love those who seem determined to take you down, to hurt and demean you. Pray for the ones who use you in a spiteful way. Remember that before we trusted in Christ, we were just as unlovely in the eyes of a perfect and spotless Lord Jesus. If we can’t or won’t make this our goal, we are failing to follow the foundations of life in Christ.

Love is a choice.

I hope you will make an important choice. If you desire to live your life aligned with God’s word on the subject of MILs and DILs, this book can be a very helpful tool. You can find Related By Chance, Family By Choice at this link: Books by Deb

Deb’s “Just 18 Summers” Featured Post

Cup of latte coffee

 

Do you know the story of  “Just 18 Summers?” If you are a parent or planning to become one, you need to know about this great resource. In a nutshell, here’s their story in founder Michelle Cox’s words:

During a Sunday church service, my pastor prayed with a couple who were dedicating their infant son to God. As they turned to walk off the platform, Rev. Sexton said these words, “Don’t forget—you have just 18 summers. Take time to make some memories.”  

Moms and dads, you have just 18 summers with your child. Please don’t miss the moments! Take it from a mom who would give a million dollars if she could walk down the hall and tuck her little boys into bed just one more time.

How many summers do YOU have left? What you do with your children now will determine whether you look back someday with regrets or sweet memories.

That chance encounter at Sunday service has become a novel, a movie, and a wonderful resource for parents: Just18Summers.com

Michelle recently invited me to guest on the site in honor of Valentine’s Day and my three sons. Find it here: Deb@18Summers

I hope you’ll take a moment to read the article, but don’t stop there. Look around at the great resources and be sure you subscribe so you don’t miss a thing!

 

Do We Love? Or Do We Love Well?

0036_Miller 9780891124504Today we have a special treat: a guest post from Kathy Collard Miller and her husband, Larry Miller.  This article is excerpted from their newly released book, Never Ever Be the Same (Leafwood Publishers) which offers Christians hope that they can change their ungodly reactions through identifying their self-protective strategies and trusting God instead. The book includes biblical principles, insightful stories, and helpful instruction, and it  has individual and group discussion questions. I hope you enjoy!

 

Do we love our family members or do we love them well? All of us love others imperfectly. But loving “well” means we love them for their benefit rather than what it does for us or how it makes us look. We’re not talking about perfection but we are talking about desiring another’s good. We’ve all been around someone who is supposedly expressing love for us but it is disingenuous because it is really about them looking good or getting what they want. We don’t really feel encouraged or cared for.

I, Larry, may be wrong but I sensed a lack of loving well when I received an e-mail from a man who was considering buying one of our marriage books for his wife. He wrote, “I choose to love my unsaved wife as I love myself. She has a lot of issues and it’s my hope, prayer and confidence that my example, the light that I allow to shine in our home, and the love that I extend to her, just as God has done for me, will be a part of what God uses to save her.”

I didn’t have any kind of relationship with this man to be able to inquire into his motives. But I could sense that he might easily come across to his wife as thinking himself better than her. I wondered if he communicated a belief that he never needed to repent of anything and that she should be grateful for the way he puts up with her.

And I also wondered, “What is his motive for needing to explain?” Does he speak to others with this same kind of superior attitude? If his wife shares with him the superior attitudes she senses, how would he respond? I had a deep sense that he wasn’t loving her well. Unfortunately, he had concluded he loved her so well that he was amazed his sparkling and pristine example of Christ’s love hadn’t compelled her to become a Christian.

Here are other common ways we do not love well:

  • A husband buys his wife for their anniversary (or birthday or Christmas) what he wants for himself, not what she values. He looks forward to the admiring looks from his friends when he uses the item himself.
  • A wife plans an elaborate surprise birthday party for her husband, but he would rather enjoy a weekend away with her. But the accolades the wife gets at the party motivates her to throw another party the next year.

We’ve all been guilty at one time or another, but we may be able to avoid this error by focusing on how God loves us well. He always responds to us for our greatest good and desires our greatest benefit. Let’s make a commitment to do the same for those we love.

How has God shown you that kind of loving “well”?

 

 

Kathy Collard Miller and Larry Miller are speakers and authors. They have been married 44 years and Larry is a retired police lieutenant. The Millers live in Southern California, and have two grown children and one grandson. Visit them at www.LarryAndKathy.com. Kathy blogs at www.KathyCollardMiller.com.

Find their book at your local Christian bookstore and in both print and digital versions at:

Never Ever Be the Same is available at your local Christian bookstore and in both print and digital versions at:  Amazon: http://amzn.to/1ITmLfy,  CBD: http://bit.ly/1AuJZSX, Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/1BJz3lC,

 

 

 

Where There’s a Will, He Makes the Way!

Real People: Head Shoulders Caucasian Little Girl Arms Crossed“Debbie has a tendency toward willfulness.”

My mother spent much of my third grade year in the hospital. She suffered from terrible headaches that often sent her to bed. There were no MRI’s in 1963, and there were few treatments for what we now call migraines. A brain tumor was suspected as she went from hospital to hospital.

I spent those weeks sitting in white-walled waiting rooms, with the bitter smell of antiseptic, fearing my mom would die. At eight, it seemed like a reasonable fear.

What was not reasonable was the fear that struck once she was released. I would find any reason to avoid being away from Mom. Every morning a new malady appeared: my head hurt, I was sick to my stomach, the teacher didn’t like me, or the kids were mean to me. Each excuse had the same motive: I wanted to stay home to make sure my mother wouldn’t disappear again.

Reassurance didn’t work, nor did stern conversations, pleading or promising a treat if I’d just get dressed and go to school. When those efforts failed, the school psychologist became my new “friend” and Mom and I began a series of conversations and testing.

I recall it clearly: a very nice older man who seemed interested in me and what I thought and how I felt. Very pleasant. And eventually, either his conversations with us did help or I outgrew it, although I’m not sure which. But life returned to normal.

Thirty-seven years later, while sorting through Mom’s paperwork after her death, I found the report prepared by that school psychologist.

“Debbie has a tendency toward willfulness.”

It was not a compliment. It was not in the plus column.

And while it was true, it was never over the top, overt, throw a tantrum till I get my way willfulness. My folks were a couple of smart cookies who would never stand for that behavior. It was subtle. Skillful.  Understated.

The report went on to suggest, “When fearful, Debbie may try to control the situation, which must not be allowed. As her parents, you must assert your authority.”

This weekend I heard a gifted teacher at church speak about willfulness. “When obedience to God’s Word occurs it’s always an act of our will. A choice. Willful obedience.”

Hearing those words reminded me of the assessment of my character by that nice man in 1963. Is it possible I can use my powers for good, not for evil?

“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose,” (Phil. 2:13) NIV.

Willful obedience. Willful mercy. Willful love, grace, forgiveness. An act of my choice, fueled not by fear, but by my loving Abba father, who desires to see me act in order to fulfill His good purpose, and who delights over me when I do. It’s the redemption of something the enemy once twisted to torment me, and Jesus has reclaimed it. I can see it now. The eight-year old me, who refuted authority, trying to run the table, is grown up.

Most days, at least.

Holidays bring family gatherings and occasionally, old hurts, fears, and resentments come along for the ride. The baggage of our past has the ability to turn even the most mature adult into a willful eight-year old.

This season can be different, by a simple act of our will, drawing on God’s strength, not our own. Choose peace. Refuse to pick up the offense. Willful grace, willful patience. Radical, willful obedience to love. This is my personal prayer, to fulfill His purpose and celebrate the birth of the One who makes it all possible.

Yup, using my powers for good!

Different’s Not Wrong, It’s Just Different!

Thanksgiving 2014This will be a different kind of Thanksgiving holiday. Many of our family members (and some oft-included friends) will be traveling this year to see family in other places. Instead of our usual table for 35 or so, we will be fourteen for turkey. Different.

Especially since the chief turkey briner/cook will not be present. No worries, our matriarch will step in to baste that bird into glorified goodness. I don’t need to double or triple the side dishes, and we will cut the recipe for pumpkin cheesecake in half. I’ve included it here if you’d like to give it a try. It’s from my son’s mama-in-law, Dru. A legendary cook in her own right, but alas, about 1000 miles from my home in North Texas.

So it’s different. And I have to remember that different’s not wrong. It’s just . . .different. It’s good to experience change on occasion and get out of the rut we can find ourselves in. Someone once told me that a rut is just a grave open at both ends. No thanks!

So instead of feeling blue over the crowd that won’t gather, I’ve decided to treasure the pleasure that will come with a smaller assembly. No scrambling for the white meat. No gravy shortage.  Fewer dishes and less time in the kitchen. But that’s the low hanging fruit. What about something a bit meatier? Here are three differences I’m looking forward to this year.

  • Less focus on food and more on family. When you’re cooking for 35, it can be all about coordinating the timing so the turkey is ready to carve at the same time the sweet potatoes are bubbly hot. It can be stressful and I’ve been known to snap at my loved ones who wander out to the kitchen and ask, “Isn’t it ready yet?” It’s an aggravation I’m still learning to manage. So I’m grateful there will be fewer folks to watch the clock as their stomach growls. I plan to hold a few babies, visit with my sweet mother-in-law, and hold my hubby’s hand while we watch some football. If the schedule gets off a bit, I’ll add microwaves to my gratitude list for the day.
  • The opportunity for meaningful conversation. With 30+ folks milling around, sometimes the discussions are more small talk and catching up. I’m looking forward to a hearty discussion or two on the recent election results, hearing about a new job for one family member, and debating with my brother-in-law, someone I love dearly, but with whom I rarely agree. And asking my 7-year old great-niece, “what’s new in first grade?” always yields a great discovery, along with a smile over just how grown up she is these days.
  • Time to reflect on the immeasurable goodness of God. The name “Thanksgiving” implies we should be focused on the gifts and blessings in our lives. Gratitude is the attitude that helps us keep the little things from becoming the big things. An awareness of the goodness in our life calibrates our thinking and balances out the occasional icky stuff without catastrophizing it. And with a smaller crowd, we can take a few minutes around the table to share our greatest blessing of the year. The food would be cold if we tried to do that with our usual crowd, so I’m hoping we can include it in this different kind of year. I love to hear how God’s working in the lives of those I treasure.

Colossians 3:15 encourages us: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” I pray your holiday brings you a refreshed awareness of God’s presence in your life – no matter what your circumstances. He sees you. He loves you. So while this Thanksgiving might be different – He remains the same, yesterday, today and forever. Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Dru’s Fabulous Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake

Filling:

3 – 8oz blocks cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar, divided

1 tsp. vanilla

3 eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

dash ground cloves

 

Crust:

2 cups finely crushed ginger snaps (you can sub graham crackers)

½ cup finely chopped pecans

6 Tbsp. butter, melted

 

Beat cream cheese, ¾ cup of the sugar and vanilla with electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs one at a time mixing on low speed after each addition just until blended. Reserve 1-½ cups of the plain batter. Stir remaining ¼ cup sugar, pumpkin, and spices into remaining batter. Spoon ½ of the pumpkin batter over the crust, top with spoonfuls of ½ of the reserved plain butter. Repeat layers. Cut through batters with knife several times for a marble effect. Pour into a lightly greased spring form pan.

 

Bake at 325 degrees for 55 minutes or until center is almost set. Loosen cake from side of the pan and cool before removing. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. 12 servings.