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


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



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.


It’s a (Simply) Wonderful Life

ifwt_ARRalphie_SteveChristmas trees have appeared in the big box stores in my area. Wreaths, garland, and red velvet ribbon can be easily located. I’ve yet to hear carols piped into the mall, but my bet is that it won’t be long.

This year we will be blessed with five little grandboys gathered in our home for the holidays. A sixth is waiting in the wings, scheduled to arrive after the New Year. The boys range in age from 3 months to 7 years old. It’s going to be noisy. And messy. And all kinds of wonderful.

As “Papa” and I consider the gift lists, I feel certain I will be asked to do what I dread every year: take a trip to the toy store. It’s not a new issue for me; I didn’t like them when I was raising my own sons. The huge emporiums of battery-begging, plasticized wonders, with price tags that would make Saint Nick consider early retirement are not my idea of a good time. And the thought of that stuff finding a home at my house makes me a little woozy. I cringe at the spectacle the season has become, and wonder what God must think about it all.

Holidays are gift-giving opportunities, and I do enjoy seeing the faces of my boys, both tall and tiny, as they open something special, selected just for them. How do we keep our balance, with a focus on honoring Christ and enjoying gift giving and the blessing it brings?

Several years ago, before the grandboys began arriving, my hubby and I proposed a new Christmas plan to our sons and daughters-in-law. Our suggestion? A shared experience in place of gifts. There were a few raised eyebrows and requests for clarification, but eventually, thumbs up all around.

The first year we rented a mountain cabin where the snow and the crackling fire kept us inside playing games, watching movies and talking. Remember talking? It’s been downgraded thanks to the (anti)social media mania. The kids ventured out to ski and we all indulged in a quick snowball fight. We exchanged letters on Christmas morning, each writing a note to the others acknowledging the gifts and gratitude of doing life together. One of the best, ever.

Disney World was beautiful at the holidays, and one year we opted to delay the timing for some fun in the sun of California. As the years advanced, the first couple of kiddles joined us as travelers. I wouldn’t trade those trips and the time together for anything.

But this year with three babies 18 months and under, coupled with a very pregnant mama-to-be, travel is not an option. So we will enjoy time together with games and conversation and lots of meals in. I keep imagining the horror on the faces of restaurant owners (and fellow diners) at the request for three high chairs – at one table.

Logistics aside, the little ones will be wondering which packages under the tree might hold something special. So the toy store seems unavoidable. Or does it?

My niece, Amanda, posted a list entitled “18 Non-Toy Gifts for Children” on her Facebook page. The blog link revealed a list for toddlers as well. The blogger describes the life her family pursues as follows: My name is Rachel. I’m a minimalist, blogger, lover of Jesus, wife to Brian, mom to 6 and real food connoisseur. We live in a 1132 sq. ft. house, in Montana and strive for a simple life. I like her. And I respect her choice to live without all the stuff the marketeers work to convince us we must have.

The list is creative, with unusual suggestions like crafting dates, events, and memberships for the older kids. Books, games, and puzzles appear as steady eddie choices that never go out of style. The site, nourishingminimalism.com features healthy food, decluttering suggestions and living a simpler life where your things don’t own you.

So perhaps this year you might swim against the tide in the selection of gifts for your little ones. It’s never too late to make new choices. For the mid-centurians in the group, we’ve lived long enough to amass more than our share of stuff. There are two ways to be rich: make more or want less.  Perhaps we can help influence the little ones to choose wealth by wanting less stuff and living more life. As grandparents, we have a responsibility to the next generations so Jesus, not things, becomes the focus.

And if it minimizes the time in the toy store experience, I’m all in!




Dad shocked by crying babyby Deb DeArmond

I watched my son’s face as he changed his first really messy diaper for his newborn son—his first child. Only a few days old, my grandboy had taken the exercise seriously and had delivered an impressive load.

My husband and I were enjoying the moment, watching our son and his son together. The baby looked relieved and relaxed. My son did not.

I could tell this was a moment my son would never forget, nor would he look forward to repeating it any time soon.

Later, as we sat together with a sleeping baby nestled against my shoulder, we chatted with the new parents. Happy, but exhausted, we talked about the whirlwind that no first timers are ever prepared for.

“So I can’t do that again. It was all I could do not to lose my lunch.” My son looked at his wife.

“You’ll get used to it,” she said reassuringly.

“No, I won’t. I’m not kidding.”

He sounded pretty certain. It made me giggle. It’s just starting, I thought. And it’s not the worst mess you’ll have to deal with.

My husband glanced at our son. He looked serious. “You know, son, I had a personal poo rule when you and your brothers were babies.”

Oh yes! The poo rule! Couldn’t wait to see my son’s reaction to this tidbit of fatherly advice.

My son leaned forward, looking relieved. Aha! My dad’s going to bail me out here, get me off the hook! He had a poo rule – maybe we should make it a family tradition!

You could see the grin beginning to form on his face. “Tell me about it, Dad. How did it work?”

“Well, your mom was home with you all day and I missed out on some of the “firsts” — first smile, first time you rolled over, first crawl. It was tough hearing about it second hand. I watched that bond form between the two of you and I was a bit jealous at times.”

My son nodded. “Makes sense.”

“So I decided I would change every messy diaper I could,” he continued. “I wanted my face to be associated with the relief and comfort that comes when that baby was poo free – all cleaned up in a fresh diaper.”

Not the answer my son had hoped to hear.

I knew Ron had often stepped in to take over a messy diaper. At the time, I didn’t understand his motivation. It has come up with each of our other two sons as they became dads. I’m not sure they were convinced.

What my husband and I are convinced of is this: the poo rule doesn’t expire when they are potty trained. For parents, it’s a lifetime opportunity.

No matter how old they are, there will always be poo to deal with. It comes in new forms – bad decisions, difficult choices, or missed opportunities, but poo by any other name, is still poo. And it can be stinkier and more difficult to help clean up when they’re grown.

Ron’s theory is they’ll go back to those early days, remember the face that brought them comfort and help and seek it out once again. And they do.

Relief now comes in the form of conversation, brainstorming, and sometimes counsel. Poo detail has helped our sons through sticky situations, given them new insights, and brought them closer to their dad. It’s a guy thing. Sometimes, I’m jealous. But I know men learn to be dads from their own fathers. I’m grateful my boys have such a strong teacher.

Isn’t that what Father God does for us? He comforts. His Holy Spirit counsels. His Word instructs and He brings the relief that comes with His touch. Time in His presence leaves us feeling clean, refreshed.

And now each of my three sons has two sons themselves. That’s a lot of relief opportunities.

Who knew poo could be such a wonderful thing?

Bless My Mother-in-Law?? Really?

Mother with her daughterWith Mother’s Day just a few days away, why not entertain a new thought this year? Bless your husband’s mom. She did raise the man of your dreams, after all.  If for no reason other than that, this is a great time to let her know you appreciate her. Find my brand new article today on my friend Dawn Wilson’s website. Here’s the link:  Upgrade with Dawn

Life, Love, and Family Podcast

RadioYou can find a link to listen to a recent interview I did with Dr. Tim Clinton on Life, Love and Family Radio. We talked about the mother-in-law/daughter-in law dynamic. We also discussed that man in the middle! Take a listen! Deb DeArmond on Life, Life and Family Radio