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!

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.


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



Can You Hear Me Now?

I Told You So!By Deb DeArmond

As a consultant helping others develop and improve communication skills, I am always intrigued by the dynamic between husbands and wives. As a participant in the blessings of matrimony, I’m right there with you.

Have you ever found yourself in a heated exchange with your beloved when suddenly it dawns on you: “We’re not even fighting about the “thing” any more. We’re fighting about the fight.”

“You’re not listening to me!”

“Stop interrupting and let me talk.”

“I just wish you’d stop trying to solve my problems and just hear me out.”

“He thinks he’s helping, but I’d really prefer he just let me vent a little without having to fix it for me.”

Seems reasonable, doesn’t it? Does to me, but then I am a woman.

In fairness to my hubby of 38 years, I believe he’s better at this than most men. Ron has often served as a sounding board and he’s quite skilled at asking me the questions that help me arrive at my own solution. And I’m always more committed to the ideas I come up with myself, even if he helped me find my way there.

But it didn’t happen the day I wore the fancy white dress and he wore the tux and bow tie. Nay nay. It’s been a process. We had to learn to express ourselves, to be open about what we need, and to be intentional in staying focused on the thing. You remember the thing, don’t you?

So I thought it might be helpful to share an example of how that might occur. Take a look at this quick mini-movie by clicking on the link below. I think it will all make sense when you see it.


It’s Not About the Nail

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!

Appreciate Someone!

This week is National Write a Letter of Appreciation Week. Do people still write letters? Real letters – with stamps stuck in the corner?

I realized how long it had been since I mailed a real letter when I discovered I had no idea what the price of a first class stamp is. I had stamps in the drawer, but there was no value, no amount printed on them. What a great deal for the postal service. Since I was clueless, I stuck two on, just to be safe. But I digress…

When my mother was 80 years old, we moved our family, including her, to a community 500 miles from the small town that had been her home for nearly 50 years. Settling into a senior apartment complex was difficult for her. And as it turned out, very isolating as well. Although the standard senior activities like puzzles spread out on the table in the rec room and a rather nice library in the lobby were available, she declined to participate. Her world began to shrink, and she went along with it in some ways. Her days were filled with Dr. Phil and The Price is Right. She even lost interest in a trip to the lobby to retrieve her mail each afternoon.

For many seniors, the delivery of the mail is a highlight of the day. If it happened even a few minutes late, the lobby was abuzz with those hanging out to celebrate it’s arrival. But Mom was not among them.

That is, until my mother-in-law, Virginia, began a letter writing campaign to my mom. Each and every week for the last four years of my mother’s life, my MIL faithfully sent her a note, a card, sometimes a lengthy letter. She occasionally included a newspaper clipping from the hometown paper of the community we had left, and in which she still lived. She picked those she thought my mom would enjoy, and they often included tidbits about people my mother knew. News about the new hospital wing, occasionally a birth announcement of a friend’s new grandbaby, the story of the new library the town was building.

And Virginia was clever – she varied the days of the week she mailed those notes so that it kept my mother trotting to the lobby daily to check her letter box. Those letters let my mom know she was missed, her friendship was appreciated, and that she had value.

I had always had a good relationship with my hubby’s mom. Genuine, warm, caring. We enjoyed spending time together. But I really developed a deep love and appreciation for her when she reached out to minister to my mom. The commitment to brighten my mother’s life brought joy to mine, as I could see how each letter lifted her spirits.

Who needs to know they are appreciated today? Who is feeling isolated and could use a note to remind them they are valued? Write ‘em a letter and observe this national week of remembrance. It only happens once a year. It might have an ‘overflow’ impact like my MILs love for my mother had on my relationship with her.

So celebrate – appreciate! And if you find out how much those stamps are worth, let me know, will you?

Change Your Mind, Change Your World!

by Deb DeArmond

I recently had the chance to speak with a group of wonderful women. All were either daughters-in-law or mothers-in-law. Some were both.

They came together to share their “women-in-law” experiences, as part of the research for the book I am writing. We spent a lot of time discussing their expectations and hopes for the in-law relationship. The question we asked was simple: ”What were your expectations of the relationship with your MIL or DIL BEFORE the wedding? And where did that expectation come from – what was it based on?”

Some had made assumptions that the relationship would be good- loving, caring, open and honest. They based these expectations on the relationships they had observed in life. Many of them spoke about the wonderful connection between their own mothers and their dad’s mom; in other words, their mother’s MIL. Others told of the strong and positive relationships they were aware of through the marriages of their sisters or friends. Their experiences led them to a set of positive expectations.

Others were wary of the MIL/DIL relationship. They had experiences, too. Unfortunately, they were not positive. Grandmothers who had been critical or harsh toward their DILs (their moms). Friends who had reported the negative impact on their marriage due to a difficult mother-in-law, who reminded them daily that they didn’t measure up to what she had hoped for her son.

In both cases, their experiences created a set of expectations or beliefs about the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship. Our beliefs prompt our actions. Our actions determine our world.

So how does this play out? Let’s look at an example:

  • Experience: Let’s say I’ve seen lots of difficult, unhealthy MIL/DIL relationships in my life. I’ve heard the sad stories, I’ve seen the negative impact on the families. I’ve seen it portrayed again and again in movies, sitcoms, etc.
  • Belief: The MIL/DIL relationship is never good. It’s simply not ever going to be anything but difficult and competitive. I anticipate that she will never accept me and believe she won’t ever see me as good enough for her son. I’m not her daughter, she’s my husband’s mother. She is someone to be tolerated.
  • Actions: I exclude her as often as possible. I campaign against her with my husband and perhaps other family members when she has done something I do not like. I am offended by her easily, because I read ‘rejection’ on her face every tine she is in my presence. I am defensive and/or aggressive with her when she makes a suggestion or offers an opinion – even when I don’t necessarily disagree, but I see it as interference in my life.
  • World: I avoid spending time in her presence and it is tense when we must be together. My husband feels caught in the middle of two women he loves and tries to stay clear of the drama. My children are aware that Grandma and Mommy don’t like each other, but are not certain why.

Our experiences form beliefs. We act on those beliefs, and our actions determine our world. Most of the time, we are not aware that this progression is occurring. It’s vey subtle. So what do we do? We can’t change our experiences. And even if our own experiences are good ones that create positive expectations and beliefs, it’s important to remember that your woman-in-law comes with her own set of experiences, too. They may be very different than yours, but every bit as real.

What we can do is create new experiences, together. If we can change our experiences, it will challenge our beliefs – our old way of thinking. That will leave us open to taking different actions, which can change the “world” we create.

What new experiences can you create for yourself and your woman-in-law? It might be as simple as an invitation to lunch or a quick email note to let her know, “I am thinking of you this morning and wanted to wish you a great day.” It may take perseverance – you might find her resistant. Don’t give up. Pursue relationship connections. You have a lot at stake – your DIL is the gatekeeper to your grandchildren. Your MIL gave birth to and raised the man you love.

Why should you go first? Someone has to! Do it because it will set you on a different and better path together. And because it will make your heavenly Father smile. So….ball’s in your court.

Late Night Laughtrack

by Deb DeArmond

When you hear the words, Mother-in-Law, what or who comes to mind quickly? My guess is that some or all of the following may occur to you:

  • Marie Barrone, the ever present, always critical across-the-street MIL to Ray and Debra on Everybody Loves Raymond.
  • Jane Fonda, the beautiful but wicked MIL in the movie, Monster-in-Law, with Jennifer Lopez as the fiance to Jane’s only child.
  • Maybe you recall the famous song (and only hit) by Ernie K. Doe entitled, Mother-in-Law. It was so popular, it singlehandedly made his career, and it was his signature song for nearly 50 years,
  • How about the email by Carolyn Bourne of the UK that went viral on the web? The email was sent to bride-to-be, Heidi Withers, 29, after she spent a weekend at the Bourne family home in Devon. In the   email, Bourne wrote, “It is high time someone explained to you about good manners. Yours are obvious by their absence and I feel sorry for you,” reports the Daily Mail.

Bourne went on to say that it was unfortunate that her son Freddie had fallen for Withers, but that if Withers wanted to be accepted by the Bourne family, she should run to the nearest finishing school. She goes on to accuse her future DIL of being a gold digger, and certainly not good enough for “our dear Freddie.” Heidi had the last laugh. She posted it on the web for the world to see. I’ll bet that Christmas dinner is going to be a tad uncomfortable this year.

What’s the common theme here? Mother-in-Laws are horrible, manipulative, and overbearing. Leno, Johnny Carson, Jimmy Fallon, and all the rest get in their jab. Comic Henny Youngman’s signature line was, “Take my Mother-in-Law. Please.”

While we know that much of it is exaggerated and funny, it has become an urban legend. The translation is: don’t expect much from these relationships. Prepare yourself, girls, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

When we expect it to be bad – we are usually not disappointed. We get what we believed was inevitable – a bad relationship. Every little twitch of the eyelid or slight frown becomes a message to the DIL, “She hates my cooking.” Or worse, “She hates me.”

In all urban legend, there is often some truth. These are not easy relationships. And DILs can be every bit as difficult. But we have been conditioned to expect the worst. The music, movie and television industries have helped that along, as have the experiences of friends or relatives who have shared their in-law horror stories.

It’s time to challenge the legend. This week we will examine the role of expectation and experience in determining the quality of this relationship. Stay tuned!

Daughters of My Heart

I wrote this post in May of this year, the day before Mother’s Day. It’s really how this idea began to form, and it has taken on a life of its own.

My sons married incredible women. Each of them followed our advice and all three “married up.” Way up. If I could have selected wives for my boys from a catalog, it would have been these three. Sarah, Heather, and Penny – listed in the order they came into our lives. As we prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day tomorrow, I wanted to take a moment to recognize my girls.

Sarah was the first, and she was also the first one to refer to me as her “mother-in-love.” It blesses me each time she says it. I’ve known Sarah from the time she was 13. That’s more than half her life and I can’t imagine my life without her. Sassy, smart, and amazing. She is a wonderful mom and she loves my son Jordan fiercely. She is our redhead.

Our brunette is Heather. I met her when she was 16. She is married to my son Cameron. She told me once that when she was single, she couldn’t imagine calling anyone but her own mother ‘mom’. But the bond between us is such that she said she could never call me anything else. What a sweet honor. Caring, smart and genuine. Awesome wife. She will be an incredible mother – hopefully in the not too distant future.

So that leaves the blonde spot open. And son Bryce filled it when he married our wonderful Penny. “Mama Deb” is her sweet name for me – and I love it. Penny was 28 when she joined the family and completed our ‘set’. There was an open place in my heart that God created just for her, and my heart recognized her the moment I met her. Amazing wife and mother. Talented writer, runner.

These are the daughters of my heart.

I want to thank their moms for sharing them with me. Dru, Melody, Pam – you all did an amazing job. God bless each of you for the years you invested in bringing them up. My life is richer because I am back-up mother to your girls.

And girls – remember how much I love you!

So how did we get here? How have we sidestepped the typical mother-in-law / daughter in law agony? What did we do? How do we maintain it? Is it always without its challenges? That’s what this site and ultimately a book intends to explore. We are NOT smarter, luckier, or more spiritual than the average MIL DIL. What we ARE is determined to be united as a family and just intelligent enough to know that we can’t do it without Jesus!