The Memory and Legacy of Your Father

This post is dedicated to those that grieve on Father’s Day.  Your Dad is no longer here to celebrate this day with you.  You would love to pick up the telephone and catch up with him, or sit beside him as he relaxes in his favorite chair, but you can’t.  He is gone, and it is not by your choice, that you can no longer spend Father’s Day with your earthly father.

 

I understand the void that you feel.   36 years ago, my father took his own life.  It was just 3 months to the day before my 18th birthday.  He was only 42 years old and there was so much life to be lived.  There was so much good to come, but he couldn’t see that – his pain overwhelmed him.  I miss him but there is something else that I miss too.

 

Since his death, I miss what he has missed out on.  He never met his son-in-law.  He has missed watching his grandchildren grow up – every milestone and accomplishment, and he never got to see the woman that I’ve become.  I could be sad, and sometimes I still grieve, but mostly I now choose to remember that he loved me and that he called me endearing names like “smiley”.  He looked at me as though I was the best thing that he had ever done with his life.  Now, I realize that even though my Dad was with me for only a short time, he gave me so much.  He taught me to feel deeply when I love and to think thoughtfully and God has not wasted any of my grief.  The pain that so easily could have become bitterness has become compassion, which has evolved into a deep longing to have others see the light of Christ in me – in order to glorify Him.

 

If you are missing your father today, and wishing that he was here with you, try to remember that there is an abundance of the fatherless.  If you have been blessed to have a father invest into your life, even if it was for a shorter time than you would have chosen, take that and use it to bless another life.  You can continue your Dad’s legacy by pouring into someone else.  Giving of ourselves takes our focus off of our own pain and is deeply therapeutic.

 

You can probably imagine that this was an extremely difficult post to write and share.  I have bared my heart to you and my deepest hope is that someone will be helped.  I want this to be a Happy Father’s Day for you.  May you have many pleasant memories of your Dad this weekend, and every single day, and may your joy spill out onto others!

Will We Have Enough?

There are reminders everywhere.  Television, radio, emails and pop-up ads.  Are we adequately preparing for our future?  I propose a different question.  Are we adequately living for today?  Are we pouring the fun into our marriages that will sustain the relationship during those empty nesting, job is a thing of the past days?  Guess what?  We can keep saving for retirement because this kind of fun is free.  Today, Madeline is talking about glue.  The glue that keeps the marital relationship alive and well.

If you’re raising littles, you’re tired.  If you’re raising teenagers, you fondly remember the simplicity of the “littles” days.  This isn’t about whether or not you are exhausted, because I know that you are.  I know this because, I’m exhausted too.  It’s life.  Life is draining, but every day that we choose to put our spouse’s needs toward the end of the to-do list, the life drains out of the marriage and when the children are gone and the careers are over, who and what will we be left with?  Will it be a malnourished spouse and marriage, or shall we choose to invest in this relationship and reap the rewards now and later?  Here are a few of my free investment tips.

 

>Wife, put your freshly showered body between clean sheets and wait for your husband to return home from work?  Yes, during daylight.

>Husband, tell her how beautiful she is to you and make love to every inch of her body?  Yes, not merely the “main parts”.

>Hold hands while you drive to your appointments together.

>Wife, climb onto his lap and let him undress you while you passionately kiss him.

>Husband, walk her to the couch after dinner, place a glass of wine in her hand and immediately return to the kitchen to clean up.

>Wife, greet him at the door, grab him by the belt and tell him about the things that you want to do with him later.

>Husband, envelop her into your arms and just hold her without the expectation of things going further.

>Wife, behave a little naughty for him.   He might enjoy watching you enjoy that ice-cream cone.

>Husband, choose to look at her soul and point out the beauty that exists deep inside.  She might need to hear about why you think she’s so special.

>Take care of yourself for your spouse.

>Look nice for your spouse.

>Enjoy the person that you are married to.  Make a choice to like them, warts and all.

 

Empty nest divorce, also called gray divorce, is too common and it hurts everyone involved – even the grown children.  Couples lose closeness while life marches on around them.  Waiting until the children are gone and life slows down to begin investing in each other, doesn’t work.  In order to reach these years with a successful marriage intact, you’ll need to invest along the way.  Marital romance is the glue that bonds and protects the relationship, so make glue and bond and have some fun along the way.  You’ll never have to wonder – will we have enough to get us through to the end?

Drama Junkie

I’ve spent my lifetime, silently watching and listening.  Wondering.  Why do some people seem to continually be surrounded by difficulties?  My heart would break and I would step in to help.  Then, I stumbled across unfamiliar terminology – excessive attention seeking disorder.  Did you know that for some people, receiving attention gives them a chemical high, similar to a drug hit?  Excessive attention seeking or addiction to drama is very real and this enslavement reaches outward and affects everyone that comes into contact with the drama junkie.  If someone that you care about seems to crave excessive attention, there are reasons for this behavior.  This post is not intended to offer in depth scientific evidence, or a cure but instead I hope to provide clarity and understanding to the one who suffers from second-hand drama.  Please allow me a few moments to take what I have learned and break it down into a very simple explanation, then we’ll look at your role in the drama.

 

Research shows that when a developing child feels neglect, their brain interprets this as danger and wires itself to survive within this environment.  This wiring for survival trains a developing mind to do whatever is necessary to attract the craved attention, even if it’s extreme.  Sometimes this means creating turmoil by making decisions that cause difficulties.  These behaviors attract attention which then trigger a chemical reaction in the brain, similar to a drug high and the behaviors have now been rewarded and reinforced.  You see, endorphins and dopamine are released which suppress pain and bring feelings of happiness.  This becomes a cycle, where the end goal is a reward of short lived feelings of elation – then the cycle begins again.  Just like any other addiction, a tolerance is built up and it will require a bigger and better crisis to achieve the good feelings.  Here’s the cherry on top.  Researchers believe that a consequence of neglect is a smaller hypothalamus gland in the brain.  The hypothalamus plays a key role in sleep, body temperature regulation, hunger, healthy parenting and processing of the “feel good” chemical, serotonin.  When the brain doesn’t efficiently process serotonin, problems occur.  Have you noticed that your attention getter struggles with other addictions, obsessions or depression?  It is common for the addiction to drama and excessive attention seeking, to accompany other addictions such as food or substances – legal or illegal, or obsessive tendencies and depression.  This is the serotonin link.  So, now that we have a better understanding, how can this intrusion into your life be managed?

 

First, realize that enabling the behavior isn’t helpful.  If you care about someone who exhibits these behaviors, maybe it has felt easier to let the turmoil and crisis roll in, or maybe you’ve been helping them feed their other addictions, but if you have influence in their life, it might be time for you to confront them with truth in a loving manner.  Second, never minimize the great transforming power that God can exercise in our lives when we are willing participants in His work in us – pray for them.  Encourage them in the following areas.  Contentment – loving what we already have more than what we don’t have.  Forgiveness – forgiving our parents or other caregivers from our developing years is crucial.  Acceptance – realizing and accepting that sometimes other humans only have so much to give and that sometimes it just doesn’t feel like enough.   Self-control – encourage them to make sound decisions.  Belief – remind them of God’s everlasting love and encourage them to read God’s word and devour it.  We all benefit by being continually reminded of the great love that God has for us and His unmerited favor upon each of us.

 

One last thought – if you are exhausted by someone like this and you are tempted to remove yourself from their drama, it might be necessary to do so, but remember that 1st Thessalonians tells us to be tender and patient toward those that are weak.  This person probably has a root of hurt that goes deep.  If you have a influential relationship with this person, God could be calling you to help them.  Without enabling the behavior, you can present the truth in a loving and supportive manner.

Meaningful, Valuable & Impactful – Words Have Meaning

How do you feel when someone acknowledges a positive characteristic in you?  You’re elated, right?  It’s like they’ve become the wind beneath your wings.  I sincerely hope that each of you has someone in your life, that gives you the gift of encouragement.  Now, I challenge you – be that person to someone else.  Give the gift of words that are meaningful, valuable and impactful – words that lift up.

It is pleasant to hear that someone likes you or even loves you, but when they are specific as to why they feel this way, it takes you to a new level.  Put some thought into your admiration and let them know what it is.  Put a name to it.  Following are some examples but don’t stop here – add the how, when and why that you’ve noticed this about them.

>You’re kind.

>You’re observant.

>You’re sensitive.

>You’re cheerful.

>You’re charming.

>You’re joyful.

>You’re wise.

>You’re gifted in the area of ….

>You’re talented in the area of ….

>You’re an encourager.

>You’re generous.

How about when someone has a deep impact on you?  Have you observed that they smile and lift the spirits of others?  Are they a musician who impacts you with their music?  Did they teach you or exhort you and open your eyes?  Did they sweep in and help you to improve your living conditions?  Does their gift give you joy?  Do their writings inspire you?  Has their input into your life, made you a better human being?  Has their encouragement lifted you up out of a pit and put you upon a rock?  Tell them.  Write your thoughts down and give it to them.  Your words have more meaning than you might realize.

One last thought, don’t overlook that person that appears to be confident.   They are mostly self-assured but all humans need to receive encouragement and many long to know that they are positively impacting the lives of others.    Life has a way of demoralizing even the most self-assured people.  Your kind and thoughtful words, might be the boost that they need to continue on.

Be a characteristic specific encourager, and be sure to tell them the how, when and why.  You might be the person that brings sunshine into a gloomy heart and mind.

She’s a Rock

There’s this woman that we know.  She’s rock candy.  Solid and strong as a rock but sweet as candy.  She appears to be self-assured.  She is a ray of sunshine.  From the outside, it looks like her entire life is peachy.   She notices when others aren’t coming around and she checks up on them.  She senses when others seem down or burdened and she offers help or encouragement.  Others rely on her and she seems to have the time to come to their aid.  Since she’s a rock, people assume that she has no emotional, physical or spiritual needs but I assure you, she is human too.  She’s a flesh and blood woman with challenges, struggles, pain and heartaches.  She doesn’t always have her life, emotions or health in order?  Sometimes she feels like everything in her life is falling apart.  Sometimes she feels like she is falling apart.

 

What makes her different?  Why does she appear to have life under control?  How does she have spare time and energy to reach out to others?  It’s simple – she just makes a moment by moment choice to focus on working hard and conducting herself with excellence and integrity and she reaches outward to others in lieu of becoming overly self-focused.  She is strong, caring and compassionate but her life is far from perfect.  She has the same challenges in her faith and trust, marriage and children, job and home, health and beauty, as every other woman.

 

She is trusting, patient and forgiving but when she reaches her own personal limit of hurtful, disrespectful, rude or careless behavior from another human being, she will draw the line.  Because of her authentic character, she won’t always merely distance herself.  Her strength causes her to confront the situation but her kind nature causes her to choose her words very carefully.  She will keep the majority of the details to herself, only telling the bare minimum of what she has experienced and she will trust that God will handle the rest.  If this woman decides to confront, she has considered the circumstances carefully.  A wise person will listen and consider what she has said for she has already proven her integrity.  It is most likely the truth and even though there is much more to the story, out of politeness or consideration of the feelings or reputation of those who are involved, she won’t discuss it.  Don’t talk behind her back or blame her for the wrongdoings of someone else and don’t try to influence others to think badly of her.  All of this adds insult to her injury.  Instead, remember how this woman gave generously and realize that she simply reached a point of self-preservation.

 

Lastly, realize that this woman needs care too.  Ask her about her life.  She’s not strong all of the time.  Sometimes she is exhausted.  Sometimes she is crippled by fear.  Sometimes she is in physical or emotional pain.  She gives her love freely but she still needs to receive love.  She needs to know that others genuinely care about her too.  She needs to know that she has positively impacted other lives.

 

Would you be the one who cares for her?  Make today the day or let her wake up tomorrow with a message or phone call from you.  Ask her how she slept, or how she’s feeling, or ask her about her life, or just let her know that you’ve been thinking about her.  Let her know how she has impacted you.  These might seem like small gestures, but her heart will soar all day long.

Mom, I Love You

When Jesus saw His Mother and the disciple whom he loved, He said “Woman, behold your son” and to the disciple, He said “behold, your mother”.  Jesus was dying on that cross – His own weight crushed His lungs and He was suffocating.  Even worse, he experienced the emotional and spiritual darkness of separation from His Father.  Why at that moment did he give his mother to a trusted and loved friend?  Why did He not make these arrangements previously?  Why not during supper in the upper room?  Why not during the days after his resurrection before He ascended to heaven?

Christ, during His most physically, mentally and spiritually demanding experience took a moment to tell His mother, “Mom, I love you, I care for you and I have provided for you”.  He demonstrated the commandment “honor your father and mother”.   Why did he choose this moment?  Could He have been communicating a message to us?  No matter how demanding and crazy our lives get – is it possible to still spend time and effort to honor our parents?

You might live near your parents or far away from them.  They may be healthy and active or their health may be failing.  Some have a great relationship with their parents and some are estranged from them.  Many of us have lost at least one parent to death.  No matter what conditions exist, there is a way that you can honor them or their memory.

>Call to catch up or fondly remember the past, or just simply listen to them unload – aging parents are dealing with challenges that sometimes overwhelm them and they need the support.

>Give them a new photo of their grandchildren.  Don’t send it electronically unless they specifically want that format.

>Write a heartfelt letter telling your parents what they mean to you and how much you appreciate what they have done for you.  Now would be a good time to thank them for their wisdom.

>Ensure that their memory will live on and tell your children stories about their grandparents.   If you don’t have children, tell others about your parents.

>Give them a special gift.  Something that they would never buy for themselves.

>Treat them with respect and don’t steal their dignity.  Although there may be areas where they will need help in making decisions, allow them to continue making decisions.

>If you live nearby, give them practical helps.

>If you are estranged from a parent, now is the time to cast aside your pride, if that has been the problem.  This is the parent that God gave to you and even if they are abusive, you can still honor them without allowing the toxic behavior to enter into your life.

>Remember that your parent isn’t only a parent.  They are a man or woman with human needs and unique gifts.  You will send their heart soaring when you take the time to get to know them as this wonderful creation and acknowledge what you see.

On this Mother’s Day, put your heart and mind into the gift that you give to her.  What would she cherish?  Flowers are nice but eventually they wilt and will have to be thrown away.  Lunch out is a treat to her but it only lasts for a little while.  How about also giving her a handwritten letter, expressing your appreciation for her?    Happy Mother’s Day!

Living as a Pauper

I’ve been a Christian for over half of my life – shouldn’t I know better by now?  I know that God isn’t a liar, so why do I live my life as though I don’t always believe Him? Why do I live as though I am destitute, when God tells me something very different? According to God, the same riches that He has given to Jesus Christ, are available to me.

I am a life-long people pleaser and it occurs to me that in my people pleasing, I am like a pauper standing on the road-side, begging for a scrap of something from other human beings.  Love, acceptance, respect, friendship – all good things but when I elevate them above God’s opinion of me, I am stuck in a cycle of elation to despair.

When someone treats you badly, do you begin to view yourself as a devalued human being? Sometimes we disrespect others and sometimes we are disrespected.  According to God, this is unacceptable and He doesn’t give us any exclusions or exceptions.  We are to esteem others as higher than ourselves but too often, the opposite occurs.  Here are some examples.  A loved one or friend who fails to take the time to understand you and instead tries to change you, rather than valuing your unique gifts. Someone who blames you for their relationship problems with someone else. A jealous or insecure woman who judges or dislikes another woman, simply because of her appearance or bubbly personality. Someone who spreads lies and damages a reputation. A friend who is willing to accept kindness but does not reciprocate care or concern.  A woman who is pleasant toward someone in front of her husband but at other times communicates disdain.  A wife that is jealous or possessive and requires that her husband not show kindness to another human being.  A group of men or women who exclude someone from their clique.  How about the woman who treats another woman cruelly because her husband admires this woman?  Teenagers – they can be crude and cruel and their jealousy toward another teen, can cause them to behave and speak in a horrible manner.  Teasingly referring to body part size, facial features, hair, skin or clothing can send a young person into despair.

If you are capable of living out the “haters gonna hate” and then shake it off method, you are very fortunate.  For others, these rejections lead to despair. Dear tenderhearted one, if you are in Christ Jesus, you will need to continually remind yourself of your identity. Your identity is in how God views you, not in how other people treat you.  If you have trusted Jesus for the payment of your sins, this is what God says about you: you are no longer condemned, God adopted you into His family, God has given you an inheritance of spiritual riches, God showers you in kindness, God sees Jesus’ righteousness when He looks at you, you are His beloved and all of this gives Him pleasure.  Simply put, you are very wealthy.

If you belong to Jesus, take the wealth of love that God lavishes upon you and then love others – just don’t make them an idol by elevating them above God in your life. If you have not made Jesus the Lord of your life, you must start there. With Adam and Eve, sin entered the world and God’s required payment for sin is spiritual death which is eternal separation from Him. Thankfully, God didn’t leave us there – He made a plan for us to be reconciled to Him. His Son paid the penalty on the cross, for your sin. All you must do to receive this salvation from spiritual death, is simply accept His gift to you. Place your trust in Jesus’ finished work on the cross.

God adopted me and this gave Him great pleasure. Ephesians 1:5

Deadly Comparisons

If only she looked like that.  If he would just treat me that way.  If she were my wife, I would make her feel like a queen.  She doesn’t deserve him – if he were mine, I’d…  You get the point – coveting, and it’s deadly.  It will rob you of living your life and it will murder your marriage.

 

When are you most vulnerable to comparing your spouse to another person?  Is it after a fight with your wife or when your husband speaks or acts in a way that is insensitive?  Has your spouse let their physical appearance go?  Are they run-of-the-mill?  What makes you compare your spouse to that old flame or an acquaintance, friend or coworker?  It’s important to uncover these patterns in our lives.  When we recognize and understand our weaknesses, we are better equipped to prevent ourselves from walking to the edge of a dangerous precipice.  We then know to not approach or if necessary, back-up before everything crumbles beneath our feet, causing us to fall and be destroyed.

 

It may very well be reality, that your spouse isn’t attractive, doesn’t excite you or that they don’t always treat you very well but comparing our spouses to others begins with a problem deep down within our own heart and mind.  It begins with a lack of thankfulness and contentment.   Discontentment most likely stems from a belief that we are somehow entitled to something better.  What is the solution to this very human problem?  In my own life, I must continually work at cultivating a thankful heart.  A thankful heart becomes a contented heart.  Learn to count your blessings.  Look for the many things in your spouse that are good and be honest with yourself about your own faults.  In short, I must accept that today, I have exactly what God in His ultimate wisdom, wants me to have.

 

That other person may look pretty good to you but they are not yours.  God will never bless something that He has defined as sin – in this case, coveting or adultery.  However, He will bless your efforts to find contentment in your own marriage, with the person that you chose.  You chose them – for better or for worse.  In my own marriage, I have experienced real change when I choose to do the right thing.  Look for the good in your spouse and thank God for it.  This is the anti-venom of discontentment.

Shaken, Not Stirred

Are you a thinker?  Is your mind usually on full speed?  Do you wake up during the night, ready to do more thinking?  If so, you probably have a tendency to rehash and overthink.  Is this a strength or a weakness?  I am a thinker and I definitely recognize and experience the good and the bad of this trait.  It all depends on how we use our thinking skills.  Let’s talk about the proper use of your Maserati mind.

 

Currently, I have a large plate and it’s jammed full and over-flowing with challenges and tasks to complete.  My daughter will be getting married soon, my teenage son just got his driver’s license and will be taking an airline trip on his own soon, we are selling our home and acreage of thirteen years, buying a lot, finding temporary housing, planning a new house, selling our rather large accumulation of stuff, packing, moving, homeschooling a highschooler, involvement in four different ministries, peri-menopause and a husband with a demanding schedule at work and at church.  Oh, and I’m still attempting to write and post quality content.  I’m writing this at 3:30 in the morning.  My mind woke my body and I just couldn’t sleep anymore.  What’s a girl to do?  At this very moment, she is going to get another cup of strong coffee.  I’m back – now let’s continue. What is the solution to managing an overactive mind?

 

Shake up your little snow globe but don’t stir the pot.  What on earth do I mean by this statement?  I’ll start with “don’t stir the pot”.  Stirring the pot suspends the sediment and things become cloudy and you are unable to see clearly.  Your mind gets caught up in the whirling.  Rehashing or obsessing over past hurts, current circumstances or tasks is a form of stirring the pot and it is counter-productive.  If I shake up my little snow globe, it’s an entirely different effect and result.  First, I can shake it up and get a very lovely result by fondly remembering the people that have been a blessing to me.  Second, shaking up my little snow globe applies to my daily tasks.  Shake it up in your mind and let it fall onto a written list.  Now, prioritize and go after those tasks and whatever doesn’t get done, move it to the next day’s list.  If it doesn’t fall into the fond memory or daily task column and it is outside of your control, then let it go – give it to God and just let it go.  Stirring the pot creates an agitated mind but shaking your little snow globe allows your mind to do its work and then slowly settle down.  By settling your mind, you can then focus on communing with God and begin to rest.

 

I do well with shaking up my snow globe at night, just before I go to sleep.  I construct my plans for the next day but when the lights go out and before I drift off, I count my blessings and thank God for the ways that I saw Him working that day and then I fondly remember the people who have been in my life – past and present.  Thank you for keeping me company in the wee hours of the morning.