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.

He Chose These Moments

I’m a speck – just one person.  He’s too busy to care about my problems, hurts or loneliness.  We all have these thoughts.  We don’t immediately go to Him in prayer or we feel that we’ve gone too much, maybe with the same request, over and over.  We secretly think that God could never understand or relate to our pain or that He becomes impatient with us.  When we feel this way, it is rooted in our misunderstanding of the character of God.

 

Pour over God’s word and you’ll see endless evidence that He cares for each of us with an everlasting love.  Why then do we seem to perceive God as limited?  It’s because we have a tendency to measure God by human capabilities.  Read about Him and let the wonder of His greatness amaze you.  Recently, God opened my eyes about something and I want to share it with you.  It is one of the clearest examples of His ability to be outside of human limitations – the words spoken by Jesus during His crucifixion, the most horrific form of punishment ever invented.

 

Jesus was fully man and fully God and since He endured as a man, He demonstrated that He is acquainted with human pain and suffering.  He suffered physical, mental and emotional pain but He also suffered the great loneliness of separation from God the Father.  Here is the wonder of all of this.  Jesus didn’t retreat within himself during His time of suffering.  He reached out.    He spoke the following from the cross:

 

>He extended great mercy to those that were killing Him.  Luke 23:34 “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!”  When we’ve been hurt badly, it is hard to forgive but refusing to forgive steals our peace.  Christ shows us that it is possible to immediately forgive, even the most heinous offense.

>He forgave the criminal in his lowliest condition.  Luke 23:43 “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise!”  Christ does not require that we clean ourselves up in order to come to Him.

>He displayed His tender care for our needs.  John 19:26-27 “Woman, behold your son.  Son, behold your mother!”  He cared and gave them to each other.  Jesus knows that we need to take care of each other.

>He demonstrated his anguish and abandonment.  Mark 15:34 “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me!”  This statement, during what is possibly His worst moments on the cross, evidences that Christ really understands our great loneliness and despair.

>He suffered from the basic need of water.  John 19:28 “I thirst!”  He proves that He understands our human needs.

>He exclaimed victory over sin.  John 19:30 “It is finished!”  He declares victory so that we know that through Him, we will have victory.

>Finally, He declared His contentment and reunion with His Father.  Luke 23:46 “Father, into your hands I commit My spirit!”  Jesus understands relationship and He knows the hurt of separation as well as the joy of reunion with those that we love.

 

His brain was exploding with physical and emotional pain.  Loneliness.  Nerves on fire from the ripped and fatigued muscles, open wounds and the penetration of thorns and nails.  The crushing of his heart and lungs as fluid pushed in and the misery of extreme thirst.  For Him to speak, must have been nearly impossible in human terms but He chose these moments to tell us that He knows and relates to our sorrows.  He also chose a moment to tell us that He completed the payment for our sins.  Nothing but our faith and trust is necessary.  Salvation is Christ plus absolutely nothing.

 

When you are tempted to think that you’re too small or that He’s too busy or that He doesn’t understand or relate to your despair, remember that He chose these moments during His great suffering, to show us the magnitude of His ability to always care for us.  Yes, Jesus died for our salvation but He also died for every little thing too.

The Road to Reconciliation and Peace

What does reconciliation look like?  Has it occurred between two parties, simply because they are able to be courteous to each other?  Is it possible to forgive without reconciliation occurring?

 

Forgiveness is the responsibility of the offended and it is required by God.  It is not contingent on the offender apologizing or asking for forgiveness.  Forgiveness is possible, even if the offender never realizes what they’ve done, or even if they refuse to take responsibility for their actions or words.  Forgiveness does not release the offender from their guilt but it releases the offended from the burden.   When we’ve been hurt by another person, it is a challenge to forgive but it is a choice that must be made and refusing to forgive, puts a wedge between us and God.  You see, for the most part, forgiving is vertical – it is between you and God.  He requires you to forgive, enables you to forgive and He restores peace between you and Him, when you forgive.  Forgiveness is usually not a one-time occurrence but instead, many singular moments of obedience.

 

Biblical reconciliation, which brings lasting peace in a relationship, goes deep.  In order for it to begin, both parties need to be ready.  The offender will need to be ready to hear the entire truth of how they have hurt, without resorting to excuses or anger and ready to take responsibility.  The offended must be free of bitterness and if they haven’t already done so, they must be ready to forgive.  Reconciling is a process of deconstructing the relationship and then building it back up.  It goes something like this:  realization of wrongdoing, grief and remorse, confession or admittance, forgiveness desired and restitution, if necessary.  Restoration of the relationship can now begin and trust can be rebuilt.  In true reconciliation, there is no room for defensiveness or excuse making and if the offender is in this mode, it is not yet possible.  If the hurt party is bitter, unforgiving and punishing, then it is not yet possible.  Notice that in both cases, I have said “not yet”.  Give it time and let God deal with the hearts of those that are involved.  Pray for yourself and the other party.  In time, there may be softened hearts and then the process can begin.

 

God’s word is our source of truth – so I would like to share my favorite story of offense, remorse, forgiveness and reconciliation.  It’s the story of Joseph, which starts in Genesis 37.  Joseph was a golden boy.  He was gifted and favored by God and preferred by his earthly father.  He attracted blessing but he was also the subject of jealousy and evil plotting.  His own brothers concocted a plan to get rid of Joseph and he was sold into slavery.  Once in a new land, Joseph was again favored but through a twisting of events, he was lied about and went to prison because of it.  In prison, Joseph aided others and the person that he helped to get out of prison, forgot about him for years.  Finally, through amazing circumstances Joseph was released from prison and became very powerful.  If anyone had reason to be embittered, it was Joseph and he could have used his power to punish those who had hurt him but Joseph had a soft and forgiving heart, and most of all, he knew that his sovereign God would bring good out of all his hardships.  Looking for help from the wealthy land of Egypt, his brothers came to this land where Joseph was now a powerful man.   They never imagined that they would run into Joseph again.  Joseph recognized them but they didn’t realize that the man in charge was their brother.  In Genesis 42, we over-hear the brothers expressing remorse over what they had done to their brother and we see that Joseph was secretly listening to their discussion.  In Genesis 44, the brothers lament that their current hardships must be a punishment for their previous sins.  These are key moments in the story and I believe crucial to the reconciliation that is about to happen.  Joseph reveals himself to them and there is a tender reunion and healing words.  Without the brothers becoming remorseful and taking responsibility for their motives and actions, do you think that this family reunion would have played out this way?  In order for reconciliation to occur, the offending party must be able to see how they have hurt the other party and then take the next courageous steps.

 

If you’ve hurt someone, the greatest gift that you can give to them, is to confess and apologize, naming the specific wrongdoings and ask for forgiveness.  The magnificence of healing then begins to occur for both parties.  If you have been accused of offending and are having trouble getting to the acceptance and confession stage, try remembering a time when someone hurt you.  How did you feel?  What would have helped you?  Did they take responsibility or did they merely give you the “I’m sorry if” – the un-apology?  The un-apology adds insult to injury.  Remembering a time when we were the casualty, softens our heart and prepares us to take responsibility for our own actions and words.

 

Unfortunately, reconciliation doesn’t always occur.  Sometimes the offender cannot be trusted.  Sometimes the parties would rather avoid the unpleasantness of confrontation by playing nicey-nice or simply just avoiding the other party.  Sometimes the involved hearts are hardened.

 

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are to be continually forgiving each other and also praying for and being open to the possibility of reconciliation but it must be genuine biblical reconciliation.  If you have hurt someone, check your heart for readiness and then it’s up to you to make the next move.  If you’ve been hurt, prepare your heart for future reconciliation, by doing the work of forgiving, ridding yourself of bitterness and punishing attitudes.  I hope that you’ll begin to travel the road of reconciliation and that you’ll be blessed with the final result of peace within your own heart and mind as well as peace between you and others.

Leftovers Again?

Leftovers – great for those occasions when you’re short on time but leftovers can’t compare to my best effort in putting a fresh hot meal on the table.  What kind of a marital diet is your spouse on?  Are you serving leftovers or your best effort?

 

Most of us have fairly good manners and we try very hard to put our best face forward with acquaintances, clients, co-workers and friends. Our spouse deserves the same courtesy but when we’re tired or grumpy, sometimes they are the recipient of our impolite, impatient, demanding, uncharitable, distracted and at the very least, low energy behavior.  It’s true that we should be comfortable and at ease with our spouse but we should never make them feel less valuable than the other people in our life.

 

Here are some ways that we can give our spouse what they deserve – the best that we have to offer.

 

>Greet your spouse with as much enthusiasm as you would greet others.

>Say goodbye with as much feeling as you would with others.

>Ask them about their life and how things are going for them.

>Put their needs before the children.

>Look at them in their eyes when they are speaking to you.  Put your device down.

>Try to look your best for them.

>Compliment them on their appearance or their efforts.

>Smile at them.

>Date them and from time to time, put some effort into the planning and preparation.

>Have compassion for them when they make a mistake.  Don’t lecture them about it.

>Don’t demand that they serve you but say thank you when they do.

>Be charming with them.

>Don’t correct them when they make an unimportant mistake when speaking.

>Offer to be their helper.

>Ask them, don’t tell them and don’t forget to say please and thank you.

 

Our spouse is the most important human in our life and they should definitely feel as though they are.  Would you take a challenge for me?  If this is an area of weakness for you, try implementing one or two each month until they are habits and your spouse is feeling as though they alone, are your most significant other.

Backwards, In-Place or Straight Ahead?

It’s a period of change, or the process of changing from one circumstance or condition to another.  We’ve all gone through it and most of us are going through some form of it right now.  It is transition.

Transition comes in many forms and for many reasons.  It is one of the most common aspects of living the human experience.   A wedding, childbirth, returning to school, a job change, retirement, death of a loved one, relocation, divorce, empty nesting, down-sizing, health crisis, losing a friendship, geographical separation from a spouse and countless other changes.

Traveling through transition can be forbidding.  The emotional pain of letting go and the fear of the unknown, can grip us and sometimes we get stuck or even begin to take steps backwards.  Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, is quoted as saying “change is the only constant in life”.  Since we know this to be true, why not stop fighting it and instead, embrace it?  Yes, the key to success during transition is to accept the realities of it – but how?

It starts with our perspective and I’m not going to sugar coat this – it won’t always be easy. If we find ourselves mentally curled up in the fetal position or perpetually with a heavy-heart, we must change the way that we are perceiving the process of change. View the transition as an experience that you are marching forward into.  Look straight ahead and focus on the good things to come.  If you are unable to imagine the good things in your future, go to someone who knows you well and ask for help with seeing the possibilities.  Reach outward to others who are trustworthy and have the ability to help you analyze your circumstances and separate each problem.  Once each problem stands alone, you can more easily deal with it and it will be merely one stepping stone on your journey.  Share your struggles and allow others to shoulder some of your burdens.  Accept practical helps along the way.  Check your outlook and attitude regularly – is your heart heavy or light?  All of this minimizes the internalization of your struggles and will help you to prevent overwhelm within your mind.

Experiencing difficulties is usually not something that we seek out or enjoy but I do encourage you to remember.  As you experience your next transition, you’ll remember and know that you’ll survive.  Think back.  Did you grow stronger and wiser?  Are you more kind, compassionate and giving?  Don’t forget to share this with others as they are experiencing overwhelming stress during periods of transition.

If you have been attempting to march forward through life by the power of your own strength, separated from the One that created you, knows everything about you and yet still loves you with an everlasting love, I would like to tell you just a little of my story.  When I was seventeen, I faced a huge transition – my father’s first suicide attempt.  At that time, I placed my trust in Christ’s payment for my sins and He became Lord of my life.  I cannot imagine experiencing life’s difficulties without my Lord at the helm.  He doesn’t remove the challenges but He supports me while I walk through them and He uses them to mature me.  He is the Living Water that sustains me during the droughts of my life.  If you don’t know Him, I encourage you meet Him.  He never expects you to get cleaned up enough to meet Him.  He says come as you are.  Meet the One that made you, gives you breath, died for you, resurrected Himself and intercedes for you – Jesus Christ.  Meet Him, trust Him and watch Him bring a beautiful metamorphosis out of the challenge of change.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11