Tuesday, July 06, 2010

In All Things

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
I Thessalonians 5:18

When you say your wedding vows, you have a misguided youthful optimism that the "for poorer," "for worse," and "in sickness" will all be minimal, short-lived, and bearable. But when you feel as bashed upon the rocks as this water from a mountain stream, you must still give thanks in all circumstances.

(photo taken by my son on a weekend camping trip with our church)

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Monday, July 05, 2010

In the Middle

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
Final sentence in the Declaration of Independence

One week ago today was my 30th anniversary. One week from today, I will be divorced. I am in the middle of two very difficult days. The first milestone was one I yearned to reach and surpass, my parents not making it to 25 years. The second condition was one I never wanted to experience, nor even utter aloud. And yet, here I stand. Not understanding why God has allowed this to happen. Yet praying earnestly that I will be faithful to Him through it all.

Last Monday evening I was surrounded by dear, precious family and friends. Preparing for the occasion kept me busy all the day long. The love and prayers poured out for me and my two children served to carry me through, not only on the day itself, but for several days beyond.

God gave me a tangible reminder that I am not alone. Even in my darkest hours, He is with me. I thank and praise God for those who have walked with me down this difficult path, pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

(Our fireworks were cancelled last evening, due to rain. I think that these flowers serve as an even better show, created by our Heavenly Father, and currently residing in the front yard.)

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

"Lord Jesus, Think On Me"

This hymn was written by Synesius of Cyrene (375-430). Appointed as Bishop in 410, this is the only existing hymn text that has been attributed to him.

Synesius could have been very familiar with this amphitheater, built by Greek settlers to Cyrene (present day Libya) in the 6th Century B.C. Cyrene is considered by some to be one of the most important ancient Greek sites outside of Greece. (Go here to read about efforts to properly restore the ruins pictured above.)

May you be blessed this day by the words of this ancient hymn.

Lord Jesus, Think On Me

Lord Jesus, think on me
And purge away my sin;
From earthborn passions set me free
And make me pure within.

Lord Jesus, think on me,
With many a care oppressed;
Let me Thy loving servant be
And taste Thy promised rest.

Lord Jesus, think on me
Amid the battle’s strife;
In all my pain and misery
Be Thou my Health and Life.

Lord Jesus, think on me
Nor let me go astray;
Through darkness and perplexity
Point Thou the heavenly way.

Lord Jesus, think on me
When floods the tempest high;
When on doth rush the enemy,
O Savior, be Thou nigh!

Lord Jesus, think on me
That, when the flood is past,
I may th’eternal brightness see
And share Thy joy at last.

Lord Jesus, think on me
That I may sing above
To Father, Spirit, and to Thee
The strains of praise and love.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Love and Hate

Did you figure out what's in the photo? It's a close up of a bale of hay. The nuns at the abbey tended the field last spring and summer. They cut the hay, baled it, and are using it for their cattle. The hay brings its stored up nutrients to the cows, who in turn, provide nourishment to the nuns in the form of milk and beef. What are we nourishing our bodies with? We should be filling ourselves with the Bread of Life.

I hate and abhor lying,
But I love Your law.

Psalm 119-163 NKJV

The Beyond Consequences Online Parenting Class I've been taking dealt with lying recently. The statement was made, "Ignore the lie, but don't ignore the child." If you're like me, you're thinking, "Ignore the lie? No way! I don't want my child to grow up to be a liar! It's just plain wrong!" The class teacher, author Heather Forbes, later states that there is an implied thought in that sentence. Add the word temporarily at the beginning, to read, "Temporarily ignore the lie, but don't ignore the child." Forbes further elaborates on this thought.

"But you're saying by this point..., 'But what about the fact that my child is lying? How is he going to know that lying is wrong?' You are absolutely right; lying is wrong and the moral lesson of lying should be taught...it just cannot be taught in the heat of the moment due to the child's fear reactivity. Once the child is calm, and you're calm, perhaps an hour or later in the day, this behavior can be addressed with the child. Yet, in order for the child to absorb and fully understand that lying is wrong, the child has to be out of his fear state. His cognitive thinking pathways have to be clear and open. These pathways are engaged and fully operational only when a child is in a state of love. Remember, stress causes confused and distorted thinking, so the child must be in a calm state in order to be receptive to the rationale of why it is hurtful to lie."

"It is also important to recognize that stress suppresses short-term memory. Lecturing a child about lying during the stress of the moment will have little impact on the child's ability to remember not to lie in the future."
from Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control
by Heather T. Forbes & Bryan Post

In addition, instead of saying, "Don't lie," say, "I need you to always tell the truth." I've been consciously trying to formulate my statements to my children in this positive manner. It's also important to tell them that you can always work things out. You don't want them to think that because they've lied, you will mistrust/hate them forever. When you do come back to address the lie, let your child know you still love them, and you will fairly work out anything that may have to be undone by telling the lie.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

God's Will

Fate. Destiny. Reality. Free will. God's will.

These are thoughts that consume man's mind, if he will but let them. Even a non-Christian will wrestle with these aspects of life on earth. They can be quite nebulous, just like the (accidental) photograph above. They are hard to figure out and difficult to grasp.

Perhaps that is why I, and so many other non-TV watchers, enjoy the TV show, Lost. Sure, the survivors in the island are dealing with the physical and emotional realities of being stranded on a mysterious for most of the show's 5+ year tenure. But, the ideas of man's free will vs. God's will figure quite prominently in the story lines. (Or in the case of Lost, perhaps it's more accurate to say, the island's will.)

Some of these thoughts have served to make me most grateful that I am taking the Beyond Consequences Online Parenting Class right now. The class is not only helping me understand our daughter and more effectively help her, but it is helping me understand and process what's going on surrounding our divorce.

The chapter we've been reading for the past two weeks has to do with the fact that our own past hurts, anger, and unresolved issues are unearthed when you parent a troubled child. I know this sounds like a crock of psychobabble, but the way I am able to apply it to my life is very real and has been a Godsend. It would have helped me with our daughter, but the fact that much of it also applies to my divorce is what makes me believe that God's hand is in the convergence of this class and my current struggles.

Some of the thoughts I've gleaned from this chapter, which apply to both parenting a difficult child and going through a divorce, are:

~ Feelings of anger are normal and to be expected.
~ Current hurt unearths past hurt.
~ Anger can serve to protect you from painful memories.
~ Unchecked anger causes you to act out of fear, causes you to blame others, and becomes destructive.

The whole free will/God's will balance is one I don't think we'll ever adequately figure out, this side of heaven. I just know that because of the things this class has caused me to think about, our daughter is doing better. And, I'm better able to help steer both myself and my kids through this unpleasant sea of divorce.

Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
in everything give thanks;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

I Thessalonians 5: 16-18 NKJV

(photo taken by our daughter in a restaurant - we were being silly, and she must have moved)

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Don't Give Up!

This evening I read through an old journal I started keeping about three years ago. At the time, I was looking for patterns in my effectiveness (or lack thereof) as a parent. During an especially trying time, I wrote this in my notebook: Don't give up!

I never gave up, and I never will.

As I journey down my current path towards divorce, I find that having patience in parenting is often easier these days. Some dreams have shattered into a million shards, and some of the past lies crumbled at my feet. And yet, God is extending grace and mercy to me and the kids through this difficult time. I wouldn't say that He started me down this path so that the kids and I would grow closer, but He is using it to cause growth and deep abiding love. I can praise Him in the brokenness and be content through the muck and mire.

These excerpts from our reading for the Beyond Consequences Online Parenting Class really spoke to me today:

"Parenting children with severe behaviors is not a simple job, yet it is a responsibility charged to us by God. It is a call to directly face our own fears, worries, and frustrations. Anytime those around us view our parenting struggles in a negative light, we are faced with the fear that perhaps we are not living up to the job bestowed upon us. Anytime we begin to feel as if we are ineffective parents, we are confronted with the fear of failing this calling."

"Children exhibiting severe behaviors present opportunities for us to find healing in places deep within the caverns of our hearts - dark places we never knew existed. They present us with the opportunity to make relational connections far greater than those known to mankind. While this may sound all too poetic and dripping with sugar and icing to you, it is the perspective from which we need to work and strive to attain in order to ultimately relate to our children. When a parent's heart is open and operating out of a place of love, the parent has the emotional capacity to be in the child's pain with him, instead of reacting against the child's pain and against the child."

Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control
Heather T. Forbes & B. Bryan Post

Today's journal entry?
Great day! Praise God!

Thank you, Lord, for giving me patience and understanding today. Thank you for being my Rock and Shield when I felt utter despair over the losses in my life. Thank you for the blessing of my two precious children.

(photo: notebook entry 6-21-07)

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Strength Through the Limping

Writing today's date on our white board in the school room gave me a tinge of sadness. Today is five months until what would have been our 30th wedding anniversary. There are no plans being made for jetting off happily to Hawaii. (More realistically,) there will be no nice dinner out. Not even a quick trip to Taco Bell together. No looking together through our wedding pictures and reminiscing. No well wishes from family. No lingering kisses. No rejoicing.

We will limp towards the day, most likely still legally married. But, unfortunately, on the road to becoming another statistic.

God ordains marriage to be a covenant. He is in the midst of the two who are joined as one. It is a mystical, intangible cementing together of two individuals. Two souls becoming something new.

Tearing it apart is painful beyond belief.

And yet, God has His arms wrapped around me. He holds on tight, never letting go.

...I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4: 12-13 NIV

(I know this looks like a yellow board! It's just my camera phone...)

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Angel

It was God's grace that I "happened" to take the Beyond Consequences Online Parenting Class right now. Although it's designed to help us more effectively parent children who've experienced trauma, I find it's helping me as I navigate my own trauma of going through a divorce. I also realize that as I live with my pain, I understand my daughter's pain more vividly.

Lately, I have been anything but an angel. I find myself having great difficulty even speaking civily with my husband. I pray for patience, and yet I so readily fly off the handle. When he leaves, I calm down, see the error of my ways, ask for forgiveness from him and/or the kids, evaluate my behavior and try to learn how to be more polite the next time.

Beyond Consequences teacher, Heather Forbes, talks about the amount of stress we can take before we blow up. She calls it the Window of Stress Tolerance. To illustrate this point, I want you to think of a bucket. It's got some water in the bottom which represents your life. There are a few rocks in there too, collected from the various problems one has. Now, most of us can carry the bucket around without difficulty. Water and a few rocks get added every day, but we know to stop, take some rocks out, pour out some of the water, and go on with our buckets.

Someone who is experiencing/has experienced trauma, has a much different scenario. They have a bucket that is nearly full before they even get out of bed. As soon as they wake up, they know they must lug that heavy bucket around everywhere they go. They are tired of the water sloshing out onto their pant leg all the time. They dread the problems they know will happen today. They always do. The bucket will get too heavy. It always does. They will stand there. Holding on to the bucket with two hands. Crying. Yelling. Frustrated.

Maybe, just maybe, an angel will come along. The angel will gently take the bucket from their grip. The angel will pour out the water onto some flowers, and take the rocks out to line a garden path. The angel will give them a hug, a cup of tea, sit and chat, and then send them on their way with a manageable bucket.

Although I am carrying around my own heavy bucket, I need to be the angel to my child.

Maybe I can even be the angel to myself.

(photos: my daughter and our dog - June 2009; flowers at the Abbey - July 2009)

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Beyond Consequences

I have written here on occasion about our daughter and her struggle with adoption related abandonment issues. I recently learned of a 10-week online class about parenting children with challenging behaviors, and found out I could take the class for free if I promised to blog about it. Although in a round about way I'm being paid to blog, I promise to be honest about my thoughts on the course and the book we are using.

One purpose of the first class was to help us change our thinking about WHY our children misbehave. In order to do this we need to understand more about stress and how the brain works. A little bit of stress is useful, and most of us can cope with the stresses in our lives. If a car pulls out in front of us, we are sent into a state of heightened stress which enables us to react quickly and avoid an accident. After we slow down and keep a safe distance from the other car, we are able to modulate or regulate ourselves and get back to "normal".

But children who have experienced trauma in their lives can't deal with the same amount of stress. For them, the same car that has pulled out is like putting one of us in the middle of the race at the Indy 500. They quickly become overloaded or overwhelmed (dysregulated). If I were plopped into the middle of such a car race, there is no way I could observe the other drivers, glean from them how to navigate around the other cars, and blend in with the pack. And yet, often, I expect our daughter to observe others (or me), figure out how to deal with different situations, and just get with the program!, you know.

The author's contention is that if you peel back the misbehaviors, layer by layer, you will find at the core: fear. Fear of abandonment, for example, can be triggered by something that seems to have no correlation whatsoever. It's just that when the child is overwhelmed, they revert to their basic instinct of not being safe. A state of fear. The author also takes brain research from the past 20+ years and uses that to back up her claims of why the child automatically goes into a state of fear as a coping mechanism.

One of our homework assignments was to practice deep breathing so our bodies revert to it automatically when we are stressed. I have been teaching this to our daughter, and she noticed the difference in her outlook right away. I want to keep practicing it with her when she's calm, in the hopes that she will instinctively use it when she's feeling overwhelmed.

I've read lots of parenting books in the course of my teaching career, and more recently as a parent. Years ago, I may have pooh-poohed this talk of fear-based behaviors. But experience has taught me that there's something to this...

The book:
Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control by Heather T. Forbes and B. Bryan Post
The Beyond Consequences Online Parenting Class is taught by Ms. Forbes.

(our happy daughter, playing her brother's guitar)

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Romans 12:9-15

(My son took this photo while we were walking our dog last week.)

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

Slightly Less Putrid

Since we all have a tendency to hypocrisy, any hollow appearance of righteousness is quite enough to satisfy us, instead of righteousness itself. Since there is nothing in us or around us that is not greatly tainted with impurity, as long as we are assessing limits of human corruption, anything which is slightly less putrid makes us very pleased with ourselves.

Jean Cauvin (1509-1564)
The Institutes of Christian Religion

I've been praying that God would not let bitterness take root in my heart. All too often I revert to frustration which then turns into anger. It dawned on me that while I'm trying to shield myself from bitterness, it would be quite easy to become done in by something else. Pride, for instance? While doing some reading for our history study this week, I ran across this quote by John Calvin and found it worth sharing.

(Our dog, Lady, smelling yellow snow, which is "slightly less putrid" than eating rabbit pellets!)

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Friday, January 01, 2010

Masterpiece of Nature

A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of Nature.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

For our first dinner of the new year, I filled our home with friends. There were four families (including mine) who used to worship together, and it was such a blessing to sit around the table and discuss theology, movies, Post Modern America, and a myriad of other topics.

The other three women at the table have cried with me, laughed with me, prayed with me, and allowed me to pour out my heart. Good friends are more than masterpieces of Nature. They are gifts from God!

After they all left, I was gazing at the tree in our dining room. The lights sparkled, not only on the tree itself, but also shone in the reflection of the window. The ornaments hanging from the chandelier picked up light from it, as well as the tree lights. Even after my friends were gone, their love lingered and warmed my heart on a cold winter's night.

Thank you, God, for the gift of friends who help bear our burdens and shine light on our path.

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Content New Year

I took this photo in the Abbey chapel because I liked how the rays of the late afternoon sun hit the floor. Some areas were completely shrouded in darkness. Other areas gave a hint of what lay beyond the sun's reaches. The light made an arrow of sorts, pointing forward.

My life goes on. Some areas of my life are shrouded in painful sorrow. Others spread out just beyond what I can see. Only the Lord knows what lies ahead for me.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4: 12-13 NIV

One of my goals for 2010 is to be content in any and every situation. Paul writes that the Lord will give me the strength to do this. May I graciously clothe myself with this strength to give Him glory.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Trust in the Lord

A friend who is battling cancer wrote this to me upon receiving our Christmas greetings and letter:

thanks, dear! I'm still working on ours...You are a brave woman. and you are in my prayers.

I am living another unenviable life. That of a wife abandoned for another. This is what I wrote back to my dear friend:

And you are in mine as well! I don't know how brave I am. I think that word is more applicable to you! I suppose we both are traveling a path we never asked for, a path we would not choose for anyone, and a path that elicits more tears than bravery. And yet, with His strength we see the sun rise anew every day. We see the Son arise anew as well. We grow closer to Him with each tortured footstep and vividly learn what it means to...

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes; fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.

Proverbs 3: 5-7

In Christian sisterly love,


At some point I had to start writing about my current life. I suppose this is it. Here is a Christmas Eve picture of my precious children who bring me joy and strength.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

First Sunday in Advent - 2009

Thoughts from The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis.
The Third Book - Chapter 1 - Of the Inward Voice of Christ to the Faithful Soul

"Blessed are the ears which receive the echoes of the soft whisper of God, and turn not aside to the whisperings of this world."

"Blessed are they who long to have leisure for God, and free themselves from every hindrance of the world."

"Put away thee all transitory things, seek those things that are eternal."

Thank you, Lord, for speaking to me. I am clinging to Your promise even now. May I not be hindered by this world, but seek Your face alone, and expectantly wait for You.

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