Polka-Dot Love

15 08 2015

As a parent, I came to appreciate the uniqueness of each of my seven children. Their little personalities were varied, their needs different from child to child.

I could not offer a one-size-fits-all kind of love or attention to them. Each one responded to different styles or interactions..the Five Love Languages, and all that. Part of my role as their mother was to figure out what each one needed, then supply that need.

As adults each of us have ways by which we best feel love. We have a heavenly Father who knows how to best meet that need, and He does so. His ways of communicating with us are as varied as the number of people in existence.

He’s a good Father.

When children are adopted, they come with ‘baggage’ from their family of origin. The challenge for the adoptive parents is to overcome what the child ‘knows’ about a father and/or a mother, for his or her concept is often skewed. When the new parents are patient, gentle, and persistent, the child comes to accept that they are loved, and slowly replace what they thought they knew about what a mom or dad is, with the new reality.

This can be a lengthy process, one that tears at the hearts of their new parents until breakthroughs begin to occur.

Right after my second birthday, I was adopted by my new step-dad. Unfortunately, he wasn’t interested in winning my heart – only in winning the imagined competition against my father. Sadly, he didn’t want the ‘trophy’ (me), that came with ‘victory’.

Kids aren’t equipped with the mental ability to understand that a parent is broken, and unable to love…so they call what they receive “love” and believe their experience to be the true definition. The rest of their life most will continue to define love by what they learned from their father.

As most are wont to do, I superimposed the treatment I received from my ‘dads’ over what I expected from God. I wrote about my experiences her: Unlock Your Shackles

When God adopted me, He ‘had His work cut out for Him’, as they say. It’s been a lengthy, slow process, but His love never fails and His patience is enduring.

At first I trusted Him not at all. He persisted, though, and has used methods that are unique to me in order to win my heart. This blog is filled with such stories: pink shoes, heart-shaped rocks, a gold lambskin jacket, provision when we had no food (for six months!), heart-shaped potatoes, and so forth.

While this looks like He panders to my materialism, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

My love language is not shopping!

Being Spirit in nature, He cannot wrap me in His arms, stroke my hair, or hold my hand. (However He did dance with me one day! See: Shall We Dance?) Consequently, He’s been creative in the ways He communicates His love to me. Each of the things listed came with a special lesson for me to learn about what a good Father is like.

Severely put off by what I believed about fathers, this unlearn/re-learn process has taken decades. Because He loves me and wants me to be secure in Him, He’s gone out of His way to demonstrate His goodness.

When others’ experiences with Father differ from ours, we must guard against undoing His work. What offends our senses may be merely because the experience was not meant for us. Unless their ‘take-away’ twists God into a heinous creature, we do well to rejoice with them in their breakthrough.

God knows how to best reach every one of us. He relentlessly pursues us and teaches us just how good He is.

As a kid, I was fond of polka-dots.

As an adult, I am fond of His polka-dot love for me…specially and deliberately designed to melt my heart.

He’s a good Father!

*Oh, the three verses I promised to share will be in my next post. 😉





Stranger Than Fiction

31 08 2013

Write this.
Write what you see.
Write it out in big block letters
so that it can be read on the run.
This vision… is a witness
pointing to whats coming.
It aches for the comingit can hardly wait!
And it doesn’t lie.
If it seems slow in coming, wait.
Its on its way. It will come right on time…”

(Habakkuk 2:2-3)

The nearer Beth and Brandon got to our home, the more agitated he became. He began to say things like, “I don’t think this is a good idea,” and “Maybe we should just go home.”

They stopped at  a rest area about half-way between our houses. Brandon ran to the fence and jumped over it – no easy task for a man who’s had back surgery and both hips replaced, who lived with excruciating pain.

Brandon later told us that he’d seen a great light in the field and had to run toward it.

(It took several weeks to piece together what took place in that field. He later told us that a voice came from the light and said, “There will not be just one name.”)

When they were about thirty miles from our home, Brandon took off his seat belt and began to open the door…

…on the freeway.

His “fight or flight” mechanism kicked in, and He was trying to run away.

Beth told him to get his seat belt back on.

Confused, he asked, “What?”

She pointed to the buckle in his hand and told him to refasten it. Surprised to find his seat belt off, he obeyed.

They arrived at around eight-fifteen that evening. Our company was just leaving, so we introduced everyone the kids to our guests.

Brandon was agitated; face flushed, and eyes wild. He heard voices and thought we were “in his mind,” talking to him. He paced continually. He left the house on foot for a couple of short walks, then returned to tell us his new “understanding” from his contemplation.

Nothing he said made sense.

 We also noticed a strange attachment between him and his three-year-old son, Landon. It was as if the boy had some sort of power over his dad. Landon would lead him all over the house. Every so often, Landon picked up one thing or the other and dash it on the floor while his dad looked on – then Brandon picked up the pieces and set them back in place. It was bizarre.

Eventually, we got Landon to sleep. We talked with Brandon, and prayed over the situation.

We had no idea what to do.

 My own prayers were of the, “Oh God, if You can help us, please do so,” variety. I excused myself and headed for my room when I saw Corrie’s book. It’s title stared me in the face:

JESUS IS VICTOR

Of course!

Dear Lord Jesus, You already won this battle on the cross. What am I thinking? Here, I’ve been saying “if” You can. Forgive me. You are already victorious. Help us to take possession of what You have done! You are always victorious.

 A sense of great anticipation and faith flooded my being. I clapped my hands together for joy. I told Brandon that Jesus had already beaten the enemy – that this visit was no coincidence, and I couldn’t wait to see what God was going to do.

I felt confident trust in the Lord…

…and had peace that passes all understanding!

Don’t miss the next chapter in this story. It will continue on Monday.

If you missed the beginning of this display of God’s power and glory, you can find it here: You Need To Read This!

Part 2: Faith Like Potatoes

Part 3: Get Me Out of Here!

Part 4: Where God Guides





Christians Are Not Pack Mules

18 07 2013

“Our son, Leroy, has a problem,” Fritz said as he and his wife sat in the counselor’s office.

Dr. Hank’s brow furrowed, and he said gently, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Where is he?”

“Well, he said he didn’t have a problem and refused to come with us today,” Fritz said.

“Hmm. Well, tell me what’s going on,” the doctor said.

Fanny spoke up, “Leroy is twenty-three years old and still lives with us. He has a hard time holding down a job. No one seems to value his excellent skills. They ignore his ideas to improve business, which upsets him, so he quits. Without an income, he can’t keep an apartment, so he lives with us.”

“Yeah, eats us out of house and home, drives our car, and we’re not sure, but I think he’s started drinking,” Fritz added. “During the day, when he ought to be out looking for a job, we can’t pry him off the couch. He lays there playing video games from when he gets up around noon until after I come home from work. If I ask to watch the evening news, he gets mad and storms off to his room or goes out with his friends…but not until he’s hit his mom up for some money. I’ve told Fanny to tell him ‘no,’ but she does it anyway.” The tension in the room began to increase.

A little smile creased Dr. Hank’s face. Looking from Fritz to Fanny, he said brightly, “Leroy is right. He doesn’t have a problem.”

“Doctor, I’m a little confused,” Fritz said. “Haven’t you been listening?”

“Yes, Fritz, I have,” he replied. “What I heard gave no indication that Leroy has a problem at all. It would seem that the two of you are the ones with a dilemma.

“Leroy has a home, a warm bed, food, clothing, TV, video games, even a car at his disposal. That doesn’t sound like he has a problem to me.”

Fanny’s voice began to rise as she said, “We’ve been the best parents we know how to be, and given him everything he needs to get back on his feet. We’re also Christians. We ask ourselves, ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ and then we do it. We don’t need you to fix us, we need you to fix our son.”

Doctor Hank clasped his hands and looked at the couple. “Let me explain it this way: The three of you are on a journey through life…a camping trip, if you will. The two of you are carrying the tent, everyone’s sleeping bag (including Leroy’s), all the food, clothing, and other things necessary to live. Meanwhile, Leroy is be-bopping along behind you with nothing but a video game in hand, content as can be. From his standpoint, things are great; from yours, not so good. Does this make sense?”

He could see from their faces that they were beginning to understand. “Would you like me to help you help Leroy to have some problems?

“Aren’t Christians supposed to help those in need?” Fritz asked. “Galatians 6 commands Christians to bear one another’s burdens. We don’t want to be a bad “witness” for Jesus. That matters a great deal to us.”

“I know the verse you’re referring to,” stated the doctor. “It’s Galatians 6:2, which reads: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Did you also note verse 5? That one says: For each one shall bear his own load. (NKJV).

“They seem to contradict one another, but will make much more sense when we look at the words, burden and load.

“A load is basically a backpack – containing what each person needs for his own well being…the things for which he or she must be responsible. If we were to go on a backpack trip, I would expect to carry my own sleeping bag, clothes, toothbrush and paste, and whatever food I planned to eat on the trip.

“A burden, on the other hand, is more like a boulder or the cargo of a ship. It denotes something that is too big for one person to carry alone.

“Leroy hasn’t learned to provide for himself. Life as a grown-up is tough at first. He got knocked down a few times, and realized that it was easier to come back to your house and let you do what he ought to be doing for himself. The things that should be in his backpack: rent, utilities, transportation and insurance; his own food, clothing, and so forth are missing from his pack…in fact, would you agree that his is empty?” Doctor Hank paused to let his words sink in.

“Should something major come along – the death of a spouse or child, a major illness, or catastrophe, these things would qualify as a ‘boulder’ or ‘cargo.’ He would need help carrying these. These are the ‘burdens’ we are commanded to bear for one another.”

“That you love your son is evident, but by carrying his load for him, you are actually handicapping him. While it feels like you’re caring for him, it is actually a very unloving thing to do. Not only for him, but for his future wife.” The doctor peered into Fanny’s eyes and then asked her, “would you marry a man like your son?”

She gulped, then whispered, “No, I sure would not.”

Fanny looked at Fritz and said, “I think Leroy is about to learn that he has more problems than he ever imagined!”

To push our adult children out of the nest and let them figure out how to grow up is not easy, (especially for moms!) but it is necessary. We will answer for how we either helped – or handicapped – our children. It takes great trust that God has them in His hands and will never leave them nor forsake them. Prayer and the support of Christian friends helps us to navigate through this transition, as well.

Rightly dividing the Word of Truth is never more important than when it comes to determining whether to step in and help someone bear their burden – to come alongside and remove a boulder…

…and when our ‘help” will interfere with what God is trying to teach them,

carrying for others what they are responsible for carrying themselves

…while we become their “Christian” pack mules!

For another article on boundaries read: Possessing My Possession





When Love Received Doesn’t Equal Love Given

15 07 2013

As the mother of seven children, I have discovered the enigma of unequal love between parent and child.

In a time of difficulty with a child – especially a teen or grown one – to hear a parent say something like, “Look at all I’ve done for you, all I’ve given up for you. This is how you pay me back?” I’ve never said these words, but I’ve certainly thought them.

Most kids can’t wait to grow up and get away from their parents. Some leave without looking back, not because life’s been hell, but just because their time has come and they’re “Outta here.”

When my children began to come of age, first one, then another left. At first they stayed in the same town, but then they began to put more and more distance between themselves and us. Because my birth family stuck together, I was confused by this and somewhat hurt.

While they were in town, we would see them from time to time. When we did, they would tell us about the fun bar-b-ques and parties they’d had with friends and other family members. Because I had abandonment issues, it was hard to smile and listen intently while wondering why they didn’t include us in their adult life.

Was it me? Had I done something?

Now that they were grown, I wanted a friendship with them. I wanted them to want the same from me.

When my mom moved to heaven eight years ago, my birth family and my family of children blew apart. The first three years, my husband and I went to a local buffet on the major holidays, just the two of us. Without Grandma to celebrate with, my kids all stayed home or went to their other parent’s to celebrate. Those were very hard years.

One day I was whining at the Lord about the situation. (Yes, sometimes I whine!) My heart was raw, and I was struggling to understand why I’d been abandoned by my own children.

I didn’t add, “After all I’ve done for them.” Life with me as a mother wasn’t always the greatest experience in the world. I made many mistakes.

{One thing a relationship with Jesus gives that religion can’t is answers to life’s problems.

There was no “pat” answer that would speak to my pain and lessen its icy grip from my heart.

“Rejoice in the Lord always” and “Count it all joy” just didn’t cut it.}

When I finished whining, Jesus began to speak to me about this paradox. He understood my pain far more than I thought He ever could. What follows is my paraphrase of our conversation (I didn’t record it. :().

We talked about romantic love. He asked if I understood how it developed. I thought about it for a bit and realized that it was the fact that we spent so much time thinking about one another; good thoughts, positive thoughts. Anything negative was either overlooked or quickly dismissed.

What about parents and children. How does parental love develop for a child?

Hmm. I guess after at least six months of thinking about the baby, planning for the baby, preparing for his or her arrival, so much thought has been given to the child that love is (usually) already in full swing when they arrive.

In both instances, what caused love to grow?

Focus.

Our love for them was unearned.

They didn’t necessarily deserve it.

We chose to make them the object of our affection.

If we have a new spouse, we focus on what they like/dislike, be it food, decor, recreation, topics of conversation, and ways to best meet their needs.

If we have a child, we focus on what we must do to care for them: food, clothing, furniture, development, etc.

Welcome either into our lives, though, and we soon discover what we truly value.

If we let:

Our career,

Our fussy little house, or

Our dreams and goals

become what we focus on, watch our love for spouse or child begin to wane.

The Bible states it this way: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Let one’s treasure become something other than the spouse or the child, and love will surely die.

The spouse walks away without a backward glance.

The child is neglected and forced to get by in a world of strangers: babysitters and day care centers.

Children, on the other hand, are not required to spend time worrying about their parents: how to feed or clothe them, how to meet the adults’ needs. They are self-absorbed, about the business of figuring out the world around them.

Consequently, as adults they continue to focus on creating a life for themselves.

This isn’t wrong, it’s just the way it works.

The one who lays down their life for spouse or child develops greater love than do those for whom the sacrifice was made.

I thanked the Lord for this insight. It helped me understand that my kids’ behavior wasn’t wrong. They were maturing and taking their place in the world as they should.

But Jesus…

…went on to say that He understood my feelings on a very personal level.

He said that He thinks about us continually (Psalm 139…more than all the sand in the world – and that’s just while we sleep!). He cares for us, provides what we need, has plans for us, and watches over us. He seeks a relationship with us; wants us to know Him…go beyond self-absorption, mature, and seek His friendship.

We often don’t give Him a second thought…unless we want something from Him…not unlike our immature kids!

Ouch!

He laid down His life for us…only to watch us walk away and forget all about Him.

He saw us fooling around with other “lovers,” and worshiping other gods even though we were betrothed and have sworn to love, honor, and obey.

Oh, yes! He knows how it feels…

…when the love He receives does not equal…

the love He gives.

As an abandoned spouse, He beckons us:

To return to our first love

To delight ourselves in the Lord

To meditate on Him day and night

To love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

***

Put your fingers on a pulse point. Feel that? It’s Jesus knocking (Revelation 3:20).

His humility astounds me!





Game Over!

10 06 2013

Out of nowhere the little tyke appeared, eye on the prize – his dear friend across the road on which I drove my car. In a single bound that would have made any kangaroo proud, his mom pounced on him. The two landed in a heap on their cement driveway.

Ouch! That’ll leave a mark! I thought to myself.

Fortunately, as was my custom, my speed was slow enough to have allowed me to stop before running the little fellow over. Mom was not so confident. No doubt visions of the blood and guts of her beloved child’s body being strewn all over flashed before her eyes and gave her the ability to reach him with such speed and agility.

The death of her little child would have meant “Game Over” to their relationship. She was willing to inflict pain in her child in order to prevent his death.

Hmm. Now isn’t that interesting?

We admire this mom for choosing the “lesser of two evils;” however, when God does this, we call Him cruel and heartless. To our minds, He should make our lives pleasant, prosperous, and pain free. In America, we have some sort of sense of entitlement. We’re Americans – God “owes” us.

I’ve discovered that much can be learned about God from parenthood.

For instance, one thing I had to remind myself of often is this: Parenthood is not a popularity contest. I would have to set some boundaries that my children did not like, make some decisions that they were going to be angry about, and discipline them when they made choices that were going to lead to out-of-control behavior.

One hard and fast rule was this: “No, you may not play ‘Chicken’ with the cars on the freeway.” Their death meant “Game Over” where I was concerned.

Another was, “No, you cannot join the Bloodlust Gang.” Was I willing to see them become criminals? Hardly.

Disrespect of elders was not permitted either. I was unprepared to raise a boatload of rebels.

Other, not so life threatening decisions made were along the lines of “You will buy your own car;” “We are not buying the newest game system,” and “No, you can’t have a cell phone.” These latter decisions were harder to stick with because “everyone else has one.” And they did. I felt like the original cheapskate!

I also took them to the doctor – who would inflict the pain of immunization injections, and to the dentist – who would also inflict pain, in order to protect their health in the long run. One of my children required three adults to administer liquid antibiotics. Two didn’t stand a chance!

In their immaturity, my kids didn’t understand the wisdom behind my “mean” actions.

Sometimes a good parent will inflict a little pain to prevent a much larger problem.

Why are we so surprised, then, when God (our heavenly Father) permits pain to enter our lives?

Unlike an earthly parent, to whom death is “Game Over,” God allows us to exercise our free will – and play on whatever “freeway,” should we insist on doing so. He’s given us “the Talk,” and we know what His boundaries are (the Big Ten). He’s also given us a conscience that invokes guilt and shame for behavior we innately know to be wrong…until we go against it so often that it becomes seared and doesn’t bother us anymore.

From His perspective, death is not “Game Over,” but rather the point at which our mortality gets swallowed up by life. He can ride out whatever decisions we make. In the end (if we are His children), we will be in His presence. He’s good with that!

He’s explained to us, just like we do our own children, the principle of sowing and reaping: If we sow theft, we may reap jail. If we sow drinking or drugs, we may reap addiction and all the unpleasant and painful consequences that go with it. If we sow kindness, we reap the love of others.

God is great in His mercy and grace. Once we’ve seen the error of our way and repent, (a fancy word that means make a u-turn away from what was wrong) He blesses us with spiritual riches…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc.

However, consequences may still have to be lived with. A recovered addict will still have destroyed relationships, financial issues, and health problems that will continue to be a part of their life…perhaps for the rest of their life. Some things cannot be undone by grace and mercy.

Actions taken while under the influence cannot be undone. How does one “un-abuse” a person they’ve injured? These things are not God “punishing” us (Christ took our punishment on the cross); the natural consequences of choices we made will be enough – and are self-inflicted pain. God had nothing to do with it.

Having spent the last several months trying to “help” one of God’s kids “tie his shoes,” and having had my hands pushed away, all the while being told, “Me do, me do,” I’ve had time to ponder God’s ways. Every consequence being endured was the result of willfulness to choose contrary to what God had said was good, pure, right, just, lovely, and noble. His Father, ever and infinitely patient, simply stood by, waiting for him to give up. From a human standpoint, it seemed hard. Once I saw this from God’s view, however, I saw His wisdom. I’ve done the same thing with my children when they were willful and rebellious.

Once our Father’s little one was tuckered out and no longer resisting Him, He lovingly scooped him up in His arms and carried him Home.

I know, because they “stopped by my car” so he could say, “Farewell,” awakening me so I could return home to my husband.

For us, my brother-in-law’s passing was “Game Over.” For him, however, it’s a whole new game!

*****

Having been a participant in this story, I’ve learned that a person has to determine to step over the crucified body of Jesus to get their way on the day of their appointment with death. God doesn’t make this choice for them…they choose it for themselves. God forces no one into a relationship with Himself. What person would? Love can’t be forced.

The sad fact is that there is only one place available in all of all there is where God will no longer be an unwelcome Presence for those who hate Him. It’s a place that was never intended for humans, only for Satan and his followers.

Hell, which Jesus openly discussed, is a place of isolation, darkness (the absence of Light), heat, torment, worms that don’t die, and such. Worse than that, it is a place completely devoid of kindness (what would be the point? There will be no possible reward for being “good” – those who choose that dwelling place will be selfish to the max), and worse, without a glimmer of hope for a “better day.”

There are only two camps available – the “With God” group, and the “Without God” group. It’s a choice that each person has to make on their own.

With which group will you choose to spend forever…

…when it’s your Game Over?