Category Archives: For All She’s Worth

Helping Women Discover Their Value

Just Whistlin’

I’m a whistler. I admit it.

But I come by it honestly. My dad was a whistler, too. In fact, the family could locate him in the house or in the yard just by following the sound. Maybe he’d be rendering a Southern Gospel tune, a hymn, or a ‘40s classic, but we always knew what was in his heart by what song came from his lips.

Maybe it’s genetic because I often find myself whistling (at ultra-low volume most of the time) from my mental repertoire, which is quite wide: from “Auld Lang Syne”, to my high school fight song, or to something we sang at church last Sunday.

Recently, after many decades of surrendering to this habit, I decided to actually analyze my playlist, making notes and tracing the tune from whence it came. Sometimes it’s produced from a line in a movie or TV show that I’ve just watched. The “Theme from Jurassic Park” or “Darth Vader’s Theme” are personal favorites. So is “Gone Fishin’,” the theme song from The Andy Griffith Show. I don’t have the tunes fully categorized according to popularity, but I do know that at least somewhere in the top five is the old chorus “God Is So Good.” It’s not hard to trace this subliminal message that I often produce in tune form.

You’ve heard the saying, “God is good—all the time and all the time—God is good.” If I turn on the TV or look at the effects of evil, I admit that I begin to question this train of thought. How can God be good when so many are hungry, oppressed, and dying?

In Dr. James Dobson’s book When God Doesn’t Make Sense, one of the first points the author makes is that God isn’t obliged to explain Himself or His ways to us. In fact, Dobson writes that God chooses to hide Himself from us—even for reasons we cannot know. The word why falls from our lips all too often, and yet God will not reveal some answers no matter how fervently we beg. Isaiah reminds us that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, or His ways our ways. I take that to mean that God knows we can’t possibly comprehend the grand design of life; only bits and pieces, and small ones at that. I believe that the jigsaw puzzle picture doesn’t come clear on this side of eternity. I don’t like to admit that. I want to have His plan all mapped out (or GPSed), especially when I’m reminded of human suffering and mortality. Sometimes it seems as though God has lost control or, worse, has abandoned me.

In the biblical account of Job, God attempts to explain why bad things happen to good people. But even that story puzzles me because I can’t imagine God and Satan having a conversation, much less challenging each other when it came to the faithfulness of His servant. Read the Book of Job and explain it to me if you will. I’m all ears. The only takeaways I have to that story are Job’s takeaways from his experience. “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (NJKV Job 1:21) “For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God…”(NJKV Job 19:24-26).

So, when anyone asks me, “How’s life?” I say, “Life is life, but God is good.” I have to believe that or NOTHING makes sense. And I’ll whistle my tunes, especially the one favoring this simple message about God’s goodness.

P.S. If my sons pick up this habit, does that make me Whistler’s Mother?

Everything I Learned About Friendship…

…I learned from the Ya-Yas. Not from the Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells, although that’s a fine read. I’m referring to my own self-named group of oldest and dearest friends.

See, when I was 4 years old, our family moved from one small South Alabama town to another 40 miles away. I don’t remember much about the move itself except the frustration I heard from my mother about our having to make new friends. I didn’t share the frustration. Within a week, I had my first visit to Sunday School at the “new” Baptist church where I met Jana and Pattie, and I automatically bonded with those two dark-haired cuties. We three probably played that first Sunday with the child-sized play kitchen that sat in the corner of the room. We likely colored pictures of Jesus holding children in His lap. And almost certainly sang songs taught to us by our teacher, Mrs. McGowan, like:

My best friend is Jesus /Love Him, love Him.

My best friend is Jesus /I love Him.

 

It was the start of lifelong relationships solidified in sound theology and sweet song.

In elementary school, I discovered Methodists. They were a lot like us Baptists, except that they were allowed to dance and we weren’t…or we weren’t supposed to. One block separated our churches, so sometimes when the Methodists would have square dancing in their fellowship hall, we Baptists would slip away and join in the fun.  Then we’d sneak back into our church in time to hear the last “amen” in our service. That didn’t sit well with our parents as I recall.

Anyway, Methodists Sharon, Carol, and Karie joined my world in those early grade school days.

Then, in eighth grade Delora joined us. She was Methodist, too, but I didn’t hold it against her, although it made our circle of friends now uneven. Four Methodists to three Baptists. We were a circle of seven, but not a closed circle. We had other friends, too. It was a small town, after all, and everybody knew and loved everybody else.

We started to drift apart after high school, although we divided up between only three colleges. Then marriages, and children, and jobs pulled us across the country and around the world, and for a long time we might just trade Christmas cards, but only if we had each other’s current addresses. For many years, though, we were “lost” to each other. But then our kids grew up, our grandkids started coming, and our jobs began to wind down. A few years ago, we felt the need to reach back and re-draw that circle.

That’s when we became the Ya-Yas. We dubbed ourselves that name when we got together at the Panama City Beach for the first time in 30+ years. What a reunion! Every other year or so since, we’ve stolen away for long weekends. Just us. No husbands. No children.

Last week, however, we changed it up a bit. Pattie and her husband, Mike, now live in Montana and she suggested that we all come out there for a Ya-Ya party. I don’t think she thought we’d take her up on it, but before the email invite was cold, we had all booked our flights and cleared our calendars. I just got back on Tuesday of this week. What a magnificent place to be and time to spend together!

It took me a while to get over the late nights, the incredible day trips, and the endless girl-talks, but after the jet lag wore off, I got to thinking about what this sisterhood really means to me and what it has taught me. Here are just some of the lessons:

  • Junior high boy crushes can’t destroy longtime girl friendships. We fought over them, but then we moved on and some of us even roomed together in college!
  • Pretty is as pretty does. My mother always told me that, and now I know it’s true. The loveliness of these once-upon-a-time high school cheerleaders and beauty queens is still evident in their joy, gentleness and compassion for others. They are brilliant and funny and grounded in their faith. Neither a wrinkle nor a gray hair will ever change that. They are eternally gorgeous.
  • Not everyone remembers events the same way. Years sometimes skew our perception. Details can become hazy. When honesty fights truth, I have to decide which one wins.
  • Life isn’t always fair. Marriages dissolve, children go off the grid, and jobs disappear, but it’s up to me how I choose to deal with these heartbreaks.
  • Years and miles of separation cannot erase real love.

There are other valuable lessons that I’ve learned through 60+ years of knowing these girls, now women. Most of the lessons, though, I keep in a safe place – in my spirit. They are private, but just as precious and I now, more often than ever, pull them out and apply them to my life.

 

The Most Powerful Place in the World

Disneyland might the happiest place on earth, but the home is by far the most powerful place.

I’m working on the book version of this blog and the more I read and study on the concepts and developments of self-worth, the more I realize that this is true. The home holds great power. Here’s a “poem” which says a lot:

 

Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolt

This is no shock to anyone. We know that children are shaped all along the way by parents, teachers, and society. And we know that there is debate about nature vs. nurture. Some children are born more strong-willed while others are more compliant, but every child will become who they are within the confines of a home, be it traditional, single-parent, foster, or whatever. We know that the family dynamic stamps a child with many labels and price tags. If you don’t believe that, start recalling events in your past that left you with a label: lazy, ugly, fat—or beautiful, smart, lovable. The first three are, of course, a pack of lies. But the last ones can be delicate ground, at times too, especially if the child comes to believe that he/she can do no wrong, can depend on his/her looks or brains to impress the world. It’s important for us to come back to seeing ourselves as God sees us.

No matter the world’s view of me, I choose to believe Ephesians 2:10.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (NASB)

 

 

The Ebb and Flow of Influence

It’s hard to say which was the most traumatic—when my first son left for college or when the last son flew the nest.  Since I only have two children, I didn’t get the comparison of middle child attrition. When number one son left, I grieved for weeks. Part of the sadness was because, well, he was my son and I missed him terribly. Another part was the realization that I was old enough to have a child in college. After number two son left, I had a quiet, clean empty nest all of a sudden as I had dreamed of, but I missed the noise and the flurry of activity that accompanies life with a teenager. In both cases, though, I missed…them… their hilarious banter around the dinner table, their games and activities at school, their very presence around the house. Even now, after 20 years of having them gone, I still get sad when I recall the good times that we had together that will never come again because they’ve grown up and are on their own. Because the dynamic has changed, a part of who I was is no more. I’m guessing that many readers in my age group would echo this sentiment. The hard truth is that I’m not needed anymore. I have lost some of my influence, at least in one area of my life and that’s hard to handle.

Not long ago, I was giving my usual brilliant lecture to one of my college classes on things of great importance. I took a breath and looked out over the classroom and saw heads nodding, arms folding, and fingers texting under the table. I was mortified. I had worked hard on my lecture and Power Point presentation and these people didn’t even care! I stopped and asked, “So, am I that bad of a teacher? Am I that ignorable?” The room went silent. Cell phones went back into hiding, eyelids popped back open, and several faces blushed. Mostly there was shock. I hadn’t ever unloaded on a class like that before so I didn’t even have a reputation that this outburst would validate. Finally, I dismissed the class. One girl came up and apologized even though she wasn’t one of the main ignorers. She left me with this thought though, “Mrs. Allen, you’re not as boring as some teachers.” Thanks.

My self-esteem took a big hit right then. I brooded about it for a day or so, and then I got over it. But I realized that again I had lost, if maybe temporarily, my influence.

It happens to us all at one time or another. It can happen at work, it can happen at home, or even at church. Our leadership or our effectiveness is challenged and we become discouraged.  We ask ourselves, “Is this about me?” “Am I losing my edge?” It’s a fine line. We want to see our ideals modeled in the people who depend on us. But when children leave or apathy is displayed, we doubt our impact and, thus, our worth. At least I know I do.

In a great word from Pastor Tim Keller from one of his books The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, I’m reminded that it’s impossible to live our lives without sometimes feeling dismissed or ignored. Keller says that when he feels down on himself because someone else is apathetic to his influence that it is, “…because there is something wrong with my ego. There is something wrong with my identity. There is something wrong with my sense of self. It is never happy. It is always drawing attention to itself.”[1] Egos get bruised at times. And often, as Keller points out, can rarely be satisfied with the attention it gets.

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:10

 

 

 

 

[1] Keller, Timothy. The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy. 10Publishing, 2012. P. 120.

 

The Ultimate Selfie

Recently I had my college English composition students write “process” essays that describe a how-to situation. One of the topic options I gave them was “How to Take an Amazing Selfie.” From those who chose that topic, I learned a lot of valuable information on how to make myself, LIKE, look AMAZING to LIKE my smattering of LIKE social media friends. Now that I know the secret, expect some AWESOME pics of me soon!

About the same time, I was grading these essays, I was directed to a blog post written by an author named Sharon Hodde Miller. The blog referenced her book Free of Me: Why Life Is Better When It’s Not about You. I read it in one sitting and the overall message has affected me. The author’s opening premise is that humans are naturally self-absorbed or self-focused, which, of course, is no surprise. Then she tells how her runaway “self” robbed her of her joy. “It affected my marriage,” she writes, “my calling, and even my relationship with God.” Miller states another obvious point: our self-images are “shaped by people, possessions, and profession”[1] which doesn’t surprise me either. However, her thesis goes farther than the obvious. She believes, as I do, that the tiniest voices around us speak the loudest, especially when it comes to self-worth. In her book, Miller says, “Think about how you feel when a friend receives more ‘likes’ or more comments on her photos than you. It’s easy to compare…”[2] and conclude that you are unworthy. A few little thoughts like that can be blamed for a negative total self-image. But low self-image isn’t the problem, I think. It is “self -preoccupation.” The only way to feel inferior is to focus on how we measure up to other people. The fight against self-preoccupation is continual. “There will always be more commercials identifying new flaws, more online tutorials teaching us how to improve our hair.”[3]

A book from which Miller drew some of her conclusions, is written by writer and pastor Tim Keller. In his little book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, Keller follows the trend of self-preoccupation:

Up until the twentieth century, the traditional cultures (and this is still true of most cultures in the world) always believed that too high a view of yourself was the root cause of all the evil in the world. What is the reason for most of the crime and violence in the world? Why are people cruel? Why do people do the bad things they do? Traditionally, the answer was hubris – the Greek word meaning pride or too high a view of yourself…But in our modern western culture, we have developed an utterly opposite cultural consensus. [4]

Now we call it low self-esteem and so we try to make everybody feel good about themselves. That would fix the world’s problems, if we just felt worthy, right? Of course, we know this isn’t working either. Self-absorption is more rampant than ever. So, what do we do?

As Christians, we are encouraged to embrace and practice selflessness. Two gospel writers record Jesus as saying, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34 and Matthew 16:24). That, of course, is what is required of us in salvation. Surrender. But once we’ve done that, does that act of self-denial help us find our true value in everyday life? I believe it does.

Self (whether it’s disguised as hubris or inner loathing) is about focus. And focus leads to fascination, to fixation, to obsession, then to passion. And what happens when passion gets involved? We become driven and totally out of control! I want to stop this pattern in myself right now, and I’m finding that I have to do something about it every day. I’m learning to say, whenever I feel great or the opposite, “Hey, Nan, it’s not about you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1]           Miller, Sharon Hodde Free of Me: Why Life Is Better When It’s Not about You Baker EBooks 2017

[2]           Ibid

[3]           Ibid

[4] Keller, Tim The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, Tim Keller, 2012.

AM I OLD? MAYBE NOT!

I asked my college English Composition classes recently to write definitions of abstract concepts, like “love, success, and home.” I got some interesting and insightful answers. Then I asked them to define “respect.” At least one-third of them mentioned how it applies to revering and honoring the elderly (like me). I asked them why they should respect their elders. A few replied that senior adults have experience and wisdom that can be valuable to a younger generation, but most of them replied that it was just the right thing to do. Respect your elders. It’s the right thing to do.

So what is “old”?

A former pastor of ours once said that age is relative to how close we are to the grave. If I die tomorrow, I’m ancient today. If I die thirty years from now, I’m a spring chicken. Since most of us don’t know the appointed day of our deaths, old age is not a fixed time. So how do we assess our purposes as the years go by? As we age, numerically and experientially, will our feelings of worth wane? As time ebbs away, so does our sense of value also? These are questions I ask myself quite often.

Life expectancy has doubled in the past 150 years, according to one source.[1] The same website reported that beginning with the Baby Boomers (like me) the population in the U.S. has been forced to live two lives rather than one, but that the second life sometimes means quantity and not quality of life. The aged have become devalued and stereotyped by the media and the younger population. Another source said that our present culture is “where youth is fetishized…aging can become a shameful experience.”[2]

Who will define our value based on age? The IRS? The workplace? The kids? Our own restrictions and abilities?

King David, who had passed his days of being a mighty warrior, wrote a song lyric that we now call Psalm 71 (CSB) in the Bible.

For you are my hope, Lord God,
my confidence from my youth.
I have leaned on you from birth;
you took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is always about you.
I am like a miraculous sign to many,
and you are my strong refuge.
My mouth is full of praise
and honor to you all day long.

Don’t discard me in my old age.
As my strength fails, do not abandon me…

17 God, you have taught me from my youth,
and I still proclaim your wondrous works.
18 Even while I am old and gray,
God, do not abandon me,
while I proclaim your power
to another generation
,
your strength to all who are to come.
19 Your righteousness reaches the heights, God,
you who have done great things;
20 You caused me to experience
many troubles and misfortunes,
but you will revive me again.
You will bring me up again,
even from the depths of the earth.
21 You will increase my honor
and comfort me once again.
22 Therefore, I will praise you with a harp
for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing to you with a lyre,
Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips will shout for joy
when I sing praise to you
because you have redeemed me.
24 Therefore, my tongue will proclaim
your righteousness all day long…”

I prefer to let this be my life’s song for who-knows-how-many years I have to live.

[1]http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science_of_longevity

[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/25/what-other-cultures-can-teach_n_4834228.html

 

I Feel Old

 

This is Barbie if she had aged normally.

 

 

 

 

Back in the 70s there was a Clairol hair dye commercial that said, “You’re Not Getting Older—You’re Getting Better,” and the ad went on to imply that even though I was getting older, I could look younger if I used their product. At that point in my life, I wasn’t really concerned with the effects of aging because I was in my 20s. Now, however, I not only see the signs of aging, I feel them, too. I have asked myself, “What can I do about getting older?” Of course, the answer is obviously “nothing,” so my questions have turned into, “How much do I really care?” and “What’s wrong with being and looking older anyway?”

“Old” has become a pejorative in our culture. It has come to mean useless, undesirable, and even burdensome to mankind. It implies that because we’ve lost our youth, we’ve also lost our purpose and influence. We have just become (or becoming) lumps of flesh held together by Spanx and Polygrip. As time grows older in me, I find that I have to consistently dismiss the lies that say I have lost my reason for living simply because I’m not 21 anymore. The fact is: I don’t want to be 21 again. Or 31—or 41… Though I want to look my best, I don’t even want to look “youthful” anymore, because that will start a whole new struggle that will keep me obsessed with plastic surgery or products that will “lift” me to my younger self. I don’t need anymore struggles.

Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who was not known for her physical beauty once said, “Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.” Mrs. Roosevelt has been dead now for many years, but she is quoted often because of her wisdom and insights that speak, and will continue to speak, to men and women for centuries to come. Her beauty was inside and she knew it. That’s what made her beautiful.

There are others who have spoken to the process of aging—some with great wisdom for me these days.

 For the unlearned, old age is winter; for the learned, it is the season of the harvest. Hasidic saying

 “I will be refined by age, not defined by age.” unknown

“There’s always a lot to be thankful for if you take time to look for it. For example, I am sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don’t hurt.” unknown

“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” Abraham Lincoln

Aging is inevitable. 1 Peter 1:24 says, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall…” James 4:14 states, “…Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (NIV)

I can neither reverse time nor its effects. So, I refuse to let aging define me or to stop me from living my life to its fullest. Yes, my knees hurt, but my wrinkles don’t. I do feel as though these are days of harvest. Seeds that I have sown, especially the ones in good soil, are now just starting to come up and bloom and bear fruit. And I’m still here trying to convince myself that I’m getting older and getting better.

 

 

 

Tears to Joy

My friend, Dr. Natalie Flake Ford, a faculty member in the School of Psychology and Biblical Counseling here at Truett McConnell University, has experienced heartache in her life that has led to struggles with self-worth. I asked her to write about her experience with her husband’s suicide and she graciously agreed. Thanks, Natalie!

“Can you imagine what it must have been like to live with her?”

“I can’t imagine how bad things must have been at home to drive him to take his own life.”

“Poor girl. I can’t imagine the guilt she must carry.”

These are just a few of the reoccurring thoughts I had in the wake of my husband’s suicide. I felt like others blamed me for his death. If I had been a better wife then…well, suffice it to say, I definitely played the “if only” and “what if” game.

For months, I dreaded going out in public. I was constantly trying to interpret various glances from others. Did they know about Michael’s death? Was that pity or was that blame I saw in their faces? I’d look away and pray that they wouldn’t come over and speak to me.

Today I know that I am not to blame for my husband’s suicide, but those early years wreaked of guilt, shame, and blame (both self-blame and perceived blame). Whenever someone would hear of Michael’s death, the first question was inevitably, “How did he die?” Man, why do people ask that? Saying he died by suicide was just too painful to say out loud for a long time. I would tell people he struggled with depression and it ultimately killed him…that was true, right?

Stigma can be a beast. It often hinders healing. I had friends who didn’t call after Michael’s death, and I convinced myself that the reason for their silence was because they blamed me for his death. Why would they want to call me? Wasn’t I the reason he was gone?

The lies I believed threatened to consume me. I had a choice to either wallow in self-blame and guilt (even though there was no evidence whatsoever that I was to blame for the suicide) or I could determine to overcome this devastating loss and not let it steal anything else from me. I resolved to chart out a new life, one where my joy would not only be restored, but multiplied.

God heard my cries and answered my prayers. Healing did not occur overnight, but slowly my emotional wounds began to heal and I felt compelled to share my story with others. We don’t have to live as slaves to guilt and shame. Christ offers a life of freedom from these chains. The book of Psalms became a life line for me during this dark season of life. I could relate to the anguish of David, and yet a part of me longed for intimacy with the Father in the midst of my pain.

Psalm 42 became a balm to my dry soul. “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.” Three things I learned in my despair.

  1. God is a good God.
  2. God is still on the throne.
  3. I can trust Him.

Clinging to these truths gave me hope for tomorrow and helped me to release the stigma of being a widow from suicide and to exchange it for the title “Daughter of the King.” No matter what happens, no one can steal this from me!

Get Natalie’s book Tears to Joy.

Flake, Natalie. (2012). Tears to Joy. OK: Tate Publishing. ISBN: 1621473899, 9781621473893

Also visit her website: http://www.natalieflake.com for more insights on grief and suicide.

 

A Crying Baby on An Airplane = A Bad Mom

 

A toddler throwing a tantrum in the grocery store = a bad mom.

A teen who breaks the rules or the law = a bad mom.

An adult child who abandons the faith and your moral standards=bad mom.

Those of us who have been blessed with children have felt like failures when our kids don’t act perfectly. When I had a toddler who pitched a fit in a grocery store, I was devastated. I had taught my boys, or so I thought, to “use their words” to express a need, but that hardly ever worked out. It was weeping and wailing when something didn’t go their way. I remember once, in particular, when one of my boys (I’ll let you figure out which one) had a melt-down in the cereal aisle. Of course, it was at the most crowded time of the day. I was in a hurry, too, so a quiet confrontation and appeasement didn’t seem feasible. Just then, a woman from our church rounded the corner and I knew that judgment was coming. After all, my husband was the minister at the church where her husband was Chairman of the Deacons! I was expecting a stern look of judgment. Instead she just smiled at me and spoke sweetly to the wailing child and then patted me on the shoulder and said, “It gets better, shug.”

Well, she was right. Wise words. The conniption fits in public did get better and eventually ceased altogether. Sometimes, however, there was pouting when one didn’t get his way, but at least pouting didn’t make much noise or draw unwanted attention.

A few years went by and my little rebels found another cause. Homework. Grades. Misbehaving in class. The question was, “Where did I go wrong?” when my boys brought home less than stellar grades or got “written up.” It was my fault, I told myself.

We all got through those school hurdles and into college, even though I had threatened them that their grades would determine their abilities to get into college. I was wrong. They both got in great colleges and even with scholarships. But when they went away to school, the real fun began. They had their freedom and truly started calling their own shots. (Oh, to go back to a screaming toddler in the grocery store!) At different times and in different ways both sons “challenged” our parenting. So…we had failed. No, I had failed. I was the mom. I was the stay-at-home parent for all those years, so I had warped my kids so horribly that they found it necessary to go their own ways. I remember the words of another mother whose child was acting out say to me, in tears, “I left my regular job to the full-time job of raising these children and now look at them. I should be fired!” And sometimes it felt that way to me, and sometimes I kind of wished someone would fire me. But no, I pressed on although I still felt like a failure at times like these.

Through these experiences, I learned a lot. When a child rebels it’s not necessarily personal. Some rebellion is natural even where children are raised in a “good Christian home.” Our internal selves are at war sometimes with what our minds say is right. Sometimes we stay the course and sometimes not. Even good ol’ Paul, the Apostle rebelled.

“For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.” Romans 7:19 (The Message)

Of course, the Bible is full of stories of rebellious and sinful deeds committed by some of the greatest people who ever lived. So, calm down when rebellion happens; it’s Eden’s curse, remember.

However…when a child gets in trouble at school, with the law, or with another person…it’s easy to be embarrassed and even go into denial. Sometimes the behavior is the indication of a bigger problem that needs our total attention. Sometimes it’s not. Maybe it’s just an isolated incident. Knowing the difference is the catch. Do I punish? Do I ignore? Do I seek help? Do I “fire” myself and move to Bimini?

One mom’s blog says,

“The only way to fail at being a mother is to not be available when your child needs you.

I’m not telling you to always rush to your child’s aid or to hover over their activities. I’m talking about the moments when your child feels lost inside a mountain of a problem, or feels like [he or she] is being swallowed up by emotion…This is the only way to fail.”[1]

Though I agree with this statement, it’s easier said than done. Usually it’s not until bad behavior makes a hurting child’s needs come to the surface that you realize you need to take action. Here’s what worked for us.

  • Don’t start blaming yourself for your child’s every rebellious act. Take into account that this might be an isolated occurrence.
  • Don’t make it more than it is, but don’t minimize destructive behavior either. How do you know the difference? That’s when you pray for wisdom. James 1: 5-6 in The Message says, “If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.” How many times did I pray that prayer?
  • Also, take yourself out of the picture. Reacting with anger or shame to this child I’ve carried in my body and given everything to only puts the focus on you. It’s the child who needs help at the moment, so focusing on him or her takes priority over your outrage at the rebellion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] http://www.chaoticlifeoflauren.com/2017/05/04/defeating-mom-guilt-failure/

The Mommy Factor

When I began this blog For All She’s Worth, I mentioned that the inspiration for the content came from my reading 1 Peter 3:6. We are Sarah’s daughters, it says. (Sarah of biblical fame, of course.) Like many people, I wanted to know a little bit about my ancestry, so, if I’m Sarah’s daughter, then I wanted to know what she was like. Much to my amazement, Sarah (formerly Sarai) wife of Abraham (formerly Abram) was a lot like me and other women I know, even though our existences are separated by centuries. I have struggles and feelings of inadequacy just as she did. I feel devalued for many reasons just like Sarah. One of the main areas where Sarah struggled was in her ability to be a mother. She was considered infertile (which was considered a curse in those days) and remained so until a miracle happened and she conceived one child in her old age. Read the whole narrative in Genesis 12-17.

Since I haven’t personally struggled with infertility, I asked my daughter-in-law, Kelly to write about her frustrations in this area. She graciously agreed. She and our son, Mark, have always wanted to be parents, but after 16 years of marriage, they have been unable to conceive a child. Here are her wise words:

“Today I had blood drawn. I sat in a familiar gray chair and rested my arm on the familiar flat armrest. I felt the familiar snap of a rubber strap tied in clamp to my bicep and heard the familiar instructions, ‘Make a fist.’ But the nurse could not find a vein in my arm. Perplexed she moved to my other arm. No vein. She then moved to examine my hands. No veins. She called a colleague, who examined me and was equally perplexed until I finally offered up, ‘I had fertility treatments for 6 years which included daily blood work, and I think my veins have gone into hiding.’

“There is an old school-yard rhyme that goes ‘First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage.’ When Mark and I were married, I assumed life would unfold for us the way it was told in rhyme. It was May 21st, 2008 that my husband and I first learned that we were infertile for “unknown causes”, and it was the day our lives moved from what should be to an unmarked path. As months stretched into years, I have felt the loneliness of watching others my age (and now much younger than I) move forward in life as their families grow and children are added. I have known the humiliation of Mother’s Day Sunday when women are asked to stand and be honored as mothers, and I remain seated. I have had the awkward encounters of being asked if I have children, only to respond with, ‘Not yet…’

“Things are not as they should be.

“Barrenness has caused a wrestle in my soul to find worth and purpose; how, as a woman without children, do I fit in and do I matter? In scripture, Naomi knew life not as it should be. Famine made her a foreigner in a strange land. She became a widow. Her daughters-in-law remained childless. Her sons died. The first five verses of the first chapter of Ruth screams Naomi’s life is not as it should be. (Ruth 1:1-5) She wrestled to find God’s goodness and faithfulness in all of it. Her response is familiar to me:

It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me! (Ruth 1:13b)

‘Don’t call me Naomi,’ she told them. ‘Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.’ (Ruth 1:20-21)

“I have felt these things. Abandoned and afflicted. Empty and bitter. I believe this wrestle happens to all of us when what should be is not, and we let our circumstances challenge God. The situation may be different, but the wrestle is the same: If God is good … why is this happening? If God is faithful … why am I facing this? If God is with me … why am I abandoned? If God has a plan … why am I forgotten? Over the years as I’ve wrestled out these questions, the end of Naomi’s story has given me tremendous comfort and courage.

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. The women said to Naomi: ‘Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel!  He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.’

Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, ‘Naomi has a son!’ And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. (Ruth 4:13-16)

“There are several things I have learned from this passage. As Naomi holds Obed, we read that he will be the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David … and we know David was the lineage to Christ. Through Naomi’s season of sorrow, her life not as it should be, God was working out His redemptive plan for the entire world. And it’s not just a universal plan God was at work in, I also see how God meets Naomi in a personal way by giving her a guardian-redeemer. God had not forgotten her. He had not abandoned her.

I do not know how the rest of my story goes. I do not know if we will be given children in our older age. I do not know if the adoption we are pursuing will end well or with more sorrow. But what I do know, and cling to with all I’ve got, is that God never changes. The same God who was at work in Naomi’s life, and at work in the fuller redemptive story, is still at work in me … for His glory and for His namesake. So, if His work in my barrenness is what makes His name to become famous, then things truly are as they should be.”

I love you, Kelly. Thank you for being vulnerable.