Thursday, June 23, 2011

It's Over and No Regrets

My oldest daughter moved in with us 6 months ago with her 5-year-old son. They planned to live with us while his daddy was deployed to Afghanistan with the USMC.  It's not an easy thing to have a grown child move into a household with a child of her own. I was determined to have no regrets during the time they were here.

It seems unlikely that there would be any trouble, at least practically speaking, but I knew there would be major adjustments - and there were.  Moving a 5-year-old into a household with three other kids, all teenagers, is challenging to say the least. While my daughter worked full time, I was my grandson's primary care-giver.  He fell into our plans, was included in what we did and tagged along, ate dinner and ran errands along with the rest of us.  This presents challenges because a 5-year-old is not so independent as a teenager.  So, the other kids were either waiting for me to secure him in a car seat, or assisting with that themselves.  Or, they waited for their supper while he washed his hands because he forgot (that's what 5-year-olds do).

The list of opportunities to react badly to any given situation during this time was long.  But, my theology kept me balanced. I knew my 3 youngest kids were watching me; I knew they could easily copy my behavior and take cues from me on how to treat their young nephew.  Many days, my decisions to do right were very intentional and targeted, given the situation.  I knew that I would regret doing the wrong thing; I had to choose to do the right thing, and I did.  I knew I represented all I had tried to teach my kids about God's love and I had to represent it well.

I can't take any credit, however.  It is God Who works in me to do what He will. It's His Word that strengthened me each day to face and deal with its challenges.  I praise Him that I have no regrets.  I hope that my young grandson will think of this time in his life, when I was caring for him, and think of me as kind.  Firm, but kind.

And thus ends a brief chapter in the growth of my ever-changing family.  Praise God for His goodness!


Friday, June 17, 2011

The Dinner Event

Dinner is never just a meal. Dinner is an event.  As a matter of fact, I've realized over the years that dinner isn't really even about the food.  Even with eight children to feed night after night, my husband and I gave them much more than just a meal every night.  I saw dinner as a few more things, besides the need to feed all these people I gave birth to. I saw dinner as an opportunity to connect, teach, learn, and socialize.  I believe a dinner event helps teach my children to be civilized.  Everyone, uncivilized or not, eats.  Civilized people eat socially - at a dinner event.

I still see dinner as all these things, and more, even though we only have three kids left at home.  Sunday dinner is even more engaging as my mother-in-law joins us and it's become a great time for her to get to know our three youngest kids, and vice-versa.  We often have others join us for Sunday dinner as well and it's always a great time.

How does my theology play into dinner?  Well, I cook dinner and prepare a table for dinner because I love my family. I don't hold out on them for appreciation; I do it whether I think they appreciate it or not (I'm quite sure they do as they keep coming).  But, even if they didn't, I would create the dinner event because I love them, want what's best for them and want to spend time with them.  More often than not, I cook what they like, too.  This is a way of serving my family.

Night after night, many of us stay-at-home moms prepare dinner and create a dinner event.  My hope is that none of you will stop even if you grow weary.  An occasional dinner out is great, but the routine family dinner is still a family staple.

Getting hungry yet?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

You Might Be in an Abusive Relationship if......

There are consistent patterns in every abusive relationship, without fail.  The patterns are the same and never vary.  The fulfillment, or manifestation, of the pattern can be very different, however.  Those differences can make the abuse very hard to recognize.  So, I'd like to identify some of these patterns for you so that you might be able to recognize whether or not you, or someone you love, is in an abusive relationship.  The thrust of this particular blog post will center on spousal abuse, but the patterns are universal.

You might be in an abusive relationship if.....

....your spouse makes threats disguised as jokes.  Example: Someone might say, "Oh, I'll never take you all the way to (_______) to visit your family!  We can't afford that!"  This is a very subtle way to tell your spouse that he or she will not be visiting her family in the near future, or ever. The abuser will actively make it impossible, and over time unreasonable, to expect to travel for family visits.

....your spouse assumes negative emotions from your loved ones. They never find out how your family really feels about them - or you and your choices - they assume disapproval and feed that to you and nothing else. This also creates a difficult climate in which to communicate with those loved ones.  Since the victim has heard only negative things for so long, they start to believe those negative things, which makes it difficult for them to communicate.

....your spouse creates a false set of expectations that can't possibly be fulfilled.  Example:  Abusers build up certain expectations of your loved ones in your mind.  When they don't respond the way your expectations have been fueled, you're told it means that they really don't love you or care about your life.  Then the language used is generally:  "If your family loved you, they would .........(do this or that).

....someone in your life builds themselves up while putting others down.  If someone in your life puts your friends and loved ones down while building themselves up, take note and beware. The abusers who use this technique are extremely insecure and this builds up their egos. The "put-downs" are usually very subtle, wrapped in false compassion and grief. ("Oh, I'm so sorry your Mom doesn't care.....what a terrible thing...")

....someone claims that only they, and people they love, really love you.  I've seen young women who've grown up in loving homes fall for this one when they get married.  They might be far from home or otherwise removed from their family for a time and the abuser in their lives paints a picture of him or herself as the "hero" who dispels all she's ever feared.  Suddenly, she "clearly sees" how he and his family are the only ones who "really" love her.  When her family does attempt to come close, he throws fiery darts to keep them at bay, and even convinces her that they are in the wrong, they are the ones creating the problem and he's trying to "fix" things. Many times, ultimatums are given at this time which are very hard to overcome.   This is part of the abuser's plan, however.  Don't think for a minute that any of these happenings are coincidence. This is part of the abuser's overall plan to keep their victim away from those who can see what he's doing.  Nope, none of it is coincidence.

Overcoming abuse is not impossible.  YOU can control your level of involvement in the situations an abuser creates in your life.  YOU have the ultimate choice, but it can take time, so patience is also required. Developing a set of personal policies that control your level of participation is step one in your process of overcoming abuse.

My #1 policy for dealing with abuse in my life is simple:  I will not ever keep an abuser's behavior quiet. Telling someone I trust is my #1 strategy.  Abusers depend on the silence of their victims.  I don't cooperate with their desire to keep me quiet.  I will tell; I always tell.  I get other loved ones involved.  As a child, when experiencing my dad's constant abuse, I felt so incredibly ashamed and thought that no one knew what he was doing to us.  Imagine my shock to recently hear a cousin say that his abuse was common knowledge in the family!  I had no idea anyone knew!  Chances are, any abuse you or a loved one is experiencing is already known, or at least suspected, by someone.

My theology plays a huge role in this in my life.  I look first to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith, and His Word.  And I act.

More to come on abuse recovery.....

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Let Go Of Him!

My husband is a grown man.  One day, this grown man was eating a dish of chocolate ice cream.  The way my husband eats chocolate ice cream, this could be any given day.  Once, someone with us didn't think he should be eating so much chocolate, so that person said, "Tricia, why do you let him eat all that chocolate?"

I replied, very quickly, "Let him?  Oh, no. I don't tell him what to eat!  He's a grown man, he gets to eat what he wants."

This person was shocked at my answer and wasn't happy that I wasn't going to tell my husband what to eat.  Hmmm.  I've had similar encounters that begin with "Tricia, why do you let him........"  People, I don't "let" my husband do anything nor do I prevent him from doing anything!  He's a grown man and gets to do what he wants.  I believe this idea of me "letting" him do things or not letting him do things stems from the fact that I'm his wife.  But, I can't find anything in the world, let alone Scripture, that says being his wife means I'm his life manager.  Uh, uh; no way; not me. I have enough trouble managing my own life, let alone his!

But, I do have to admit, this ice cream encounter made me aware and I began to make observations.  Over the years, I've observed a few patterns in the lives of married people I've been around.  A startling realization was that a lot of women take it upon themselves to be their husband's life manager as soon as they say "I do!" And those husbands are letting them!

Ladies, let go of him!  Let him manage his own life.  The meaning of "helpmeet" is not "life manager."  It's a helper fit for him. If you do a Biblical word search of the word helpmeet, you will discover that the word is used mostly in a military context.  A fellow soldier.  A comrade.  No soldier needs his comrades telling him what or how much to eat, what time he should be home, how long he gets to play golf or any other thing.

Let go of him!  I once gave a devotional at a wedding shower and I spoke of this very thing.  One of my points was that it's not our job as wives to change our husbands or make them into the men they "ought" to be. The Holy Spirit of God is perfectly capable of doing just that.  Our job in marriage is to look to Jesus, The Author and Finisher of our faith.  Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Only.

When we get married and wake up one day and realize that our "Prince Charming" suddenly has flaws that were certainly not there before, we need to look to Jesus.  Prince Charming did not suddenly develop new behaviors. On the contrary, our rose-colored glasses simply got whitewashed and we saw reality instead of roses.  Jesus knew about those flaws long before you did and He has already developed His plan to sanctify Prince Charming, without your intervention.

So, let go of him.  Look to Jesus, let your husband live his own life, and I guarantee you will have a much happier husband.  Oh, and if you're worried that he might not choose you over his other activities, remember that he chose you in first place and will choose you over and over again.  He might want some ice cream first.