Itching to be Tough

Dear Lindsey,

He was struggling between boyhood and manhood. Like a tadpole learning to cope with legs instead of a tail, he was learning to live with mechanisms different from his youth. Tears came too easily for this eleven-year-old and I knew they would need to lessen as his body matured to man.

One night, after an afternoon bout of his crying over someone changing rules in a game or other mildly unjust action, I intently prayed for him to grow up to be the man God intended:

“God please make my son tough.

-       The kind of tough that can withstand struggles.

-       The kind of tough that can lift the weights for his eventual family.

-       The kind of tough that perseveres.

-       The kind of tough that plays hurt.

-       The kind of tough that is a warrior for You.”

I prayed that God would reveal my own “mom-weaknesses” where I may have been catering to my son’s softer side, hindering his growth to manhood.

The day after my fervent prayer, a rash broke out on his belly. He itched and whined, and frankly, made a big deal of it. It did look itchy and uncomfortable, to say the least, but the entire rash was less than the size of my hand. It wasn’t really obvious what it was, but we suspected poison ivy.

“Mom, there’s no way I can play in my soccer game tomorrow!” he said.

“Bud, I know it itches, but once you see that ball on the field, I bet the itching will be imagesless than your desire for a goal. Besides, your team needs you!”  I said as I dutifully washed the bumps in special soap, put some Calamine on it and gave him Benedryl.

That night, I stayed up late into my “productive hours,” getting ready for the Mom-starting-gun to make its sound again the following day. As I passed his room at 2am, I saw my poor son sitting up on his bed, miserably hugging himself, rocking back and forth while tears streamed down his swollen cheeks. The spots had spread like the ivy that caused them – up from his chest to his neck and face, swelling one of his eyes almost closed. It grew down from his belly, hitting his inner thighs and continued to his feet.

He. Was. Miserable.

I gave him more Benedryl, coated what I could with more Calamine, and realized there was really nothing more I could do until we got to a physician.  I sat quietly on his bed, softly stroked his back, and silently prayed:

“Dear Lord. You know the pain in my son today. You KNOW how badly he is suffering with this itchiness and how long it can last. Please, God, take the poison ivy away and restore his skin to fully healed.”

As I lay in bed that night, I thought of his soccer game the following day, and how the coach would not understand that he would miss “because of poison ivy.”  I imagined a phone call I would make, emphasizing how BAD the poison ivy was: it was not just a couple spots on his belly!

When I woke in the morning, I was surprised to see my son already awake. He stood, fully dressed in game-attire, looking at himself in the mirror while he applied his own Calamine.

“I can either sit here and itch, or I can play a game for my team. I’m choosing to play.” He answered the question I hadn’t asked.

I was in shock. I started to make excuses and tell how the rash was more intense than it originally looked; how much worse it might itch with sweat; I started to wonder if others could get it, and a million other excuses for him not to go out of the house looking like a swollen monster covered in pink paint.

But my prayers from two nights before were answered, and my “mom-weaknesses” were silenced.

Not only did he play for his team that day, but he scored a goal!  A tough boy CAsey opponent became a man – and his body caught up later.  

(Note: If he had not come up with the idea himself, I don’t know that I would have pushed him to play that game. I think parenthood is a dance between compassion and pressure. Without the first, the latter causes pain and not necessarily change. (Ephesians 6:4))

I don’t suppose “toughness” is really the lack of tears, nor lack of fears, but the ability to push through yourself for your team, your family or someone beyond the one in your uncomfortable skin.

I thought back to my prayer just days prior and wondered if God ever laughs at me?! One moment, I was praying my son would become a warrior, and then when He allowed the very thing that would make him tough, I immediately prayed it would be taken away.

I am thankful God continued with His plan, and didn’t allow me to get in the way.

Maybe there are some cases of “poison ivy” in life for which we should be thankful instead of resentful: the struggles that made us strong; the trials that toughened our skin; the resistance that built muscles.

Or maybe there are some in my life right now from which I should be learning instead of running?

Because I guess answered prayers are sometimes disguised as itchy monsters covered in pink paint….before the goal is scored.

In love,

Terri

Romans 5: 3-5: Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

“We pray for silver, but God often gives us gold instead.” – Martin Luther

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Bradys Play Hurt

Dear Lindsey,

I have decided I know why it is called, “roughhousing”: because it is rough on my HOUSE! Boys are boys! When our oldest was barely one-year-old, “wrestling with dad” became the most exciting activity of the day. It progressed well into toddlerhood and became training ground for toughness with each of our three boys.  Chris and Casey spent hours tumbling on the floor and showed such a different relationship than my own with my son (or my relationship with my husband, for that matter!). The game always seemed to come to a halt in tears, as the toddler would succumb to exhaustion, realizing he was “whooped.”  Chris wanted to raise our boys to be tough though, and he would never let their game end with crying.

“Brady’s play hurt!” Chris (knowing that his son was not really injured) would egg a four-year-old Casey on – never rewarding his sniveling.  Making it fun so the toddler would continue playing, Chris would then let enough time pass that tears were forgotten, and he could end the game on a good note.

This game was daily, no maybe hourly! Wrestling with Daddy still occurs in this house with teenagers…only louder!

One particular day of toddlerhood, though, the game was declared “over,” and Chris rested his eyes, lying down on the couch in our playroom while Casey played with Legos. After some time, the four-year-old suddenly ran and jumped on the couch, landing on Chris’s mid-section, startling Chris from sleep to a shout: “Owwww! Get off of me!”

Casey got a cute twinkle in his eye and said,

“Come on, Dad! Bradys play hurt!”

I laughed out loud!

And the wrestling continued.

Oh my! The number of times the saying goes through my head outnumbers the wrestling events where it was created.

When I want to give up in tears,

when I want to make excuses for my mood,

when I want to scream in exhaustion, “I can’t get it all done!”

I go back to the moment with my four-year-old and am reminded: “Bradys play hurt,” and I stay in the game …just one more day.

Blessings,

Terri

Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.

Hebrews 12:1:  Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,…

1 Corinthians 9:27:  but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

Related Posts:

Finding a Character to Marry, Part Three

Previous Posts on this topic:

Dear Lindsey,

There was a story of a guy and girl who were newlyweds and went to the bedroomimages-2 the night of the wedding.  She sat down on the bed and removed her heels and nylons.  Opening a drawer, she put in her glasses.  She then continued and took off her eyelashes, putting them in the drawer. She took off some special padding, a hairpiece, and a girdle and put them in the drawer too. Her Invisalign, her Spanx, and other paraphernalia filled the drawer. The man looked, stunned at what was left of who he thought he had married and said, “Maybe I should just make love to that drawer!”

My single girlfriend, be the REAL YOU, and your man will love YOU after you are married. Be sure that your real beauty cannot be taken off, or put into a drawer. Make your real beauty shine. (1Pet 3:3)

Summary of FInding a Character to Marry:

-                Be God crazy. (Part Zero)

-                Be someone with character of Christ, worthy of being married. (Part One)

-                Be the best YOU you can be and the right spouse will find you at the right time, just as God intended all along.  (Part Two)

Questions some may be asking:

Q:  WHAT IF I am already married, and now reading these articles, I feel like I have made a mistake in the spouse I chose. (This is my least favorite question to answer here.)

A:  The Bible is very clear: Do not divorce because your spouse does not follow Christ:

1Co 7:12-13 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away.

Yet, we can trust that God has a plan for every day (even the ones that don’t make sense to us)!  Trust in Him and not your understanding, and He will direct even you. (Prov. 3: 5-6) You never know what the Lord will do with your marriage – and your unbelieving spouse – through your testimony of peace and loyalty in Christ. They may be won over, without words, by the purity and reverence of your life.  (1 Peter 3:1-6)

Q:  WHY would you write to singles, when you are so “happily married after twenty years”?

A:  Honestly, I feel for singles today! When I struggled with the pain of infertility, I remember feeling like singleness had so much in common with it – waiting while others around me seemed to have what I wanted, and wondering why God didn’t want that for me. In addition for singles, the pull against the Word of God and His direction is so evident in the media today, and therefore it is probably evident in the lives of many singles across the country. I want to put my arms around you and tell you that you are not alone. You CAN glorify God as a single. There is more to life than volleyball and beer, so don’t feel like you have to succumb to that in order to find your future spouse. God DOES have a plan. Do the right thing, and don’t act out of fear that it won’t happen unless you…do the wrong thing, quickly. There are other singles reading this right now who wish they could find YOU. Be ready!  What if you took advantage of being single while you can? Read good books for becoming all God meant for you to be? Dived into serving others who are in need, before your family needs you full-time? Worshipped with no time-limit of hungry kids to feed?

Then one day, right in the middle of finding joy in being single, your spouse will come into your life, carrying you to the next season. It is amazing how the Lord works; believe it!

Q:  So WHAT IF the last decade of my life has been spent with no evidence of the character of Christ?

A:  Jesus knows. Repent, (Ask Him for forgiveness and correct your ways) and surrender your life to Him by praying. Romans 12:1 says you can. He WILL forgive!

Q:  WHAT IF all that purity stuff is too late for me?

A:  Start anew. Ephesians 4:22 says, “Move out.” According to the Bible, it is never too late! We can repent, be forgiven to the point of “white as snow” again. (Isaiah 1:18)  All have sinned. (Romans 3:23) Your sin, in God’s eyes, will not be considered worse than anyone else’s (even your mother’s! :) ). (James 2:10) “Secondary abstinence” is probably more difficult, but oh how it must please the Lord to see your new commitment to Him. Find a local church for support in your new life.

Q:  WHAT IF my parents would prefer I “court” instead of “date”?

A:  Praise God you have parents who care so much! Honor them, and be blessed!

Q:  WHAT IF I am not sure of God’s will for dating, courting, marriage, singleness, my life in general?!

Welcome to the world of “faith not sight”! (2Cor 5:7) To quote the book, Just Do Something, by Kevin DeYoung, (which I highly recommend you read!):

“We must denounce our sinful desire to know the future and to be in control. We are not gods. We walk by faith, not by sight. We risk, because God does not risk.” (p. 48)

“We should spend more time trying to figure out how to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God as instructed in Micah 6:8 as a [single] and less time worrying about whether God wants us to be [married].” (p. 45)

“The better way is the biblical way: Seek first the kingdom of God, and then trust that He will take care of our needs, even before we know what they are and where we are going.” (p.26)

HERE’S OUR STORY:

Chris and I met in a college class, “Real Time Computing in the Laboratory.” Oh the geeky life I led!

At the end of graduation, it was as though everyone (including myself) was expecting me to have a ring, but Chris was clearly not ready. He often talked about taking a year off of work to thrive at being single. He wanted to travel the world before the world was depending on him, so to speak.

I understood; he has always been a Rascal (the appropriate title for a book he wrote).

I waited.

I knew how badly I wanted it, because my night-time dreams involved him poppingimages-1 the question:  One night in my sleep, Chris proposed to me using a plastic “mood” ring. In the dream, when I hesitated in shock over the type of ring, he quickly switched to another…and another…and another. “You don’t like it? Do you like this one better?” he said, nervously showing me another ring of many colors out of his pocket. In his typical fashion (even in my dream), he had me laughing out loud, and telling him, “I love it,” with every one, but when he took out the sixth one (a pearl – Finally! One color!) I yanked it from him and said, “It’s perfect!”

When we had parted after graduation, my job offer was in Dayton, Ohio, four hours from Chris in Michigan, but soon after I was transferred to Fredericksburg, VA:  twelve long hours of driving from the boy of my dreams. Five months out of college, and I was antsy. I felt like guys in the apartment complex were interested in going out, and I was always staying home alone, while my heart was in Michigan.  I was tired of waiting for Chris to decide whether I was the one. I was tired of not allowing myself into the social life of young-twenties, since I was serious about the Michigan boy.  I was beginning to wonder if I had an idol of my heart in Chris that was actually taking me away from Christ. I wanted to be married that badly.

I could stand it no longer. I was resolved to break off the dating relationship. We had plans to meet for an October weekend in Pittsburgh, our college town and basically the half-way point between Michigan and Virginia. A fall sinus infection was threatening to steal my weekend, but I tried to think clearly despite the medicine. As I drove the six hours, I cried and put words together to cut our strings and let Chris go.  I surrendered to God’s plan, since it clearly wasn’t for us to be married, or Chris certainly would have asked by now. I got a peace about being single. I dreamed of youth groups I would help; children to whom I would be a “Big Sister.” I surrendered my marriage dream to God’s timing.

I arrived at the designated meeting place, and saw his white S-10 pickup, with the red striped sticker down the side. My pulse quickened! As he got out of his truck, his smiling eyes seemed to scream across the parking lot to my own. I should have known the depth of those dimples was foreshadowing the ones I see in my own kids today. His joy in seeing me melted my heart into a formation that has not left. There was NO WAY I was breaking up with that man that weekend, but I had agreed to be surrendered to God’s timing.  I was at peace with singleness*.

We spent the day throwing football at Schenley Park, a favorite place of ours near our Alma Mater, Carnegie Mellon.  The next night, we took the incline – a trolley car that rides a track up the side of Mt. Washington for a glorious overlook of the city of Pittsburgh – where it had all begun on one of our first dates, two years prior.  When we departed the train, Chris grabbed my hand and seemed to race to the top of the mountain to the overlook platform. Unfortunately, my sinus infection had taken any oxygen that was left after the altitude had had its share.

“All I want is Nyquil and a pillow!” I famously said as he hurried me along, not seeming to care.

We stood out on the cantilever deck with the $0.25 binocular views, and he put his arm around me, reached into his pocket, and pulled out a ring box.

My heart skipped. NOW? Had I thought about this? SERIOUSLY? He’s going to propose?  Right after I was going to give it up?! Was I SURE what I was going to say? Was I READY? Did God give me THIS so soon after I had surrendered it?

He opened the box, and my heart stopped beating when he revealed a costume jewelry piece, similar to the mood ring toy I had seen in my dream (which I had previously shared with Chris).

“Haha! You thought I was going to ask you something, didn’t you?!” He laughed.

I fought myself to force a laugh, but this was not funny.

I turned my head toward the city lights as the crisp October air chapped my face.

Would he ever understand? This isn’t a humorous time of my life. I am serious and he is not. But I am content to wait. “Really, God, I will wait contently” I silently prayed.

“So you want the real one?” he said to my back as he reached into his pocket and revealed another case. This one looked like a crystal cube, in much contrast to its black plastic predecessor.

He got down on one knee, and my emotional roller coaster began the click-click climbing back to the top.

“Terri Estes, I love you with all my heart.”

(Cue the tears.)

“I know I said I wanted to travel the world before I settled down; but then I realized, I really would rather do that WITH you.  I want to spend our lives together. Will you marry me?”

(I said, “yes.”)

images

How will you know it’s the right one?

When you love something, let it go (to God).  If it comes back to you, (meets you in Pittsburgh and proposes like your dream), it’s yours (and His will) and if it doesn’t, it never was. (smile)

In God’s timing.

According to His plan.

Delight yourself in Him, and He will give you the desires of your heart. (Ps 37:4)

In love,

Terri

In all things, at all ages, single or married, we can give thanks and delight ourselves in Him and indeed be blessed. (Ps 37:4)

Finding a Character to Marry, Part Two

How to Find a Spouse

Dear Lindsey,

In the previous two Letters, Part Zero and Part One, we have been discussing “How to find a spouse,” featuring advice from Pastor Stephen Davey.  If Dr. Stephen Davey had a list of things to DO, then Dr. Laura Schlessinger, a former radio talk show host who often took calls from listeners expressing their dating woes, had a unique list of Don’ts in her book, Top Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess up Their Lives. Using brash terms like stupid, 51Xwh+JmslL._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_“Dr. Laura” holds nothing back as she allows single women to learn from the mistakes of others. Although my milder personality would probably choose a softer term, I kept the word stupid in this Letter, as I summarized her list.  For the most part, her book says that finding your identity in someone else (and I would add: someone other than Christ) puts your happiness in someone else’s control, and never ends well.

Dr. Laura’s Ten Stupid Things:

Stupid Attachment 

If you feel like a spouse is the answer to all of your woes, you are heading for disappointment.  Overly-attaching yourself to someone is often the number one reason that someone wants to become unattached! Fast!

images-8When my daughter Christine was 2-yrs-old, my little butterfly loved attention of her three buffalo brothers. Once while buckled into her car seat in the third row of our Ford Excursion, she asked Casey (then age 9) to sit next to her. He said he wanted to sit one row forward, so he could more easily exit when we arrived at his practice. She broke into tears and wailed to me, hoping my ears in the front seat would recognize her desperation two rows behind me.  “Mooooooommmmy!!!! Casey won’t make me happpppyyyyyy!” she sobbed.

Let’s all have a moment of prayer for Christine’s future husband.

OK.

Seriously, attaching our happiness to anyone else is a perfect recipe for perfect unhappiness. Become the best unattached YOU, [bringing glory to God]. Have dreams; forge a purpose; have an identity; make a commitment to things outside of yourself. You can only become the best spouse by becoming the best YOU first.

This principle doesn’t end once a woman puts on a ring.  (Read “The Needy Queen” in a previous letter, The Bad Queens for how “attachment” looks within marriage.) Becoming the best YOU, aligned with Christ, will make you a better wife, because that is the One with Whom your husband should be aligning as well.  (2 Cor 6:14 says that believers in Christ should only be yoked with believers in Christ.)

 

Stupid Courtship

If you are dating a jerk, now’s the time to leave him. In Dr. Laura’s words, “You don’t have to settle; you can SELECT!” (Emphasis mine)

You are worth it!

When I was in high school, I had a suitor, who quickly became a stalker with a side of creepy when I didn’t share his admiration in reverse. What began as love notes and personally recorded songs sent through the mail, quickly became threatening phone calls and eventually mystery hang-ups. (Before the inventionimages-6 of caller ID, he would call my house, ask for me, and then hang up as soon as I got to the phone.)  Once I cracked the case of the mystery phone-hang-up artist, my older brother called the guy and told him the familiar poem of the 70’s: “If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it is yours. If it doesn’t come back to you, it never was.” Except, my big brother, … in my defense, … being the sweet, protective big brother he is, …said in a threatening tone, “If you love something, let it go. If she comes back to you, she’s yours. If she doesn’t, and you call again, I will hunt you down and rip you apart with my bare hands.”  The suitor never called me again.

I think “stupid courtship” is coming back to someone when you shouldn’t.

 

Stupid Devotion

This one seems so simple:  if a situation is self-defeating, then leave it.  When you have a dream, a defined purpose and a calling, and your significant other is defeating that, it is probably defeating “the you” that God meant you to be. 

 Don’t be devoted to self-defeat.

A true future spouse will be devoted to that which you are devoted, so be sure your devotions are worthy of …um…devotion.

Bryan Heath has a song that says, “I am not my family tree.” You have incredible, God-given value, and nobody –particularly a future spouse – should be trying to convince you otherwise.  Your past (or your family’s past) does not have to determine your future; Dr. Laura says it this way: “History is not destiny.” Your choice in a spouse matters.

 

Stupid Passion

Things happening in the premarital bedroom (or backseat of a car) are not love.   How do I know? Ask any man who has ever paid for “passion”. Why would someone pay for it? Because it feels physically good – not because it increases a relationship with the one he paid.

OK, some will argue it is not all lust, some is expressing love; but it is all against God’s Law. To really spell L-O-V-E, let him show you he loves you enough to preserve you for the wedding night. Show him you love him enough to treat his body as a beautiful temple deserving respect. Express love to each other by waiting.

In this day, movies and daytime television advertise premarital activity as not only acceptable, but expected.  I saw one recently that said, “Wait until the third date.”  The “third date”???!!!!!

images-1

“They” say it is respectable if you wait to go to bed together on the THIRD DATE?!!!!

I hope you didn’t just argue, “Oh good, I’m not THAT bad; I wait until the fifth.”

.

The Bible says differently. It clearly says, “Wait until the wedding night.”

How is that possible in this day and age? While the world says, “No way!” God says, “You can do anything through Christ who gives you strength.” (Phil 4:13)

Stay strong, and your marriage will be too!

 

Stupid Cohabitation (Living Together Without Marriage)

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Statistics show that unmarried couples living together ARE NOT LIKELY to stay together once they are married.  Wow. THAT is worthy of repeating:

Statistics show that unmarried couples living together ARE NOT LIKELY to stay together once they are married.

 So if this letter is How to Find a Spouse, then statistically, STAY IN SEPARATE RESIDENCES. 

This mistake is related to all of the mistakes listed above:

  • Stupid Attachment (You will lose yourself when living with him);
  • Stupid Courtship and Stupid Devotion (You are less likely to do the right thing if it is breaking up, if you are sharing a residence with him.);
  • Stupid Passion (How do you stop from eating the chocolate cake if you see it out all the time?)

Living together is tempting when it “makes sense” financially. It’s ironic to me that people, even Christians, will make this argument. Yet, they would never rob a bank, even though that might make sense for their “financial benefit” – because they recognize that stealing is wrong according to God’s law.

So is sleeping together before marriage! Ugh!

Living together makes it easy for someone to become dependent on someone else.

Living together, statistically doesn’t lead to a good marriage.

If someone doesn’t want to continue dating unless they can “take the car on a test drive,” then go ahead and lose the relationship. It is likely that you would have lost it for other reasons anyway even if you had slept with him, but then you would have been the used car, and you are worth more than that.

 

Stupid Expectations

If someone is a controlling person, you can expect him or her to continue to be controlling.   A wedding ring doesn’t change someone’s personality, so your expectations for after marriage should be about the same as who he/she was before marriage.

I remember dating someone who gave me my every wish. What Terri wanted, Terri got. It was heavenly…for a while. Then it went from heavenly to heavy.  The pressure of being the rudder of “our” ship was too much, although I didn’t recognize the problem at the time.

Later, when dating Chris, things were quite different. He was attending graduate school on a full fellowship with a monthly stipend, and I was living on Ramen Noodles and cold Spaghettios. I felt like he was rich!  Our date night was my “princess” night!

Then one day Chris pointed out the bill. Really? My date showed me the bill and questioned why it was so high?! At first, I was embarrassed for him that he would be such a slave to money. (Oh, the irony of my blindness is killing me here – but I will share anyway.) He went on to say that he loved our time together, but wondered if we could do it without the appetizers, specialty coffees and desserts sometime?

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Some who have heard my husband speak on leadership have said he can punch you across the face, and somehow make you laugh and follow his way. I think that night I got “punched.”  Inside, I was embarrassed that I had been a burden on his budget. But be still, butterflies of my soul! I fell madly in love with the man who would be so strong as to control the rudder of our ship. His courage to stand up to me (on something with which I could only agree!) made a pattern for much resolution in our marriage.  Oh how I pity the woman who has no rudder speaking truth to her.

 

Stupid Child Conception

images-7“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage!” I sang hundreds of times in the jump rope game of my youth. The song’s principles are not always the case these days.

Somewhere around the age of six, I remember visiting a family friend in the hospital. By chance, we ran into one of my father’s other friends from work, whose teenage daughter had just given birth. In my youthful state, I stared at the young girl and innocently asked my dad, “Where’s the baby’s daddy?”

He looked down with sad eyes and said, “There is no dad.”

In my little mind that day, I had decided that God had made a mistake. I feared for my 6-yr-old-self, (checking my belly to make sure it wasn’t growing) worried that the mistake could happen to me too.  Obviously time and education wiped the cover of innocence from my eyes and I eventually figured out the truth of who was making the mistakes.

The term, “baby daddy,” of the 2000’s was coined because of so many conceptions out of wedlock. (Or would those be misconceptions?)  Careless women and men, who don’t pay attention to some of Dr. Laura’s other listed “mistakes”, will end up in this situation.  Unfortunately, or ridiculously, some women will become pregnant out of wedlock ON PURPOSE trying to get a marriage commitment. Entrapping a daddy, thinking this will change him is as bad as it gets; it’s like risking the life of a child for your own selfish desires to be married.  It only multiplies the number of unhappy people in the house.

Be responsible.

 

Stupid Subjugation, Stupid Helplessness and Stupid Forgiving

Some direct quotes from Dr. Laura’s book on these last three “mistakes”:

“If your someone abuses you, it’s over.images-5

It is the saddest thing when someone won’t stop trying to get love from someone who is abusive and offensive to him/her.  Some women will use the “any dad will do” excuse to stay with bad men in bad situations. A NO dad home is better than an abusive dad home.”

Be strong and courageous, for the Lord thy God is with you. (Josh 1:9)

Until we “part” again (in Part Three),

Terri

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Finding a Character to Marry (How to Find a Spouse)

Note: This is a re-post of Part I on the subject, “How to Find a Spouse“. Since the topic was visited yesterday, with “Part Zero,” the article below is being republished for the purpose of sequentiality.

Dear Lindsey,

Chris and I celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary in May!  Yes, I got married when I was 10!

Wedding Dress For Happy Couple in Love

I thought it would be fun to write a note about “how to find a spouse,” but when I told Chris, he said, “How can you write about that subject, when there is only one as perfect as I am, and you already got me?!” Ha! Yes I do!

Truth be told, Chris was not the first man to propose to me. When I was a young intern at General Motors, every day when I returned from work to my 2nd floor apartment in Sandusky, OH, a man was waiting in the parking lot. He would watch for my car, and then follow me to my place, shouting to my back, “Will you marry me? Please?!”

Having had a previous run-in with a stalker, I was always cautious when I lived alone. I added locks to keep even the landlord from being able to enter without my permission when I was home. In the balcony’s sliding glass door track, I put a long, 1-inch-diamter metal dowel that would prevent the door from sliding if the lock gave way.

When home after work one day, I put on my bathing suit and headed through that sliding glass door to my deck for some sun. I stepped out onto my balcony and slid the door closed behind me. Unfortunately, the rod slid down into the track as I pulled the door shut, locking me out onto my own deck. I stood out there in a bathing suit that was reserved for privacy of a 2nd floor fenced balcony and wondered who would hear my voice from my perch.  I scanned the area, and the only person within earshot was the man who wished to be my fiancé! I decided I would die of starvation on that deck before I would ever climb down in front of him, or ask him for help.

Haha!

Had I climbed down from there, maybe that would have been one way to gain a spouse. But that is not the way I am advocating in this Letter.

How to Find a Spouse

Tony Robbins suggests that you don’t marry someone until you know how he or she will react when: angry, sick, tired or wet. So I suppose you could ask your perspective spouse on a date to get something to eat, then drive around lost, delaying the meal, almost wrecking and drop him/her off in a big puddle in front of a sprinkler system to see the reaction. If you survive the night, you have found a fiancé! Luckily Chris didn’t choose that route.

When I searched online for “how to find a spouse,” there were many answers – which provided mere entertainment for me. Wikipedia, which is a website of “majority of opinions,” provided solutions, some of which were:

-       Make a list of at least 15 things you want, physical features, etc. Then determine which ones you are willing to give up as less important and compromise.

-       “If you cannot picture self with this person and being happy with them for 30/40 years, then they are not the right person for you. Take marriage seriously to avoid divorce.”

-       “Go over your list and see what a person would see in you. If you want to marry someone with money, a rich person with any sense won’t take up with someone who is overly motivated by wealth; therefore, get your finances in order so that you aren’t desperate, can show that you know how to deal with money, and won’t be disappointed (at least not financially) by a prenuptial agreement.”

-       Watch out. Probably not a good spouse if they have one of these red flags: 1. Can’t get their driver’s license, 2. Can’t hold a professional job. 3. Didn’t complete their college degree.

Or my favorite funny WIKI answer:

-       “You don’t have to jump into bed with everyone you date to know if they are compatible.”

(WOW, I’m glad someone shared that!)

Further search online revealed an actual mathematical calculation for how to find a spouse.

Calculus Horribilus

In an article entitled, “How to Find a Spouse: A Problem in Discrete Mathematics with an Assist from Calculus,” Dan Teague states:

If there are N candidates, how can you maximize the probability that you select your best match?

Strategy: Date k people without making a selection. Then, select the first person judged to be better than any of the first k.

We want to find the value of k (relative to N) that gives us the greatest probability of selecting from the best spouse for among the N potential choices.

…The probability of success settles down as k increases to approximately 0.368 as well. Using this process, we find that we can be successful in selecting the best from a group of N by letting approximately 37% of the available positions go by then selecting the first choice better than any seen before about 37% of the time. And this is true no matter how large N is! This is a strikingly high probability. Using this process, you can select the best out of 5000 almost 37% of the time, by letting the first 1839 go by and then selecting the first choice better than any of those 1839.

So, in essence, date 1,839 people, and break up with them. Then choose the next one you like better than the first 1,839 and you may have found your spouse.  This article also suggests to students that marrying your high school sweetheart is not a particularly good strategy, so don’t get too serious too soon. “Go out with a number of people to see whom you like and who likes you. Then make your choice.”

Wow! I guess Chris and I REALLY beat the odds, because he was a number less than 1,839!

Ruth BookPastor Stephen Davey has different (and more helpful!) advice for looking for a spouse. In Chapter 7 of his book,  Ruth (when Fairytales Come True), he says that there are no Bible verses that tell how to find a mate or biblically fall in love. I personally saw some methods in the Bible though: like God making a mate for a guy (Adam) out of one of his ribs (Genesis 2:22). Or having your dad send one of his servants to find you a mate working at the well (Genesis 24). Or maybe this one: work seven years to earn the right to marry your mate’s older sister, then work another seven years to earn the right to marry the one you really wanted (Genesis 29)!

OK, I jest. I am not suggesting those methods, but they seem easier than some of the methods I have heard people share!

Twenty-five percent of couples today meet online. Out of those, it is estimated 90% are lying about something on their profile.  Guys tend to lie about income or current marital status (ouch!), while ladies are more likely to gloss over their physical attributes or their age, according to Davey’s book.

Many singles are trying to speed the process by developing more than one online relationship at a time!

So really, what is more godly: using an online dating service or your dad sending his servant to the nearest well to see if there are any chicks hanging out there? My answer: both are allowed by God…IF you do the right thing, and do not act in fear. (Lying, for example, is acting in fear –  doing the wrong thing for fear the right thing will take too long).  However, as Davey rightly cautions: wherever the meeting, online or at the well, it should be for introduction purposes only.

He continues by saying that the search for a mate shouldn’t be so much about looking for someone compatible – someone like you – as it should be about looking for someone with character – someone like Christ.   “Looking” for a spouse and “waiting” for a spouse are two different actions. If you feel led to “wait” instead of “look,” then by all means wait! God has a plan for the character you will marry!  The following still applies:

Davey has a “checklist of character traits,” that I thought worthy of sharing here. After all, I think this should trump WIKI’s opinion!  This list is not only that which you would be seeking in a future spouse, but also one you should strive to emulate while you are waiting.

As John Maxwell says, we attract that which we are.

Checklist of Character Traits:

Spirituality :

  • If looking for a Christian mate, your search should begin with looking for conversion. Is their Christianity a secret? If they treat Christ dishonorably, they are more likely to do the same to you.
  • Is it a secret?
    • Does your prospective spouse talk about God?
    • Does he/she want to please Him?
    • Does he/she encourage you to follow His ways?
    • Have you ever seen his/her Bible?
    •  A common love for the Lord can erase all other compatibility issues.
  • Psalm 127:1 “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.”

Humility

  • “I can’t believe you chose me!” should be his/her attitude.
    • Even after twenty years of marriage, I still feel this attitude from my husband, Chris…and I really can’t believe he chose ME!
  • While a common love for the Lord can erase compatibility issues, a common love for SELF will destroy any relationship.

Priority

  • What matters most to him/her?
  • What does he value most in you – and is it something that you value as well?
    • If Chris had told me it was
      • my potential salary
      • my body
      • my hair
      • my common love for football and ability to throw it
    • I would have realized it was TEMPORARY admiration
  • What your perspective spouse values most will be what he/she values in you and even your kids after marriage, so his/her priorities MATTER.
  • Priorities matter when judging character

Honesty

  • Has your perspective mate been truthful about things, even if it has the potential of ruining the party?
    • Former relationships?
  • Have you seen him/her tell “little white lies?” without guilt?
    • Calling in sick for work
    • Fudging numbers to the landlord
  • No matter how it seems different, if you are the witness to lies, you are likely to be on the other side of a lie one day.
  • If you want an honest spouse, then honesty will be displayed before marriage.
  • If you want honest children one day, then marry an honest spouse.
  • I guess the only real candidates for your spouse should be those who are “candid dates.”
  • (OH, By the way, I did NOT get married when I was 10. I just felt I needed to clarify that lie right now. :) )

Accountability

  • To whom does your perspective mate submit?
    • His drinking buddies?
    • Her girlfriends?
    • You?
      • If your only accountability is each other, you will be like a ship floating at sea with no rudder. You will be lost.
  • Is it the Word of God?
  • You are accountable too!
    • “Become someone who is willing to stay single, rather than disobey the Word of God, and you are worthy of being married. Find someone who is willing to stay single, rather than disobey the Word and they will be worthy of being your spouse.”
  • If that individual does not honor the Word of God, you have no evidence that they will lead an honorable life.

Purity

  • Purity is more than just “not going all the way.”
    • What movies do you watch? Together and alone?
    • What conversations do you have? in texting?
    • You will know it is pure, when you could invite Jesus to sit down next to you and watch or read it.
      • Because He does.

Generosity

  • If you find someone who is stingy and selfish, do not think that he or she will become generous once you are married.
  • Does he think of others?
  • Is she serving and caring?
  • How does he treat his mother?
  • Are there causes on her heart outside of her hair salon?

“This is the kind of person to find…to become…to keep.” - Stephen Davey

Watch for “Finding a Character to Marry (How to Find a Spouse), Part 2” in another Letter to Lindsey soon.

God bless,

Terri Brady

P.S. I was able to shimmy the door on the balcony open, raising the dowel rod and allowing me back into my apartment without summoning a future fiancé or starving to death. I guess my blocked entry was not as break-in-proof as I had thought. :)

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Finding the Character to Marry – Part Zero

Dear Lindsey,

In Finding the Character to Marry (How to Find a Spouse), I featured advice from Stephen Davey about

“How to Find a Spouse.”

I later realized that I should have preceded that Letter with some important information, so I decided to have a “Part Zero” to the topic by stealing your dream.

Unknown

I guess it is not “stealing” it if you already recognize to Whom our dreams belong.  Let me explain: Any time we have a dream that is ahead of wanting God’s will for our lives, it is not our dream to have.  Waiting for God to answer prayers for our future, while He waits for us to submit to His will, is us screaming “My will!” through tears, while He gently answers, “My will be done.” Being single and wanting desperately to be married is a struggle that seems so parallel to my own struggle with infertility. When we can get to the point of “Thy will, not my will be done,” we can become someone worthy of being married in His perfect timing, IF marriage is indeed His will.

A couple of verses come to mind:

Psalm 37:4 says,

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

As a single woman, I would have read that as, “Once I delight myself in God, He will give me a husband! and a family! –yay!”

As my Christian walk has matured, I have come to realize that once I delight myself in the Lord, all other dreams pale, and I am clay to be molded by the Potter’s hands, ready to serve in His capacity wherever that may be.

Be God-crazy, not boy-crazy

Before I talk more about “Finding a Spouse,” I cannot leave the subject behind that it is always possible that God has more of a plan for even you – as a single. Amy Carmichael would not have made the impact on the world, had she been boy-crazy instead of God-crazy. Katie Davis would not be currently making the impact on hundreds of orphans’ lives in Uganda if she had ignored her calling and stayed in the states for her American suburbia marriage dream instead. Corrie Ten Boom, as a married woman, would not have still lived with her father to make the impact on the Jews she was hiding during World War II, and the massive impact she would have on the world with her testimony of love beyond the concentration camp.  Her story of forgiving her captors and situation – even that which killed her father and sister – is a story of forgiving as Christ forgave, which I will never forget.

The unmarried Apostle Paul has this advice (in 1 Corinthians 7:34-35): 

 An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

Of course, with all that said, it is still possible that as you grow more God-crazy, God might be preparing just the right spouse for you, simultaneously!

In essence, whether single or married, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you more delight than you can imagine in anything else.” He has a plan!

Recognizing “Part Zero” of this letter (above) makes the need for “Part II” of this letter even less important. However given the current state of the dating scene in America, I feel compelled to go forward…in the next letter.

Have a blessed and “delightful” day,

Terri

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Nobody Wins

Dear Lindsey,

“Nobody wins an argument,” may be true, but I still have to laugh at the professional soccer players. They look so cool on the field, so suavely athletic,…until that whistle blows and the theatrics begin. Following the referee and screaming at his back, do they really expect him to turn to them and say, “Well, now I see your point; I am glad you argued and brought me to my senses, so I will reverse that call in front of this crowd of hundreds of thousands of spectators, and blow the whistle on the other team instead.” Of course not! But they scream at the ref anyway.

Sibling bickering is a song that plays in the backseat of my car too often. When my younger two were four and five-years-old, they had the “did not!”, “did too!”, “did not!”, “did too!” chorus perfectly memorized for performance any time and any place.

I have often said that children act the way adults would if tact didn’t bridle us with censors.  I guess I can say I prefer the “control-top” version of my mouth, at least when it comes to the aftermath, but I have often had a giggle over the things the kids say…that I wish I could still say…just once in a while.

A few years ago, this was the conversation in the car from my backseat toddlers (age 4 and 5):

English: Cow Pasture Looking towards Cowhills ...

Christine: “Look at ALL those cows!”

J.R.: “Yeah, but look! There’s a horse in the middle.”

Our car sped by the barnyard.

Christine: “There was no horse! They were all cows.”

J.R.: “Yes there was a horse. It was all brown. The cows were black. There was a horse.”

Christine: “No there wasn’t J.R.! They were all cows. Farmers don’t put horses in the same yard with cows!”

J.R.: “Well THAT farmer did, because I SAW A HORSE!”

This continued and even escalated a bit, so I calmly interceded, with those “Mom lyrics” I seem to sing over and over:

“Christine and J.R. please stop the noise pollution. Remember who wins an argument? NOBODY. So just change the topic. We will never know whether there was a horse there or not. Arguing will not convince anyone and only makes it unpleasant for us all. God knows whether there was a horse there or not.”

There was almost thirty-seconds of silence in the car.

Then J.R. broke it and said matter-of-factly, “Yeah. And when I get to heaven I am going to ask God and He is going to tell you it was a horse.”

Haha!

My daughter, Christine (now age 9) is reading Dale Carnegie’s, How to Win Friends and Influence People for her homeschool “business-ownership” class. She came to me today, and explained how she doesn’t understand why anyone would ever need to fight! “All they have to do is agree with the other person and say, ‘sorry.’ Then the other person can’t argue any more. But if you disagree with them, then they will never back down!”

I like her (and Carnegie’s) thoughts. If it were only as easily done as said, there would be a great reduction in noise pollution around the globe! And in the mean time, we can look forward to one day finding out if it was a horse or a cow that we sacrificed in all of our arguments that we dropped. (smile)

God bless,
Terri

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The Ring

Dear Lindsey,

(Español: El Anillo)

My mother handed me the ring with a deep grin that punctuated the significance of the gift.ring  It was a tiny ring, just right for my 7-yr-old finger. “This is a REAL diamond,” she said, handing me the tiny fraction of a karat in a size 4 band.  She explained that she had bought the ring before I was born and saved it for when I was old enough to wear it.  I could hardly believe she would allow me to hold it – much less have it in MY size! I thanked her and felt that special warmth in my heart my tomboyish buffalo skin normally tried to repel. I headed out to play.

“Tether ball” was a favorite sport of mine. The two-person game involved standing on either side of a pole that had one ball tethered to it from the top. One would hit the ball clockwise, while his opponent tried to hit it counterclockwise with greater force. As the opponents smacked the ball, it gained potential for more height.  My trick was to hit it with strength at the angle to send it just out of my opponent’s reach, elliptically landing back within my reach so I could send it in the same pattern again the next time around. The game increased speed as the tether shortened, wrapping around the pole, until the tether was tightened to the last inch, proclaiming the winner.

It was at the end of such a game in the neighbors’ backyard when I realized that the ring I had possessed for less than 24 hours was gone. I searched below the pole, combing the grass with my fingers to no avail.

grassHeart-broken, and mad at myself, I couldn’t help but think that maybe I should have been “a good little girl” playing with dolls or makeup like other girls instead – then I would not have lost the ring.  I sinfully didn’t tell my mother about the loss, because I figured it would take her a few weeks to notice, and that would sound better than, “I lost it in the first 24 hours.”

Besides,” I thought, “I didn’t want that ring anyway. Who wants something that doesn’t even stay on during tether-ball?!”

It was my nature: when I felt defeated, I would convince myself that whatever I didn’t get (or couldn’t keep) was something I didn’t want anyway. It was easier than admitting I needed to change.

Anniversary Gift

On our tenth wedding anniversary, Chris decided to get me a ring. The buffalo in me liked the idea of a simple anniversary band, with no “annoying stones” to get snagged on my pockets when they warmed my hands. Chris had a different idea.

The solitaire was a diamond to be admired by any passerby. The round cut magnified the colors that only God could place in such a gorgeous gem. Its clarity drew in light, seemingly multiplying it in the reflection with a disco-ball effect on the ceiling of the store, to my embarrassment. “We’ll take it!” Chris said, while I shied away, telling him “no way!” But inside, I felt pretty just being treated as pretty.

The store sized it to fit my finger like a glove, although any glove worth working would not fit on this ring without getting caught.  Chris glowed with pride as we traveled to the resort where we were staying that night. We had a beautiful evening celebrating our first decade together, and I wore my ring with pride, almost wanting to point it out to strangers, as I did my engagement ring the night he popped the question in Pittsburgh, PA a decade prior.

I felt loved.

The next morning, I rose early and headed outside to enjoy the sunrise for my quiet time with God.  As I recorded the previous evening’s shopping and date in the journal of my mind, a feeling of sadness surrounded me. I felt like a phony. “I don’t even LIKE rings. I forget to put on jewelry that I already have! I am not pretty enough to have people looking at my hands. My nails are chipped; my hands are rough, because I don’t know how to ‘act like a lady.’  I cannot fake this. I am not the jewelry-kind-of-girl. Did he forget who I am? Where I have been? I am not worthy of its cost, much less its beauty!”

As I continued trying to read my Bible, the self-degrading thoughts continued. I started planning how to return the ring, and how I would tell Chris. Tears trickled down my cheeks, thinking about how we would owe the store for the custom sizing, even if they gave us our money back. Regret overcame me as I realized I had worn it the night before as a phony – mesmerized by its sparkle, as if that fit me.  The conflict was still vibrant in my heart when Chris awoke and came outside to where I was sitting.

“Are you wearing the ring?!” he excitedly asked as he approached, looking for my hand.

I wiped my eyes and confessed my thoughts to him. “I cannot own a ring like this. I am not meant to wear something so valuable. We need to get it back to the store. Today. We can see if they will give us all our money back, even if we have to pay for the sizing. I’m sorry.  I have never had such a tremendous case of buyer’s remorse.”

He stared at me dumbfounded for a split second, then kneeled down on one knee, cupped my face in his hands and said firmly, “We will not take the ring back. You cannot have buyer’s remorse, because you did not buy the ring; I did. It is my gift to you; now stop insulting me.”

He kissed me, as if it were the first time our lips had met.

The tears disappeared from my face.  My quickened heart rate sent a cleansing blood through my body.  A peace came over me as I realized he loved me so deeply to look beyond what I saw in myself. He didn’t give me the ring because of who I was, but because of who he is.

Hating Myself

As I recall that story, another story comes to mind: the one where I say, “I hate myself! Why can’t I be like others? I keep doing wrong. I can’t change. I will never get better. I am worthless!!”

And God gently answers, “I created you. Stop insulting Me.  I knitted you to be an original.  Your hands are My design. I know the depth of your heart, the chasm of your sins and I sent my Son, Jesus Christ, to take it all. I have a purpose for every strength you have, and for every failure it took to gain that strength. I have a purpose for EVERY weakness you possess, since My strength is made perfect in your weakness. You can’t change, but I can change you. My purposes are greater than your vision.  I created you just the way I intended. I bought you for the price of my Son, and I have no remorse. Now stop insulting Me.”

The Gift of Forever

Girlfriend, that eternal salvation is a gift that was bought before you were born to fit you God wants usprecisely. It is ironic that we cannot have the peace of His gift pumping into our veins until we have the remorse over our sins cleansing the path.  No one can comb through the grass to find His gift, and none of us deserves its worth. It is ours because of Who He is, not who we are. He loves us so deeply to look beyond what we see in ourselves.  It is amazing that just when we say, “I have such remorse!” He answers, “You can’t; I’m the One who bought you!”

I hope you feel loved, because you are.

I guess I am not a buffalo, or a butterfly or even a buffafly after all. I am a new creature in Christ, and I want His glory to reflect from my life like a disco ball!

In Christ,

Terri

God knitted you before you were born. Ps 139:13

His strength is made perfect in my weakness.  2 Cor 12:9

I am a new creature in Christ. 2 Cor 5:17

Salvation is a gift from God, because of who He is, not who we are. Eph 2:8-9

Confess your sins (with remorse) and you will be forgiven. 1 John 1:9

The gift of forever: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Orange Signs of Protection

Dear Lindsey,

I intentionally arrived twenty minutes early to avoid my son going to the dorms after practice – which would only accentuate the point that his friends were staying, but he was not.  When arriving at the practice field, I could see my 13-yr-old in the pack already walking off the field in the opposite direction, despite my early arrival. I realized I would need to pick him up at the University Towers, one mile off of the far end of the field (where I could not drive). I picked the 16-yr-old up from the stadium behind me, and we hurried to the parking garage to retrieve the car.

At the parking lot exit, the one-way sign pointed in a direction opposite my desire. I went a

One Way

mile clockwise to get back to about 50 yards from the entrance to the parking garage. (Maybe I should have just gone the wrong way for 50 yards!)

I tried to turn left at Cate Ave, when I saw the LED sign that said, “Cate Ave closed 5/13 – 8/13.” Obviously, this teen soccer camp was my first visit to the college since 5/13.   I turned around again and headed in a three-mile circle to get to the other side of Cate – to where the University Towers were.

As I arrived at the dorm, there were teenagers everywhere. The stench of the players filled the lobby, making me wish there were another door through which I could wait. The variety of teenage maturity never ceases to amaze me. Some looked like young puppies, wet behind the ears, and holding a stature of four-foot-something; others, though separated by just a few years, exhibited bodies ready for the cover of GQ, towering over six feet. The emotional maturity of the room had equal variance.

My younger son droopily walked toward me, his sweat-covered clothing evidencing his intense workout on a hot Carolina day.

The third door of the car barely closed when he started. “I understand you don’t want me to, but can I just know the reasons you don’t want me to stay overnight?” he said, resigned as he sat in the car behind his brother.

This conversation was held over from the previous week, when he had realized his friends were staying at the all-night soccer camp, but he and his brother were not.  The first day of camp departure had only reopened the wounds.

I repeated my stand: “Dad and I prayed about it and decided this was best for our family.”

“Don’t you trust me?” He asked – hurt, yet clearly ready to lock horns.

“I do trust you. You are SO trustworthy, and please do not take personal offense at our decision!”

Thoughts of explanation went through my mind: “Chris and I have been traveling; we haven’t been a family in one house in several nights. Casey just came home from church camp and doesn’t need four more nights out of his bed.  Fatigue leads to injury, and you both have a big competition in Greensboro the day this camp ends. I trust you, but I can’t say the same about all of the teens – up to college-age – that are in the building. We prayed and did not have peace leaving you overnight, so we chose to bring you both home each night.”

“A thirty-minute commute to your own bed?! Who wouldn’t want that?!” I said aloud with a lightened voice, trying to change the heavy mood of the car.

I started to turn to enter highway 40, but was blocked by a sideways police car and

Police Car Lights

flashing lights. I continued straight instead, into uncharted territory, looking for another way home.

Our conversation volley continued, until I finally said with love, “Trust me, bud. The best way I can say it is that we want what’s best for YOU.”

Road Closed Ahead sign

Man! The road came to another road closure. It sent me on a detour that ended up in a loop that circled around to five miles before I would have originally entered the highway! “This is so frustrating! I just want to go home!” was in my head, when my son’s boiling became noticeable as well. I could tell he disagreed with our decision to keep him home, yet was getting control of his attitude, and I needed to do the same.

I spoke out loud to my teens, figuring I would try to teach while reigning in my irritation.

“A friend was telling me about her BSF Bible study leader’s lesson on Joseph last week.  Do you remember what happened to Joseph?”

They answered about his being sold into slavery by his brothers and taken to Egypt. (Genesis 37 – 50)

“But then what happened?”

The boys shared in the story telling. Through their low Eeyore-toned voices, I wondered if their eyes were rolling and thoughts were saying, “Here Mom goes again…” but they continued telling of how Joseph worked hard and became the lead servant, so he was brought into the palace of a leader of Egypt, Potiphar, and became his right-hand man.

“And then?” I asked, impressed at their memory of details.

They continued by saying that Joseph was put into jail, because Potiphar’s wife accused him of something he didn’t do.

“Yes! And THAT is where my friend’s story started. She was saying that jail could have been a good thing at that point.”

“Good?” Nate asked, holding onto his fight-ready mood, knowing jail didn’t sound like a good thing. I pictured his one eyebrow raised while the opposite top lip crunched up leaving his mouth open – his normal questioning facial features.

“My friend said that jail may have protected Joseph.  Maybe jail prevented him from giving in to temptation for Potiphar’s wife if she had persisted.  The Bible actually says we will never be tempted beyond our ability to resist (1Cor 10:13), so maybe God was actually protecting Joseph by removing him from the situation. I guess I think sometimes protection may feel like jail, but please know that we love you and are only trying to do what we think is best as parents to protect you.”

Oooh. Silence in the car. “I wonder if the point made as much sense to them as it did to me,” I mused at my motherhood. Then I almost laughed out loud when I realized that maybe the detours on the road that night were a “jail” that God was using to protect me as well.

detour sign

My thirty-minute trip was taking over an hour on the return home due to detours, but at this moment, I was thankful for the extra time in the car. Maybe the detours were for such a conversation? Maybe the detours were for my own protection from some reckless car on the original route? Maybe the detours were for… “Ice Cream!”  I saw a favorite stop ahead, now recognizing where we were. We stopped and got something all those kids in the dorm would certainly be missing!

There are so many parallels to the closed roads in my path that night:

-       Home foreclosure may just be taking my friend to the right rental neighborhood where someone needs her smile.

-       A deferred college application may be leading that young lady to choose the college where her future spouse will be.

-       A job loss may protect someone from an ethical temptation that otherwise would have been difficult to resist, or it may be directing him to a new job with a better opportunity for his growth.

-       Jochobed may have thought it a horrible “detour” when she was forced to give up her baby due to oppressive captors, yet her God-ordained “detour” led her baby Moses to grow up to free her nation from slavery. (Exodus 2)

-       Joseph’s jail time may have protected him from Potiphar’s wife’s possibly tempting situation, but it definitely put him in the right place at the right time to eventually be promoted by Pharaoh.  His new position of high authority allowed him to save Egypt and even his own family in Israel during a time of famine.

God’s detours are not always denials. They are not for us to scream, “How dare God change my plans!” ha! What we see as “detours” may be His gracious protection and direction. I can’t say I am thrilled when I see the “orange sign” ahead, but I can trust the Writer of the arrow as I follow. Of course, I am grateful for the ice cream stops along the way! :)

God bless,

Terri

Related Posts:

“IF” (If My Daddy Had Not Been Struck By Lightning)- by my friend, Sarah Ascol

Are You a Basket Case?

Miscarriages, Slow Toddlers and Knees

Out of My Mind (with a Brain Tumor) Part I

When We Don’t See a Purpose

And To My Listening Ear

What a week! We have enjoyed some time at our lake home. I hesitate to call it “vacation,” since we are still actively online and phones and extra travel, but we are vacationing from the scheduled soccer and school. God’s artistry in sunrises, sunsets and everything else seems so beautiful when reflected on water.

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Reflections on water can lead to reflections on life.

I love “early morning fishing” with my kids. I select one (or sometimes two) of my children, put them in a canoe with a trolling motor, some poles and lures, and we head out to watch the sunrise, while we entice the unseen creatures below.

Why early?

At 5:30am, the lake is serene – no boat wakes or phones with which to contend, no schedules to compete for my kids’ time, just peace outside of two voices – theirs and mine. Oh yeah, and some say the fish bite more at dawn.

Why Photos?

The entire family doesn’t fit into our 3-seated vessel, so we share our victories via camera.  Sometimes, on a day without bites, it is fun to go through the photos, to remember the big ones will come!

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IMG_3951photophoto photoIMG_3954

But it’s not about the fish.

Mom, it doesn’t matter if we catch any fish today,” my 8-year-old serenely said as the trolling motor left a silent “V” sketched in the placid lake behind us. “It is just nice being with you.

It is a time of reflection – of the new sun off the mirror of water, and of my kids’ thoughts of this turning world. They ask questions in those peaceful hours that maybe get lost in our ninety-miles-per-hour  days.

“Do you think I am not catching fish today because I sin too much?”

Pensive.

“Is it ever ok to get angry, because… didn’t Jesus get angry?”

Fighting strong, but wanting answers with a friend along at 5:45am!

My kids’ discussion questions roll out with the line behind the boat.  I just want to make sure they know that I am here; I have a listening ear; I am ready with open arms when the storms send unsettling waves. If they don’t know that when they’re 8, they won’t know to look for it when they’re 18.

I LOVE our early times together.  I couldn’t help but see the parallel to morning quiet times with God.

Quiet Time with God

Why early?

Before the sun, the world is serene – no waves or phones with which to contend, no schedules to compete with the time (except for the pillow – the evil contender!)

Pen & Paper

Why Notebook?

Like a photo to share with family, a notebook records my wrestling moments, my tearful prayer requests, and the gut-wrenching thoughts that once prevented my sleep.  The answers received through these early morning times with Him are revealed when I read the journal years later. It encourages me: today’s resolution will come in His timing, too.

But it’s not about the ritual; it’s about the relationship.

It is a time when I can tell Him, “It is ok if I don’t catch anything today, I just enjoy being with You.”

Test Shot with My ESV Journaling Bible..

In His Word I am reminded that He is here. He has a listening ear; He is ready with open arms when the storms send unsettling waves – which sometimes are the lure that got me there in the first place.

“Don’t let your child be the ‘one that got away’,” is the advertisement line from Zebco fishing equipment. Maybe someone at that company had some good fishing conversations with his kids, too.

Girlfriend, don’t be the one who got away from God.  As Rick Warren says,

“If you feel far from God right now, guess who moved.”

Tomorrow: tell the pillow to have a good day without you.  Grab a pen, a notebook and a Bible, and enjoy a relationship with Him. Read, pray, speak and listen.

“Failure in my life almost always begins with a famine of God’s Word and prayer.” – Anne Graham Lotz

“It’s better to be sleep deprived than God deprived.” – Jill Briscoe

Eternally His,
Terri

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