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Monday, October 21, 2013

100% Real


Frankly, I've always thought that was kind of a stupid phrase.  I like the intent behind it, but it’s just one of those odd little sayings that is probably much less profound than people pretend it to be.  HOWEVER, the concept behind it is important in any relationship.  However, it comes today because of an interesting comment I heard.

I was at a conference the last couple of days, at which I see a variety of old friends and a collection of colleagues in ministry, some of whom have been mentors in my life, others I have mentored, and many of whom I have worked with in a variety of ministry projects.

One good friend and I were visiting, and he was sharing about some experiences he had with fellow ministers in relation to my first book—Finding God in the Seasons of Divorce, Vol. 1  (He only just now picked up the second volume.)   He and his friends were discussing some topics from the book, and, as he told me, none of them had ever been divorced, so they were learning a bit about the experience through their reading, hopefully to assist them to better pastor those going through divorces. 

My friend then shared that there was one person who came to the discussion, though, who HAD been divorced some years previous.  That individual apparently made a comment about the things she had read, and that comment was, “This is TOO real!”

I took that to be a high compliment.  My friend and I had only a few minutes to elaborate, so I didn't get to follow through on the entire story.  But the core of the idea was that the book doesn't present a sugar coated perspective of the struggle of divorce for Christians.  Nor does it offer some quick and easy answers in relation to faith that pretends like certain formulas will make everything okay.  Instead, the meditations in the book take scripture texts and use them to address the real life struggles of divorce, in ways that, at least in my opinion, bring real wrestling's of faith to bear on the real issues of divorce.  Hence, those who have read the writings have indicated to me that they have found a great deal of relevance and commonality in what they have read.  The struggles shared are the struggles they deal with day by day.  Maybe some of the answers and perspectives I suggest are helpful and accurate, as they have been helpful for me, but even without those pieces, just knowing you are not alone in the struggle is enough to make the writings meaningful.

I hope that, whatever struggles YOU experience in life, whether in relation to divorce or not, you are facing those issues in the context of a faith that deals with real life.  I hope you can do this not with a faith that pretends everything is all okay when it isn't  or that you have all the answers when you don’t, or that can’t accept both the struggles and the sorrows along with the victories and joys of life.  

For I believe God is real, and I believe He cares about the real world issues that we face.  And I believe that He has real answers that make a real difference, even in the toughest of experiences.  

So, keep you faith, and your relationship with God REAL!

TL:dr  My goal in my writings are to bring scripture to bear on real life issues, and some going through divorce have indicated the books have done just that.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Planning your Holidays...Start thinking about it already!

   You might be the one to make them so!

So here we are at the edge of winter, headed full steam into the big holiday season.  Our Jewish friends are in between some of their biggest holidays, having just come off the High Holidays of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, looking forward to the coming celebration of Hannukah.  For we Christians in America, as well as other Americans, Thanksgiving is an important family holiday, that leads us right into the celebration of Christmas and New Year’s.  And many here in America will be out in a couple of weeks handing out candy and treats as children wander from house to house dressed up in costumes.

I have already had several conversations with individuals making plans for holidays, who are frustrated at the effort it takes.  It always takes time to plan a good holiday celebration.  But when you have to plan it around other families, some of whom have no consideration for anybody else, the experience moves from frustrating to infuriating or, at the least, exasperating.  For the divorced, most especially those who have children, the holidays serve as a reminder that you are divorced and nothing is easy any more.  My way of saying it is that after a divorce, the holidays are never the same again.  Never. 

People who have not experienced divorce, often don’t realize how heart wrenching and difficult they can be.  They also don’t realize that their choices, words  and actions may have dramatic impact on how their divorced friends experience the holidays.  Let me suggest to you that, if you have a friend who is divorced, find a way to include them into some part of your celebrations, especially during the time their children will be at the home of their ex.  If you have resources, you might even want to carefully explore the financial resources of your friend for gifts, and perhaps find a way to help with costs for the holiday meal or offer a gift card that might be used for children’s presents.

It may seem early to discuss these issues, but it is never too early to start thinking ahead about ways to make those days go more smoothly, either for yourself or for your friend.  So how about a few suggestions today?  Later, I’ll offer a top ten tip list for the divorced and their friends, but let me lay the groundwork today.

First, don’t wait till the last minute and expect anybody to be able to accommodate your desires.  Make some plans now…if you are still on a visitation plan…review the schedule now and plan accordingly.  If you have the children on Christmas Eve, check into options for celebrations, such as Communion Services, Living Nativity Displays, Christmas gift exchanges, whatever opportunities are meaningful for you and your family.  Or, if this is your first year of single celebration, research and consider what new traditions you might want to establish.  Even something as simple as cutting a Christmas tree yourself, or join a caroling group can create special memories. 

Secondly, it can’t hurt to touch base with your children, regardless of age, to let them know of your schedule plans.  In the case of younger children, it reminds them well in advance how the schedule works this year.  For adult children, it gives them opportunity to make arrangements in their own work and family schedules.  If your children are all adults, you may be able to consult with them as you develop the plan, or that may become so complicated it may be wiser to simply state the schedule you can establish and invite them to participate as they are able.

If you are in good relationship with your ex, you could touch base with them to hammer out various travel and schedule details now, well in advance.  I even know of some who come together to celebrate with their older children to accommodate their varying schedules.  If not on good terms, perhaps a reminding email would work best.

Most of all, the holiday adjustments divorce creates changes in time you have with family, so it is wise to plan now for those times when will be left alone or at least, without your children around.  There are lots of good causes you could invest time in at local nursing homes, soup kitchens…whatever would help you get outside yourself during that time.

Advance thought now can spare you some emotional pain down the road.

TL:dr  Scheduling holidays and dealing with the resulting emotions can be very difficult for the divorce.  Planning ahead can make a difference.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Fight Is On... a guest blog by Janice R. Love!

Sorry to have been quiet lately, been kind of swamped with some health care issues and out of town trips.  Hopefully will be back on track a bit….

I promised a guest blog by my friend, Janice Love, author of the book, 1 + 1 = 10  A First Lady’s Survival Guide for Stepmoms, so here is her reality check blog, including some things that just might help some readers gain a bit of perspective.  Check out her website at www.stepwithlove.org   

The Fight is On!

The number one conflict in stepfamilies is related to the children, and the second is money. Early in our marriage we prided ourselves on never having an argument. We were a united force, because it was us against the world. Somewhere around year three, we began to draw biological lines in the sand and were disagreeing regularly, with eighty percent of our discord related to our children. Arguments came when we least expected. Our conversation may have started out very pleasant about what we were planning to prepare for dinner, and before we knew were in a full blown argument about food. 

In fact we argued about food from several different angles. Looking back now, we were arguing about FOOD!  I could never have imagined arguing with anyone about what to eat, how to cook it, who would cook it, how to eat it, when to eat it, or what to do with the leftovers.  But believe it or not, we had arguments about all of the above and then some. In fact I titled a chapter in my book "The Kitchen Wars."  I can laugh about some of those conversations now, but at the time, it wasn't funny at all.

Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.  Proverbs 17:1 (NIV) 

Realize, that wherever there are differences, there will be conflict. When conflict comes, and trust me it will come, handle it without causing permanent damage to your relationship with your spouse and your stepchildren. When discussing delicate issues, make sure you are not trying to prove you are right and your spouse is wrong. Accept that you are different and  established pattern, behaviors and traditions long before you met one another. Learn to accept the things you cannot change and use discernment when deciding what issues to confront. As my husband says, "figure out which hill to die on!" Happy eating.