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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What's in Your Tool Kit to Help You Survive Your Divorce?


With much of the United States having experienced harsher winters with power outages and dangerous roads that result in stuck vehicles, individuals have been aware that they need an emergency kit to get them through the temporary difficult time.  Food, water, something to help keep warm…that sort of thing.  

Divorce can be similarly disabling.  What items might be a in a kit to survive the temporary experience of divorce proceedings? Of course, there are some you wish you could take, that tend not to be real life, such as unlimited finances for tough times, or magic salve that can take away all the pain.  But even without those, there are some valuable things that ARE realistic to help you through.   Here are some suggestions, in no particular order:

1)      A good sense of humor--someone told me to find something that brings joy at least once a day

2)    Support network--make sure you have friends and family you can turn to for encouragement and strength, including safe places to mourn the loss of the marriage and the hurts you experience

3)    Medical attention--you may need medicine to help with depression/anxiety, and your immune system may drop with the stress

4)    Distractions--it is a good thing to have something to focus on sometimes besides your own situation, a place you volunteer, a group you are part of, meetings you attend, projects you are working on, that sort of thing

5)    Responsibilities--this can be a job, caring for the children, pets, helping parents, church offices…someplace that your contribution matters

6)    A guide--a pastor, counselor, confidante…someone with whom you can discuss the feelings you have and the decisions you face who is able to give you some objective feedback

7)    Reminders of your worth—some things that remind you of contributions and differences you have made in the world, things that illustrate you CAN do something, and you ARE of value…because it is easy to lose track of that when divorce is beating you up

8)    Dreams- -to counter the hopelessness that can come, even one thing you are looking forward to in life, whether a trip, a change, a challenge, whatever…something that can give you hope for the future

9)    Reservoir of love--out of which you can continue to offer the love you have to give, to those who are able and willing to receive it, your children, your friends, your family.  Just be careful that you don’t get ahead on this one and mistake love for inappropriate needy relationships started too early in vulnerable days

10)  Faith--to remind you to Whom you belong, and that you don’t walk alone, to give you patience to endure and trust that God is still in charge, working for your eternal good

I didn’t want to add it to the list, but it is true that a good attorney who will look out for your interests does make a huge difference.  If you think of others, feel free to add comments to share with others who might read this blog.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

An Important Investment in Marriage


If you wanted to be a welder, you need to take some kind of classes or apprenticeship.  If you want to be able to do CPR, you need the classes for that, too, even though you may only use it once or twice your entire life!  If you want your business to succeed, you are going to have to invest some finances into it, either as startup capital or maybe in paying for a college or tech school education to prepare you.  Here in Kansas, even if you want to drive a car, you have to go through some kind of class or training, and prove yourself competent.  

But if you want to get married, all you have to do is find somebody else willing and show up at the ceremony with a positive answer!  Isn’t it something that one of the most profound and difficult challenges we will ever face in life…to love, honor, till death do you part, etc…requires no or little training?

Another way to look at it might be in terms of finances.  These days, couples spend literally thousands and thousands of dollars on the few hours of the wedding ceremony and celebration, using hours upon hours of meticulous planning to make sure everything goes just right.  And some couples spend thousands and thousands of dollars on attorneys to dissolve the vows from that ceremony. But those same couples balk at the idea of spending a few hundred dollars, or a few hours a week, with a marriage counselor, or taking marriage classes as a way to learn how to make this most important of human commitments viable, meaningful and successful.  We’d rather spend the money on the ceremony or the attorneys, when, as with any other venture in life, a few wise investments along the way can yield bountiful results and great cost savings in the long run.

Parenting is the same way.  As was pointed out in the movie, “Parenthood,” there are no qualification requirements to be given permission to have a child…any and all kinds of people become parents with no training or preparation about what is necessary to raise that child.  We do what we think based on whatever examples we have seen…good or bad… and what we guess is a good idea, but to really have been properly trained? 

We observe this in parenting, and are so open to parenting classes, videos, books and tons of other resources as we seek help.  But all too often I have seen that individuals who could really benefit from marriage counseling/classes/retreats/books balk at the idea as if going to those things is tantamount to failure.  In reality, NOT seeking the guidance that could come or at least seeking to learn how to be a better marriage partner/couple is what leads to failure!  And in those cases, the times I see couples finally go to counseling, one or both of them has already given up and is only going through the motions.  Sometimes I am wrong, but not often enough.

Today’s blog is very simple.  I have had many plants in my life who, if they could speak, would bear witness to the fact that NOTHING grows without adequate nurture and care, and many of my plants have turned brown to prove it to me.  

If you are divorced, and may be getting remarried someday, my question is, are you going to do the work it takes to make a new relationship work, or are you only going to invest in the wedding ceremony? 

If you are married, whether the first marriage or not, are you investing seriously in the success of that relationship, or are you merely skating along assuming it will survive?  

Frankly, I think we’d be better off having a $25 wedding ceremony, and a $25,000 dollar marriage if we had to choose, don’t you?  Choose and invest wisely, that choice will make a difference for your entire life!

TL:dr  A good marriage requires real investment, investment we often neglect until it’s too late

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Unfinished Business in your Divorce

Or at the least, Blindsided!

Many people who are divorced will see this words, and remember the day they were served with divorce papers unexpectedly.  Or ways they felt ambushed by their ex during the process of divorce with one filing or court order after another.  And the words can certainly apply to those experiences.  

However, I am thinking of a different kind of experience that occurs in the days post divorce, the kinds of experience that catch you off guard, and yet bring healing and forward motion in spite of how they feel.  Let me illustrate.

There are some times when the ambush or blindside IS directly related to actions by an ex spouse.  Times like when you attend parent/teacher conferences at the school, and discover that the teacher didn't prepare a second copy of a report and your ex took the only one without mentioning that another parent would be along.  

Or you can find yourself in an awkward situation when you are in a discussion…maybe making plans with the kids, or interacting with a friend…and then a comment is made that completely undermines your expected result.  Such as giving a child a Christmas present, only to find that your ex already gave them one.  Or talking about plans for a birthday party, only to find that the child has been promised they could go visit grandma on their birthday instead.  Or when you visit with a friend about an experience you had, only to find that the waters have been poisoned with the spin your ex put on the story previously. 

Episodes like the above are all events that directly result from actions and decisions by your ex.  These, of course, can be difficult, and foster anger, resentment and frustration.  If done intentionally, or even with flagrant disregard for your rights or feelings, they can bring a lot of pain, and stir up a lot of history.  These kinds of things happen almost inevitably in one fashion or another.  They become the opportunities to understand on a deeper level Jesus’ command for us to forgive “70 x 7.”  Much as we don’t like them, they do build character and cause you to decide whether you are going to be a forgiving person or a bitter person who harbors grudges!  I wanted to acknowledge these “ambushes,” but they are not the ones I want to focus upon.
There is an another context in which one is “ambushed” or “blind-sided” after a divorce.  The ambush is not one brought about by your ex, but one the stirs from your own emotions and memories.  There are moments that suddenly cause your heart to stop, perhaps in dread, perhaps with painful memories, perhaps with a sense of loss or even a sense of guilt. 

Have you ever had a song come on the radio, and then unexpectedly found yourself back in a time in life long since past, perhaps a difficult time of marriage or an ancient argument?  I remember once opening a box and discovering a long lost item I had looked for but been unable to find.  It stirred up feelings of anger as I remembered packing up all my things during the divorce.  Another time, an individual may run across a child’s toy, and find their eye stained with tears as they recall a happier time, now shattered by divorce.  It happens in all sorts of contexts, whether in hanging Christmas decorations, stumbling across an old Valentine, driving pasts an old favorite restaurant, opening an album of photos, seeing an old rerun on television…the list is endless.  But the items on the list all have one thing in common:  they open you up to unfinished business.

These episodes remind us of things from our past, and either help us to realize how far we have come, or reveal to us that we have yet to forgive and yet to move on.  They can become treasures of memories from that time causing us to celebrate the good, or plagues that force us to face that there are ways we are still living in our past and carrying harbors of anger or resentment.  The question, of course, is, “What do you do when an ambush forces you to see things about yourself you would rather not see?”  Some people build on the reserve of anger, blaming the ex for all that has been done.  And the truth is, sometimes the ex does deserve the blame for problems he/she created.  But how your respond to those things emotionally is NOT about your ex….it is about you. 

With each of these events, we have the opportunity to lay to rest a troubled area we may not have realized was still there, or to affirm the good that existed we may have forgotten as we wrestle with the pain and loss of divorce.  And making those choices wisely moves us toward healing and wholeness.

When one is divorced, it is tempting to think that life would have been so much different if only…  

...If only I hadn't married that person, 
........if only we had gone to counseling earlier,
.............. if only I had been a better spouse, 
......................if only he/she hadn't divorced me, 
................................................if only whatever…then life would not be as hard or I wouldn't have the pain or any number of other imaginings.  

While there may be some truth to those conclusions, the truth also  is that even if you never divorced, there would be memories that are difficult, disappointments that had come, heartaches you would have experienced and hopes that would have been dashed.  Life is just that way.  Not everything goes the way we think it should, and brokenness is rampant in this world.  Yet God is at work in it all, shaping us, teaching us, healing us, making us to be more compassionate beings, to be more like Christ.  You may have been blind sided, but God was not.  In fact, God may well orchestrate these little events for the very purpose of setting us free from the things that have held our hearts and minds hostage.  Think about that, next time you find yourself “ambushed” by life!

P.S.  Hey, I’m in the final stages of editing another book that I hope to publish soon.  I’m not sure the method I will use, and would appreciate prayers for the project.  It is a life based fiction…I’ll keep you posted.

TL:dr  The unexpected events that prick our memories are opportunities God can use to prick our growth as well.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day and 1st Corinthians


Down through the years, love has been defined is so many ways by a great many people.  Some of those definitions are very moving, some tear jerking, and, frankly, some just seem kind of sappy/stupid!   Scripturally, love was not merely defined, but demonstrated by the love of God for us who gave his Son Jesus upon a cross to die that we might be set free from sin and live in eternity with him. 

For Valentine’s Day, though, I’d like to remind you, no matter your station or situation in life, of what I think is the greatest explanation of love I have ever heard, and that is Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 13:4-6.  I am going to share it with some comment below (using the English Standard Version in bold).  As you read it, if you are divorced, it may help you understand how far your marriage had been from what love really is.  And for each of us, it serves as a reminder of how far we have yet to grow in our ability to love well, since, after all, Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a celebration of love.

Love is patient and kind;  Does that describe the relationship you had/have in your marriage?  How patient?  How kind?  Many divorced folks will quickly identify how these characteristics had long gone by the wayside in their marriage, a clear symptom that the marriage was not a marriage of love.  Maybe it never was.  If you aren’t married, it is certainly something to ask yourself before  you take any relationship to a serious level.  Patience and kindness are hallmarks of love.  Many of us settle for something far less.  How about with your children…does you patience wear thin far too quickly?  Are the words that come out of your mouth toward them kind words, or do they bear the brunt of the hardships in your life?  Sometimes I think just these two aspects of love alone, if actively implemented, could turn around even the most broken of marriages.

Love does not envy or boast; Some people are so about themselves, there is nothing else they will talk about.  They are unable to rejoice at anything good that another person experiences, instead being filled with jealousy or envy because they wish it was the good had happened to them instead.  In the relationships of your life, are the ones you love as concerned for you as for themselves?  Or better yet, more for you than for themselves?  Have you been too sure that nothing was your fault or responsibility, boasting of how good a job you had done, that all the problems were the fault of your spouse?

It is not arrogant or rude. In your marriage, did you feel an equal, or like your partner thinks themselves better than you?  Was basic common courtesy and decency long gone?  These days, rude is such a common characteristic that if you are polite or considerate to another person, they see that as odd!  In a marriage, consideration should be the hallmark, don’t you think?

It does not insist on its own way; If I could tell you all the couples that have been in my study for counseling whose core issue could have been solved by this simple phrase, you would be astounded.  Do you have to have your own way?  Honestly?  Did/does your spouse?  I have known many people beaten down in a marriage that by this one single measure was clearly NOT a marriage of love. 

It is not irritable or resentful;  At this point, I kind of wish the description of love had stopped a few phrases ago, because I am sometimes a person who gets irritated far too easily.  To the degree I do with my wife, that is the degree to which I am NOT acting from love.  And resentful?  Are there things you resent in your relationship?  Like that you have to do more than your share of the housework?  Or that the times you have tried to do something nice for your spouse, they were neither acknowledged nor appreciated?  You see, all of these characteristics are a two edged sword.  We may easily see how our ex or even our current spouse does not fit these criteria…but the challenge is, to see how we do as well.  Growth does not come by focusing on somebody else’s shortcomings, only our own.

It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Sometimes it is too easy to point out the faults of others.  Those faults are always there, and if that is what you focus on, that is what you will find.  But it isn’t love if you do.  And how often do juicy bits of gossip cross your lips or ears?  Why do any of us delight in hearing those things?  Truth.  Ah, that is a challenge, isn’t it?  Could your relationship be described with the word true?  As in faithful, or as in honest?  Lots of married couples play lots of relationship games and live in webs of silly little lies, instead of dwelling in honesty and truth.  What deceptions have described your relationships? 

Love bears all things, Okay, so what are you willing to put up with?  What are the limits?  Do the words “all things” describe your answer?

Believes all things, Do the people you love know that you believe in them?  Have they believed in you?

Hopes all things, What are the limits at which you become hopeless?  What are the things you consider as impossible in your relationships?  Is your love lost because you no longer hope anything for the relationship?

Endures all things.  Too often today, nobody wants to endure anything.  If it gets hard, we quit.  We think it should just all come easy.  Some of the greatest love in marriage is never experienced because the couple weren't willing to endure.  They quit.  They gave up before the solution came.  Divorce is not how they gave up.  Divorce is actually the symptom of having already given up.  Sometimes it is one spouse, sometimes both, but the unwillingness to endure has shortchanged many people out of true love. 

It’s really quite a challenge, isn't it?  A lot more than candies with cute sayings on them, or red boxes filled with chocolate.  Love is a much more serious and challenging proposition.  Reading through those items, many would find that the marriage they lost did not even come close to an environment of real love.  Many will find that we have a long way to go, to be the kind of lover God desires us to be.  But, this Valentine’s Day, it could be a noble goal to choose this pattern as your aim.  Let’s review it one more time (or you may want to go back and reread the entire chapter in your own Bible).

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  ---1 Corinthians 13:4-6  ESV


Monday, February 10, 2014

Celebrating Valentine's Day...When it's Just You....

  Finding Celebration Solo

I once knew a woman who hated Mother’s Day.  She avoided church that day, and experienced personal struggles every time the holiday rolled around.  Why?  Because, at something like 70 years of age, she always wrestled with the stigma of, as she put it, being an “old maid,” and never having either a husband nor a child.  Though if I were to tell you about her life, you would actually be pretty impressed with all the other things she accomplished.  

I think of her, when I think of people who struggle at Valentine’s Day, because they don’t have a special “valentine” to share it with, or, in the case of divorce, the valentine love they once had no longer cares for them.  In these cases, Valentine’s Day is often as painful a reminder of love lost as Mother’s Day was a struggle for my friend.  So what would a Valentine’s Day for one look like, then?  I’d like to offer some reflection, and then give some specific tips in the last couple of paragraphs (if you want you may jump to them).

For many individuals after a divorce or simply living life without a sweetheart, trips to the drugstores or other merchants can be emotionally charged at this time of year.  To the point that, sometimes it is easier/better to have stocked up ahead of time so as to not have to go any more than necessary.  If you can’t avoid going, then once in the store, you give wide berth to the aisle dripping with red, pink, hearts, candy and flowers.  Because that aisle is not for you.  At least, not now.  In fact, a glance in that direction can evevn bring a tear, as you contemplate love lost, love betrayed, or love never experienced.   Personally, I remember how even the radio felt like an enemy conspiracy, as love song after love song would play, oblivious to the fact that my own love song had ended with a sour note.  Is there a way to reclaim the celebration of love, when love has disappointed you? 

I believe there is.

I have lots of wise friends.  Really.  I remember something one of them said to me in the dark and lonely days after my divorce.  He said, in a very simple way, “This marriage died.  The dream of what marriage is meant to be did not die.”   (At least, that’s a rough translation and recollection…the wording isn't exact.)  In his gentle way, he was reminding me to not let a specific situation deny for me the power and meaning of the reality that underlies that situation.  Let me see if I can explain another way.

Plato taught a concept of the ideal versus the shadowy imitation of that reality we experience here.  The example I used to use in class was the idea of justice.  I would ask how many people believed there is such a thing as true justice, and generally people acknowledged that there is.  Then I would ask how many believed that their image of justice was well reflected in the courtroom practices across our nation.  Most were aware of the ways courtroom justice failed to live up to their expectations.  But, as I would point out, just because the kind of justice we experience here does not live up to that ideal justice we believe in, does not mean that there is no such thing as true justice.  I, of course, believe that these ideals originate from God and are planted deep within our souls.  

Well, the same is true of love.  Even the best of relationships here on earth do not live up to the ideal of love that we have come to believe in.  Instead, they are a hint, a foretaste, a sampling of love as it was meant to be.  And that full ideal of love is not only hinted at in the marriage relationships, but exists in friendships, family connections, acts of generosity and self-sacrifice.  Ultimately, of course, it is found in God alone, for scripture is clear that God himself is love, and all other love must be measured against his.  So, while broken marriage or a lonely heart may have missed out on the ideal of love in marital bliss, so every other relationship is also short of that ideal to some degree.  And hints of the ideal love are found in a much wider context than our romantic relationships.

So make your Valentine’s Day a celebration of LOVE ITSELF, rather than limiting it to celebrating merely romantic relationships, which may or may not reflect love in your life at this time.

So having said that, it seems to me useful to realize that the best of Valentine’s Day is that it is a celebration of love, and that even in good marriages, the celebration is of the hints of ideal love found there that continue to nurture the dream and longing for more perfect love.  Therefore, if we pursue this line of thinking, there are some things we can do to celebrate the true/ideal meaning of Valentine’s Day, whether we are married or living solo:

1)      Love is best seen in the giving rather than the receiving.  This Valentine’s Day, who do YOU know that might need to know that somebody loves and is thinking of them?  Find a simple way to show them YOU care (Valentine’s Card or not!).

2)    Love is best experienced when tangibly expressed.  There are people you love in ways other than a marital/romantic relationship.  They like candy, flowers, cards, phone calls and nice dinners as much as any spouse would.

3)    Love is sometimes best achieved when one is honest about needs, hopes and hurts.  There are others who love YOU, though you may not think of them at this time of year.   Be bold enough to call and tell one or two of them of your struggle.  They might surprise you.

4)    Take some time to meditate on the scripture’s teachings about the way you are loved by God, which is far higher than the love of any other being can ever have for you.  Read 1 John, if you don’t know where to begin.  Ask a fellow believer to talk with you about God’s love.  Find a way to sit in God’s presence and soak up the absolute love he offers

5)    Odds are you know a person who has no knowledge of God’s love for him or her.  What better celebration of Valentine’s Day could there be than to help some one discover the love that is higher, deeper, broader and longer than human knowledge can comprehend?

And this year, it’s okay to walk at the opposite end of the store if you need to do so.  That aisle may become important for a later chapter in your life.  Or that aisle may simply be for somebody else.  Your love may be found in the grocery aisle and the meal you prepare for a child, a friend, or canned food placed in the food bank.  Happy Valentine’s Day….because YOU are a special someone!  God says so!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

An "Authoritative" Guide to the Meaning Behind Your Valentine's Gift....from a Male Perspective


One of my dear female friends and I were having coffee once, and she said, “Do you want to know what women really want?  Do you want me to really tell you, because I will.”  I expressed interest, and she then proceeded to decode for me some of the mysteries of the feminine world.  Which I am NOT going to do for you today.  I figure the women would either not like that I did it, or decide it was malarkey, and the guys wouldn't believe me anyway, so….

What I AM going to do is respond to another round of recent headlines.  I saw today (as I seem to see every year) a headline proclaiming the article will help women be able to decode the meaning behind the Valentine’s gift their man gives them this year.  I didn't read the article.  A) I’m a guy, so I already know, right?  B) I've read it thousands of times before.  C)  They’re wrong.

So I am going to take it upon myself to offer to any women who want to read this, the real meaning behind the gifts.   And if you get frustrated reading along, please, please, please, skip to the last paragraph before you quit reading, because it IS the essential key to the whole matter. 

(Ladies, as the big day approaches, you will want to print off this guide, make copies for all your friends, and have it handy when you receive your Valentine’s Day present so you will properly interpret the mysteries of your man!  You may have a hard time explaining to your friends why the author of a book called “Finding God in the Seasons of Divorce” would be helping interpret Valentine’s Day presents….but I’m sure you’ll think of something.)

The first tip in decoding your man’s gift is this:  it isn't coded to begin with, we men are not that deep.  But there are clear messages, and they are:

1)  He gave you candy:   candy is sold everywhere, so it is really convenient, and every Valentine’s ad or aisle in the world tells us that candy is what we are supposed to give a woman for Valentine’s Day.  Since we want to be good guys and for our women to be happy, we buy you candy.  If there is a box that looks especially yummy, fancy, or something we would like if it was us, we’ll buy that one (maybe even hoping you will share a few with us).  If we happen to have noticed that you especially like pecans (for which you should really give us credit, we’re kind of oblivious beings), then we will buy candy that has pecans in it. 

1B)  He DIDN'T give you candy:  that means we actually believed you when you told us not to do so because it would make you fat.  However, if you told us that and we bought it anyway, it means we are afraid that if we don’t you will decide that we think you are fat. 

2)  He gave you flowers:  that means that flowers are sold lots of places, can be ordered over the phone or internet, and every Valentine’s ad or aisle in the world tells us that flowers are what we are supposed to give a woman for Valentine’s Day.  If they are roses, it is because roses look pretty, and since they are more expensive than carnations, we assume that means they must be a nicer flower for some unknown reason, and the fragrance is nice.  But it might also be that they had a Valentine’s Special on roses.  But then, the fragrance is nice for carnations, and iris and almost any other flower because we can’t really tell the difference anyway.   However we DID notice that the last time we bought you roses you were really nice to us and thought we were wonderful and gave us a great big kiss, so we learned it IS a good thing to give you roses once in a while.  BUT, every woman knows that the COLOR of roses matters, so…
                       a)  red---means everything at Valentine’s is red.  And, red is always the color of roses you see in movies and commercials.
                             b)  yellow—means yellow seems pretty.  And it breaks the routine of the boring red, and we don’t want you to think we are boring...And maybe they were on special.  Or maybe we like that yellow dress you wear.  But basically, the yellow ones looked pretty at the shop.  (or we might have been too late and they were out of red!)
                             c)     pink—means pink seems pretty.  And it breaks the routine of the boring red, and we don’t want you to think we are boring....And maybe they were on special.  Or maybe we like that pink sweater you wear.  But basically, the pink ones looked pretty at the shop.  (or we might have been too late and they were out of red!) 
                             d)     white—means the white ones were very striking.  And, red is always—just see yellow and pink.
                             e)     white with pink edging—they were REALLY pretty at the shop.  And red is always—just see yellow and pink.
                             f)     some other color—that means we got them from the guy who sells them on the street corner at the traffic signal.  Especially if the color is brown.  That is the ONLY reason.

2B)  He did NOT give you flowers:  that means we believed you when you told us last time that you didn't think we should waste money on flowers.  Or the budget is tight and we really struggled not getting them because we didn't think we could afford them, and hate to have disappointed you.

3)  He gave you lingerie:   means that we find you attractive, like how you look in lingerie, and every Valentine’s ad or aisle in the world tells us that lingerie is what we are supposed to give a woman for Valentine’s Day.  We also probably hope it will lead to something more.  The exception to this, of course, is if he bought you “jammies.”  If he did that, it is probably because he wonders if those stupid commercials about pajamas and teddy bears really are true, and decided maybe he’d take a chance just in case you were disappointed that he hadn't ever done that before.  Really.

3B)  He didn't give you lingerie:  means that you already have tons of it, much of which you don’t wear anymore, or you told us to stop wasting money on it.  It could also be we already like the lingerie you are already wearing, and would rather spend the money on flowers.

4)  He gave you jewelry:  means that we know you like jewelry, had enough money to be able to get something, found something that was in our price range, and every Valentine’s ad or aisle in the world tells us that jewelry is what we are supposed to give a woman for Valentine’s Day.  As for the choice and meaning behind WHAT KIND of jewelry we bought (excepting engagement rings), it is based on what we think is pretty, what reminds us of you, what we think you would like, what the jeweler had marked as a “Great Valentine’s Day gift,” and, probably, what we could afford.  If it is heart shaped, it is because we remembered that the candy comes in heart shaped boxes, so probably hearts have something to do with Valentine’s Day and it would be a good choice. Especially if it is a RED heart, then we have the best of both worlds!

4B)  He didn't give you jewelry:  means that either money is tight, OR, we think you already have more jewelry than you can wear, OR it didn't occur to us.  Besides, the parking lot at the mall was probably pretty full that day, cause it gets really crowded around the 13th and 14th of February when most guys remember that Valentine’s Day is coming soon.

5) He gave you fancy bath soapy bubbly spray smelly oily make your skin soft kinds of stuff in bottles and gift packs: means we passed one of those stores in the mall, and their signs told us that you would really love it, and since we figured they probably knew better than we do, we bought it.

5B)  He didn't give you the fancy bath blah blah gift packs—don’t ask why not, just be glad we didn't, because it wouldn't have been the right fragrance anyway.

6) He gave you a toaster, socks, a superhero DVD, a smelly stickup for your car, a pretty candle, a set of steak knives, anything with camouflage and ducks on it:  means, we know it is Valentine’s Day, and we know you are the woman we care about, but that’s about all.  Give us credit for that much.

6B)  He didn't give you a toaster, socks, blah, blah, ducks:  don’t ask why not, just be glad we didn't.

7)  He gave you a new Ferrari—means we have way too much money and are probably trying to impress you with it, OR, it means your old Ferrari is broken beyond repair (or maybe the ashtrays just got too full).

7B)  He didn't give you a new Ferrari---really, you’re seriously going to ask why?

8)  He gave you a Valentine’s card:  that is what you should pay attention to most of all.  Of everything a man buys for his wife for Valentine’s Day, the card is probably the biggest issue.  We probably read 50 before he picked it, or, in the case of some men, he grabbed the first one he saw (and you already know which way it happened, if not because you know him, then because the card says or does not say on the front, “My sympathy at this time of sorrow”).  BUT, women know that the KIND of card, and the WORDS on the card have secret meanings, too, so….
a)     The card is funny---means we laughed when we read it, and that we like laughing with you.
b)    The card is serious—means we laughed at the other one, but were afraid you wouldn’t find it funny or romantic enough.
c)     The card is sappy—means it says the kind of things we would say if we knew how to use words well, and it expresses how we think we would describe our feelings if we knew we had feelings and could describe them.
d)     The card seems to be just right—means that it says exactly what we wished we could say, but are glad there are cards that can say it for us.  Especially if we underlined or starred anything on the card.

8B)  He gave you ONLY a card:  means that we actually believe you understand our love for you without the need for lots of expensive gifts.  It may also mean that our wallet was pretty empty this year.  It probably also means that all the ads are way too confusing and we didn't know what to give you for Valentine’s Day.  In some cases, it could simply mean the guy’s a jerk, but you have to decide that for yourself.

9)  He gave you an engagement ring:  Okay, if you don’t know what that means, then even this blog won’t help you.

9B)  He didn't give you an engagement ring:  Okay, sometimes I know women do stew over this, especially if they are thinking this might be the day.   So if we didn't, what it means is that we haven’t decided to ask you to marry us yet.  And that’s ALL it means.  Anybody who tells you otherwise is just writing articles to sell magazines.

10)  He gave you ANYTHING ELSE:  means we have taken on the challenge of trying to come up with something unique and special, or something that we think YOU would really, really like, which we may or may not do effectively (like I’m questioning the whole name a star after somebody sort of thing).  On the other hand, it COULD mean that everybody was out of candy, flowers, lingerie, jewelry, bath soap, cards, and anything else that is normally given on Valentine’s Day because we made the mistake of waiting until 10 p.m. on February 14th to go shopping.  Even that doesn't mean we don’t love you, it simply means our brains, hearts and watches aren't always connected very well.

Bottom line, the core of the whole matter for decoding what a guy gives you for Valentine’s Day is this:  we know that Valentine’s Day is a day somebody decided we are supposed to make sure the women in our lives know that we care about them.  Depending on the relationship, that can mean anything from being attracted to being in love to simply caring about somebody.  But the point is, we guys give a woman some kind of Valentine’s present because we want her to know that we are thinking of her, that we care for her, and that she is important to us.  Even if we buy a toaster, those are the things we are trying to express.  (And remember, there are countless people in our world who long for someone to give them ANYTHING for Valentine’s Day.) 

So if the man in your life has a romantic flair that you cherish, then you are truly blessed.  If not, then perhaps over time he will learn those notions that mean so much to you, or you may learn to appreciate the other characteristics that endear him to you, whether he learns to be a romantic or not!  And unless he gives you divorce papers for Valentine’s, don’t try to decode messages that aren't there.  Instead, say, “thank you” and, “I love you, too” and for heaven’s sake, whatever you choose to give HIM, DO NOT buy it in pink!


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Choosing your Church Carefully after your Divorce...

His Church?  Her Church?  
No Church?

You are in the middle of a divorce.  Everything in life goes into upheaval.  One person stays in the home, the other is forced to leave.  Somebody has more time with the kids, the other is handed leftovers.  Friends, what do you do about friends?  Some were your friends as a couple, some were primarily friends of one or the other, and some may surprise you because their loyalties go in the opposite direction from that expected.  Sometimes things even go so far as that one of the two of you end up deciding it is best to move to another town.  

But there is one more area that can be very tricky indeed.:  church.  

Hmmm.  What do you do about church?  Somebody said to me the other day, as we were talking about this very subject, that clearly, someone has to leave and find a new church to attend.  Do you agree?

Many people outside the church (and granted, some inside as well), perceive the church as a place you go to attend a service called worship.  But if you are actually an active participant in your church, and truly are seeking to grow in your relationship with God, then you experience church as so much more.  For people like that, church is the place of nurture for your spiritual life, the group of individuals God uses to give you the support, guidance and strength you need to stay close to God.  The experience of church is one filled with meanings from the past and hope for the future.  It is the environment in which you entrust your children to individuals who will help them learn the ways of God, and in which your wrestle with understanding those ways for yourself.  There are many other things one could mention, but I want to highlight just one more:  church is a significant social circle in your life.

But when a divorce occurs, things become more complicated.  The church doesn’t change, but relationships within the church necessarily adjust to the split that has occurred.  Frankly, very often the individuals in a church will have already formed an opinion concerning the divorce, frequently amazed that the divorce had not come much earlier, as they have long sympathized with and prayed for a spouse who has clearly suffered.  Sometimes, they have been blindsided, or have seen things from a warped point of view and back a person who has deceived them about their actions.  Some individuals find themselves torn, wanting to be friends with each party, but not sure how to do that, since odds are that the two divorcing individuals will no longer BOTH be attending the same Bible study..

I have known of couples where both tried to stay, but generally speaking, to do that well is extremely difficult, if not impossible.  To both be in the same congregation, with all the history you have had, results in a tension and uneasiness for those around you.  And all too often, when you walk in, you feel a bit out of place yourself.  I visited with a friend today, reminiscing over my post divorce time in a church I attended at the time.  My ex had long since left the congregation, but even so, it was awkward to sit alone in the sanctuary that had once hosted my family.  I found a unique little refuge in the chapel at the back, in which a small collection of people with children and a few others chose to sit for whatever reasons they had.  For me, it became a kind of congregation within the congregation, at least for a time.

Your spiritual journey suffers great onslaught in the process of divorce.  Standing strong is a challenge.  In fact, that is the very reason I have published my devotional books, as aids to help those divorcing keep on track with God during the upheaval.  

For some, starting fresh in another congregation is the refreshing wind of a new spiritual movement.  

For others, the stability of familiar faces and traditions are what keep them on track.  

And sadly, for far too many, it becomes too difficult and they simply walk away. 

I encourage you to think carefully about what God the ways God might guide you, open to the possibilities that may stretch you into something new, and yet being wise in what traditions to retain.  And one of you may need to be big enough to make the gracious choice of stepping away from the congregation you attend, so that the other spouse may continue there as you find a new direction.  If children are involved, I would encourage the one who has less time with the children to consider that a gift you give to your children:  the opportunity for stability in at least this area of their lives, when so many other things are in flux.  Whatever choice you make, I urge you with all my heart, do NOT make the choice to let anything drive you away from regular participation in a congregation of fellow believers who can walk with you through the difficult adjustments that come with divorce.

TL:dr  Negotiating the troubled waters of divorce requires you to make wise choices regarding church involvement.