Saturday, December 17, 2011

Red Lights and Yellow Lights

Whether we admit it or not, I think we all have certain "red light" issues - those traits or characteristics in a potential suitor that shut the relationship down before it has a chance to get off the ground.  Over the past few years, there has been a subtle shift in my red light issues. 

For instance, smoking used to be an immediate red light.  But about a year ago, I began spending time at a local cafe, where I made a lot of new friends.  None of these friends were potential suitors.  In fact, most were female or married or way too young to be a romantic interest.  However, some of these new friends were smokers. As I got to know them, I realized that smoking does not necesarily reflect poorly on a person's character.  I would still have to call smoking a yellow light issue, as I am not sure I would enjoy kissing a smoker, but then I don't enjoy kissing someone who has just had a beer or a cup of coffee, either.

Other circumstances have added some new red light issues to my list.  For instance, a man who hasn't been divorced for long, or worse yet, isn't yet divorced and is already out there looking for a new woman causes an immediate red light to go off.  Also, as I get to know a man, if I find that his reasons for being divorced are not in any way, shape or form biblically justifiable, that is a definite red light. 

Some of my old red lights have become even stronger.  Men who have been arrested for acts of violence against a woman, which awakens childhood fears from seeing my dad pushing and hitting my mom, are completely out of the running, even if they have taken an anger management course.  Likewise, men who think that threatening to spank a woman is fun trigger a very strong red light for me. I am not denying the ability of men to change, but that is a risk I am not willing to take.

Perhaps the strongest red light for me is a man who doesn't love the Lord.  I am not ruling these men out because I don't think they will ever be in love with my God;  I am just not getting involved with them while they don't love and serve Him.

Men who are new Christians tend to trigger a yellow light for me.  I recognize a need to go slowly and observe.  Same thing with men who have been divorced more than once, or who seem to move from one relationship to another, never pausing to process why one relationship ended before moving into another.

I realize that following my instinctive red and yellow lights probably cuts way down on my possibility of ever remarrying, but I would rather be safe and single than to run those lights and end up in a great deal of trouble and pain!

So what are some of your red lights or yellow lights?  Have they changed over the years?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Catching Up and a Question for Discusssion

Looks like time got away from me again.  I have a feeling that will be the case for the next 18 months, until I finish school.  But honestly, I would rather be overwhelmingly busy right here in the center of God's will for me than living a life of leisure anywhere else.  Oh wait.  I am the single mom of three teenagers and a 10-year-old.  I wouldn't be living a life of leisure even if I weren't in school.  :-)

I am coming up on the fifth anniversary of "D-Day," the disclosure-day when my then-husband's affair came to light.  For some reason, I get a little "scattered" each year as that day approaches.  Fortunately, each year it impacts me a little less.  This year, I am more self-aware than in the past, so I am able to recognize the source of my ditziness and work at maintaining my balance.  At any rate, your prayers this coming Sunday will be  especially appreciated, as the Sunday before Thanksgiving is my D-Day anniversary.

I am going to totally deviate from the topics of school and my life as a divorced mom to ask a question, and I would love to hear your thoughts on this, so please respond here or on the link on my Facebook page! 

The question is this:  Why do so many men feel that it is disrespectful for a woman to question their opinion in any way?  Maybe I should first ask, is this the norm for most men, or have I just had the rare misfortune of encountering multiple men who believe that respect means never disagreeing?  This is how my ex-husband interpreted any opinion of mine that differed from his, and over the past few years, I have seen this same attitude in several other men, and heard about it from other women who have observed it in men they know.  So let's discuss this, and maybe we will all learn something.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Coming Up for Air

My life has been so hectic lately that some days, I can hardly catch my breath!  Today, for instance, I had two mid-terms.  I also had one last Thursday.   I know I am where God has called me to be, but sometimes I feel like I am drowning.

School is wonderful!  I am learning so much, although at this point, it's mostly theory.  Still, it's nice to be able to put words to what I experienced when I went through my divorce.  My favorite class is Faith-Based Counseling, where we are learning to integrate psychology and theology.  The reading I have done for that class often echos the Bible study and/or Sunday School lessons I am doing, so I feel like I am hearing God so clearly. 

Another exciting thing is how God has been defining and refining what I am going to do with my degree when I finish school.  He has given me a vision that is much bigger than I thought when I finally obeyed and applied for this program.  I can't share details now, but I have no doubt that He has a wonderful plan for me!

My kids are adjusting well.  The oldest got her acceptance letter to the same college I am attending, so next fall, she will be here on campus and I will get to see her when I come for classes.  My oldest son is doing just fine with his adjustment to public school, and I have heard so many good things about him from the administrators and teachers there.  I feel like I am finally starting to see the payoff for all the years of homeschooling, for the frustrations of being a single mom.  My next daughter is considering attending an arts-based charter school next fall.  My big concern now is preparing my youngest son for the changes that may be necessary in his life next fall, as I may have no choice but to send him to school.  I'm leaving that in God's hands, though.

A big revelation:  I have mentioned before that I have a male friend who I wouldn't mind getting to know better.  He is not yet recovered from his divorce enough to date.  But I realized that if the rule of thumb that it takes 1 year of recovery for every 4 years of marriage applies, he should be ready to date just about the time I finish school.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  But then again, maybe it is a God-incidence.  At any rate, I don't have time to even think about dating anyone right now, so looks like I will be waiting until then anyhow.  :-)

Okay, back to school.  I'll try to do better at keeping up here.  Someday soon I want to write about my thoughts about how churches support (or don't support) divorced families.  Hold me to that!

Monday, September 5, 2011


I'm in a season of change right now, and I'm embracing those changes!

First, for the first time ever, one of my kids is going to public school.  My 15-year-old son is fairly certain that he wants to be an electrician, and as I have watched him grow, I feel pretty sure that is the way he should go.  So in order to "train up [my] child in the way he should go," (Proverbs 22:6), I am sending him to vocational school and to the public school for a few classes this year.  He will still do history at home, as the history topic this year is church history, so he is technically dual-enrolled.

Second, I am heading back to grad school.  I begin tomorrow.  I know that I am being called into a counseling ministry and/or career, and this is the way God is leading me to prepare for that calling.  Honestly, I am nervous, a bit afraid that four babies and close to 20 years of being out of school may have diminished my ability to learn, but if God wants me to do this, He will equip me.

Finally, and this may seem minor to some of you, but I am back to only having four kids hanging around the house most days.  Over the summer, a couple of my kids' friends hung out here most weekdays.  But now they are also back to school.  The house seems a bit emptier, much quieter and less busy.

So far, my son loves school, especially his vocational training.  And to be honest, I can't wait to begin classes tomorrow.  The quieter house is more conducive to getting schoolwork done with my other three kids, so even that is a blessing.

I do have a few prayer requests, though.  Would you please remember my son in your prayers as he adjusts to going to school in a district where he is a minority both racially and as a Christian?  Pray that he will be able to be a beacon of light, pointing others to Christ, rather than being influenced by them. 

Also, please pray that I will be able to handle my busy schedule (two nights a week of class this semester, for a total of 12 graduate credits), and find time to study.

Please keep my other three kids in your prayers as well.  The oldest is a senior this year, and her year got off to a rocky start, because her father still hasn't sent much of her curriculum.  She is doing as much as she can without books, but she is afraid she may not be able to do justice to the courses where she is still waiting on curriculum and will have to rush to get through them when he finally does send it.  The younger two will need to be more responsible and work more independently, since my time to work with them will be cut short two days a week when I go to school.

Above all, please pray that God's will be done in our family.  If these changes glorify Him, then it is all worthwhile, but if it becomes mere change for the sake of change, it is worthless.  :-)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Dozen Reasons

Much to everyone's surprise, my ex did pick up the three youngest kids and take them to his place in Canada for a week...well, for a week if all goes well.  If it doesn't, he will bring them back early.  But I asked the kids to please be on their best behavior for their dad, so maybe they will stay the entire week.

I miss them already, and they've been away from me less than 48 hours.  Their older sister also misses them.  But we need to look on the bright side of this.  So guess what?  I have another list for you!  This time, it's a dozen reasons why having my kids gone until next Friday is a good thing.

1. I get to spend some quality time with my eldest, who will be off to college in just over a year.  I am going to make the most of our time together, because too often, in the busyness of life, my time with her is cut short by chores and interruptions from her siblings.

2. I may be able to clean house more effectively without people following me around messing it up as fast as I clean it.

3.  We can eat things the younger kids don't like, which generally means that we will be eating much healthier this week...well, except that...

4. I can afford to go to the local ice cream joint, since I will only have to buy ice cream for two of us!

5. I can take care of paperwork and other chores that are hard to do with interruptions of "Hey Mom," which is usually followed by some earth-shattering news about the video game my son has been trying to master or a bit of trivia about whichever animal my daughter is reading about.  And THAT is followed by me pulling my hair out as I start over AGAIN!

6. I can go to bed earlier than usual...or stay up later than usual to read.

7. I can run around the house in my summer jammies, which is something I don't do if my boys are home, for reasons of modesty and not grossing anyone out.

8.  I can blog every day if I have something worth saying every day, since nobody will interrupt me while I am writing.

9. My daughter and I can go out with one of her friends and her friend's mom, without worrying about leaving the kids home with their 15-year-old brother. 

10. We can watch chick flicks!

11. When I put food in the refrigerator or pantry, I know it will still be there when I return, instead of having vast quantities of food disappear into the bottomless pit that my oldest boy has become.

12. I can play "Just Dance" on the wii with only ONE person laughing at me, instead of four. 

And there they are:  a dozen reasons to be glad that my kids are spending a week with their dad. 

If you are a divorced parent, what are some of the positives to your time without your kids?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Vacation With Dad...Maybe

I've been stressed and cranky lately.  I think I have finally pinned down why.  It's because I think my kids may get hurt again soon, and I don't know how to prepare them for it.

Last year at this time, my ex announced that he would be taking the kids for a week.  Then he notified me that a week might be too much, so he'd just be taking them for a few days.  Then he said just one day, but the day before that day, he called and said he had an important meeting at work and couldn't come see them. 

In May of this year, he announced that he is taking them for a few days, but if it goes well, he may keep them an entire week.  So far, he hasn't changed that plan, but we are all expecting him to.  And I am not sure how to deal with this.

Should I let the kids get their hopes up, let them think that he can be trusted to keep his word to them?  Or should I be realistic and prepare them for the letdown if he backs out again as he did last year?  On the one hand, I don't want to make them think their dad is untrustworthy, but on the other hand, he has proven himself to be so more than once, and if I prepare them, they might not be hurt as badly.  Although maybe I don't need to prepare them.  All four have expressed doubts that he will really pick up the three who plan to go with him on the specified date.

I am angry that my poor kids are at the mercy (or lack thereof) of a self-centered man who doesn't deserve to be called "Dad."  I am annoyed that my kids have to suffer the consequences for his selfish choices.  And I am frustrated that I don't know how to help them.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

To Provide and Protect

I had a conversation today with a male friend (well, an online chat, actually) about how men and women are very different creatures and how we are supposed to complement one another.  That made me think about all that I have learned about men over the past 5 years or so, both through reading books and through observing the men I know.

Something I have read and observed repeatedly is that men have two primary purposes that they feel compelled to fulfill.  Most authors list more, but these two seem to show up repeatedly and I have seen them in action myself.  Those two driving forces seem to the the desire to provide and the desire to protect.

I wonder, though, how exactly do these forces work?  Is a man driven to provide just for his own wife and children, or are most men driven to also provide for their extended family, friends, their church, etc?  Likewise, is a man driven to protect only his own wife and children, or in the case of a single man, for instance, is there a generic drive to protect those who are smaller or weaker?  

I have a friend who seems to enjoy "providing" for me by helping with jobs I need to have done, but don't have the strength or know-how to do myself, or the financial resources to pay someone to do.  He also seems to want to protect me.  For instance, when he knew my ex-husband was going to be picking up my kids last month, he asked me if I would like him to be there with me for the pick-up, or if I felt safe on my own.  The other night, when he picked up his son from my house, he told my son, "Take good care of your mom!" 

So I am left wondering, am I doing this man a favor by letting him provide and protect, since he doesn't have a wife to do that for at this point?  Or should I protest when he does this? 

My instinct (something women seem to have more of than men, in general) says I should let him know how much I appreciate being the focus of his drive to provide and protect in these instances. 

What do you think?  

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Challenging Conversation

I had a conversation recently that challenged several of my beliefs and assumptions.  Good thing I like challenges!  :-)

First, the conversation challenged my beliefs about men.  In case you haven't noticed, I tend to be a tad cynical about men.  I don't like being that way, and I have been battling against it, but sometimes it creeps back in full-force.

But the man I was talking to said this: 

If a man loves his wife as Christ loves the church and is willing to lay down his very life for her, she will be able to submit easily and willingly.  So it is the husband's responsiblity to figure out what he is doing wrong when a wife doesn't submit or submits only out of a sense of duty.  A wife should submit as a response to her husband's love and only rarely because it is "required" of her.


I have to admit, that sounds like a marriage made in heaven, literally.  And my cynicism says that it would never happen on this side of the pearly gates.  But that flicker of hope in me says, "But if there are men who believe this, then it can indeed happen here!  Perhaps imperfectly, but if a man were at least trying to love his wife that way..."  Score one for Hope, zero for Cynicism, because there are apparently men who believe this!

And then my friend challenged a belief I have held about myself.  I commented on something a wife should or shouldn't do, and added, "Not that I am an expert on being a good wife, since I have failed at that twice now."

To which my friend replied, "I disagree.  I think you probably make a very good wife.  You learn from your situation and aren't afraid to step back and examine what went wrong and then do it a different way in the future." 

Another wow.  That goes a long way to helping with the whole self-condemnation issue I've been dealing with.  To see myself from that perspective helps more than my friend could've possibly known when he said that.

Final score:  Hope 2; Cynicism 0. 

Now you see why I like a good challenge!  :-)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Learning To Be Content

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.  (Philippians 4:11-13, NASB)

Divorce changes a person's material circumstances.  When I was a child, my family lived a comfortable middle-class life, until my parents divorced.  Then life became a struggle financially for my mom, who was left to raise four kids on her own. 

During my first marriage, my then-husband was employed only seasonally, so I learned to live frugally and to spend the abundant season preparing for the lean season.  I can't say that I was always content with this situation, but I coped and learned much from it.

During my second marriage, I was blessed with a husband who earned a six-figure income.  He never allowed me to know our exact financial situation, though, but always told me we could afford whatever I asked about.  Then a few years before his affair, I discovered in a most embarrassing way that we had been living beyond our means, and I insisted on being a part of the finances from then on. 

When he left, the amount that I had to live on was cut by more than half, yet I still had the same house with the same mortgage and only one less mouth to feed.  As prices have gone up, the support has not kept pace, and I have to admit, I struggle at times to keep the bills all current. 

Yet despite this, I believe that I can truly say with the apostle Paul that I have learned to be content, no matter whether in want or in need.

However, learning to be content in my marital state has been more of a struggle.  I am still learning to be content to be alone with my kids 24/7, to be content when I long to be held and loved but there is nobody there, to be content when the burden of single parenting is almost crushing and I have nobody to help carry my load. 

I am making progress.  As I look down the road to school beginning in September, I am realizing that maybe God has kept me single so that I can focus on my education and pursue His calling with a single-minded devotion.  Even though it would be wonderful to have someone to come home to after classes, maybe God knows that I need one less distraction. 

At any rate, I am learning to be content in this single circumstance in which I now reside. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Learning to Like Men

I have an accquaintance who has told me on several occasions that I don't like men.  I am not sure I agree with his assessment, so I have been doing some self-examination, and this is my conclusion:

I do like men.  I just don't have very high expectations for them, based on past disappointments, and I struggle to respect many men, because they act in ways that I consider dishonorable or weak.

How do I change that view of men?  I supect that there are no books that can change my views.  Talking to a counselor might help, although I wonder how a counselor could convince me of something that is directly opposed to what I have seen and experienced?

Honestly, I don't believe that ALL men are going to disappoint me.  If I believed that, I would have no interest in ever being in another relationship with a man.  I have also met some men who are very honorable, strong Christian men for whom I have a lot of respect.

Will time spent observing and being friends with these respectable men eventually change my attitude?  And does my attitude need to change before I get involved with anyone else? 

I think, although I may be mistaken, that being aware of this issue may be enough for now.  I also think that I need to grow in the area of grace, so that I might extend grace to the imperfect men in my life.  And I can hope that time truly does heal all wounds, so that someday, nobody will have reason to believe that I don't like men.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Of Missions and Visions

The other day, I was sharing with a friend about my marriage.  I noted that at the beginning of this marriage, my desire was to submit to my husband and to allow him to be the head of our home.  I explained that during my first marriage, I had constantly fought against that role, probably because what I saw growing up was an example of "submissive = doormat," which is not at all what God intends when He commands wives to submit to their husbands.  Be that as it may, I went into my second marriage with high hopes for a God-pleasing marriage.

It didn't take long for me to figure out that it was difficult, if not impossible, to submit to a man who didn't have any desire to lead, who was unwilling to make any decisions,  and who would never disagree with his spouse, even if she suggested something that he secretly didn't want to do.  To be honest, looking back on the situation, I have to wonder what would've happened if I had matched his level of passivity with my own.  Maybe eventually he would've stepped up to the plate.  Or maybe not.

My friend made a very astute comment.  He said,  "In my experience, in those cases the couple doesn't share a vision."

It was then that I realized that my ex-husband never voiced his vision to me, if indeed he had one. 

Since then, I have been mulling over the need for a personal vision.

I believe that I may need to start with a mission statement, an overriding purpose for my life, and then capture the details in a vision statement.  So let me share with you what I have come up with so far for my mission statement and vision statement.  Please remember, these are works in progress, and are likely to change, to be edited and refined as time goes on.  But here is my starting point.

My mission is to glorify God by being an instrument of healing to people who are suffering from the relational brokenness that pervades our world.

My vision is to do this through a ministry of marriage and family counseling, where I will encourage, and challenge people to live in God-pleasing relationships, and will offer comfort to those who have been harmed by the breakdown of their families.

So there it is:  My first draft of my personal mission and vision statements.   I am looking forward to revising these as I begin to learn more about counseling when I start school this fall!

Speaking Freely About Motives

How do I know when I have earned the right to speak freely to someone about something that may come across as offensive? 

Not long ago, an acquaintance shared with me that his/her marriage is ending.  (I am now going to dispense with the s/he and his/her stuff....I will use the traditional generic "he," even though this person may actually be a she.  I want to keep the confidence that was placed in me.)

He told me that his spouse had cheated on him in the past, but that he chose not to take advantage of his biblical right to a divorce for various reasons.  I suspect there was some concern about the financial ramifications, as well as the effects on the children, so he stuck it out.   His spouse, who apparently is an unbeliever, had suggested that they divorce on several occasions, but he chose to try to stick it out and make things work.  As he shared his heart with me, I could hear the pain of an unloved spouse in every word he spoke and it made me incredibly sad.

However, the story doesn't end there.  My acquaintance has had a best friend of the opposite sex for quite some time, but recently, the best friend divorced, and now the two of them have developed feelings for one another.  So now my acquaintance is ready to divorce his spouse.

While I totally understand this person's desire to leave an unhappy marriage, and while he has biblical grounds to do so (both the adultery and the unbelieving spouse provisions apply here), I question whether he is doing this for the right reason.  I am very sympathetic to his postion, but the question of how this will affect his children remains, as does the fact that his real reason for wanting a divorce is not because of the adultery or the unbelieving spouse, but because he has found someone else and wishes to pursue a new relationship.  Isn't this adultery on his part, at least in his heart of hearts?

So as I talk with him as he goes through the process of separation and divorce, do I have the right to share my concern about his motives?  And do I share with him that leaping from one relationship directly into another is not a wise thing to do?  Do I share my concerns for his children, and how they may feel about his new relationship if he doesn't allow healing time between his divorce and beginning the new relationship?

I'm praying that God will grant me a great deal of wisdom as I talk with this person, and perhaps that He will move our acquaintanceship to the level of friendship so that I may earn the right to speak freely of my concerns.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Head Games

I had two conversations with divorced friends today where the topic of dating came up.  One of these friends has dated several women since his divorce a couple years ago.  The other has chosen not to date at all in the two years since his divorce.  But oddly enough, both said almost the same thing.

The non-dater said, "I don't have time for all the head games involved in a dating relationship." 

The dater said, "I'm not into the head games that go on in dating.  I want a real relationship."

You know what?  I'm not into head games, either.  In fact, I don't know too many people who are.  So why do we play head games if not many people enjoy them?

My theory is that our culture has taught us that the "proper" way to find a mate is through dating.  Dating has its own set of unwritten rules, just like any game.  In our culture, feelings come first, then commitment.  And like all games, dating has winners and losers:  some people win the one they "love" and end up with a spouse, while others "lose" and end up with a broken heart.

But what if we decided not to play the dating game, or at the very least, not to play by the rules our culture sets?  What if we turned the whole thing on its head and determined how compatible we were, then made a commitment, then let the emotion of love follow the commitment? 

It sounds unromantic by 21st century American standards, but it has worked in other cultures, most of which have much lower divorce rates than ours.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that this form of courtship is the norm, and dating, as Americans practice it, is an aberration.

I am not opposed to romance.  I am not opposed to "falling in love."  But I would love to dispense with all the games and make a practical decision to commit to loving a certain person, and then carry through on it.  I suppose that during the time between the initial commitment and the actual marriage, it is possible that we'd discover that there were good reasons not to carry through.  This is a chance I would be willing to take.  At least the relationship wouldn't be about how well each of us played the dating game.

Instead of playing games, wouldn't it be refreshing to just be honest?  One of us could say, "Hey, I think we would be a good match.  If you are willing, I would like to commit to investigating whether we are as well-suited for one another as it appears to me right now, with marriage as our eventual goal." 

Maybe this is courtship for adults.  Whatever it is, I wish I could opt out of the head games and give it a try. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Reading Ahead

I enjoy reading, so I read a lot. 

One of the books in my "To Read" stack is Saving Your Second Marriage Before It Starts, by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott.  I realize that I will not be remarrying anytime soon, since I am not even in a dating relationship at this point, but I thought I might glean some insights from it anyhow, so I picked it up this morning and started reading. 

The first chapter is called "Are You Ready to Get Married Again?"  The Parrotts divide the signs of readiness for remarriage into two types:  personal, and relational.  They further divide each of these broad areas of readiness into two or three essentials. 

Here's where it gets uncomfortable for me.  The very first essential under personal readiness is self-concept. 

I am not totally down on myself.  I am aware that God loves me, and that I am uniquely and wonderfully made by Him.  I know what gifts and talents and abilities He has given me.  (Look out world:  I've got a gift and I'm not afraid to use it!  :-) )  I have seen Him work through me in people's lives, so I know that I am not useless.

But when it comes to men, and to relationships with men, I think my self-concept may need help.  In the first place, I have a hard time believing that any man would be attracted to me.  I am overweight, over forty and come with four kids and the baggage from two marriages.  It would take a very special man to look past those issues and see my heart.  In the second place, I don't really know how to be single, how to attract male attention, how to flirt, how to date.  I can sort of fumble my way through meeting a potential suitor, but I look like someone with two left feet attempting to dance Swan Lake while doing it. 

Here is my quandry:  how do I challenge that belief that no man would be attracted to me?  And how do I learn to do the entire courtship thing?  It's not like I can sign up for a class in it, and book learning only takes a person so far anyhow.  What specific steps can I take to grow in this area of my life, to learn to believe that God can bring a man into my life who can overlook all the negatives, or at least live with them?  What specific steps can I take to learn how to start and maintain a love relationship again?

The Parrotts' book is geared for those who are already in a relationship, so I don't think this one will have the answers.  But if anyone has any ideas, I would love to hear them!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Does Time Heal All Wounds?

Does time heal all wounds, or is there more to it than that?  Does a person always need a counselor to deal with issues and hurts from the past, or is it possible to work through them without formal assistance?

A good friend who is also about two years out from a divorce claims that time and self-examination are doing the trick.  Is that really enough?  Or does everyone need a little extra help in recovering from divorce? 

What do you think?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Broader Vision

When I first felt called to go back to school for my degree in marriage & family counseling, my focus was on marriage counseling.  But as I get closer to my start date, my calling seems to be getting broader.  I am starting to feel a real burden for children, or more specifically, for teens and pre-teens who are in dysfunctional families. 

In the past year or two, I have had several young women express to me their desire to work with young people whose families have fallen apart.  I wonder if God could be using me to bring these young women together so that we can minister to these hurting kids in a way that none of us could do alone?

I don't know for sure, but I do know that I am excited to see what God has in mind for my future!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Attitude Adjustment

Have you ever had one of those moments when you realize that you are guilty of the same thing you faulted someone else for?

A while ago, I gently chided a male friend for lumping all women into one category and not trusting any of them.

Yesterday, it hit me that I am just as bad.  I tend to lump all men into the same category and expect them to disappoint me.

I realize that these are lessons we have learned through experience,  and obviously my friend has had at least one and possibly many experiences where women proved to be untrustworthy.  I have had many experiences where men said they'd do something, then never carried through, leaving me disappointed.

But a funny thing happened.  The friend who doesn't trust women promised to fix something for me.  And he did, in a timely fashion, no less.  So it seems that some men can be trusted not to disappoint, to carry through on their word. 

I am working on adjusting my assumptions about men disappointing me.  I hope my friend has some positive experiences so he can adjust his thinking about women being untrustworthy.

How do you need to adjust your thinking about the opposite sex?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

No Help Needed

Over the past few years, I have come to love and appreciate the Old Testament.  It is no longer the dry list of names and Sunday School stories that it used to be to me;  it is now the wonderful story of how God deals with His spoiled creation.  It is a very clear revelation of who He is and how powerful He is.  In essence, it's a portrait of God.

I love the people in the Old Testament because of how human they are.  Despite the fact that they lived thousands of years ago on the other side of the world from 21st century America,  they struggled with the same things that we struggle with today.

Take Sarai.  She was married to Abram (who was eventually renamed Abraham, at the same time as Sarai became Sarah).  They had no children.  But as recorded in Genesis 15, God made a promise to Abram that

"a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”  (Genesis 15:4-5)

Sarai knew that she was too old to have children.  But she desperately wanted God's promise to Abram to come true.  So she devised a solution to make it happen.  If you aren't familiar with the story, you can read it in Genesis 16.  Abram got his son, but it wasn't the son God was referring to in His covenant with Abram.  There was a great deal of family strife, and the Middle East, in fact the entire world, is still paying the price for Sarai's attempt at "helping" God's plan along.

Sarah's daughter-in-law Rebekah also tried to "help" God out.  In Genesis 25, the account is given of her twin sons' birth and God's promises regarding them.  In Genesis 27, Rebekah helps her son Jacob to deceive his father in order to bring about this promise.  Once again, much heartache and family strife follows this decision.

I have to confess, I have a strong tendency to be a Sarai or a Rebekah.  I love God's promises and I can't wait to see them come to pass. 

That's my problem:  I can't wait. 

So I "help" God.  And disaster follows.  (I could tell you the story of my first marriage if anyone wants to hear how I "helped" God, and like Sarai and Rebekah, made a huge mess of things.)

Right now, I have a pretty good idea where God is taking me. We haven't cut up animals over the promise like God did with Abram, and He has not given me a specific prophecy as He did for Rebekah in Genesis 25:23, but somehow I know where my life is heading.

The problem is, I want to be there right now.  I can't wait.  But I must.  I know that if I interfere, if I behave like Sarai or Rebekah did, like I have in the past, I will only bring disaster on myself, and possibly interfere with His plan for my life.

This is where "waiting on God" comes into play.  And so I return to Psalm 27:13-14 again:

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dreaming of a Real Man

One more reason why I would like to be married again:  I need the emotional support. 
I know some of you who are married are thinking, "Yeah, right, like you'd ever get that from a husband!"  You know what?  You probably get more support from your husband than you think you do.  But it's one of those weird things that you don't miss until it's gone.

My ex was emotionally unavailable for much of our marriage.  But the simple fact of knowing that there was somebody there to share the burdens of raising kids, to take on some of the responsibility for how they turn out, and even just to be a warm body and listening ear (even if he really wasn't listening) at the end of a long day was a comfort.

This summer, I am overwhelmed.  I miss that support, no matter how little I had.  I also miss the stress-relief of someone to hold me at the end of a long day.  I miss having someone whose future is so tied to mine that he prays for me, knowing that he is really strenghtening himself when he does that. 

This morning, I turned on the radio and caught the tail end of Family Life Today.  They were talking to Stu Webber about "applied masculinity."  That got me thinking.

Our culture tends to devalue the role of husbands and fathers, and it seems that many men are willing to "live down" to the cultural view of men as bumbling idiots who aren't really necessary in a family. 

But to borrow the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, jr.,  I have a dream.  I dream that someday, God will bless me with a man who understands how important and necessary he is to me and to our family.  I dream that God will bless me with a man who refuses to stoop to the level that the media places men on, and will instead stand up tall and be a real man, one who stands firm and strives to be all that God has called him to be.

And no, this isn't just a fairy tale.  There are men out there who are real men.  I know some of them, and I pray that someday one of those men will be a part of my life and my family.  I could use the support of a real man.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Songs for Quiet Desperation

Wow, time gets away from me when I am busy and stressed!  I can't believe I have neglected posting for two whole weeks now.

Our pastor started a new sermon series titled "Leading Lives of Quiet Desperation."  He opened the first message of the series by playing the Casting Crowns song, Praise You In This Storm.  This song was one of the songs that carried me through my time of quiet desperation, AKA my separation.  (Although I am not sure my desperation was quiet...)  This song expressed almost perfectly my determination to continue praising God, even though He wasn't working things out the way I thought He should, and the storm was continuing to rage in my life.

This got me to thinking about other songs that were important to me during that time in my life.  One of them was Lord (I Don't Know), by the Newsboys.  My confusion and uncertainty about the future was captured nicely in this song, and the plea for His peace was the prayer of my heart.

A song that made me cry everytime I heard it was another Casting Crowns song, Slow Fade.  In fact, to this day, when I hear this song, I get choked up.  Was the writer of this song spying on my ex-husband as he did his "slow fade" into adultery?   How did he capture so clearly my concern that one or more of my children might follow him down this road someday?

A song that we sometimes sing in church took on a whole new meaning for me during that time in my life.  Blessed Be Your Name (and I liked the version by the Newsboys with Rebecca St. James) suddenly was more about my marriage than about the loss a friend had suffered several years previously.  I wanted to be able to continue to say "Blessed Be Your Name!" despite my circumstances, to get through the death of my marriage with the same measure of peace and stability as my friend had displayed during his loss.

It's amazing how we can find so much comfort in songs that seem to fit our circumstances. 

What songs speak to you during your times of quiet (or not-so-quiet) desperation?


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

20 Questions

If I were interviewing a man for a significant position in my life, there are certain things I would want to know.  Sometimes, though, some of these questions aren't appropriate to ask.  Some of them are very serious questions, the kind that would be deal-breakers;  some are not-so-serious, just curiosity-satisfiers; and some are downright silly.  So here is my list of 20 questions I wish I could ask.

1.   Where are you spiritually today?
2.   How did you get there?
3.   What kind of chocolate do you like best?
4.   Where would you live if you could live anywhere at all?
5.   Do you ever get drunk?
6.   What is your favorite sport?
7.   What would your dream job be?
8.   What is your favorite kind of kiss?
9.   What do you do when you get angry?
10.  Have you usually been the heart breaker or the heart breakee?
11.  Have you ever been arrested?
12.  Boxers or briefs?
13.  What kinds of jobs have you had?
14.  Do you have a bad temper?
15.  What was your favorite subject in school?
16.  Have you ever done drugs?
17.  Have you ever hit or shoved or otherwise been violent with a woman?
18.  What do you sleep in?
19.  What is your favorite food?
20.  What is the best thing a previous wife or girlfriend ever did for you?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Unpacking Baggage

I seem to be on my way out of the lonley place already.  Thanks to all of you who were patient with me and all who prayed for me.  I'm sure that helped to minimize my stay.  :-) 

The latest subject of my overactive mind:  How does one deal with baggage from a past relationship?  Is it best to open it all at once and dump it in a big pile on the floor to be sorted through as quickly as possible?  Or is it better to slowly, thoughtfully unpack it, one memory at a time, as each one needs to be dealt with? 

Maybe it's a function of personality.  Maybe there is no one "right way" to deal with baggage.

I tend to be pretty oblivious.  I may or may not be aware that I still have bags that I haven't unpacked, until I stub my toe or trip over one of my bags.  Then I need to deal with my baggage.

Sometimes I want to just dump the whole jumble of memories at once and dig through them, tossing those that seem irrelevant to my current situation off to one side, and dealing quickly with the ones that seem to matter at that moment.

Other times, I want to pull out one memory at a time and examine each one carefully, asking myself a dozen questions about each memory I pull out.

One thing that seems to be pretty consistent about my baggage, though, is that I deal with it best in the context of a relationship.  Being in a relationship often causes me to go in a new direction, and it is then that I run into unpacked bags.

But being in a relationship helps me to do more than just identify my baggage.  It also gives me motivation to deal with it.  For example, if I am not involved in any but the most casual of relationships with men, I don't need to deal with the baggage involving asking men for help.  But if I am building a real friendship with a man, I must open that bag and figure out why it's such an issue, then I must decide if I am going to let it remain an issue, or how I will deal with it, because if I don't, I may end up with a very lopsided, and also very frustrating, friendship.

Being in a relationship also helps me to deal with my baggage in another way.  It gives me someone who cares enough to listen to me as I work it out (I tend to think aloud a lot), and to give me feedback.  I am blessed to have many friends, including several male friends, who function in this capacity for me.  My best male friend has a knack for telling me what I need to know in a way that doesn't offend, but reveals things I may have overlooked. 

I guess the most important thing is that at some point, baggage must be dealt with. Quite frankly, I prefer not to deal with mine alone.  How about you?  How do you deal with your baggage?

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Married Version of the Lonely Place

Several people pointed out to me that the lonely place exists for married people, too.  I am well aware of this, having lived in a lonely place for much of my marriage.

I do not expect a spouse to rescue me from the lonely place.  I know well that the lonely place exists in some measure for nearly every person, married or single.  However, I know from experience that the lonely place is different for a married person than for a single person.

As a married person, the lonely place was more self-imposed.  By that, I mean that I could have made changes that might have alleviated some of the pain of the lonely place.  Ultimately, I tried to make those changes, but it was too late.  My husband had already decided to make his own changes to try to get out of his own lonely place.

As a married person, I didn't feel the same sense of unfulfilled calling that I feel in my single lonely place.  I was going through the motions, at least trying to be who I was created to be.  I didn't feel useless, just unappreciated and unloved.  Despite the fact that my husband never would have admitted that he needed me, I knew that in some small way, he did.  Maybe he just needed me to raise his kids and do his laundry and other household tasks, but in those little ways, I was fulfilling my calling as a helpmate, at least somewhat.

As a married person, I didn't always have the physical intimacy and comfort I crave in my single lonely place, but at least I always had hope that at some point I would have that.  I was married, so I knew that if my husband and I both operated according to scripture, that intimacy would be restored, and that it could happen in an instant.  As a single person, I am aware that even if God dropped the perfect man into my life right now, this very minute, there would be a long wait before I could have that intimacy.

I do not mean to negate the pain of being in the lonely place as a married person.  I truly feel for my friends who are in marriages that are lonely places. I just wanted to point out some of the differences. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Lonely Place

I am in my lonely place again, so this post may be a downer.  No need to worry -  I come here way more often than I like, but I always leave this place eventually.   

The lonely place is a place of craving.  When I am here, I long to be loved, to be needed and wanted.  I want to be what I was created to be, to be complete.  But instead I feel alone and useless and fractured.

The lonely place is a place devoid of all comfort.  My kids can hug me, my friends can hug me, but it isn't enough.  I know that Christ is all-sufficient, and that He offers me comfort, but I can't feel that comfort while I am here in the lonely place.

When I am in the lonely place, I am almost painfully aware of the calling God has called me to that I am not able to fulfill at this point, either due to lack of training, or to family circumstances, or to others who aren't willing to cooperate with His plan right now.   I am also acutely aware of the fact that God created me to be a helpmate. And I am acutely aware that I am not one at this stage of my life.

 The danger of the lonely place for me is that sometimes I will try very hard to escape it, and in so doing, I end up hurting someone.  I may try to take matters into my own hands and force things that shouldn't be forced.  Or I may become willing to "settle" for someone or something less than who or what God intends for me. 

My solution is to try to focus on my relationship with God, and on His amazing love for me, but even that is difficult in the lonely place.  Keep me in your prayers, please.  I would like this visit to the lonely place to be a short one.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Single Parent Dating

More on dating....

A commenter on my Single Parenting post told a sad story about allowing her daughter to get involved with the man she was dating.  After two years, the relationship ended, and she was left with not only her own pain, but the pain of her four-year-old to deal with.  Ouch.  And ouch again.

I still believe that allowing my children to get to know anyone I date is the best approach, but I think this may not be the case for everyone.  So what makes my situation unique?

For one thing, my kids are older.  My "baby" is 10, and my eldest is 17.  They all understand that not every relationship between a man and a woman will lead to marriage, and that it takes time to get to know someone well enough to even dream of going there.  If they did lose their heart to someone who then exited our lives, they would have the sadness and grief of loss to deal with, but it wouldn't be compounded by the confusion a four-year-old would have felt.

I have also given them veto power over my relationships, which gives them a sense of safety and allows them to step back and check out a man carefully.  When I introduce my kids to a male friend who may or may not become more than a friend, I introduce him as a friend..  Then I listen carefully to their comments about him, and I watch carefully to see how they interact with him.  Their responses have been interesting.  With one friend, they said, "Mom, he really seems to like you, but he doesn't know what to do with us."  With another, they said, "Wow, he is really nice.  We'd like to hang out with him and his family sometimes, but we don't think you should date him."  With a third, their comment was, "No way, Mom!  He smothers you and doesn't seem to realize that you have to be our mom, too, not just his girlfriend!"   

(Okay, just for fun, let me share what they have said about the man I am interested in.  "He's such a good dad to his kids.  I bet he'd be a great stepdad to have!"  "You should date him!  He is so nice to us and you have so much fun with him."  "I like how you two make each other laugh and smile."  "I think he really likes you, but he wants to make sure that this could work with all of us before he does anything about it."  Pretty positive reviews, huh?  :-) )

One other difference between our family and some other single parent families is that because of homeschooling, we spend a lot more time together than most families.  We also talk more than most families.  So our lines of communication might be slightly more open than some other families.

My children all remember (at least slightly) when their dad lived at home.  They have also experienced at least two of his girlfriends.  The first one was automatically despised because she was the reason their dad left.  In fact, my then-eight-year-old was the one who told me her name, as she had seen her dad chatting with and telling this woman he loved her online before I ever found out about the affair.  So in their minds, this woman was the enemy who had stolen their dad. 

The second one was someone he mentioned to them as a friend.  He assured them that there were no plans for her to move in with him, and they didn't meet her immediately because she lived out of the area.  A month later, when they arrived for visitation, she had moved in.  Needless to say, that didn't go over well.  Less than seven months later, the girlfriend had instituted house rules and when my children didn't immediately comply with those rules, their father announced that he could no longer see them.  Several months after he stopped seeing them, he and the girlfriend moved out of the country to be near her family, which only added to the resentment. 

Their father has since married this woman.  Right or wrong, the children blame her for the fact that he rarely calls or emails them and has spent less than three hours with them over the past 13 months.

Because of this, I have vowed never to do that to my children.  Of course, the fact that I don't believe in living together outside of marriage will prevent that, too, but even so, I want my kids to have time to get to know the man in question, to be able to express their opinion of him, and to be comfortable with him before we get too serious.

So for us, the advice not to involve the kids doesn't work.  But for others it might.  It's just one of the many things a single parent has to work out for his or her own family.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Greater Than One

One of the ways that I have found that I can tell if God is trying to tell me something is if certain "themes" come up repeatedly in a short period of time. 

The lastest incident of a theme that has shown up repeatedly is that of needing others.  In fact, tonight I saw two posts on Facebook, which is by no means scripture, but I imagine God can speak through it, just like He could speak through a burning bush and some rather interesting prophets....I mean, some of them ate BUGS!  I don't think any of my friends on Facebook eat bugs. 

Anyhow, first my pastor posted a link to Jars of Clay's song "Work," which asks the question,  Do you know what I mean when I say, "I don't want to be alone"?
Then a friend posted the following status:

We all need a close friend, somebody we can attach ourselves to whenever the attack comes. Don't try to fight it alone. None of us should say, "I don't need anyone else."

This called to mind the following passage in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

This is it:  the longing in my heart to be connected, to have a partner, someone who with me and God will form that cord of three strands, will defend me, keep me warm, help me up when I fall, and work alongside me. 

The hard part for me, the part I am working on, is learning to ask for help, to allow myself to be vulnerable enough to admit that I need someone else.  I'm making progress, but this is something new for me.  My nature is to be as self-reliant as I can.

Lord, break down my pride and fear so that I can be in a relationship where I am vulnerable, where I can admit that I need someone, that I can't do it all by myself! 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Healing by Numbers

One of the things the "experts" on divorce say is that it takes one year of healing for every four years of marriage.  But like all rules of thumb, this one leaves enough wiggle room to spin it however you want.

For instance, my ex-husband and I were married in May 1993.  He moved out in November of 2006.  But we weren't legally divorced until March 2009, and in fact, we had a brief attempt at a reconciliation the summer of 2007.  Given those facts, can you answer the following questions?

1.  How long was I married? 
    a. Two months shy of 16 years
    b. Thirteen and a half years
    c. Fourteen years and three months
    d.  Some other length of time

2. When did/will the allotted time for healing end for me?
    a. March 2013
    b. November 2010
    c. February 2011
    d.  Some other time

3. On the date when this "healing period" ends, what will I then be ready to do?
    a.  Get remarried
    b.  Begin dating
    c.  Start noticing men again
    d.  None of the above

Scoring and answers:  Give yourself one point for any answer you chose, since any one of them could be correct, depending on how you spin the facts!

Is the period of separation counted in the years married?  Is the healing time counted from the date of separation, the date of divorce, or some other date?  Must one include time for "extra" years, beyond the number that is divisible by four, and what about partial years?  Do they need to be counted as well?  And perhaps most important of all, at the end of the "healing period," then what?  Is that when one should begin dating, or is that the point at which one is ready to remarry?

The most helpful book on this particular topic was The Fresh Start Divorce Recovery Workbook, which I was introduced to at a Fresh Start weekend divorce recovery seminar I attended.  In that workbook, the participant named the date at which s/he knew his/her marriage was over, and that was used to calculate the approximate date when the healing process would be complete.

For me, that date was August 16, 2007, meaning that I was married for 14 years and 3 months, and my "healing time" should've ended sometime in February or March of 2011.

Last summer, I would've argued that I was already ready for a new relationship, and I jumped into one.  But last fall when that ended, I realized that I had jumped in way too soon.

So am I ready now?  I'm not sure if there is any way to know until I try again, but I do know that I am more ready now than I was even six months ago.  I also know that healing is an ongoing process.  I finally feel as if I am reaccquainted with myself as "just me," not as "somebody's wife."  I think I have figured out why I married him in the first place, what warning signs I overlooked both before and after the marriage, and how I contributed to the breakdown of my marriage.   I have a clear idea of what I want and don't want in a future husband and what I think makes a good relationship. 

So maybe I am ready.

But there is no need to rush. 

So I am waiting.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Repayment In Context

I have heard the promise in the first part of Joel 2:25 many times in regard to my divorce:

"I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten...."

I like that promise, but I don't believe in just pulling a statement out of the Bible and claiming it without understanding the context.  Since the Bible wasn't written in verses and chapters, the "context" doesn't just mean reading the verse before and the verse after.  It means digging to find out what the backstory is.  So I have done some digging, and discovered some interesting things about this promise.

First, the locusts were sent as God Himself!  So He wasn't just promising to fix the effects of a natural disaster.  He was promising to restore His loved ones, once the discipline had its desired effect.

Second, in verses 12-14, God urges the people to repent so that He might "relent from sending  calamity."  He reminds them that "he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love."  God gave them yet another chance, but apparently they ignored His plea.

Third, after the promise regarding the locusts, God tells His people in great detail how He will bless them and how they will know Him.

So, in context, how does this verse apply to me as one who has been through an unwanted divorce?

Well, first, I have to ponder the possibility that God used my divorce to discipline me, to redirect me and call me into a right relationship with Him.

Second, I have to make sure that I have truly repented of the sins that contributed to my divorce.

And finally, I need to acknowledge the many blessings God has bestowed on me as he repays me for the years that were destroyed by my divorce.

One of those blessings, I think, has been a new ability to wait on God.

Waiting has never been my strong point.  It still isn't.  I still feel frustrated and impatient when things don't happen right now.  However, thanks to God's discipline of allowing me to be divorced, I have learned to wait on His timing, to trust that He knows what He is doing and that His timing is better than mine.  I have learned not to be a Sarah or a Rebekah who takes things into her own hands, but to wait on God.

I am in a waiting phase of my life now.  It's not my favorite place to be, but you know what?  I'm okay with it.  And I am calm. 

God is repaying!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Divine Appointment

It never ceases to amaze me how God connects people at just the right time in just the right way.  I am just coming from another "Divine appointment" with a divorced friend who needed counsel.  Oddly enough (or maybe not so odd, since God orchestrated it), her situation was similar to one that I have experienced, but had never shared with her or any of our mutual friends.  But God knew, and He brought us together at just the right time.

All I can do is praise my wise and wonderful Father!  :-)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Single Parenting

I'm not an expert at single parenting.  In fact, some days I feel like a complete and total failure at it.  But I have learned a few things over the past 4 1/2 years, so today I will share those things with you.  Yup, it's another list.  :-)

1.  We all get along better when it is clear to my children and teens that I am the one in our family with the God-given authority. This is especially important with my teenaged son, who is bigger than I am now.

2.  Our home runs more smoothly when we all take on some of the tasks involved in making a household work efficiently.  To that end, everyone has chores. We all participate once a month in menu planning and grocery list making, and I generally take one or two of the kids with me to the grocery store.  Not only does this take some of the pressure off me, but it is also good training for when they have homes of their own.

3.  I am a much better mom when I take some time off for myself.  Sometimes I need alone time;  other times, I need adult time.  Either way, this isn't a luxury for me, but a necessity if I am to function well as a mom.

4.  Asking for help from non-family members is sometimes necessary.  Gulp.

5.  My mood plays a huge part in setting the tone for the day.

6. I am not a bad mom if I ask my children to stop talking to me for a short period of time unless there's an emergency.  I am a mom who is trying to remain calm and sane.

7.  Likewise, I am not a bad mom if I occasionally treat myself and not the kids.  I have been known to go out for ice cream alone, but I try not to tell them when I do.  ;-)

8. The lack of a man in the house doesn't mean that my son is automatically promoted to "man of the house."  He is still my son, and I am still in charge.  I cannot expect him to function in an adult male role at his age, although I can expect him to at least help with the "men's work."

9. Sometimes the "experts" are wrong.  For instance, the experts say that a single parent shouldn't introduce his/her children to the person they are dating until it is a serious relationship.  I suppose if I were dating around, a different man every week, that might be a good policy.  But when I did date a man for a period of time before the kids met him, I lost my heart to him and then my children didn't like him.  That was painful, and could've been prevented if they had met him earlier on.  They don't need to know details of the relationship, but they should be able to meet someone I may eventually have a serious relationship with early on.  That way, if there are objections, they can be raised and considered before I choose to allow the relationship to get serious.  This is one example of "expert" advice that doesn't work for our family.

10.  My children are my children.  We are possibly closer than a lot of intact families.  However, they are my CHILDREN, not my friends.  Thus, I shouldn't confide in them about certain subjects that are not appropriate for a mom to discuss with her children.

I realize that many of these things are common sense, and many apply as well to intact families.  As a single parent, though, they are even more crucial to the success of my family.

What should I add to this list?  I'd love to hear your advice!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Another Ah-Ha!

Last night as I was reading before bed, I had one of those ah-ha moments.  The book I am reading is Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, by John Gray. I'm only on chapter four, but this statement jumped out at me:

Setting limits and receiving are very scary for a woman.  She is commonly afraid of needing too much and then being rejected, judged or abandoned

A few paragraphs later, Dr. Gray says the following:

For women, not only is needing others especially confusing but being disappointed or abandoned is especially painful, even in the smallest ways.  It is not easy for her to depend on others and then be ignored, forgotten, or dismissed.  Needing others puts her in a vulnerable position.   


There it is:  the reason why I have such a hard time asking for help from a man. My biggest fear and hurt as I was going through my divorce was the fear of abandonment, which most likely had roots in my childhood, when my dad left our family.

In my experience, men leave.  My dad left.  My first fiance left.  My first husband left.  My second husband left.  I could point to any number of boyfriends during my single years who left.   In fact, when I am feeling especially cynical, I like to joke that my life verse is Proverbs 20:6, which says  Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?  (Before you all flame me, let me assure you that I am just joking around when I claim that verse.  Sometimes it's better to laugh my head off than to cry my eyes out.)

But as a Christian, I need to remember that there is One who is faithful. 

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6) 

So no matter how many men leave me, the Lord my God will never leave me.  And the most amazing thing is, He is not just a man.  He is the eternal God, Creator, Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End.


Now to live in that knowledge.....

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mother's Day

Tomorrow is Mother's Day and I have a mish-mash of thoughts I want to mention here.

First, I am grateful to my own mom, who somehow managed to raise four kids on her own.  Way to go, Mom!

Second, I want to give a shout-out to some very special "moms."  Happy Mother's Day to all my single male friends who are being both Dad and Mom to their kids!   You guys are doing a great job at filling a role you probably never dreamed you'd have to fill.  I was especially impressed this evening when one of these dads mentioned that he wouldn't be taking his kids to church tomorrow, because a standard Mother's Day sermon would be painful for his son, who is still dealing with his mom's absence.  That kind of sensitivity tells me that this dad is being a great mom!

Which leads me to my third thought.  I am praying for all those who are mourning the loss of their moms this year.  My grandma was one of the most influential women in my life, and even though she has been gone for seven and a half years now, I still think of her often.  The littlest things call her to mind:  the sight of a cardinal, the sound of a hymn (I swear I can hear her singing along when we sing some of her old favorites!), the smell of vegetable beef soup, the taste of johnny marzetti, the feel of an elderly hand grasping mine at church.  I miss my Gram!

Thought number four:  I am so thankful for the blessing of being a mom.  There was a time in my life when I thought I would never want to have children, but thanks to my ex-husband, I changed my mind.  I am so glad I did!  These four wonderful people who call me "Mom" are the joy of my existence and sometimes my reason for going on when I really would rather give up. 

Along those same lines (so not sure if I should make this number five or not), I am grateful for my "extra" kids:  my friends' kids who consider me an extra mom, and my kids' friends who treat me as a mom.  (I have to give special recognition here to Rebecca, Alexis, Daniel, and Brian.)  I'm also grateful for those women who function as extra "moms" to my kids, particularly for "Mama Anks."  :-)

Last but not least (because it's either thought number five or six, depending on whether the previous thought was five or not), I am sad for those kids whose moms are not there for them.  I am saying a special prayer for them tonight!

Happy Mother's Day, my friends!

Broken But Blessed

It's another one of those significant dates. 

May 7, 2011 would have been, should have been, my 18th wedding anniversary. 

I am very bad with dates.  The entire time I was married, I had trouble remembering my anniversary.  That might be because we eloped.  But no, I think it was just because I usually don't have a clue what today's date is, let alone what date I did something last week or last year or last decade.  However, I've noticed that when significant dates approach, I get a bit moody, so I must know somewhere deep inside.

This year, I haven't been too moody.  Perhaps a bit more quiet than usual, but not really sad or depressed or angry.  Just....pensive.  Actually, "pensive" might be overstating it.  I have just been unusually aware of my status as a single mom this past week.

You know, being a single mom really isn't a bad thing.  It's not ideal, not the way God created it to be, but it's also not the end of the world.  For that matter, it's not even the end of our family.  If anything, my kids and I have grown closer, become more of a team than we would've been otherwise, I think. 

So today I will list some of the blessings that have come from our "broken" family.  (I like lists!)

1.  My kids are learning to be independent.  Because as a single mom, I can't possibly do it all myself, they need to help out.  Additionally, one of the few areas of parenting my ex and I disgreed on was the need to train our children to be independent.  He felt that we should do all that we could for them;  I felt that we should train them to do as much as they could for themselves.  Since they live with me, I have the opportunity to train them in such skills as cooking, household chores, and as much as possible, household maintenance.

2.  My kids have a deeper sense of compassion for others than they might have otherwise.  They are living out 2 Corinthians 1:3-4:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  (NIV)

All four of my kids are quick to notice when a friend is hurting and to want to comfort that friend.

3.  My kids have made some friends that they might not have otherwise.  Not only do they tend to gravitate towards other kids from single parent homes, but we have also been able to hang out at a local cafe where ministry happens naturally.  We wouldn't have been able to do this as easily with my ex-husband's work schedule and preferences for leisure-time activities.  My kids have made friends of all different ages and backgrounds there at the cafe.

4.  My kids have had to learn that money doesn't grow on trees.  We went from six of us living on my ex-husband's six-figure income to five of us living on less than half of what his take-home pay was five years ago.  This has forced us to learn to live within our means, to swallow our pride and accept help when we need it, and to find creative ways to earn money for the things that matter to us.  For that matter, this has taught my kids about priorities and about differentiating between "wants" and "needs."  These lessons will serve them well in the lean years that often accompany young adulthood.

5.  My kids have developed a close bond with one another.  When my ex wanted to take just the younger two to Canada, my oldest son insisted that he needed to go along to "take care of" his younger siblings.  My oldest son has also taken on the role of "protector" of his sisters.  He does an excellent job of it!  Also, since there is only one chauffeur (that would be me) in our one-vehicle family, when one or two of the kids have an activity, the other two or three often get to spend time alone together while I run my taxi service, resulting in bonds between each pair of siblings.

Not bad for a "broken" family, is it?  We are blessed indeed!  :-)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Please Vote for My Blog!

If you read or follow my blog, please take a second to vote for me. You can vote once a day until May 23. Circle of Moms is looking for the best single parenting blogs. Thank you!

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Well-Guarded Heart

What does a well-guarded heart look like?

In my head, I see a big, fat, red cartoon-style heart surrounded by thick stone walls, like those of a castle, and a moat.  There is one place in the wall with a drawbridge, and on the opposite side of the moat, where the bridge would drop down, I see two small guard-houses.  Two guards dressed in full body armor and holding spears stand guard.

But I don't like this picture.  The heart looks so lonely, walled off from human contact, with the guards making the determination of who gets in and who gets out.

So what does a well-guarded heart look like? 

Does a person whose heart is well-guarded never feel anything for anyone of the opposite sex?  Does he or she somehow manage to cut off all attraction, or is it more a case of constant vigilance and self-denial?

And how does the owner of a well-guarded heart know when to let the drawbridge down?

Does she have those who might wish to win her heart fill out an application?  Does she have a tournament where her guards challenge the applicant?  Does she interview him?

I just can't figure out what people mean when they tell me to "guard my heart!"

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I'd Like a Piece of Humble Pie, Please

My post from yesterday netted me a marriage proposal!  Unfortunately, I had to turn him down.  I checked my schedule and there doesn't seem to be time for a courtship or wedding anytime soon.  But I was most definitely flattered, and I am still smiling.  It's good to have friends.  Add that to the friend who offered to shave his head when I commented on my attraction to bald men, and I'm very blessed as far as male friends go.  :-)

Seriously, yesterday was rough.  Today is better....I only cried twice, and one of those times was when our pastor's son proposed to his girlfriend of two years at the end of the church service today, so those tears probably don't count.

But I am now wrestling with my issue with asking men for help.

One friend said that it is because of pride.  Ouch!  That is what made me cry, so I suppose that must be one component.  But this issue has its roots in my past, I think.

My dad had a drinking problem when I was growing up, and when I was 10, he left our family.  Over the next few years, when I called him to ask for any kind of help, from homework to financial help, his response was unpredictable at best.  But if my memory is correct, more often than not, he was "too busy" or "too stretched" to help right then.

When I got married the first time, I married a man who loved the outdoors and craved adventure of any sort.  I tried to adapt to his lifestyle, but I often failed and ended up needing to ask him for help.  When this happened, his response was to laugh at me and make fun of me to his family and friends.

When I married the second time, my husband wasn't competent at home and vehicle maintenance or repair.  Unfortunately, I didn't understand how hard it was on his male ego to admit this, so I would occasionally ask him to help with those types of projects.  This only served to irritate him, and he would snap at me or ignore me. 

As a result of these experiences with the three men who have played the male lead role in my life over the years, I came to some conclusions.  First, I concluded that men don't like to help women.  Second, I concluded that to ask a man for help was to set myself up for ridicule.  And third, I concluded that men get annoyed when women ask for help.

I have been assured by several male friends that these are faulty conclusions.  But until I realized that these were my beliefs about men (which happened yesterday), I wasn't able to deal with them.  Now that I am aware of my faulty assumptions, I am going to pray and work hard at changing them.

However, my friend who suggested that this is a pride issue was also right, I think.  Somewhere along the line, I bought into our culture's lie that women can do anything men can do, only better.  So it became a matter of pride to prove that although I am female, I am capable of anything and everything.  And then there is the whole matter of pride in the fact that I am a single mom and doing just fine, thank you.  Nope, don't need anyone's help, I can do it all and do it well.

Ahh, the stupid lies we tell ourselves, and the sinful direction those lies take us! 

I have work to do, my friends.  Prayers would be appreciated.  Oh, and if anyone would like to help me work through all this, I will accept your help....even if you are male.  :-)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Whine and Cheese, Anyone?

Okay, everyone, go grab your cheese, because it's time for another whine.  Today was one of those "I hate being single" days, so I am going to vent here.

We own one of those "well, it seemed like a good idea at the time" electric lawn mowers.  It's the kind with no cord, just a rechargeable battery.  The battery is integrated into the mower itself, and can't be removed for charging, nor changed by the owner, and it takes 12+ hours to charge the battery.  It has to be plugged in while being stored between mowings, or it loses whatever charge it has. Our only outdoor outlet is on the front porch, which is not a suitable storage place for the mower for a multitude of reasons.  So during the winter, it lives in the basement.  It weighs 70 lbs., so once it is brought up for mowing season, it remains up, plugged into an outlet in the breakfast room or living room. 

Four years after buying the mower, the battery will now hold a charge for approximately 10 minutes.  It takes a minimum of a half hour to mow our yard, when it has been mowed recently.  The first mowing of the season always takes longer.  We have not had two days in a row when it hasn't rained, so only part of our lawn has been mowed so far this season, and that part is now almost knee deep again, sigh.

Today is mowing weather. I had a meltdown, knowing that this weather would be wasted, because I own a relatively useless mower. 

Okay, this story is getting long.  I won't even get into the issue with the shed, but it wasn't pretty and added to my meltdown.  Let's just fast forward to the fact that I decided to buy a new mower.  But that necessitated borrowing money from a relative, who thought that if she lent me the money, she should also dictate what type of mower I purchase.  (For the record, she advocates the use of electric mowers, the kind with a cord.  My 14-year-old son is not very observant;  thus, I find that a rather electrifying proposition, and I nixed it.)  Off to Walmart we went, and I bought the cheapest gas-powered mower I could find.

We brought the mower home and had to ask a neighbor to help my son with it.  And the shed?  It doesn't have doors at the moment.  That meant I also humbled myself and asked a friend from church if he could maybe take a look at it sometime and see if he can replace the doors.  Oh, and dinner...  thought about burgers on the grill, but it isn't working either.  So I also asked my friend if he can check that out for me.  And in the meantime, we eat something else.

I'm tired.  I'm beyond tired. This homeowner stuff is getting to me.  Being a single mom is getting to me.  Oh yeah, and needing to ask men for help is really getting to me. 

I have discovered that I have an issue with asking men for help.  Another long story, for another time.

You know what?  All I want is a husband.  Someone who can help me without me needing to feel guilty for asking.  Someone who, even when he is too busy to help, can at least listen to me when I am frustrated by circumstances.  Or better yet, someone who can hold me and let me cry when I am so tired that I could just drop, like now.

Okay, I am finished.  I hope you enjoyed your cheese, because the whine seems to be finished as well.  :-)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Confirming My Calling

I have mentioned here before that I want to pursue a degree in marriage and family counseling, and that I have been accepted into a graduate program.  I still don't know how I will pay for it, but I have to share some exciting things that have happened lately.

Recently, I've been wavering, thinking that because the cost of the degree is so high, maybe I should forget about it, go to school and pick up whatever classes I need to be certified, and become a teacher.  I enjoy teaching, I love middle school and high school kids, and it would be a steady income with good hours for a mom. 

But even though his would be the logical, safe path to take, I wondered why I had previously felt so certain that God was calling me into marriage and family counseling if I was now supposed to forget about that and go into teaching.  So I asked God to let me know what He wanted me to do. 

Since asking Him, I have had several interesting things happen.

First, a friend of mine asked me for advice on dealing with in-laws whose attitudes and behavior might be negatively affecting her children.

Then I had a divorced friend pour out her anger and other emotions surrounding her divorce to me, because she knew I would understand.

Today, one of the ladies in my core group at Community Bible Study shared that a comment I made early in the year had spurred her on to submitting to her husband more intentionally than she had in the past, and she said since she has been doing so, she has seen a real improvement in her marriage.

Then this evening, a total stranger sat and talked to me about a parenting problem she is having.

Oh, and one other confirmation:  at CBS this morning, a friend in my core gorup pressed some money into my hand and said, "It isn't much, but I want to help you out financially with your schooling."  Later, when I unfolded the money, I realized that the amount she had given me is exactly the amount of the deposit that is due to the school on May 10!

Obviously, God is answering my question by confirming His calling in my life.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 3:12-14 NIV)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Teenaged Boys

There is a book that was quite popular a few years ago called,  "Men are from Mars;  Women are from Venus."  That sort of makes sense, since men are motivated by hierarchy and the war to get to the top, and women are motivated by connnecting and loving relationships.  It also makes life interesting, since men and women so often seem to speak different languages, and think totally different about some of the most basic issues in life.

But if men are from a different planet than I am, then I have to wonder if teenaged boys are from an entirely different solar system.

Take food, for instance.  Teenaged boys rarely stop to think about grocery shopping or food prep, yet they can put away astonishing amounts of food.

Or how about their ability to reason?  I have yet to meet a teenaged boy who notices when a hamper or trash can is overflowing, even though it is their responsibility and a regular chore.  The look of surprise on their face when reminded that the piece of garbage they just threw away wouldn't have landed on their foot if the can weren't overflowing is priceless!

And emotions - ai yi yi!  With women and girls, emotions tend to follow a predictable cycle.  With teenaged boys, however, this is not so.  One moment they can be happy, and the next moment, they are as grumpy as can be.  One moment they are playing nicely with a sibling, and the next, they want to throw the sibling in to next week.

All of this leads to problems for the single mom of a teenaged boy.  If I don't understand him, how am I supposed to know how to respond to him?  I know that teenaged boys puzzle even their dads occasionally, but at least dads have been there themselves and don't suffer culture shock to the same extent that moms do!

Oddly enough, having a teenaged boy is one of the reasons why I wish I were married.  Odd because then I would have yet another set of male hormones to deal with; yet logical because I'd have an interpreter and a defender to help me through the raising of this alien teenaged boy I've been blessed with.

Sometimes I question whether I can do this alone. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Not Giving Up

 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.  (Gal. 6:9-10, NIV)

I am weary.

Some of my weariness, I'm sure, is the physical weariness of not getting enough sleep.  I have had to get up relatively early every day this week, and my sleep has been interrupted, possibly because I am all out of my allergy meds.  I've not been getting adequate exercise, due mainly to weather, which doesn't help, either.

Some of it is emotional.  For whatever reason, I have been on edge emotionally lately.  Friendships that normally encourage have felt draining lately, and some of my closest friends, who tend to energize me by helping me to make sense of events in my life, have been incommunicado, busy with their own lives.

Some of it is mental.  I have been puzzling over my future, seeking God's plans and the way He wants me to carry them out.  While I don't worry about the future, I do realize that I have a responsibility to keep moving in the direction He has called me to go, and sometimes that is hard work mentally.

Some of my weariness is spiritual.  I have been trying to practice the spiritual disciplines we have studied so far in Sunday School (meditation, prayer, fasting), and while two of those were already a part of my spiritual walk, I have been trying to be more deliberate about them and trying new approaches.  Additionally, there are several things that I have been seeking God's direction on.

I am going to try to get a little more sleep, and a little more exercise.  I will continue trying to connect with my friends.  I will try to be more organized in my journey toward the things God has called me to.  And I will try to relax and allow God to refresh me as I pray and meditate.  (That sounds funny, since prayer and meditation should probably be relaxing, right?)

But above all, I need to hang onto the promise that I will reap a harvest at the proper time if  I don't give up.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


One of the things about God that delights me the most is how He gives us glimpses into things we could never comprehend with our finite human minds. 

Having children has given me opportunities to catch a glimpse of God's amazing love.  Before I had children, the idea of someone loving another person enough to lay down his or her life for that person was so far beyond my comprehension that it was nearly a fairy tale to me.  But then I carried a child in my body for eight months, and brought her forth with much pain and agony and when that little bundle was placed in my arms and she searched my face as if to memorize it forever, I knew that such a love could indeed exist.  I knew that I would lay down my life for my child without question.  And so I caught a glimpse of God's love for me.

Being divorced has given me an opportunity to glimpse the pain involved in the sacrifice God made for us.  I remember a point in my separation when I felt as though I was being torn from limb to limb.  I was being stripped of my purpose and identity as a wife.  I was losing the other half of my soul, seeing that holy thing that God had made by joining two individuals together in marriage violently ripped apart.  The pain was nearly unbearable.  Yet I know that pain was just the tiniest glimpse of what Jesus must have felt as He was separated from his Father in Heaven, who couldn't look on Him as he took on all the sin of the world.  The Godhead, the three-in-one who live in total unity, was being ripped apart.  A Holy thing was being destroyed, although only for a time.  So I have caught a glimpse of the pain of the crucifixion.

As we go through Holy Week this year, I am thankful for those glimpses into the reality of His love and His suffering for me.  May I never forget those glimpses, even as I ponder what His love compelled Him to suffer for me!