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.