Thursday, November 30, 2006

What would you do?

I have a question that I'd like to hear your opinion on. A friend of mine is grandfather to two young children. Mom and Dad are divorced. The kids live with Mom. Dad just died unexpectedly. These are children, so the situation will probably be different for them, but it got me thinking about what would happen if my Dad died. I've been reading, researching, and writing a lot lately and thinking about the issues we face as children of divorce. One of them is this sense of feeling alone, even in our families. I know some of the loneliest times I've experienced were at my paternal grandparents' funerals. They were always my anchor to my dad. When my grandma died, my grandpa was lost in his own grief. When he died, I had no one else to lean on. Maybe it's just part of growing up, this having to be the strong one at funerals. But on that day, I know I was grateful just to have my mom and stepdad send flowers to the funeral. It made me feel, in just a small way, like they were there with me, like I wasn't alone.

But I want to hear from you. If you're a child of divorce, would you want one parent to go with you to the other parent's funeral if you were in that tragic situation? If you're a divorced parent, would you go with your child to the funeral of their other parent? Let me hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A little perspective

From an excellent commentary on recent celebrity divorce news:

Anyone who celebrates a divorce has abandoned a biblical worldview. Anyone who treats divorce as an entertaining spectacle has abandoned a biblical worldview. Anyone who overlooks the difficult struggles of children of divorce has abandoned a biblical worldview. Any culture in which such celebration, entertainment and neglect of children’s well-being occurs has abandoned a biblical worldview. In any recognizable Christian perspective, divorce is understood as, at best, a rare, tragic concession to the consequences of human sin.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Falcons National Champs

Indulge me a little... Congratulations to my alma mater, Messiah College, on being men's Division III soccer champs for the third year in a row and the fifth time in the last seven years. And congrats, as well, to the Falcon women who finished the season in the #2 spot. And as a special treat for indulging me, here's a picture of me in the Falcon mascot costume.
This was the summer of '89 and I was working on campus. My summer roommate and I had seen the mascot and pom-poms in the equipment room earlier and knew we had to go back with a camera. We snuck into the equipment room, I donned the mascot costume quick as a flash and posed for a picture. We grabbed basketballs and strolled nonchalantly back out to the gym, leaving the gym monitor none the wiser. Little lesson, kids: Act bold and innocent and you can get away with a lot. Shh, don't tell!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A new kind of holiday

From the Boston Herald:

Things became more complicated still when half the cousins divorced.
Somebody’s children were always missing, spending Thanksgiving with the ex and his new wife’s family. A cousin far too old to be dating at all showed up with a new young girlfriend and two sullen teens pining for their presplit family. This is the time when Thanksgiving turns bittersweet, when it’s much about who isn’t there: children of divorce, parents and grandparents who’ve died.

1 out of 2

Now if we could just get them out of Scientology...

Will Smith insists the only thing that will ever split up him and wife Jada Pinkett Smith is death. The 'The Pursuit of Happyness' actor says divorce is not an option for him or his spouse because he believes in the vows they both took. He told MTV: "Divorce can't be an option. With Jada, I stood up in front of God and said, ''Til death do us part.' So there are two possible outcomes. One, we are going to be together till death, or two, I am dead."


Recipe for harmony

What one family learned about "blending:"

We want to go into our new lives together with our eyes wide open. Here's what we learned:

  • Expect the unexpected. Bringing two families together doesn't always mean a harmonious mix. The results can be more like oil and vinegar.
  • Blended families are different. Recognize the uniqueness.
  • It generally takes three to seven years to successfully blend a family.
  • Who disciplines the children? Generally, leave discipline to the birth parent but support each other. Discuss the issues behind the scenes, not in
    front of the children, but present a unified decision.
  • Whose family traditions will be upheld? The answer is both, sometimes. Other times it means making new family traditions.
  • Be prepared to deal with ex-spouses and extended families, because struggles will ensue. New alliances will be formed. Be an adult and be prepared to compromise, while sticking to your values.
  • Don't have impossible expectations for your spouse's children. It leads to alienation and anger on both sides.
  • Don't get frustrated when your spouse doesn't enforce rules with their children. Develop house rules together.
  • Know what your role is as a stepparent. The children need your friendship and to know you won't come between them and their birth parents.
  • Don't get frustrated with the back-and-forth nature of blended families. Life changes rapidly with two households. Be prepared for constant change.
  • Don't become resentful over your changing role as a stepparent and spouse. Getting remarried means you've lost some of the control over your own life and that of your children.
  • Learn to deal being rejected by stepchildren, ex-spouses and ex-extended family. Learn to communicate your feelings in a healthy manner to all concerned.
  • Remarrying does not mean the end of financial challenges. Be prepared for constraints.
  • Be ready for your new spouse to not love your children the way you do. You've had a lifetime with them. Allow time for adjustments.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Blessings 925-1000

925. Being able to divide accurately (why are there 75 left today?)
926. Workmen who show up when they say they will (Arghh)
927. When the boss leaves early
928. ...and lets the rest of us go, too
929. Mom's easy onion soup recipe
930. Alarm clocks
931. Workmen who call as I'm typing and say they'll be here soon
932. Times with extended family
933. Knowing how to pack light
934. Bumblebees
935. Honey
936. Road trips
937. Mouthwash
938. Good fences
939. ...and good neighbors
940. Jobs done right
941. Potpourri
942. Gram's vegetable soup
943. Immigrants
944. Knowing God has angel armies
945. Health insurance
946. Squirrel feeders (so they stay out of the birdseed)
947. Perennials
948. Swimming with fishes
949. ...and feeling them nip at your legs
950. Finding things I've lost
951. Being able to help out
952. The Lord's Table
953. Unscripted liturgy
954. Sound theology
955. Being able to disagree peaceably
956. Being alone
957. Baby powder
958. Scented shower gel
959. Fir trees
960. Eggnog
961. Being flexible
962. Contentment
963. Once-in-a-lifetime dinners
964. ...and souvenirs to remember them by
965. Chocolate chips
966. Bunny rabbits
967. Sunroofs
968. Baptisms
969. Telling someone about Jesus
970. People who know I'm a Christian before I even tell them
971. Getting snowed in
972. Black & white movies
973. Pretty stationery
974. Flavored waters
975. Creme de menthe sundaes
976. ...and creme de menthe brownies
977. ...especially in summer when they've been frozen
978. Cardinals
979. Brave little birds who chase blue jays and hawks
980. Watching two birds chase a squirrel (crazy funny!)
981. Beaded necklaces
982. Fashion shows with my old roommates
983. All our chats on the stairs
984. Playgrounds
985. People who speak their mind
986. ...and who aren't out of their mind
987. Vindication
988. Letting God be in charge of justice
989. Fire hydrants
990. Police officers
991. Peace and safety
992. Brave ancestors who came to a new world
993. My very cool can opener
994. Making baby gifts
995. Fluffy towels
996. Parties with friends
997. Moms who make breakfast
998. Not having an agenda
999. Life
1,000. Having a thousand more things to be thankful for

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Blessings 859-924

859. Cracking myself up
860. Good magazines
861. Straightening up
862. Finding the carpet in my room
863. Being nicely reminded of a bill I forgot
864. Knowing when to take a break
865. Smelling like lavender all day (see #650)
866. Kelly telling Rosie what for
867. Good doctors
868. Yucky tests that keep us safe
869. Finding NYTimes crossword puzzles I've barely started
870. Having two Christmas gifts already
871. Chickens
872. Dads who impress their daughters
873. A really impressive God
874. Not having to go anywhere
875. Raincoats
876. Strappy heels
877. Having a place to wear them (which I don't, but it would be a blessing...)
878. Barking dogs
879. ...and the mean people they scare away
880. Bubble baths
881. The sangria I had in San Antonio
882. Young love
883. Birdfeeders
884. Belonging to the Good Shepherd
885. Good suits
886. Atriums
887. Being missed
888. Bottle stoppers
889. Good cheap wine from a grocery in the south of France
890. ...and herbes des Provence
891. Bringing wine home before the airline ban on liquids
892. People who hear God calling them home
893. Researchers
894. Having a cloud of witnesses cheering me on
895. Home manicures
896. Proofreading
897. Mystery
898. Gossamer sheers
899. Seeing Tony Bennett in concert (and not on TV)
900. Demureness
901. Tiki torches
902. Wool
903. Baseball games
904. A simpler, gentler time long ago when the most embarrassing commercials were for Kotex
905. Genuineness
906. God's incredible design
907. His superglue powers
908. His unquestionable wisdom
909. Baskets
910. Not being a basket case
911. That my grandma died before 9/11
912. Getting to set the thermostat wherever I want
913. Cheeseburgers
914. Margaritas
915. Room service
916. Promises
917. Heirloom peonies
918. Oversized beach towels
919. The unbridled joy of small children
920. Cheesecake
921. Drive-in movies
922. NPR
923. Murphy's Wood Oil
924. Letting go

Thanksgiving, the divorce way

I've heard some pretty odd misconceptions and generalizations that people make about divorced families, but by far the funniest I've ever heard was of a person who assumed that people in a divorced family didn't eat a traditional Thanksgiving meal, as if the right and ability to throw a turkey in the oven was somehow written into the marriage license. Once revoked, it's pizza and Chinese takeout, poor souls. (These are the same people, by the way, who think single people can't cook. FYI, I made roasted salmon with a lemon-tarragon butter sauce wrapped in Swiss chard, and acorn squash for dinner last night. My stepfather once said to me, "You can cook like this and you're not married?" Listen, if it were a bake-off, I'd have suitors throwing themselves at my feet.)
So, in honor of those hilariously misinformed people, I give you, the Divorced Family Thanksgiving Meal:

  • One turkey dog, delicately microwaved and nestled in a top-split bun, garnished with amusing inedibles.
  • A side of ketchup-sauce, just like cranberry sauce if served cold.
  • A generous helping of rippled potato chips, sour cream and chive dip optional.
  • And for dessert, two perfectly perched pecan sandies.
I've chosen to display my Thanksgiving meal on a piece of china, but you could just as easily use an elegantly ruffle-edged paper plate. No plastic or silver ware necessary.

Bon Appetit!

Another testimony

OK, I've been trying to link to this unsuccessfully, so I'm trying a different approach. Follow this link and watch the video titled "Male, 30s, Virginia (Drew)." You'll see the one I embedded a few days ago just below it. What I especially appreciate about these videos is that they're by people who grew up in the church. We all know divorce happens in the church, but it's not often that we hear first hand accounts of Christian families that get off course.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Blessings 793-858

793. Getting up on time
794. Waking up at all
795. No traffic
796. A nice waiting room at the VW dealership
797. A free state inspection (oops)
798. Great Harvest having the bread my brother wants
799. Getting lunch from my favorite local bagel shop
800. Taking good bagels to my midwestern family
801. A good book to read while I was waiting
802. Gloves
803. Rescuing discarded books
804. ...that just happen to relate to our topic here
805. Babies that finally decide to enter the world (Congrats, M & B)
806. Events that go well
807. Getting organized
808. Remembering hilarious stories
809. Getting good blog ideas (stay tuned)
810. Realizing yesterday's sermon sunk in
811. A team that thinks, or at least dresses, alike
812. Sparkly rings
813. Yummy food that's good for me
814. Mallomars (ok, not those)
815. Not being the only book addict around
816. Having the right words at the right time
817. Knowing God saves every tear
818. Places where you can make a u-turn
819. Parchment paper
820. Knowing the perfect Model
821. Sanctification
822. O.J.'s special & book being canceled
823. Guilty consciences
824. Air mattresses
825. Top-split hot dog buns
826. Being set free by Truth
827. Eyebrows (would you rather pencil them in?)
828. Board games
829. Bright colors
830. The miracle of make-up
831. Things without soy
832. Felt pan liners
833. Curls
834. Bananas
835. Remembering to turn the cell phone off
836. Being able to talk to God any time
837. Cows
838. Jazz
839. Bicycles
840. Swimming
841. Mail
842. Stamps by mail
843. Knowing I did the right thing
844. Moss
845. Steam irons
846. Windows
847. Fireplaces
848. Jimmy Stewart movies
849. Instant oatmeal
850. Cordless telephones
851. Dracula not being real (scariest book ever)
852. Outdoor ice rinks
853. Dogs with jobs
854. Christmas caroling
855. Hospitals
856. Not living in a state with flying cockroaches
857. Museums
858. Treasure in heaven

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Blessings 727-792

727. Church membership
728. Cyberhymnal
729. Prayer support
730. People who care about others
731. Little girls who WANT to talk to me on the phone
732. Restful Sundays
733. Justice
734. God's holy name
735. Short work weeks
736. Prayers on TV
737. Secret family recipes
738. ...for homemade hot chocolate mix
739. People to make candy for
740. Make ahead recipes
741. Cheese fondue
742. Pants that fit right
743. Being part of the family of God
744. A God who wants us to anxiously wait for Him
745. Knowing He'll come
746. Unspoilt milk
747. Nice people
748. Mechanical pencils
749. Harmony
750. Phone calls from friends
751. Met goals
752. Reasons to celebrate
753. Christmas trees
754. Cupcakes
755. Salami
756. Corn on the cob
757. Rollerskates
758. People who witness to others
759. Feather pillows
780. Down comforters
781. Lightning bugs
782. Warm summer breezes
783. Chipwiches
784. The cog railway on Mt. Washington
785. Salad spinners
786. The Pacific Coast Highway
787. The salt flats in Utah
788. Flying past Mt. Rainier
789. Snowflakes
790. Kisses
791. Knowing how to tie a good bow
792. Hot fudge sundaes

Unhappy Thanksgiving

This is a heartbreaking story of one woman's memories of a Thanksgiving gone horribly wrong.

But on the night before Thanksgiving the year she was 17, Smartmom learned that her parents were separating. On Turkey Day, her father was gone and her mother didn’t leave her bedroom.

It was sudden, it was quick. Her parent’s marriage was over and family life as she knew it was kaput.

Thanksgiving morning, Smartmom’s aunt picked up Smartmom and her sister.

“This is awful,” she said as she took Smartmom and Diaper Diva to her home in Westchester where Smartmom’s maternal relatives were gathered.

As she remembers it, nobody said a thing. It was the giant elephant; the great unmentionable.

Sitting at the huge Danish Modern dining table, Smartmom and Diaper Diva felt like orphans as they worried about their mother and wondered where their father had gone. The day went by in a blur of emotions. By the time the football games were playing on the black-and-white television, they already felt stigmatized by this unfortunate schism in their domestic lives.

Read the whole article here.

Kids on dating

Ah, the role reversal. We're protective of our parents, particulary our moms, after a divorce. Our temptation is to let them lean on us, because we want to be helpful. But that can set up some pretty bizarre dynamics, like in these excerpts from an essay in the online journal Happy News:

"Having parents divorce as an adult affects you differently, because you understand the dynamics of trying to date, and the vulnerable position it puts you in emotionally," says Lilli, who is 25. "I shudder to think of my parents having to do it, because I know how hard it is having to do it as a young person."

"If children are older it might be a relief to see the parent repartnered--able to turn to someone other than their children for emotional support and companionship."

At the dinner table my mom watches my face as I read a text message from my boyfriend Eric. Passion glazes over my cheeks; my mouth expands into an upside-down triangle smile. My mom's eyes meet mine as I close the phone and my smile fades to normal. She can't help herself: she grabs both of my hands and tells me, "I want to be in love like you!"

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Blessing 661-726

661. Gingerbread latte
662. ...with real gingerbread men dancing in the whipped cream
663. Online Bible commentaries
664. Yummy sandwiches
665. Pretty colors
666. Going to the national championship
667. ...both teams
668. ...second year in a row!
669. Beating Calvin
670. Classic novels
671. Kids who grow up good
672. Stores with short people clothes
673. Daisies
674. National parks
675. Cartoon Network on You Tube
676. A God who heals broken hearts
677. Sailing in St. Maarten
678. an America's Cup yacht
679. All the gorgeous flowers on St. Thomas
680. Living lots of different places
681. Having a home of my own
682. Lobster
683. Horses
684. Remote control door locks
685. TiVo (I don't have it, but it would be a blessing...)
686. Time
687. Discipline
688. Smarm detectors
689. Sneak peeks
690. Warm sweaters
691. Good writing advice
692. Programmable thermostats
693. Broadway musicals
694. Good timing
695. Getting a glimpse of God's plan
696. Meteor showers
697. Sunday school
698. Lilacs
699. Lavender
700. Hummingbirds
701. Sapphires
702. Caverns
703. Friends with husbands who grill
704. Being mistaken for a much younger woman
705. Creme brulee
706. Jackrabbits
707. Colleagues
708. Fog
709. Homeless shelters
710. Holiday food baskets
711. Angel Tree
712. Honesty
713. Being trusted
714. Knowing my shortcomings
715. God's protection
716. Not caring about the TomKat wedding
717. Being a part of something big
718. Making my parents proud
719. Books about cool experiences
720. Velvet
721. Modesty
722. Confidence
723. Paid holidays
724. Sunrises at the beach
725. Gorgeous vistas
726. Covered bridges

Living testimony

So, I finally entered the entrancing world of YouTube, mostly to find footage of my super-cool uncle who is a musician. And I found this great little video which happens to be of a friend of mine. This is his story of how his parents' divorce affected him and how he found hope in God. Check it out.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Blessings 595-660

595. Having a name that means "born again" and "Christ bearer"
596. Not being an oaf, even a royal one (inside joke, sorry)
597. Weighing more than 90 pounds
598. ...and less than 200
599. Role models
600. Not getting stuck in the office building
601. Learning about the Friday night wine club
602. ...and getting an invitation
603. Getting to serve my family
604. Emptying my basement
605. Driving with the windows down
606. Not getting run over in the crosswalk
607. Another free chicken sandwich
608. People who r.s.v.p. a.s.a.p.
609. Prolific days
610. Not giving up
611. Orthodoxy
612. Orthopraxy
613. Wicked friends
614. Satire
615. Public libraries
616. Good danish
617. Kind souls
618. An excuse to make cheese fondue
619. Not living in a TV drama
620. Turtleneck sweaters
621. Trips to the Caribbean
622. Not being killed by pirates
623. People who catch bad guys
624. Not fearing the terror that comes by night
625. A nice weekend forecast
626. Flexible work schedules
627. Leftovers that reheat well
628. Being a ringleader
629. Being available to help out a friend
630. Great B&Bs
631. Biblical examples
632. Braces
633. ...and not having to wear them anymore
634. Bones that stay in their joints
635. Finding new music
636. Getting to make a joyful noise to the Lord
637. Knowing He'll tell me the next step
638. Live music
639. ...especially lawn concerts
640. ...especially at Wolf Trap
641. Parents who dragged me to cultural events
642. Reading The Iliad with my mom
643. Christmas cards
644. Christmas music
645. Christmas trees
646. Liking Christmas
647. Knowing that making pie crust is easy
648. Giving Martha a run for her money
649. Not having roommates
650. Scented drawer liner
651. Sachets
652. Knowing God is my help
653. Having Jesus pray for me
654. ...and the Holy Spirit too
655. Faithful scribes who preserved biblical manuscripts
656. Religious references etched on monuments
657. Having freedom "of" religion, not "from"
658. Crispy hash browns
659. Places that serve breakfast for dinner
660. Corny jokes (Ham and eggs walk into a bar. The bartender says, "Sorry, we don't serve breakfast here.")

Blessings 529-594

I forgot to post my blessings last night until it was late and I was too tired, so it's a double dose this evening.

529. Fridays!
530. Not being the only one frustrated by bagel scavengers
531. People who pray for me
532. Resolutions
533. People who stay home when they're sick
534. Places that let you schedule appointments online
535. Meetings with people who are hard to catch
536. Getting good info the first time around
537. Not needing an ark yesterday
538. Not living in a flood zone
539. Seeing a rainbow (ok, on the evening news)
540. Lunch with an office friend
541. Hanging out at Starbucks
542. The first peppermint mocha of the season
543. Good articles in magazines
544. Being able to recycle old letters
545. Doing something useful for others
546. Jackets with hoods
547. Living close to the office
548. $5 tote bags
549. Homemade cleaning products
550. Party opportunities
551. Smart people who can explain things
552. Good news
553. People returning to faith
554. Christians in Hollywood
555. Strength for today
556. ...and bright hope for tomorrow
557. Knowing I'm not alone
558. That school wasn't all about gym class
559. Living in America, the beautiful
560. Opportunities to minister to others
561. Friends I've known since grade school
562. Bargains
563. Old video footage
564. Knowing God thinks I'm special
565. Having a place in the body of Christ
566. Being different
567. Getting the chance to promote others
568. Fulfilling dreams
569. Mentoring younger women
570. Marshmallows
571. Bonfires
572. Hayrides
573. Singing around a campfire
574. Boats
575. Lazy summer afternoons
576. A mom who thinks I'm a "beautiful woman of sophistication"
577. Being able to give grace to others
578. Having enough patience for today
579. People who care passionately about issues
580. Pretty ballgowns
581. Broccoli pizza
582. Remembering to bake the potatoes long enough
583. Having a job
584. Easy ways to protect my health
585. Ordering stamps online
586. Cookies that ship well
587. Having people to bake for
588. Businesses that hire people with developmental disabilities
589. Color printers
590. Generous people
591. Inheriting my dad's sense of humor
592. Not having to be the honorary boy anymore
593. A sister-in-law who loves my brother
594. Seeing kids grow up

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Finding commitment in the church

From Time, in an article on nuns with blogs (which thankfully, contrary to my initial thought when I saw it referenced somewhere else, doesn't mean that just because I have a blog I have to become a nun...)

Gen Xers are coming to religious life in a quest for meaning after secular society has failed to meet their needs.

Many also broke from the church when their parents divorced. “My generation,” says Brink “is not good with commitment because we haven’t seen a lot of it.” Now they’re finding a sense of wholeness by binding themselves to their faith.

More on The Thrill of the Chaste

I posted another review of Dawn Eden's book on The Point. Check it out.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sex and the single child of divorce

I got an advance copy of Dawn Eden's soon-to-be-released book, The Thrill of the Chaste. As one of my friends put it, chastity isn't my idea of a thrill. But Dawn's book is great. Really. I've read a lot of "wait for marriage" books in my years as a single Christian, and many of them have merit, but many are also pretty sappy and just a tad naive. Which is fine, I guess, if you grew up in the "Christian bubble," as another friend puts it. Dawn's book, however, joins Lauren Winner's Real Sex as a counterpart to the buttoned-up philosophy that most Christian books on this topic previously adopted. Bandying about Sex & the City and other pop culture icons, Dawn is honest about her own struggles to live chastely. She's encouraging, biblical, and fun to read.

Turns out Dawn is also a child of divorce. Her mom and dad split when she was five. Like many parents of that era, Dawn's believed that if they split nicely no one would get hurt. We know better now. She talks about how her parents' negativity about each other made her cynical at an early age and how she learned that her dad was mostly interested in what she did, not who she was (because he wasn't around enough to know who she was). Watching her mom struggle alone for many years, Dawn learned that "a woman can be highly intelligent and beautiful, and yet have a tremendously difficult time meeting a responsible, gentlemanly man who wishes to be married for life." (And I thought it was just me...) As her mom, whom she loved and admired, dated a string of nice but noncommittal men, Dawn "wondered if there were any men capable of seeing and appreciating inner beauty." She explores how her relationships with her parents affected her view of sex and marriage and how they affected her relationships with men. Near thirty, she realized she was unconciously sabotaging relationships, certain her boyfriends would abandon her the way her father had and determined to beat them to the punch. Dawn acknowledges that children of divorce can blame mom and dad pretty easily for the problems we deal with in life, and she urges us not to do it. Her own healing began when her relationships with her parents were healed, particularly the one with her father. She winds up by encouraging us to learn from our parents' mistakes, to realize that they tried to look out for us, to recognize that they're human, and to forgive them, "because they're not getting any younger, and neither are you. Because God says so. And...because every effort you make to forgive your parents will bring you healing and strength for the journey ahead."

Blessings 463-528

463. Not needing a coat in November
464. Free Chick-fil-A sandwich
465. Planning lunch tomorrow with a friend
466. Not caring about my ego
467. Babies in pink cowgirl boots
468. Things that are just too easy to make fun of
469. Words that flow
470. Having an answer
471. Q-tips
472. Visor mirrors
473. Procrastination
474. Leftover cookies in the staff kitchen
475. New pens
476. Sparkly earrings
477. Phone calls from my youngest brother
478. Honest Tea
479. Having insight when I thought I'd lost it all
480. Realizing bad dreams are just dreams
481. Getting organized
482. Sunshine when the forecast said clouds
483. All the Bible memorization I did as a kid
484. Being trusted with the Gospel
485. Stories of people who stand firm
486. Making new connections
487. Good sermons
488. Not having to become a nun
489. Getting to use my spiritual gifts
490. Seeing my house used for God's glory
491. Knowing the new microwave will finally get installed
492. A stereo that's lasted more than 36 years
493. Travel mugs
494. Having my opinion asked
495. Getting to give presents to Jesus
496. Seeing old friends
497. People who pray for me
498. Forgiveness
499. Good danish
500. Being halfway to 1,000
501. Having a High Priest who knows how I struggle
502. Clean public restrooms
503. Hearing "I love you"
504. Having the option for curly or straight hair
505. Knowing my best life is still to come
506. Mountains
507. Camping trips
508. Sprinklers
509. Sparklers taped to milkshakes
510. Knowing how to take a fish off a hook
511. Rainbows
512. The roar of the ocean
513. Sand between the toes
514. Beach umbrellas
515. Friends with access to beach houses
516. Real New Jersey pizza
517. Virginia!
518. Remembering to unscrew the garden hoses
519. College friends
520. Breaking bad habits
521. Being a new creation
522. A God who has big hopes for me
523. Funny stories in the Bible
524. Grocery stores
525. Great prose
526. Knowing a secret
527. ...and keeping it
528. Surprise parties

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

God's passionate love

In The Satisfied Heart, Ruth Myers' meditates on the greatest commandment, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. She says:

"I am so important to God that He wants me to love Him totally. We don't approach strangers on the street and say, 'Please love me with all your heart!' They would think we were crazy, and they'd probably be right. Only if someone means a great deal to us, only if we really love that person, do we ask that. And it's what God has asked from us. ...the most desirable of all persons - He asks me to love Him with all my heart."

Have you thought of that? We sing about being desperate for God, but it turns out He's desperate for us, too. It's like a billion times better than finding out that Matthew McConnaughey has a secret crush on me. As if. And yet, God does. Wow. How amazing.

Blessings 397-462

397. Quiet days
398. Deciding on the right dog breed...I think
399. Having a woman's perogative to change my mind
400. Breakthroughs
401. A God who's not afraid of my honesty
402. ...and my panicked prayers
403. ...and who quiets me with His love
404. Soft white cheese with cranberries
405. Not being the only book-obsessed person
406. Getting to tell someone else about a great book
407. Getting free books (it's the week of free)
408. Little girls with big brooms
409. Chatting with neighbors
410. Having every spiritual blessing
411. Telling my testimony
412. Good catalogs
413. Saying no to another magazine
414. Reading good articles
415. John Piper
416. Plastic baggies
417. ...that work as gloves for mixing meatloaf
418. Cream-style corn
419. Helicopters that blow up just after people escape
420. Double-screening
421. Beer with Mexican food
422. Brillo pads
423. Tiny carpet samples that make cool coasters
424. Tupperware parties where people get free stuff
425. Getting to eat turkey next week
426. ...and stuffing
427. ...oo, and pies...mmmm, pie
428. Did I mention real whipped cream?
429. Paid holidays
430. Office email chats about silly stuff
431. Never having to take another gym class
432. Remembering how God first called me
433. Being a girl
434. Rediscovering pink after years of black
435. Having a God who takes care of me
436. Hand crank radios and flashlights
437. Apple cider
438. Fluffy slippers
439. Antler headbands
440. Funny office Christmas videos
441. Creative people
442. Forgiving friends
443. Napkin rings
444. Meat thermometers
445. Burt's Bees chapstick (seriously, try it--tingly good)
446. Commisseration
447. Patterns that go together
448. Not having to do everything
449. Knowing God's burden is light--whew!
450. Awesome soccer
451. Literary conferences
452. Cool writers who write back
453. Being a literary groupie
454. Outlet stores
455. Pink luggage (I'll never lose it)
456. Being able to cook by feel, not measuring spoons
457. Getting a tricked out mansion in heaven
458. No more tears, sickness, or death
459. Jesus as my sun
460. Hymn sings with the angels
461. Waterfalls
462. Perseverance

Monday, November 13, 2006

Blessings 331-396

331. Dinners out
332. A fun fur vest (yes, a vest too; I was on a kick last season)
333. Good editorial advice
334. Heated seats
335. Devotions in bed
336. Clearing off my desk
337. Shopping at lunchtime
338. ...for kids I've never met
339. Slinky Jr.
340. Sparkly pencils
341. A toothbrush that lights up
342. Pocket Etch-a-Sketch
343. 48 crayon colors
344. Colorful protractors and compasses (they were all metal when I was in school)
345. Cute two-year-olds who remind me of my brothers long ago
346. Getting to laugh at the silly things kids do
347. Getting a free Chick-Fil-A sandwich for helping kids
348. Putting my tax dollars to use
349. Starting a great new book in my online book club
350. Getting to throw peanut shells on the floor
351. ...and the memory of the first time I saw that when I was 5
352. Tackling big projects
353. Good coffee
354. ...and flavored creamers
355. Getting to talk about theology at work
356. Numbers that add up
357. Friends with passion and vision
358. "The Lord" mentioned on the local news
359. Getting to work from home several days a week
360. Being able to laugh at old pictures
361. Knowing today isn't my next birthday
362. Being certain that God is in control
363. Immediately answered prayers
364. Diet sodas
365. Fried shrimp
366. Polite people
367. Challenges
368. Good pens
369. Fun stamps
370. Knowing 3 different people I can stay with in California (now I just need to work on Hawaii) 371. Knowing I can "take it to the Lord in prayer"
372. Having my salvation depend on grace, not works
373. Not falling down stairs (my weird phobia)
374. Perky neighbors who cheer things up
375. Having excuses to get out of dumb events
376. Knowing Starbucks will have peppermint mocha soon
377. Remembering I have money left on a Caribou Coffee gift card
378. Timers on lights
379. Having a family that gets along
380. Finding friends' blogs
381. Not having my hair turn into Bozo's in the drizzle
382. Not being the last one to leave the office
383. Being more than a conqueror
384. Knowing when it's time to take vacation
385. $5 alarm clocks that work for 17 years (and counting)
386. Homemade caramel
387. The courage to try new things
388. Sweet tea
389. Having my brother buy me dinner
390. Hearing how God is blessing others
391. Wrapping paper
392. People who believe in me
393. Discovering cool new kitchen tricks
394. Being satisfied with what my Dad can give
395. Having a stepfather who's always been there
396. ...and the best grandpas a girl could have

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Blessings 265-330

265. Staying in bed late on Sundays and talking to God
266. Meeting new people
267. Newspaper deliveries
268. Having it land under the overhang so it's not all wet
269. Coupons
270. Sudoku
271. Learning new things about God
272. Getting strength to face another day at the office
273. Warm chocolate chip cookies
274. Wireless internet
275. Not being in the hospital since I was born
276. Boots that go with everything
277. Remote controls
278. Good parking places
279. Not having to clean my plate
280. Thought-provoking conversations
281. The religious icon my dad gave me
282. ...and the respect for my faith it conveyed
283. Warm fluffy robes
284. People who smile
285. Knowing I'm not a statistic
286. Imputed righteousness
287. Having traveled to New England
288. Surviving the trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower
289. The variety of foods God created
290. Cloth napkins
291. A mom who read to us
292. Milkshakes
293. Beautiful piano playing
294. The way seasons show God's glory
295. Silpat
296. Rain instead of snow
297. Options
298. Hearing people's stories
299. Being recognized at church
300. Bubble baths
301. Serving the King
302. Only having to drive halfway to Ohio
303. First Thanksgiving with a sister-in-law
304. Funny commercials
305. A boring life
306. Bible reading plans
307. Knowing I'm made in His image
308. Irony
309. Freckles
310. Toast
311. Umbrellas
312. Hot milk drinks
313. Living near a city with cool stuff
314. Living near the country too
315. And the ocean
316. Rope swings over creeks
317. Knowing that when God says 'no' it's for a reason
318. Missionary stories
319. Oversized sweaters
320. Toothpaste
321. Glues that work
322. Mary's obedience
323. All things working together for good
324. Hugs
325. Being confident that He'll complete the good work
326. Publishing connections
327. Sunshine
328. No more ants
329. God's leading
330. Being useful

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Lost Fathers

From Family Scholars blog:


A local TV story on fatherlessness in Virginia:

There’s a problem facing too many children in Hampton Roads – dads who’ve disappeared.

“The last time I saw him was October of 2000,” said Patrick.

“I don’t have no relationship with my dad,” noted Aqudell.

“One time, I was with my friend and we were in Wal-Mart and he looked at me and I looked at him and he didn’t say a word to me, so I didn’t say anything back,” Dana admitted, who, through her tears, says it doesn’t bother her that he’s not in her life.

Dana is one of the more than half-million children in Virginia who are owed child support. Right now, delinquent parents owe $2.2 billion.

Nick Young, director of Child Support Enforcement for Virginia, says the problem could be called an epidemic. His 1,000 investigators are tracking 125,000 parents who owe child support. “It is very hard to find people that want to get lost,” he said.

Eileen Fennel knows how true that statement is. Since 2000, she and son Patrick have been on their own and are owed $60,000 in back support. “If I walked out and if I didn’t feed him or clothe him or dress him or put a roof over his head, I’d be in prison. Why isn’t his father because that’s exactly what he did,” Fennel wondered.

Thanks to new laws, Patrick’s father has lost his driver’s license, his passport and the ability to get any credit because he doesn’t pay up.

“When you do nothing, you send the unmistakable signal that you simply didn’t care,” Young notes.

Researchers say crime in your neighborhood and where your tax dollars are spent are directly related to the number of fatherless homes.

University of Virginia sociology professor Brad Wilcox has dedicated his research to understanding the effects of growing up without a father.

He was raised in a single mother household. Now a father of three, he recognizes the struggles, especially for boys. “What boys really tend to suffer from is delinquency and crime when their dads are not in the picture. They are not learning how to control themselves,” he said.

Blessings 199-264

199. Saturdays
200. No kids, dog, or husband to wake me up early
201. Days when I don't have to be anywhere
202. Vacuum cleaners
203. A washer and dryer that work at the same time (don't ask)
204. A roof over my head when it rains
205. Ridiculously warm November days
206. A neighborhood where kids play outside
207. Leftovers
208. Good books to read
209. Cross-referenced Bibles
210. Cartoons about writing
211. Getting caught up on paperwork
212. Old pictures
213. Digital cameras
214. People who put perfectly good wooden desk chairs out for the trash
215. Clean sheets
216. Being able to paint my office pink
217. Knowing "this too shall pass"
218. The phone not ringing once (elections are over)
219. Hymnbooks
220. Friends who send cards in the mail
221. Sick babies who get better
222. Toddlers who think I'm their friend
223. The little girl who enjoys my roses so much she picks them all
224. ...and a hardy rose bush that keeps making one stubborn flower at a time to keep up with her
225. Window screens
226. A God who surprises and delights
227. Knowing God is jealous for my attention
228. Scrunchies
229. Yummy cereal
230. Reminders of old friends
231. All the grandparents I've had
232. That two of them are still here
233. Puppies
234. Good marketing ideas
235. Pruning my tree before the leaves fell
236. Decaf tea
237. Jeans
238. A church family
239. Church potlucks
240. Shredders
241. Computerized budgeting (or I'd never do it!)
242. Good magazines
243. Crossword puzzles
244. Loving to read
245. Free business cards
246. My alma mater
247. Being able to see colors
248. Being in my right mind
249. Laptops
250. Highlighters
251. Candles
252. Photo albums
253. The experience of others, from which I can learn
254. Knowing I don't have to be in control
255. That God's love extends to a thousand generations of those who serve Him
256. ...and ancestors who followed God
257. Silk flowers that look real
258. Finally not having Halloween candy around to tempt me
259. Finding mini-chocolate chips to satisfy the chocolate craving
260. Ice cubes
261. A bathroom I don't have to share
262. Next-day photo processing
263. Knowing God is loving and strong
264. Knowing the One who knows the way through the desert and the valley

Friday, November 10, 2006

Blessings 133-198

133. Waking up encouraged
134. Knowing God has not forgotten me
135. Teamwork
136. Working with people I enjoy
137. Friday bagels
138. ...with special holiday pumpkin cream cheese
139. Finishing projects
140. People who keep dishes of chocolate at their desks
141. Well-stocked medicine cabinets at work
142. Friday dinner out
143. Restaurants that let you call ahead for seating
144. Being able to sit on the patio in November
145. Flirty waiters who make all of us laugh
146. Free dessert
147. ...and a rose for our friend
148. A fun, fur purse I found at an antique shop
149. Coffeeshops in bookstores
150. Having friends who like to talk about books and God
151. Knowing cool writer people
152. Getting free review copies of books
153. Getting accidentally-the-next-size-larger coffee
154. Two whole days to rest
155. Getting to host my brother again next week
156. A beautiful bright pale moon shrouded in wispy soft clouds
157. People who subscribe to the New Yorker and then pass it around
158. Men who hold doors for ladies
159. Knowing God's plan is the best plan
160. The chance to help others
161. Piles of fall leaves
162. ...and not having to rake them
163. Perfume samples in magazines
164. Memories
165. Back-up drives
166. Contact lenses
167. Vegetables
168. Funny stories
169. Being surprised by good things
170. An opportunity to invite my neighbors over
171. Other people's testimonies
172. Knowing Jesus is always with me
173. Jane Austen movies
174. Inspiration
175. Hope
176. Getting to share sorrow with others
177. Knowing I'm not alone
178. Warm knit hats and scarves
179. My dad's photographs
180. People who think to videotape important meetings
181. Hair, even the gray ones (hey, I could be bald)
182. Not getting a papercut until right at the end of a big project
183. Volunteers
184. Especially volunteer firemen and rescue teams
185. Lakes
186. Waking up at the beach and being able to see the ocean from bed
187. Flannel pajamas
188. Knowing how to back into parking spaces
189. The sins God has conquered in my life
190. Friends who model chastity and make it easier to live out
191. Quiet neighbors
192. Humidifiers
193. Christ's obedience
194. Marilynne Robinson's beautiful writing
195. Supportive parents
196. Never having broken a bone (if you don't count a tooth)
197. Dentistry (it was a front tooth)
198. Knowing heaven will be all this and more

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Blessings 67-132

67: God's forgiveness
68: Encouragement
69: Good chips & salsa
70: Not having writer's block
71: Safe travel for family members
72: People who make me laugh
73: A perfectly-sized teddy bear
74: Knowing God loves me
75: Being in the safest possible hands
76: The big hole at the entrance to my street getting filled
77: Getting to work on time
78: Having a job to go to
79: Being able to bless others
80: Friday night plans
81: Great-Grandma's old costume jewelry
82: A big thick afghan knit with a mother's love
83: Cute animals
84: Not being a movie star (seriously, who needs that kind of pressure?)
85: Having a back-up hairdryer when mine quit
86: Beautiful poetry
87: The honesty of the Psalms
88: Knowing whom I have believed
89: Blessings in the lives of those I love
90: Having known what it's like to be loved
91: Take-out food
92: A new magazine subscription I had forgotten about
93: A personal technology consultant, also known as my brother
94: People who call when they're supposed to
95: Finding my mom's old painting in Grandma's garage last fall
96: Having such artistic parents
97: A promising looking holiday movie season
98: Knowing how to cook yummy meals
99: A pastor who preaches God's Word
100: Knowing that God's opinion is the only one that matters
101: Being a clay pot He can shape
102: Knowing that the shape He chooses is best
103: Being called "lovely" this morning
104: Accomplishing good work
105: Getting to share all of this with you
106: Comfy chairs
107: Working at a place where we can pray and sing praises to God before big meetings
108: Places that serve half-sandwiches for lunch
109: Pants
110: My co-worker's good field trip with her son's class yesterday
111: Having friends at work
112: Rose blooms that dry perfectly so I can save them
113: My iPod, so I always have good music to drown out the noise at the office
114: Whoever thought of operas...
115: ...and especially "I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls"
116: Martha Stewart's great ideas
117: Reese's peanut butter cups
118: Not living somewhere that has snow already
119: What little wisdom I have
120: Having a divorced mom and dad who don't speak ill of each other
121: Pretty smelling perfume
122: The sound of crickets
123: People who write books so I can read them
124: Not having generic acetominophen in my medicine cabinet
125: Mom's homemade applesauce
126: ...and the brother and sister-in-law who left it at my house
127: New flatware with no missing pieces or spots
128: Bookmarks
129: Knowing things angels want to study
130: DEET
131: Gorgeous fall colors
132: Meetings with snacks

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Count Your Many Blessings

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and with it a time for us to consciously stop and consider all that we have to thank God for. As children of God, we are not thankful in a generic and unspecific way. We have a source for our blessings and it is to Him that we return our thanks. My friends at Christian Women Online have started a web ring of posts on the things we are thankful for. I'm going to list mine here and in subsequent days leading up to Thanksgiving. To make it to a thousand (the challenge), I've just done the math and figured out that I'll have to post 66 items each day between now and Thanksgiving! It will be a challenge, indeed, but a good one, because thankfulness is a discipline that requires most of all the ability to see the good things all around us. I hope you'll join in and let me know what you're thankful for by posting in the comments section.

Today, to start things off, the obvious:
1. Salvation
2. God's mercy, new every day
3. A roof over my head
4. Friends
5. Family
6. Food in my belly
7. A job that pays the bills
8. A church I love
9. Music
10. Health
11. Freedom
12. Chocolate
13. Good books
14. Warm clothes
15. Blog readers!
16. Hymns
17. Not getting run into last night on a slick, wet road
18. Starbucks
19. Doughnuts once a week
20. Birthdays
21. Art
22. Paris in May
23. Electric blankets
24. Two brothers
25. My grandpa's salvation
26. My godly heritage
27. Many years of Christian school
28. The Bible
29. A car that runs without trouble
30. The publisher who will put my book in print
31. The times my dad calls or emails
32. Phone calls with my mom and stepfather
33. Coal
34. Indoor plumbing
35. Roses
36. God's love
37. A warm autumn day
38. A good message in staff devotions
39. A dishwasher
40. Tea
41. The chance to encourage others
42. Smart friends
43. Challenges that make me stronger
44. Conviction when I'm wrong
45. Things that keep me humble
46. Smiling faces
47. Kicking off my shoes at the end of the day
48. Having shoes to kick off
49. Something to look forward to
50. Children to buy gifts for (here and here)
51. Old movies
52. Ponci's china and other family heirlooms
53. Knowing how to sew and embroider
54. A safe neighborhood to live in
55. Wegman's
56. Our veterans
57. Peace that passes understanding
58. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit
59. Tropical color Post-Its
60. The neighbor who lent us her parking space last night
61. Refrigeration
62. Electricity
63. Insulation
64. Quiet
65. Photographs
66. Hand lotion

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Leith Anderson on forgiveness and sin

The newly-appointed NAE interim president was on CNN talking about Ted Haggard's recent downfall. I thought his remarks on sin and forgiveness were pretty relevant to the discussions we've been having here.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Forgiving: A How-To Guide

John Howard asked for some practical steps to forgiveness. It's a great question. I'm going to try to tackle it here. I'd love to hear your feedback and your suggestions.

1. If you are a child of God, the first step is to realize that you must (not should or ought) forgive. A little conviction of sin--yes, I said sin--is in order here. I know; it's what drove me to forgive. Take some time to meditate on the following Bible passages. (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:1-3; Matthew 5:7; Matthew 5:22-24; Matthew 18:21-35) Then pray. Confess to God that you are harboring unforgiveness and that you really don't feel like forgiving. Ask Him to give you the grace to do so anyway, in spite of your feelings. If it helps, ask a friend to pray with you and hold you accountable for your obedience.

2. Reach out. OK, you don't feel like it; but do it anyway. Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. Pick up the phone, write a note, send flowers, drive over and visit. Just do it. It's going to feel awkward and weird, but it will break the ice. Repeat as necessary. It will get better, I promise.

3. Accept your parent for who they are. I don't mean sweep everything under the rug, but I learned this extremely helpful tip from Dr. Kevin Leman. He pointed out that daughters have a tendency to hold their fathers accountable to the daughter's ideal of a father--what he should be. Trouble is, he isn't that guy, and he's never going to be. She's always going to be frustrated and disappointed until she stops holding him accountable for the ideal and starts figuring out who he really is and learning to love that guy. Oo, this is a hard one. It's hard to let go of our expectations and our right to be disappointed. But just try it. Try being thankful for the good things your parent offers. It may not be much, but be thankful for what you've got.

4. Confront sin biblically. The advice here has to differ based on whether your parent is a believer or not. If you have an unbelieving parent, well, what more do you expect than a pile of icky sin? What's so surprising about that? Approach them lovingly, but recognize that without the same God-ward focus that you have, they may not even see their sin as morally wrong. Pray for them, share the Gospel with them, and love them with all you've got. It's the Holy Spirit's job to convict them of sin. Now, if you have a believing parent who is actively engaged in a sinful lifestyle (maybe indulging in an adulterous affair, or living with a new partner outside of marriage), you should follow the biblical protocol laid out in Matthew 18:15-17. Your goal is not to punish, remember, but to restore. And Jesus says that if the person professing to be a believer does not respond to discipline, you are to "treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector." What does that mean? 1 Corinthians 5 is helpful here, because Paul makes it very clear that Christians and non-Christians should be held to different standards. But before you get too harsh with the expelling stuff, remember what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11.

5. Recognize that forgiving doesn't mean everything will be just the same as it used to be. When a relationship is broken, scars are left. I think when people want us to "sweep it under the rug" or "get over it," they want to pretend that nothing bad has happened. They want everything to be the way it once was, before the hurt occurred. That isn't going to happen. It just isn't. So face that and figure out how it can be now. You've got to forge a new relationship, one that grows from the ashes of the old broken one. If trust has been broken, you might be wise to wait for the other person to earn your trust again. You don't need to be naive to forgive.

Divorce books for teens

From a librarian in New York state:

The following books can help kids deal with issues and emotions surrounding divorce.

"Dear Mr. Henshaw," by Beverly Cleary. Ten-year-old Leigh shares his thoughts and story through letters to his favorite author. Ages 9 to 11.
"If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where's My Prince?," by Melissa Kantor. Lucy reluctantly moves across the country with her stepmother and stepsisters while her father wraps up his work in California. Ages 12 and older.
"The Divorce Express," by Paula Danziger. Phoebe spends much of her time riding a bus between her divorced parents' houses. She tries to fit in each place while figuring out who she really is. Ages 11 and older.
"Southpaw," by Rich Wallace. Jimmy moves to a new town when his parents divorce. He then has to deal with an ultra-competitive dad when he joins the baseball team. Ages 8 and older.

"Why Me? A Teen Guide to Divorce and Your Feelings," by Rachel Aydt. Advice for middle-school students.
"Family Break-up," by Keeley Bishop and Penny Tripp. Discusses why families break apart.
"My Parents Are Getting Divorced," by Florence Cadier. Written to appeal to teens, this book provides techniques to deal with issues surrounding divorce.
"The Divorce Helpbook for Kids," by Cynthia MacGregor. Includes advice on life after divorce and subsequent emotions and situations.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Holiday advice

From UPI and the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists:
-- Stick with a routine so children can retain a sense of stability and predictability.
-- Communicate with an ex-spouse or co-parents beforehand to plan holiday events and schedules.
-- Orchestrate the giving of gifts and know what the other parent is giving a child to avoid double gifts and ones that "out-do" the other parent.
-- Allow children to keep in touch with a co-parent.