Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Forgiving the wrongs

Recently, john howard commented on a post here with just a teensy bit of cynicism. The article in the post was admittedly cutting against the grain of what most folk would recommend--which is one of the reasons I included it. I thought it was provocative and would make readers think.

But john's comment leads to another topic altogether. Forgiveness.

Divorce--whether you're the dumpee, the dumper, or the helpless kid caught in the crossfire--is bound to create hard feelings, to put it mildly. One of the reasons I've chosen not to participate in some of the discussion boards that are run by divorcees (male or female) is that they tend to be vituperative and, honestly, the last thing this child of divorce needs is someone spouting off about what a jerk their former spouse was. Spare me.

(And this from a kid whose parents refrained from that kind of verbal warring; I can only imagine how those of you who heard your parents badmouth each other all the time must feel!)

You're bitter and angry. We, the kids, get it. But at some point you have to let it go, because if you don't, that bitterness will eat you alive and consume everything and everyone around you in the process.

And, no, it isn't easy. I've been there. I remember vividly standing in my mom's kitchen one day, drying dishes, and fighting tears as I admitted to her that I needed to forgive my dad because to not do so would be a slap in God's face but that I just wasn't able to do so yet. Forgiveness came in time.

So what about that "slap in God's face" stuff? Did I just make that up for dramatic effect? No, it's straight out of Colossians 3:13--"Bear with each other and forgive whatever greivances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."

How did the Lord forgive you? Here's what I have written next to those words in my Bible: "Wholly and completely, without my asking or deserving." I don't merit God's forgiveness, but I have it. I had it before I even asked for it (Romans 5:8). I have it forever, and it covers every wrong I've already done and every wrong I will ever do--and there will be plenty of them (Romans 7:24). How can I accept the salvation of the Lord, His bountiful grace and extravagant love, and then turn around and not forgive my dad of one little thing--even a little thing like not speaking to me for eight years? To not forgive would make me a wicked servant with a debt I could not possibly pay (Matthew 18:21-35).

Forgiving like this requires the same supernatural power that God used when He forgave you and me. If you're His child, He promises to give you this power (Philippians 2:13). And He demands that you use it (1 John 4:19-21).

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Family Life Today on children of divorce

Jen Abbas and Elizabeth Marquardt are guests all this week on Family Life Today's radio program. They've aired some great stuff already. Go check it out and listen or read the transcripts for the rest of this week.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Atypical dating advice

Now here's a mom with a thoughtful approach to dating. Her premise is that the typical advice, which says keep kids away from dates unless it's serious, is flawed because 1) it sets a bad example (that it's okay to sneak around and date on the sly), 2) once the kids meet the beau there's a lot more at stake, and 3) a relationship is formed without exposure to major players (kids).

Here's what she says:

"Once the divorce was final, I gathered my children and said, 'I loved being married, I loved your dad and I'd like to get married again. To that end, I plan to start dating good men. You'll get to meet and enjoy them _ think of them as friends, unless and until I let you know a special one will become a husband to me.' I think it's great for my kids to see me being so positive about marriage. ...I've had a few relationships now, and while my kids and I have naturally experienced some real adjustments to our new life, they've enjoyed meeting really nice guys who have enjoyed them in turn, and with whom I am still friendly in each case. It's great for my kids to see that I think very positively of men, and it's lovely for them to see me enjoying being treated well by good men. (Knowing that sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage helps them here, too.)"

When my mom was single, she introduced me to her dates early on, even taking me along on first dates. Her theory was that it was best for all parties to get all the cards on the table and know right away if there would be any problems. On one occasion, I refused to talk with a man we were out on a date with. Mom was embarrassed by my behavior, but later decided I'd had good instincts when she decided the guy was a creep.

What's in a Name?

Maybe a lot.

"In the early 1970s, the percentage of married women keeping their own name was less than 5 percent. But the trend took off later that decade, with more than 20 percent of women keeping their (mostly) maiden names in the late 1970s and 1980s, according to analysis by Harvard University economics professor Claudia Goldin. Then, what was old became new again. ...23 percent of college-educated women kept their name in 1990, but only 17 percent did in 2000."

The article leads off with the story of an Atlanta news anchor who changed her last name to that of her fourth husband's. "'For me it was a personal statement about my commitment to my marriage,' Pearson said. 'People say Monica Kaufman is your brand, but I am a human being first.'"

Good news for one family

According to one source, "Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards have decided to call a truce in their nasty divorce battle and spend quality time together for the sake of their children. The former couple have been waging war with each other for the past 10 months, but decided to put their differences aside in August to resolve any outstanding issues related to their divorce."

I blogged about the woes of the Sheen/Richards split-up as it related to their kids way back in May. It's good to see that they're finally heeding Grandpa Sheen's plea for a cease-fire.

Divorce feels unstable

Feeling unsteady? You're not alone.

"Americans point to divorce as the biggest challenge to stable family life today...according to a new survey, 'The Changing Shape of the American Family.' ...Nearly nine in ten (88%) of U.S. adults say divorce has a negative impact on maintaining a stable American family life." Read the full press release here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Dancing a fine line

Not being a huge fan of country music or contemporary Christian music, I didn't even realize that Sara Evans was an evangelical Christian, or at least draws her audience from that base. I saw her on an episode or two of Dancing with the Stars (which, in my opinion, has made a mistake this season by ensuring that the stars are better trained--half the fun of the first two runs was seeing how inept they were to begin with and predicting who would actually improve and who would keep tripping over that extra left foot); but that was the limit of my knowledge of Ms. Evans. Until her name started popping up in all my news alerts for 'divorce.' She's going through a nasty one. It's rarely easy to figure out the whole story in these situations, but this article had some interesting things to say about Ms. Evans and her Christian audience:

"'There's the Sara Evans who...makes it sound like divorce is the most horrid thing on the face of the earth. And then there's the Sara Evans who sings 'When You Were Cheatin' ' with glee, and that song sure sounds like it's from the point of view of a divorcee enjoying some comeuppance — which kind of sounds like the Sara Evans we see headed for divorce court as fast as she can. Does that make her a hypocrite, as some people are saying? Not necessarily, if you look at it from the evangelical point of view, as I'm sure Sara does, where a lot of people believe that, biblically, you're free to pursue a split if your spouse has committed adultery...Just as no one wants to be politically 'Dixie Chick-ed,' nobody who has a strong evangelical fan base — as Sara does — wants to be 'Amy Grant-ed' and seen as somebody who filed for divorce when she didn't have to...I think Sara is making it pretty clear to any of her Christian fans that she believes she has a solid biblical basis for this split...I've also seen some people online be kind of taken aback by just how much stuff there is in the court filings and wonder if she's so angry that she's out for vengeance ... which, of course, is not seen as a Christian virtue.'"

A faith-based resource

One of the things I discovered when I started on this journey of writing about divorce, God, and kids several years back was that there were precious few materials for practitioners who wanted to help kids deal with divorce, and even fewer that approached the topic from a biblical viewpoint. Slowly, but surely, resources are coming available. Here's one that has been around for a couple of years, but which I've just discovered. Faith Journeys, based in Maryland, offers two curricula for teens, one focused on 9-15 year olds and the other geared for teens 16 and older. Check out their website and click on over to Resources for ordering info.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Help for adult children of divorce

From Family Scholars blog:

A lot of people know about Rainbows, the popular peer support group for children of divorce found in many schools and churches. But some might not know (as I did not, until this morning) that they also have programs for adults including Kaleidoscope, a 12 session peer support group for college-age and beyond adults who have experienced parental divorce, death, or other parental losses in their past.

So often the effects of parental divorce are delayed, resurging only when young people leave home and begin confronting the legacies of growing up in divided worlds as they struggle with their own identity and place in the world. A group like this (in a church or college counseling office near you?) could be a tremendous resource for reaching out to the one-quarter of young adults today who are grown children of divorce.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Be an olive tree

I had the wonderful opportunity this weekend to go on an overnight ladies' retreat. Oh, how I needed it! The theme of our time together was "The Satisfied Heart," from Ruth Myers' book by the same name. On Saturday morning, we were sent off to find a quiet spot and spend an hour with the Lord using the second chapter in Myers' book. I used my time to read through the verses at the end of the chapter and meditate on each one, the theme being "He can more than satisfy me."

One of the verses Myers' cited was Psalm 52:8, "But I am like an olive tree, flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God's unfailing love for ever and ever." I wrote these notes as I contemplated God's love:

"like an olive tree" -- producing rich fruit, good to have ripe/mature (black olives) or unripe/still maturing (green olives), used for oil (a preserver, and used in anointing)

"flourishing in the house of God" -- not just growing, surviving, making it...flourishing! Where? In God's house, rooted, potted, in His care, under His constant watchful eye

"I trust in God's unfailing love for ever and ever" -- His love never fails, and neither does my trust

After looking up the olive tree in Wikipedia, I can add a few more notes:

- an olive tree kept inside would have to be pruned frequently, like a bonsai; where is God pruning me?

- olives are harvested by shaking the tree; where does my life feel shaken?

- a good harvest may only happen every six or seven years--be patient!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

CT helps out

Check out these Bible studies for divorced families from Christianity Today:

Becoming a Family -- tips for stepfamilies
Blending with Blessing -- creating a stepfamily full of love
Battleground at Home -- when blended families aren't blending
Sharing Help and Hope -- support for stepfamilies
Forging Ahead -- help for second marriages
God of the Second Chance -- beating the odds of second marriage success
Dealing with Divorce -- helping kids cope

Going it alone

Admittedly, we're a do-it-yourself culture. We're pioneers, revolutionaries, innovators, entrepreneurs. So it's tempting to apply a pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps philosophy to our emotional pain, like this counselor has done. Listen to his CDs, he says, and you won't "have to depend on anyone else to be well...Just you alone with your thoughts and your own power."

Although this guy is a pastoral counselor, his approach is hardly biblical. There are two essential components to a biblical approach to healing: dependence on God and the fellowship of community.

This is good news. You don't have to go it alone. It's not up to you. Turn it over to God, rely on Him, and lean on your Christian brothers and sisters. That's a sure path to healing.

Something new

Lots of folks are dispensing advice to divorced parents, but this psychologist offers some unique tips:

1. Make sure your ex isn't stealing your focus.
2. Be prudent in how you answer kids' questions.
3. Communicate with your ex regularly, not just over problems.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Leave us out

The Decatur (Ala.) Daily offers tips for keeping kids out of the divorce:

1. Take an adult approach.
2. Don't let children overhear emotions.
3. Be consistent from house to house.
4. Don't make children choose.
5. Leave children out of money discussions.
6. Don't use the child as a reporter.
7. Keep sarcasm under control.
8. Don't use the child as a messenger.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

How I Divorced Your Mother

Sadly, with this post, I am revealing my very pathetic TV viewing habits. I was wandering in and out of the living room last night and happened to catch the last few minutes of a goofy sitcom I'm just a little hooked on: How I Met Your Mother. While it may not have the sci-fi spin of Lost, it's got its own little mystery. Namely: Who is the mother??? The premise of the show is a dad far off in the future, telling his kids the story of how he and their mom met. We watch as the show's hero, Ted, dates girls and has typical goofy sitcom friendships, all the while wondering, "Is it Robin, the perky newscaster Ted has been chasing for two seasons and has now finally caught...or is it some other random girl??"

In last night's show, Ted's parents are in town for their 30th anniversary and go to brunch with Ted and all his friends. In the last minutes of the episode, we learn that Ted's parents have been divorced for two years--a fact that Ted is learning for the first time. Mom and dad have sneakily kept it quiet, not wanting to upset the kids. The parents reassure Ted that the tandem bike he bought them last Christmas hasn't gone to waste; Mom uses it with her new boyfriend, who was introduced to her by Dad. Outside the restaurant, where Ted has gone to escape the nuttiness, Mom and Dad tell Ted that they simply realized they were too different and they couldn't be meant to be together. Ted is supposed to be okay with this, but as the episode closes, we know Ted is not okay. He's stunned by his parents' admission. But more tellingly, their lost commitment makes him look at Robin, his perfect girl, in a new light.

Will Ted recover? Will he be able to see that his love for Robin doesn't have to follow the same path as his mom and dad's love? Will he forgive his mom and dad? Will he keep the secret from his sister, who still doesn't know? All of these questions will have to wait for another episode. Don't worry -- I'll be watching.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Tweens need Two Parents

Barna on Tweens:

"Having both parents in their home also makes a big difference. Kids living with both of their birth parents were more likely than other peers to regularly eat meals as a family, to feel safe at home, to enjoy spending time together as a family, to find it easy to speak with parents about their life, to choose morality over popularity, and to say their church had a positive impact on them. ..Much of the stability and security that tweens experience is a result of their family environment and relationships."

Grandparents are a critical link

From an article by Kidsfirst founder Margo MacPhail:

"Knowing they are part of a long line of family history, personal experiences and a childhood filled with family relationships to share with their own children one day, will not only help them in their life’s journey in discovering who they are but moreover provides a family connection during a time when their family is disconnecting."

Margo is a child of divorce, so she's writing from personal experience. Like Margo, I see, especially in hindsight, the importance of grandparents in the life of the child of divorce. My dad's parents flew me out every summer to spend several weeks with them. They are the main reason I maintained any contact with my dad. Because of them, I have a sense of history and belonging to the Steakley clan, along with a host of delightful memories--summers in the Illinois countryside, riding motorbikes and a riding mower, eating biscuits and gravy with all the old folks at a little dive of a restaurant, family potlucks in the garage, baby rabbits in a burrow along the house, frogs and crickets squawking all night long. I was their only grandchild, so I know it meant a lot to them; but I also know it required a lot. They had to keep in touch with a former daughter-in-law, my mother, if they wanted to arrange visits, get midyear updates, know how I did on my report card. There were years when they sacrificed their own time with me to send me on a visit with my dad. And they worked hard to make sure that he and I stayed in touch.

They're both gone now. I miss you, Ponci and Grandpa!