Monday, March 31, 2014

Monday devo: Shadows of death, sunbeams of heaven

I know, this is a blog about divorce, not death. But in the book, I tell the story of a child of divorce who described his parents' divorce as being like a death that never ended.  And truly, divorce is the death of a marriage and of many hopes and dreams for the couple, their children, their families, and their friends.

So, during this season leading up to Good Friday and Easter, it seems appropriate to talk about death, especially on a blog about divorce.

Last week, I was meditating on the twenty-third Psalm, the one so often read at funerals or printed on the little memorial cards handed out at funerals.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Excuse the Shakespearean English, but I learned these verses as a very young girl in the King James Version and they just don't sound right to my ears in other translations.

Maybe it's the inundation of social media; maybe it's the fact that I (and most of my friends) are on the other side of the hill; maybe it's just coincidence or heightened perception -- but it seems like there is an awful lot of death, and walks through valleys of shadows of death, all around me.

And yet, when I thought of these words last week, it occurred to me that this could easily be what is referred to as a Messianic psalm -- a psalm about Jesus, as much as it is about the writer or about us the readers.

Who better than Jesus knows what it is like to walk through the deep, dark valley gloomed over with shadows of death? And if ever anyone had reason to fear evil in that moment, it was Jesus, knowing as he did that he was about to wear the mantle of humanity's sin in all of its wretchedness and depravity while hanging on a device of torture, on public display, while insults were hurled at him. Somehow after wrestling with this coming reality in Gethsemane, he found comfort.

He ate a meal in the presence of an enemy, one who would betray him to his death for a price. During his short earthly life, goodness and mercy followed Jesus around like the most devoted of his disciples.

And, the good news for Jesus, the good news for all of us who look forward to an Easter Sunday after Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, the good news for everyone who has ever or will ever trudge through a valley filled with shadows of death, is that Jesus walked straight through the shadow and came out on the other side to live in the sun-drenched house of the Lord forever.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday devo: God in the Rearview Mirror

I had intended to write the Monday devo last night or early this morning, having a topic in mind; but that topic will wait for another week. My procrastination has paid off, which writers are always hoping will happen but rarely does.

As I left work today, I had a little car trouble -- the kind of trouble that requires a trip to a mechanic, quickly, with as little mileage between trouble and mechanic as possible. I called my mechanic brother (who, sadly, lives in another state; how did I let that happen?) who has started replying to my car questions with a knowing "yeah." As in, "Yeah, your car is at that stage of its barely useful life where these things are bound to happen. Get used to it." Great.

To top it all off, I couldn't just drop the car at the shop and hitch a ride home with a co-worker. I'm scheduled to be on the road tomorrow for work. Talk about crummy timing. The plan originally was for me to drive my own car, but now, at 5:30 on a Monday (of course) my assistant and I were scrambling to call the repair shop (open until 6:00, whew!) and the car rental place (also open until 6:00, and with a car available, whew again!). Kind soul that she is, my assistant followed me to the shop and then dropped me at the car rental place.

My thought process through all of this was decidedly grumpy. Of all the bad luck, something like this has to happen the night before a business trip, adding complication to an already irritating situation. (And, bonus, I left both pairs of sunglasses in my car at the shop, so I had to stop at Target on my way home and buy a new pair.)

But as I drove home, enjoying new car smell and XM radio (guess I don't have to bring any cassette tapes with me tomorrow), suddenly I realized this was actually the best possible scenario.

I always have the option of renting a car for these work trips. I just usually choose to drive my own car because it's familiar and comfortable and less hassle. And since I'm leaving early and not expecting to make it back before the rental place closes at 6:00, I had to reserve it for two nights -- which means the repair shop has two full days to keep my car while I have a rental that is paid for by work. Talk about perfect timing.

In the book, I wrote about a time when Moses was up on the mountain with God. Moses was discouraged and God decided to cheer him up by letting Moses see Him. Only not face to face. No, God put Moses into a hole in a rock and then walked past in such a way that Moses only got to see His back. That was about all the glory anyone could take, at least if they wanted to live to tell about it.  I talked in the book about how some Jewish rabbis of yore had speculated that this was a metaphor of sorts, that seeing God's back might be a way of saying that Moses got to see where God had just been. And then I talked about how we so often experience God this way. We don't know what He's about to do. We rarely figure out what He's up to in the midst of our daily circumstances. But sometimes, we get to see it all in hindsight, smack our foreheads with our palms, and say, "Okay, now I get it!"

In other words, like I did today, sometime we see God in the rearview mirror.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Love, Hawaiian Style

I posted a few weeks ago about a recent episode of Hawaii Five-O that featured Danny, a.k.a. Danno, learning that his parents are about to divorce and then talking about his own divorce with his young daughter.

The story line continued this week with Danny and daughter conspiring to get his parents to reconcile. What child of divorce hasn't fantasized that story line?  (Blame it on The Parent Trap if you want.)

As a total side note, not that I can picture Melanie Griffiths playing James Caan's wife, but wouldn't it have been kind of fun if they'd been able to get Danno's real life dad to play his on-screen dad? Just a thought.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Forgiving the was-band

Kristin Armstrong, ex-wife of cycler Lance Armstrong, speaks about parenting children of divorce in the midst of crisis, something the Armstrong family knows a little about.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What not to do as a divorced parent

The further down in this article I read, the worse I felt for these kids. Watching your parents duke it out over ridiculous amounts of money is bad enough; seeing it splashed on the news is worse; dealing with the drama described here is...well, sad.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Little People, Big Marriage Problems

The stars of "Little People, Big World" are attempting a trial separation. Putting your family through the rigors of reality TV has been a tough gig for more families than the Roloffs. Here's hoping they can work things out and find a way to keep this 26 year marriage together.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday devo: A shelter from the dogs of night

For the last few years I have volunteered as a guardian ad litem for kids in foster care. As you might guess, many of them come from homes scarred by divorce. The situations are as unique as the individuals involved, but the kids who keep you awake at night, long after the cases are closed, are the ones dealing with physical abuse.

Tonight I was reading Psalm 59 and thought of these kids and all the kids out there -- foster kids, children of divorce, kids with married parents -- who face abuse. David repeats a refrain about the perpetrators, those who "come at night, snarling like vicious dogs as they prowl the streets." You get the picture.

But as David often does, he refocuses his attention, away from peril and toward the God who can rescue him from peril. "For you, O God, are my place of safety." "But as for me, I will sing about your power, I will shout with joy each morning because of your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety in the day of distress." Yes, there is distress. There are snarling dogs on the loose. But there is a safe harbor, a place where love wins, a place where joy becomes a possibility.

These are words that I hope for every child, every adult, who fears for their safety at the hands of another.  And I love that the header to the psalm says that it is "to be sung to the tune 'Do Not Destroy!'" How perfect is that?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Paperback writer

Child of Divorce, Child of God is available as an e-book, but it is officially out of print in paperback. There are some copies available from used booksellers on Amazon.  If you want a brand, spanking new copy, straight from the author (that's me), go to Amazon and search the "used and new" sellers for a seller called "littleponci." You'll order and pay through Amazon and then Amazon will email me with your address and I'll ship your order directly to you.  Easy-peasy.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

There's an app for that

Anything that helps divorced parents have less conflict is a good thing. Check out this article about an app that helps make the financial side of divorce with children a little easier and less acrimonious.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

College-bound child of divorce

There's been a lot of chatter the last week or so about the case in New Jersey of a girl suing her parents for child support and college costs, among other things. This article discusses some of the state laws that affect parents when it comes to paying for college. Rules vary from state to state, but in some states where parents generally have the right to tell the kids that they're on their own when it comes to paying for college, divorced parents may find themselves footing the bill.

When I took Family Law last year, this topic generated some interesting discussion. Basically, the idea is that divorced, noncustodial parents statistically tend to drift away from their kids and not provide for them to the same extent that married or custodial parents do. Requiring noncustodial parents to pay for college is seen as a way of remedying that situation and leveling the playing field for those kids.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Scientific child of divorce

The folks over at Scientific American paint a fairly rosy picture for children of divorce in this article. Interestingly, while they included Judith Wallerstein's The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, they do not mention Elizabeth Marquardt's Between Two Worlds which looks at some of the subtler long-term effects of divorce in kids who otherwise appear just fine.  Still, if you're looking for some good news, the SA article may be just the thing for you.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Falling and getting back up again

Mark 14 recounts the familiar story of Jesus predicting that Peter will deny knowing him three times before the rooster crows -- in other words, before dawn.  Peter's fervent promise to stand by Jesus is usually what stands out to me when I read this story. Of course, we know the truth. Jesus was right. All heck broke loose when a bunch of armed guards showed up to arrest Jesus. His followers who had promised to die by his side ran for their lives, leaving Jesus to face the soldiers and priests on his own. Peter lurked nearby but denied any affiliation with Jesus when confronted by those in the crowd.

What struck me as I read this passage today, though, was something different. Back in verse 27, Jesus begins by telling the disciples that they will all desert him. But then in verse 28 he says, "But after I am raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there."

These words seem like a foretaste of grace and forgiveness. Jesus has just informed his closest friends that they will abandon him in his hour of greatest need. But then he turns around and tells them that he'll be waiting for them at a pre-arranged meeting spot.  No scolding or shaming, no guilt trips. Just a simple, "Yep, you're going to turn your back on me, and then we'll meet up later."  Clean slate. And the sure knowledge that even though they are going to abandon him for awhile, they'll be back by his side before long.

Yes, Jesus could see their future failures. But he was also aware of -- and careful to tell them about -- their future obedience and his future grace.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

A friend in the neighborhood

I am convinced it is no coincidence that Mister Rogers--the sweater-wearing, singing, owner of a secret puppet wonderland--thrived on television during the late 60s and 70s. At a time when divorce rates were skyrocketing and children were reeling, who better to spend a little time with each day than someone who told you that you were special, that you were listened to, that your feelings mattered.

I was reminded of this recently as I watched the documentary "Mister Rogers and Me" on PBS.  In one of the opening bits, Wagner tells the story he recounts in his blog here, about Mister Rogers asking about his parents' divorce.  The story is just as any kid who grew up watching the show would imagine: Mister Rogers talking about something no one else wants to talk about with kids, giving the kid permission to express what he's feeling, and then letting it all end with a comforting and mood-changing song that says 'even in the midst of sad things, at least we still have each other.'

No wonder we all loved him.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Child of television divorce

I don't watch Parenthood, but this article caught my eye.  Apparently, one of the families on the show is going through a divorce and a recent episode captured the kids' perspective of being caught in the middle while mom and dad are going their separate ways.  The article is worth a read, whether you watch the show or not.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Divorce, Hawaiian style

Last week's episode of Hawaii Five-O featured a two-generation story of divorce. Melanie Griffith plays Danno's mom. (Which leads me to wonder, when did Melanie Griffith get old enough to play the mother of a police detective? How time flies.) Danno is expecting his parents to come for a visit, but his mother arrives alone and announces that she is leaving his father.

Later in the episode, Danno talks with his daughter and his mom about his own divorce and how hard it was to tell his daughter that he and her mother were not going to be married anymore. His daughter tells Danno that she remembers that night well and remembers that he then went into his own room and she could hear him crying.

The episode is an interesting twist on a familiar theme. Instead of a character's impending divorce dredging up memories of his parents' divorce, here the parents' impending divorce is bringing back a flood of memories and emotions about his own divorce -- and about his feelings of failure and disappointment as a father.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Monday devo: Intentional loss

This week's sermon at church was on Mark 8:35, "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it."  The pastor followed this with a call to service, to give up one's time and comfort so that others can experience God's grace through our acts.

This verse reminds me of the words of Jim Elliott, who literally gave his life for the sake of the Gospel: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

Jesus was crucified, many of his disciples gave their lives in martyrdom, and even Jim Elliott was murdered on the mission field.  In our comfortable, suburban, SUV and latte filled world, we are unlikely to be asked to die for our faith. But these words still ring true in our reality. We are called on quite often to sacrifice our desires, our time, our comfort, our idea of how things should work, our plans and hopes and dreams, so that others can know Jesus or understand a little more about God or see grace in our eyes and our hands.

When these moments of calling occur, we have a choice. We can surrender, giving up our selves and our lives for someone else. When we choose this, we so often find that we are the winners. We gain the joy of seeing someone else come closer to God, the joy of knowing we have done something good, the joy of having a purpose and a role to fill. Or, we can hold tightly to our ways and our desires, carefully protecting the world we have worked so hard to create for ourselves. But when we choose this option, we often find that, rather than gaining something, we have lost something of tremendous value. We lose the opportunity to experience joy, but we also often lose so much more. In our rush to protect our lives, we find that life becomes empty, hollow, without purpose. What were we working so hard to protect? And why does it seem further off than ever?