Category Archives: faith

When a parent quits

Having Pipsqueak in our home, our firstborn turning 13 recently and an ongoing family drama has made this a difficult and reflective season for me. I look at her tiny little face, her big blue eyes and sweet smile and repeatedly think, how? How does a parent just quit? I laugh with my son, his sense of humor becoming more mature – his take on life more adult-like than child-like and I am baffled again. How can any parent quit? At any age?

But parents do quit. They quit all the time.

Sometimes they really don’t have a choice. Their addiction overtakes them and they put that before the well being of any other person around them including their own children and families. Sometimes they become ill and lose their fight and leave their children through death.

But most of the time, they do choose. A woman who chooses abortion over adoption is a parent who quit. Who said, “You are not worth my effort.”

A father who walks out on his family and doesn’t fight for time with his children is quitting. He put his needs, wants and desires above that of his children and family.

Many kids who are in foster care have parents that are working hard to get them back, but there are some who’s parents do quit. They quit trying to go to the meetings, the visits, the court dates. They do not show up when things are hard and ugly.

So how do parents live with themselves? How can they just quit on their kids? And what affect does this have? Do kids really care? Do they know? We naively think that a baby won’t “know” if she’s been without her birth mother. That she won’t remember or realize.

We think older kids and teens will be fine if dad walks out. They’re almost grown, right?

Wrong. When Pipsqueak gets a little older, when she’s 10 or 12, she’s going to know. She’s going to feel that loss, she’s going to know there are unanswered questions and missing pieces of her puzzle. When that teenager is consumed with doubt and trust issues, he or she will realize, this is because dad walked out.

Even as an adult, the pain that hits you when your parent quits is a different kind of pain. It’s a rejection of who you are as a person, of your worth, your place in the world as “child”.

Last fall, my own dad decided that politics were more important than a relationship with me or my children. He decided that his right to be right was more important than love, commitment and family. It has been a hard pill to swallow.

In some of my darkest moments, God has spoken to me and He reminded me that one of the greatest times of pain and suffering for His own son came when Jesus was crying out in pain on the cross. That moment in time when he was separated from God and felt the rejection of his Father.

I do believe there is a deep cavern in all of us that can only be touched and filled by God’s spirit and love. It’s the first need.  We are made to be in harmony with our creator. Our spirits don’t rest until we find that with Him.

The second need is to be connected. We literally grow into humans inside of another human. That basic need of attachment does not leave us.

 

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
                                                                                                                  -Matthew 27:46

 

 

 

…that time I spent the weekend with Trappist Monks

(This is the first post about my experience at the monastery. There will be at least one more.)

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Months ago, my friend Jennie asked me if I would be interested in going on a writer’s retreat with her. A little background is required here. Jennie and I met each other because our boys were on the same soccer team. She was the reason I did the first NaNoWriMo challenge (the month I wrote my first novel). Our boys have become fast friends and so have we. When she asked, I thought it was more of a hypothetical. I think it was around when I turned 40 which made me proclaim all kinds of craziness. Go on a writer’s retreat, even though you’ve never published a word? Sure! Why not?

She explained more as the months went by that it was a weekend retreat at a monastery, a SILENT retreat. She started to ask me more specific questions about when I could go, would the weekend or week work better. At this point, I realized she was serious. So I made a commitment to go. This was the bravest leap I’ve made in a long time. Yes, a weekend trip like this was harder to muster the courage for than becoming a foster parent. Years ago, when I was unattached and young and should have been brave, I had a dear friend ask me to take a cross-country road trip. I chickened out. I didn’t want to make that mistake again. I wanted to experience something new.

I had already spent the month of July ridding myself of distractions, increasing focus and attempting to cultivate self-discipline. I was more than ready to embark on a weekend of silence.

The Monastery hosts silent retreats for anyone and everyone. When you arrive to check in, you pass this piece.

 

From the moment we entered and were greeted by Father Seamus, we were indeed received with kindness and hospitality. Father Seamus sat in his full monk attire, at an unassuming front desk. He asked our names and told us that they never ask where people are from or why they are there. They don’t expect to know if you are a believer, a catholic, an atheist. He said we were welcome to attend as many or as few daily prayers as we’d like. He cracked a few jokes about no one keeping track and you don’t get “extra points” if you attend all the prayers. He was charming, sweet and inviting.

We had arrived right before the 12:15pm prayers so we decided to attend those and then attend our first silent meal. There were signs posted about where silence was expected. For the most part, Jennie and I both respected this, only daring to giggle and laugh from time to time when we were alone in the elevator. I can’t speak for her but I felt the silence needed to be kept in order to get the full experience of this weekend.

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I didn’t do a lot of research on the monastery or the monks before arriving. I had clicked on their website (in 2016, even Trappist Monks have a website).  I really had no idea what to expect. We were given keys to our very basic accommodations. We had our own rooms and were told that visiting in one another’s rooms was discouraged. Everything about the weekend lent itself to solitude and silence.

I had everything I needed to survive. I had brought my laptop, camera, phone and plenty of books to read. Because I didn’t do a lot of research and planning, I didn’t have many goals for the weekend. I didn’t think I had an agenda. However, we had just gotten our full approval to become foster parents so I did think “I should have my phone on, just in case…” I also had quite a bit of school planning and researching that I needed to do online so I thought my laptop would come in handy. I was hoping to be able to roam the grounds and practice using my camera, instead of just being an iPhone photographer.

So, really, I did have an agenda. I felt a small twinge of panic as we drove closer to the monastery and my phone did not have service. About an hour away from the monastery, I could no longer use the maps or send or receive texts. For the rest of the weekend, the only time I could receive or send texts was when I was in the retreatant house library. It was the only location that had Wi-Fi and their hours were limited. So now I had no phone to distract me and a computer I couldn’t use in my room. Then, soon after going for a walk and snapping some great pictures, I realized I’d remembered fresh batteries for the camera but had forgotten a memory card.

I had wanted to have an unplugged, silent, peaceful experience and God was setting me up for just that.

(This is the first post about the silent weekend with the monks. More to come!)

First call (calls, actually)

Yesterday it finally happened. I was enjoying time with my children and a couple of great friends at my parents’ pool. We were just about to pack up and come home and get ready for church and my phone rang with a local number I didn’t have listed in my contacts. It was DCS Placement! I quickly walked to a quiet spot and held my breath while the lady gave me the details. I told her that I needed to talk with my husband and I would call back as soon as I could. The catch? Chris is in Guam. That’s a HUGE time difference (14 hours to be exact) and he was trying to sleep. It was early morning hours there. She told me that she would continue to try and find a home and then she would call me back if/when she did. I told her I would call her back as soon as I was able to speak with him.

Chris and I had agreed that we would not take a placement without first discussing it and getting a “yes” from both of us. While I waited the 3 or so hours for us to be able to communicate, I prayed like crazy. For any placement, I want our family to be THE place that God would have the child be for the time they need us. I am not so concerned that the child will be a good fit for us, rather the other way around. I want God to be able to use our family, church family, friends to minister to that child. He has to be in control or this whole thing will be a train wreck.

Before I could get Chris on FaceTime or via text, DCS called back. They had found the little girl a home. I was so thankful. Thankful that she would have a place to sleep and more than thankful that God handled the situation better than I would have. In fact, if Chris had been a phone call away, which he almost always is, I would have probably relied on my own logic and arguing to get him to say yes. I don’t know that he would have. We’ve prayed and planned and know that 0-3 years is the age range we feel equipped for right now. But I am a good debater. And Chris, well, he’s a big, ole teddy bear.

That first call came at 3:30pm. When she called me back about 5pm and said “we found her a home,” she was sure to reassure me that they would be calling again. At 8pm, as we pulled into the garage from church, they did call again. This time for a boy, the same age as Foster. I knew I had to say “no”. But that “no” was more heartbreaking than the first call. Thinking of my amazing 12 year old and his friends. The ones who are so full of life, humor, confidence, ideas and insecurities being taken out of their home and placed with strangers? It’s enough to keep you awake at night. Foster said, “I need to start building a room on the house so we could take kids like that. It’s not fair.”

I completely agree with him.

Theodore is…

My kids often get lumped all together in these blog posts.  We are together almost all of the time so I guess it’s natural.  The truth is, each of my children are so different and so full of life, experiences, humor, sadness, learning, suffering each and every day that there would be no way I could record it all.  Yesterday was an important day for Theodore though so I wanted to be sure to get it down.

You know those games people play when they ask you to describe yourself or a loved one in one word? I could do that fairly easily with everyone in my family.  For example, Chris is…strong, Foster is…a thinker, Katie is…a dreamer, Parker is…indecisive, Jonah is…easy-going.  I would be stuck when it came to Theodore.  Theodore is FULL.  He’s full of energy, passion, determination, strong-will, humor, excitement, stubbornness, anger, compassion, kindness and on and on.  He’s a small boy for his age, a little shorter and a lot skinnier than his peers but he is HUGE inside.

Yesterday was a hard day and a great day with Theodore.  Chris had to work overtime so I was getting everyone ready for church and Theodore gave me a terrible time.  He was arguing with me and everyone else about little things, but he’s tenacious, he gets something in his head (those are HIS sunglasses, that’s NOT FAIR) and he will not let it go. He made me so angry before we left that I refused to help him tie his shoes (yes, he’s 7 and doesn’t know how to tie his own shoes, nobody teaches that past the first kid).  He worked it out, Foster helped him.  But the rest of the day continued down a path of one that led to me offering to leave him in a parking lot on the way home so he could find a new family to abuse (disclaimer: you may not want to follow my parenting advice).  When we made it home, he came to my room crying and said ” I don’t deserve anything.”

My response shocked him and may shock you but I agreed with him.  Then we sat down and I read to him from Romans 3:23 “… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.  I explained to Theodore that I don’t deserve anything either. That he and I are the same. Sinners.  I told him that is why we need Jesus. Why we need the free gift of forgiveness.

Theodore said his prayer last night, he wanted to be sure and he wants to be baptized next Sunday.  He knows that he will still get angry and still be disrespectful but now he has help (the Holy Spirit) and now he has hope and a secure future.

Theodore is…redeemed.

"Shema"

In Sunday school this morning one of the key passages was from Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

The word “Hear” at the beginning of this passage is from the Hebrew word, shema.  Our Sunday school books says this, “The expression was meant to evoke a sense of urgency in hearers and impress on them the need for action.”

I feel like it is so easy to just take in the word of God, to listen at church, or when I’m teaching the kids their memory verse.  It is much harder to actually do something about what I am hearing.

I use the phrase “listen and obey” with my children all the time.  It was an “aha” moment for me this morning when we went over the word “shema”.

God wants me to “listen and obey” when I read His word.  He wants me to make the decision to serve Him, to apply His word in a way that allows Him to transform me.

Old church, new church

My husband and I started out as newlyweds trying to find a church that we could worship in as a couple.  One that wasn’t “his” and wasn’t “mine” but that would be “ours”. 

It took us a little over a year but we did indeed find a great church.  We were expecting our first baby and were filled with excitement as we began to make new friends, build relationships, serve, learn more about scripture from our pastor, worship and grow spiritually. 

We were at our old church for 8 and half years.  We had 4 of our 5 children dedicated there.  Foster was baptized there.  I had a best friend there.  My kids had best friends there.  Chris and I taught Sunday school classes, I sung in the choir for awhile.  We held all kinds of babies and toddlers in the nursery, along with our own.  It was home. 

And then, it wasn’t.  It first happened spiritually, then relationally.

I would love to be able to say the decision and the circumstances that led up to it were organized and sterile. “First A happened, then B happened, then C happened, then we prayed and God said A+B+C= time to find a new church home.”

But, that’s not life.  And it’s certainly hasn’t been easy.  It’s been painful.  It has felt like a divorce in a lot of ways.  It has been hard to explain to our young children.  We have told them that they just have to trust us, and God. 

One thing that I have come to realize during the whole process is that my relationship with God – my day-to-day talks with Him (prayer) and my spiritual education (reading my bible) does not hinge on my church attendance. 

A church home is wonderful. It helps to encourage and support you and your family.  A church family offers great opportunities for you to minister to others.  A church full of fellow believers worshipping together can be a beautiful experience. 

But, the personal relationship is up to you.  The spiritual education of your children is up to you and your spouse.

It’s kind of like a banana split.  (Hear me out here.) God is the banana and you are the ice cream.  That alone is delicious.  Church, though, is the hot fudge sauce, the nuts, the whip cream and cherry.  A church family, a church home, where you feel a part can add all that extra yummy to your relationship to God. 

Thankfully, it seems that we have found a new place to belong.

My husband grew up in a wonderful church here in town.  Many of the people that nurtured and loved him when he was young are still there.  We have been attending that church and we have felt a peace each Sunday that neither of us can explain. 

A day of rest

I will praise the Lord at all times.
I will constantly speak His praises.
             Psalms 34:1
Sundays when we can all go to God’s house together. 
Sundays when we get to come home to a warm home, a tasty meal, some outside play time, some inside cuddle and movie time. 
After a long, hard week…our reward has been a peaceful Sunday. 
Praise the Lord!