Saturday, May 31, 2014

13 Characteristics of Adult Children Of Alcoholics

Before I go further, let me say I promise not to turn this blog into one about addiction, but before leaving the topic for now, I want to list some known characteristics of adult children of alcoholics. The 13 characteristics listed below are true for several kinds of dysfunction, not just the addictive kind. The introduction, the characteristics, and the further detail beneath them, and the conclusion at the end, are a repost, not my words. They represent the work of Janet G. Woititz.

Although, I did made comments in red beneath the characteristics.

My mother was a high-functioning alcoholic, meaning she held down a job and was never fired. She never drank daily when I was growing up, and my guess is that currently, she can only go two days or less without a drink. I never acknowledged, until recently, the extent of the problem, believing instead that she was a "problem drinker", not an alcoholic. I confronted her over the years about her drinking, which is something I don't ever remember my step-father, my brother, or my sister doing. Thus, as I look at these characteristics, I see that I escaped some of them, either because I wasn't completely in denial, or because she was a high-functioning alcoholic. I don't know which, but I have to come understand that denial is the element leading to the most dysfunction. 

In general, I think clarity of mind--having the ability to understand our emotions and reactions--is very important for a healthy lifestyle. Some quiet time every day with God, with a pen or computer in hand, or with silent thought discourse in our heads, is most helpful. For some of us, we need a human sounding board to attain greater clarity. Whatever is needed, I pray we seek it and find time to live in truth.


 Adult Children of Alcoholics by Janet G. Woititz, 1983, was originally written with only children of alcoholics in mind. Since its first publication, we have learned that the material discussed applies to other types of dysfunctional families as well. If you did not grow up with alcoholism but lived, for example, with other compulsive behaviors such as gambling, drug abuse or overeating, or you experienced chronic illness, or you were adopted, lived in foster care or another potentially dysfunctional system, you may find that you identify with the characteristics described here. It appears that much of what is true for the children of alcoholics is also true for others and that this understanding can help reduce the isolation of countless persons who also thought they were "different" because of their life experience.

The 13 Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics/Addicts

1. Adult children of alcoholics guess at what normal behavior is
The home of an alcoholic or addict is not "normal." Life revolves around the addict and most family members must learn to keep their family going, as they know it. Children of alcoholic or drug-addicted parents do not live the same life as their "normal" peers. Therefore, the child and later the adult must simply do their best at maintaining normalcy, as observed from friends, television, or simply guessing. I do feel left out when I am around people with "normal" upbringings. It feels like they are leagues above me in many ways, except sometimes in humility. My blessings are ever present before me, and that makes these insecure thoughts fleeting. I remind myself at these times that God is my refuge, and only He can satisfy. There is purpose in every story. Too, we are only passing through here. In Eternity, there are no emotional haves and have nots. We are all whole. Praise God.

2. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end. 
In the home of an addict, daily living is frequently interrupted due to misbehavior or unpredictable actions of the addict. For example, the family may start playing a game, but then dad comes home and everyone must stop playing. Or maybe mom promised to help work on a school project, but then passes out and never follows through. When project completion and follow-through are not consistently modeled, it is a hard skill for the adult child of an alcoholic to learn. I tend to impulsively (#13) take on too much. We try to meet everyone's needs, and that makes us overcommit. I took on extra work at church, only to find that within a year, it was too much for my family. I felt foolish, but I can't say I regretted it. It was a learning experience and my help was needed, even if I couldn't follow through long-term. I am now (June) free of my extra church duties (nursery director).

3. Adult children of alcoholics lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
As a child of an alcoholic or addict, one must constantly lie and make up excuses for the addicted parent. The child also hears the parent and everyone else in the family lie and make up stories constantly. This behavior is a necessity to keep the addict family intact, and therefore becomes a natural trait. Once the child acquires this behavior, it tends to stay with the adult child.

These lies are not always malicious or harmful. Something as simple as the route the ACOA took home, or what type of fruit they like is fair game for lies. Unless the child or adult receives enough consequences (either internal, like guilt or anxiety; or external, like getting in trouble with someone), the ACOA may begin to practice the art of telling the truth more. This is not me, nor my siblings. We didn't have to lie to protect my mother.

 4. Adult children of alcoholics judge themselves without mercy.
No matter what the child of an alcoholic or addict does, they cannot "fix" their parent or their family. They may be able to take care of the addict or other members of the family, but they are unable to fix the root of the problem: the addiction and relating family dysfunction. No matter how well the child does is soccer, how high their school grades, no matter how clean they keep the house, how "good" they are, they still can't fix the addict. Everything they do falls short.

Additionally, the child of an alcoholic or addict may blame him/herself for bad things that happen in the family, and are frequently guilt-ridden for reasons beyond their control. Perfectionism is very common in ACOAs. This doesn't seem to fit, either. The grace of God, of being a Christian, prevents this in my life. I can't speak for my siblings on this. My siblings and I are not close and have never been close, and that is typical of dsyfunctional families. The addicted person often pits one family member against another, to ensure loyalty. This prevents trusting relationships between family members.

 5. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty having fun.
Growing up with an addicted parent is not fun. Kids are not allowed to be kids. When the kids are not given this joy, the adult usually does not know how to simply enjoy life. The ACOA is constantly worrying about their addicted parent, or is in trouble for things they should not be responsible for, or compensating in some other way for the addict. The usually carefree, fun time of being a child often does not exist if the parent is an addict.

The addict is the "child" in the relationship. Because of this, the child does not know how to be a child. This is 100% true of me and my siblings. So sad. My earnest prayer is that my children will not be affected by my seriousness (see #6 too). God be with us!

 6. Adult children of alcoholics take themselves very seriously.
Due to the gravity of their roles in their families growing up, adult children of alcoholics take themselves very seriously. The weight of the family, and thus the world, is on their shoulders.

 7. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty with intimate relationships.
Having never known a "normal" relationship or family roles, the ACOA does not know how to have one. The adult child of an addict does not trust others. The ACOA has learned that people are not trustworthy or reliable, and has had their heart broken from such an early age.

 New relationships must be handled with caution, too, because the child of an alcoholic doesn't want others to find out their secret. Adult children of alcoholics have learned to shut themselves off from others to protect their feelings, as well as to protect their family. This is a tough one. Before becoming a Christian at age 31, this was definitely true of me. I married at age 33. I love and respect my husband and we have a healthy, peaceful marriage. The few spats we have are from exhaustion and frustration, never from deep-seated issues. Our slates are clean, so to speak. I never distance myself emotionally from him, nor him from me. 

However, looking back, I know there were dysfunctional reasons I married him, along with good ones. He had ADHD, which made him in some ways dysfunctional, and I wanted to rescue him, but I was ignorant, and so was he, of the ADHD. I think when we can look back and sense dysfunctional reasons for our marriage choice, the best thing we can do is ask God to redeem those choices. But, if you are being abused, escape. There is no question about it--staying is a mistake. 

Ours is a redeemed marriage. I do not seek to rescue anything about my husband now. I accept him as he is, and count my blessings that he is an enduring, strong Christian man who puts family first.

I don't think marrying someone with issues is dysfunctional, unless you perceive yourself as their rescuer, or think that you can't get anyone better. Don't ever settle, in other words. Whomever you marry, accept them as they are. Don't fancy some miraculous transformation. Unless you just want them to drink skim milk, instead of whole milk. :) 

 8. Adult children of alcoholics overreact to changes over which they have no control.
The child of an alcoholic/addict lacks control over their lives much of the time. They cannot control when their parent is drunk, or that the parent is an addict to begin with. S/he cannot always predict what will happen from one day to the next, and this is very anxiety producing. A child needs to feel safe. Because of this lack of control as a child, the adult child of an alcoholic/addict craves control. They need to know what is going to happen, how it is going to happen, and when.

 Of course, this control and predictability is not always possible. If plans are changed, or somebody does something that the ACOA doesn't like or feel comfortable with, all the insecurity of their childhood may come back to them, and the adult child may over-react, leaving the other party stunned or confused. I don't sense this about myself at all.

 9. Adult children of alcoholics constantly seek approval and affirmation.
Similar to ACOA characteristic number four, children of alcoholics and addicts are used to continuously seeking approval or praise from their parent or other valued person. They probably did not grow up with a regular and consistent rules and expectations, and could never make their addicted parent happy.

 Not knowing what is "normal" or expected, adult children of alcoholics need someone to tell them what they are doing is right. They are often indecisive and unsure of themselves. As a young woman, it was important for me to have a boyfriend. I needed that attention and affirmation. I stayed too long when deep down I knew it wasn't the right relationship for me. Yes, I wonder what people think of me. Much less as a women in my forties, though. Part of this is just maturity. If someone seems neutral or standoffish, I wonder even more if they like me. I would say I am most uncomfortable with reserved people, because I do seem to need outside affirmation. Again, my blessings are always before me, and I recognize this tendency fairly quickly now. I remember that I must only please God.

 10. Adult children of alcoholics usually feel that they are different from other people.
Another overlap with other characteristics, children of alcoholics sometimes know from an early age that their home is not normal. Children from addicted families may or may not know what is different, and sometimes don't completely "get it" until they visit friend's houses and observe their parents. 'Hey... Janie's mom makes her do her homework until she is finished, and they have dinner at this time, and then they have to go to bed at 9. Every night!" This consistency may be shocking, and either attacks or appalls the child who is not used to such structure. There has always been a sense of isolation. My mom and dad divorced when I was 3, and my mother remarried when I was 5. She is still married to my step-father. We never, ever, had people over when I was growing up. My friends never saw the inside of my house. Even family from out of town stayed somewhere else. I knew I didn't have a normal life (but not that I had to lie). I go to get togethers for the sake of our children, but I prefer quiet times at home. I have never been social, but I have forced myself to invite people over to get over this dysfunction. I know that I have to do the opposite of my instincts sometimes, for the sake of my children. I can potentially raise them like I was raised, in a second-hand way, if I'm not careful.
Even though my husband's father was unkind and remote, my husband does not have any of these characteristics of a dsyfunctional family. His mother was wonderful (she died with he was 16 and he went to Bible college at 18 out of state) So it appears that even if one parent is remote emotionally, a child can still thrive in many ways. My husband's father being remote and unkind, however, did affect my husband's success in life in the workplace, in conjunction with his undiagnosed ADHD. 
 11. Adult children of alcoholics are super responsible or super irresponsible.
Once the child from an addicted family gets older and forms their own identity, the ACOA may either strictly follow a schedule and wants everything in order, controlled- perfect. These adult children often struggle with anxiety, OCD, perfectionism, and eating disorders.

 The opposite result is the ACOA who is a party animal. This adult child may develop an alcohol, drug, or other behavioral addiction. This ACOA may live a life very much like their addicted parent, or they may "shape up" and get their life together, with appropriate support. My sister and I are super responsible.

 12. Adult children of alcoholics are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved.

"Why do you put up with him?" Adult children of alcoholics/addicts are used to dealing with just that- an addict. They are used to either taking care of an addict or seeing others take care of an addict. Drunken fights and broken promises is normal to the ACOA. Growing up, the child of an alcoholic was probably told "it isn't his fault" or "he didn't mean it, he was drunk."

 Because of these lowered expectations, an adult child of an alcoholic/addict frequently ends up in a relationship with another addict, abusive partners, or otherwise unhealthy relationships. I feel the need to help people who also had dsyfunctional pasts. I want to give them the patience they require, but sometimes I have to check myself. I have an ability to understand them, but that doesn't mean I should make allowances for them. The neighbors who used to come here asking for money moved about a month ago, but looking back, I see the error of ever giving them a cent, for gas money or anything else. I didn't know at that time some of the signs of drug abuse, but I looked into it. Rotten teeth, and excessive sugar intake, can mean drug abuse. (They came here for sugar constantly.) The sugar helps them come down from the drug, and the teeth rot either because of the drug, the sugar, or both.

I want my children to make a habit of helping the least of these, but I have to teach them to be very cautious of addicted people. Help in the form of meeting their basic needs can backfire and make them sicker. The Section 8 home across the street has had two drug-involved families in it, and I fault the welfare system for that. They never came to check on these families, even though they paid rent as low as $200 because of the Section 8 subsidy. This is a waste, and takes money away from the single, clean moms who really need the subsidy. As hard as it is to take children away from a home, leaving them in a drug-addicted environment is not beneficial for them or their future children. I know good foster homes are hard to come by, and that multiple foster homes create an even greater problem then addicted parents create (reactive attachment disorder). There are no easy answers. Still, subsidizing their parent's addiction by giving them a cheap place to rent is ensuring generational welfare. There must be regular visits, or the money is carelessly spent. If the government doesn't have the money to ensure accountability, it doesn't have the money to help at all, outside of ensuring that children get food, which is in large part taken care of by free breakfasts and lunches at school. I wish there was some way the private sector could do the checking, in cooperation with the government, to ease the financial burden of helping.
That Section 8 house is currently vacant and being fixed up, and all the neighbors think the owner will sell it. God has answered a prayer about the neighbors across the street, and now it appears he is answering the one about the Section 8 house. If the government will not check on the occupants, I don't want it here.

13. Adult children of alcoholics are impulsive. They tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsively leads to confusion, self-loathing and loss of control over their environment. In addition, they spend an excessive amount of energy cleaning up the mess.

The last trait is fairly self descriptive. The ACOA will struggle with falling into unhealthy patterns of behavior, in whatever form it might take.

An adult child of an alcoholic began life in unstable, insecure environment. The ACOA did not get everything they needed from their addicted parent. These 13 ACOA characteristics may seem daunting, but they are simply a profile, description, and explanation of possible existing traits.

These 13 characteristics are not a death sentence or certainty for the ACOA. Once an ACOA recognizes and understands why they are the way they are, and that they are not alone, the adult child of an alcoholic/addict can begin to heal. With the support of a therapist, counselor, support group, and others, the ACOA can live a full, healthy life, and stop the chain of addiction.

I do not plan to seek counseling, as just having an awareness is enough I believe. I do suggest young people dealing with this seek counseling before marrying, and definitely if they suspect they are in unhealthy friendships or other relationships.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Tangled Web Of Addiction

Since I decided to quit being manipulated by an alcoholic mother, two camps of people have emerged.

One camp thinks I am dead wrong, and that unconditional love is the only answer. I actually think this group feels I have more of a problem than my mother, especially since she is in her seventies and won't live a lot longer anyway. My mother is hurting over the distance I put between us, and they want her to stop hurting. So they tactfully try to preach to me about forgiveness and unconditional love, because seeing her hurt is what they most want to avoid.

They are the enablers, most of them--the ones who know my mom personally, or know of her. Or, they have no experience at all with addiction and are trying to get involved in something about which they're completely ignorant.

The addicted person is almost always a tyrant, and when he or she is upset, everyone else is upset too. The enablers want to make everything status quo again. They have lived so long in their "roles" that they don't know any other way to live.  It is a sick, tangled web of dysfunction, all in the name of "unconditional love".

Another camp, those having experience with addicted people, believe that although distancing oneself is hard, it is the only answer. The more I begin to understand the psychology of addiction, the more tragic it seems to me. These enabling people perceive themselves as loving, nurturing, giving.

If by the grace of God they ever try to break away from the sick web, they find themselves accused, sometimes harshly, by the remaining enablers. They are told they are unloving, hard, cold, unforgiving. Guilt sets in. They question themselves. The accusations keep coming. It gets harder to be strong.

How many actually stay the course? How many get away, cleanly?

Even a clean getaway is painful, and will probably remain painful until the addicted person dies, and then some.

My husband learned that heroin is becoming a huge addiction problem in America. It frightens me, hearing this. I think we can safely say that most of society's problems can be traced, however far back, to someone's addiction and to the enablers who contributed to it.

Basic human decency falls apart in the face of addiction. It can be addiction to a substance, to power, to money, to the Internet, to sex. The only way to reverse this--outside of direct intervention by God--is to understand the psychology of addiction.

Addiction is not just between one person and the object of their desire. It always involves a web of people. For life cannot continue successfully for the isolated addicted person. They will have no food, no shelter, no job, and they would lose their children. They can't continue in their addiction, because their basic needs would scream too loudly.

Again, addiction never progresses in isolation. It can only progress if someone comes along, or is already there, who will cover for the person.

At first, covering for someone is basic self-preservation, and seems natural. It keeps embarrassment at a minimum. It keeps the lights on and the food coming. But as long as this continues, it gets deeper for both involved--for the addicted, and the enabler(s).

Educate your children. Hold them accountable for their actions. Check yourself. Don't take for granted that this tangled web will never involve you.

And God help us! (Only He can help.)

Because it hurts.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thankful Thursday: 6 Years of Gratitude

Psalm 107.1 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!   

It's Thankful Thursday today, but instead of making gratitude lists, I'd like to do something different. I've been writing on this topic for at least six years now (I started with a different blog), and I'd like to highlight the changes in my life, since gratitude took root.

~ I worry far less. I think worrying is an unfortunate characteristic of conscientious people. If you knew me in real life, you would easily describe me as conscientious. I try hard. I fail often, but I try hard. My worry-wort tendency is no longer a dominant factor in my life. Any worrying I do now is short-lived, relieved by gratitude thoughts, writing out my thoughts here on the blog, and recalling memorized Scripture. I recognize the folly--the sin, really--of worry, fairly quickly, whereas before I let it have free reign, allowing it to quickly snowball into anxiety.

~ I am more content, and could actually describe myself as very happy (okay well, except for those hormones). Even though many a post may sound melancholy, remember that as I write, I am dumping my melancholy, my self-absorbedness, for something better: gratitude, the peace of Christ. As I dump my sin, I embrace the gracious God who's already forgiven me. While dumping personal issues can seem indiscreet, the opposite, an extreme reserve, can be unhealthy for the person clinging to all their issues in the interest of dignity. That's not to say they can't be dumped at the Lord's feet, bypassing any other audience. For me, writing is a way to get in touch with my feelings, enabling me to then dump them.

Writing for an audience forces me toward greater clarity, which is a mental discipline I don't otherwise pursue. I would say that understanding ourselves, and thereby acknowledging our sins, is Holy Spirit driven, but quickened by our cooperation. Once I am free of the "baggage", gratitude floods my heart and mind. Our sins are a barrier to gratitude.

~ I see God's hand in my life. It is easier to submit to His will when I can easily recall His acts of graciousness and love toward me and others. Gratitude reminds me that God is faithful and powerful, able to handle all the details of my life.

~ I don't play the comparison game. Though others may seem to have an easier life than me, I quickly reject any comparison because of a fundamental belief that I am truly blessed by God, that my life displays his grace and goodness. Taking a regular account of blessings has given me that foundational belief--that I am blessed.

~ I can be a servant. Whereas before I attended more to what I wanted for my life, I now attend more to what God's wants, enabling me to embrace servanthood more. Knowing how he has blessed me allows me to yield to Him in my daily duties and in any additional duties.

How long have you been counting your blessings, and how has it changed you?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Warning on a Book I Mentioned

I wrote yesterday of a Sonlight read aloud entitled Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen. Well, I was able to finish it today, partially due to a couple hours in a waiting room during speech and physical therapy. While it is a good book, the themes are too mature for our sons, so we won't continue with it this year. I just thought I should mention its maturity in case someone thought to check it out at the library.


Simple Woman's Daybook 5/28

Outside my window...
We had a gorgeous last five days. Now, it is humid, cloudy, with more rain expected shortly. The large farm next to our housing complex planted all their corn over the weekend, so the rain is welcome. It's been dry for a week. Our garden went in too this weekend. In northeast Ohio you plant on Memorial Day weekend, which is your best bet to avoid a frost.

I am thinking...

I just finished a biography on Corrie ten Boom tonight. I am thinking about all the evil in the world, and how just when you think it can't get any worse, you hear of another horror. I have not read a lot about German concentration camps, but enough to know that some of the worst evil in all humanity occurred in them. Hitler was all about championing the strong, and Christ is all about championing the weak and the humble...the least of these. What a contrast.

For 33 years after leaving her last German concentration camp, Corrie traveled around the world, speaking about God and forgiveness. Her sister Betsy was with her in two concentration camps, and she died in the second one. Her last words were..."We must tell them there is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper."

Every time Corrie thought she might settle down and stop speaking and writing, her sister's words came back to her, inspiring her to continue. Betsy was the stronger Christian, able to forgive even the Germans who treated her like a dog. Corrie had no intention of forgiving them, until Betsy's words, and the Holy Spirit's power, gave her the divine power to forgive.

Sometimes having a son who struggles makes me feel like there will never be relief from the stress...that life will always be hard, and bittersweet. The Lord could have spared Corrie and Betsy. Their brother, nephew, and another sister were released from prison very early, and never went to concentration camps. Their father died 10 days into his prison sentence for hiding Jews, so he never saw a concentration camp either. The Lord spared them all, but not Corrie and Betsy. He had amazing plans for these two spinster sisters, and the plans were not pretty. They were horrendous, in fact.

But in the end, all that mattered was that God was glorified.

In our everyday lives, it's so easy to forget that it isn't about us, but about the Lord's glory. We waste so much time feeling sorry for ourselves, wishing that things were better for us, instead of concentrating on being obedient servants. I write so often on this blog, enough to make your eyes roll, that we are bought and paid for...slaves to Christ. The Lord can allow concentration camps in our lives, or any other manner of horror, and it still behooves us to remain obedient.

"We must tell them there is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper."

I am thankful...

~ for a relaxing Memorial Day weekend.
~ that the sweetest little girls call me Mommy.
~ that I get to be a Mom. I get to!
~ for being the wife of one obedient Christian man, whom I love.
~ for having a happy family, not withstanding our disorders.
~ for the Word of God...its power to transform, to encourage, to cleanse, to strengthen.
~ for Paul's self-discipline and strength.
~ for Peter's passion and hard work, trying to fulfill his dreams.
~ for Compassion children to love, pray for, and write to.

In the kitchen...
~ ground turkey haystack dinner (recipe coming soon), salad
~ burrito pie, brown rice, salad
~ crockpot whole chicken, corn, baked potatoes
~ spaghetti
~ meatloaf, brown rice, steamed veggies
~ baked beans, corn on the cob, salad, strawberrry shortcake, smores, and lastly, brats, cooked on an open fire, which my husband bought and I wouldn't be caught dead eating. He has specific requests for holidays meals, but otherwise I don't let him choose our menu, reminding myself that I'm supposed to "guide the house" and that means my family's health. I have transformed my formerly nutritionally-challenged husband, who as a long-time bachelor ate the fattiest meat and drank whole milk by the gallons (all the while staying lean, somehow).
~ french toast, fresh fruit, cafe potatoes
I am wearing...
flowered brown and pink rayon skirt, pink top, slippers, since it's almost midnight. It's 2-shower-a-day humidity time, and will be for a while. But I love crawling into bed feeling clean every night, and starting my day feeling clean. Corrie ten Boom went 11 months without a bath or being able to brush her teeth. I feel very, very spoiled, but the fact is, the humidity is my enemy (headachey, thirst I can't seem to quench. Even chocolate doesn't appeal as much during humidity).
I am creating...
books in my mind, which may or may not ever be written down or published. Too much laundry and dishes to get in the way.
I am going...
I got my first pap smear in three and a half years out of the way today, and got a script for Topamax for migraines, and one for my first mammogram. Yes, 48 is a little late for a baseline mammogram, but I nursed my last child until age 47. I hope I don't have any cancer lurking anywhere, and I confess I wish all the results were already in, with normal written all over them. The longer it's been since your last doctor visit, the more weight the results carry.
I am wondering...
how a friend is doing tonight, who is under a great deal of stress.
I am reading...
Just finished the ten Boom biography, and tomorrow will start Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen, which is a read aloud from the Sonlight curriculum. My husband does the read alouds with the boys, so I don't usually list them here, but sometimes I read them by myself. This one promises to be riveting.
In an ancient Arab nation, one woman dares to be different .Buran cannot -- Buran will not-sit quietly at home and wait to be married to the man her father chooses. Determined to use her skills and earn a fortune, she instead disguises herself as a boy and travels by camel caravan to a distant city. There, she maintains her masculine disguise and establishes a successful business. The city's crown prince comes often to her shop, and soon Buran finds herself falling in love. But if she reveals to Mahmud that she is a woman, she will lose everything she has worked for.
A retelling of a traditional Arabic tale in which a young woman disguises herself as a man and opens up a shop in a distant city in order to help her impoverished family.

Also reading...We are done with James and are 4 chapters into 1 Corinthians in our morning devotional time.

I am hoping...

for good test results, and for a peaceful return of our dog, Rudy, to the foster dog home that runs a dog-rescue operation. He has snapped at the children about five times since we got him 2.5 months ago (not biting, but lunging forward to scare the kids). I don't have the money to hire a trainer to train out the aggression. He has food aggression, toy aggression, and space aggression. 97% of the time he is a very sweet boy, but when children are involved, that's not a high enough percentage. The kids can be too impulsive with him, getting too close to his face, and not remembeing to leave him alone when he's napping. I can't count on 100% obedience from the kids--they forget too easily when it's been a long time since the dog last snapped. We love the dog and are heartbroken about it, and Peter gives me no peace about it, but we have to think of the horrible scars and nerve damage that a possible bite could cause. Rescue dogs can have issues, and a family without younger kids is the best, I think, for many of them.

We won't try again for some time, as the dog never did help with Peter's issues. I am aiming for three years from now, when Peter is 15 and my youngest is 8, unless God brings the perfect situation sooner. We didn't want a puppy because of all the basic training they need, but maybe a puppy from a family we know would be the safest bet.

Around the house...

I put away a whole lot of clutter today, and tomorrow I will dust and vacuum and catch up on the laundry I didn't do on Memorial Day.

Scripture to share...

Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thankful Thursday Family Edition 5/22

Ephesians 5:20 Giving thanks always for all things to God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

Beth, age 5

~ that I have super funny books
~ that I have a funny sister who can tickle me at any minute
~ that I can talk to, drink "tea" with, and play with my sister
~ that I love my sister
~ that I have my family
~ I love trees

Mary, age 7

~ for my funny, laughable, cute sister Beth
~ I love the strength in my hands to tickle my sister until she explodes with giggles
~ that God gave me a great family
~ I love the blue sky and sun and the beautiful leaves on the trees
~ for my family and friends

Paul, age 10

~ that I'm finally feeling better
~ that I like math and I'm good at it
~ that we have so many plants in the greenhouse
~ that I can go to the library
~ that I have a good church and nice people at AWANA
~ the new neighbors--I hope they're nice and have kids

Peter, age 12

~ my mom and dad
~ trees
~ my house
~ my garden and greenhouse
~ siblings
~ new neighbors
~ my bed
~ my dog
~ my snake
~ my library books

Daddy, age 55

~ my wife and children
~ that I have a car and that it keeps running
~ my jobs
~ birding and hiking
~ sunny days
~ that God always provides

Mommy, age 48

~ the thunder never came and my Mary is happy as a lark
~ the calm, therapeutic time Peter spends in his greenhouse
~ my children's love of the library, as though it is just as sweet as Christmas itself
~ the family all laughing over a book
~ old movies; the charm, innocence, loftier values
~ a working lawn mower
~ biography about Corrie ten Boom
~ full days at home to enjoy each other, and to enjoy God and his bounty and provision
~ that sunshine and hope follow dark moments, so that despair can't put down permanent roots

What are you thankful for, friends?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Supporting the Grieving

Raising Arrows author Amy wrote a post entitled How Well-Meaning People Unintentionally Hurt Those Who Grieve.

A number of years ago, Amy lost an infant daughter suddenly, from an illness that turned a corner for the worse rapidly. She lists comments or practices we should avoid around grieving parents, and in order to add my comments about grief, I feel it necessary to include her list below:

1. Not being there (Not going to the funeral or to the house afterwards)

2. Saying “it was for the best”, “she’s in a better place”, or any variation thereof

3. Trying to find someone to blame

4. Putting grief in a box (Thinking a person's grief should follow a certain pattern)

5. Not acknowledging their loss (Not bringing up the loss, or the date of death, etc.)

6. Making this about you (She means refrain from telling your own story of grief.)

7. Never being normal around them again (Don't walk on eggshells, in other words.)

I think this list illustrates how hard it is to support a grieving person. No two people are alike in grief, but I think this is a good list and one we should remember as much as possible. I am guilty of making a couple of the mistakes on the list, in regard to grieving family and friends.

First, I have talked about my own baby loss, and secondly, because of having babies and toddlers at home, I missed two funerals for two distant elderly relatives, partially because of not having a babysitter available, and the fact that they were open casket, which I don't care for with children around, especially. Also, one of the funerals was a Jehovah's Witness funeral, and there was no way I was going to allow my boys--still developing their own faith--to listen to such a sermon.

My husband and I will be cremated, and we cremated our infant son. To each his own of course, but I very much dislike open-casket funerals, despite them being the standard in our culture. Saying goodbye to an empty, dressed-up, made-up body holds no meaning for me, and I've always thought it a bazarre practice, though I'm in the minority in this view of it, considering it's been done for hundreds of years (I think?). I walk by the body out of respect, but I never linger there, and I just hope my not lingering has never hurt anyone.

For my part, I didn't mind at all when women told me their own miscarriage stories. It comforted me, rather than aggravated me. Although, I didn't want to hear about multiple miscarriages, as I still wanted the hope of another baby. At least two people told me their stories of multiple miscarriages, and that did haunt me. Try not to say anything that may rob a grieving person of hope.

As well, I didn't mind when people said my baby was in a better place, because this was a huge affirmation of my own belief. I knew the grieving was my thing (and my husband's), not my baby's. It was about our lost dreams, our lost hopes. Isn't our love far inferior to what our baby receives in Heaven? This is my perspective, but I wouldn't assume another grieving mother would feel the same, and many don't, for sure.  Thus, I have never told anyone that their loved one was in a better place, and I wouldn't recommend it.

I usually just hug the grieving, and say I'm sorry for their loss. Perhaps I'm in error on this, but I think brevity is a good thing, especially right after the loss, as is sending flowers and cards and meals.

I have never made an issue in my mind about exact dates of death, but most people do, so this is important for us to remember, and to mark on our calendars for the sake of our loved ones, especially in the first two years of their grief, which are always the most intense.

The most important item on the list, in my mind? Acknowledge the loss. I personally wouldn't mind if someone missed a funeral, since people have many reasons for that, but I did get hurt when people would see me in the weeks after the loss, and never acknowledge it at all. That did hurt, and I think perhaps this would be true for 95% of grievers--that failing to acknowledge their pain is always a mistake. Even my husband--and men grieve very differently than women--disliked it when people failed to mention our loss at all. The first miscarriage occurred in the fifth month, so everyone knew we were pregnant.

This was not so with the second miscarriage, which occurred at ten weeks and was fairly private. I recognized that I was handling the second miscarriage far differently than the first, and that this fact would bring judgement upon me possibly, from those who thought all baby losses are equally as devastating. They are all devastating, but in one I faced the thought of never being a mom at all, and in the second the sadness differed--not as catastrophic, for one thing; I had two small boys at home to care for, who called me Mommy (Peter and Paul).

That said, we should never say "at least you have children at home" or something like that, because it is hurtful, as though the loss was barely a blip on our radar, which is far from true for any mom, for any baby loss.

I think, too, that grief is different for different causes of death.  Accidental death, death from illness, miscarriage death, infant-loss death, and elderly-person death, all come with unique sets of issues. We have to treat each case differently, but in each case, acknowledging the loss is the most important thing.

What would you like to add, from your own experiences?


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Simple Woman's Daybook 5/20

Outside my window:

We've had two beautiful days of sunshine and my Mary, afraid of spring storms, blossomed and danced her way across the lush, green lawn, in search of toads and frogs and butterflies. Her joy palpable and beautiful, she ran up and kissed me, "I just couldn't be happier, Mommy. I love, love, love the sunshine and the grass and the blue skies!"

Well, today the enchanted, god-inspired spell is broken. We're to have rain, dark skies, strong thunder and possible tornado warnings. Northeast Ohio gets a lot of tornado warnings, but rarely an actual tornado. Sometimes I'd like to slap the meteorologists for their cautionary tales.

I am thinking...

We are still sick here and I'm feeling frustrated by it all. I've had to cancel a number of routine appointments that filled the calendar.

The child I took to the ER last Friday with a 103.2 fever is still sick and running a very low-grade fever (under 100 degrees F). I'm considering whether he has a sinus infection, but I'm also remembering that 90% of these infections are viral. Is this one of the 10% that might be bacterial? Should I call the pediatrician? If I do, we'll likely pick up another virus from the office, and sinus infections do take time to heal, after all; ten days of misery is not uncommon, even with a viral sinus infection. I wouldn't even consider taking him if there wasn't a possibility of it spreading to the brain. Additionally, he can't tell me definitively that he feels any better. I will pray about it for a couple hours and then decide.

I hate to say it, but men and boys tend to whine their way through illnesses, and that can cloud the seriousness of the situation. If my boys, when grown men, whine their way through illnesses, are their wives going to blame me? What have I done to encourage this whining? Have I treated them differently than my girls? It doesn't seem so.

I am thankful...

~ for four beautiful children to love and nurture.

~ for a stable, loving husband.

~ for good books to draw me away from present trials.

~ for my Peter's joy in his greenhouse, amid the soil, seeds, and miracles of God.

~ for Mary's joy in the sunshine and the wonders of spring.

~ for AWANA breaking for the rest of the spring and summer, giving us more options for our Sunday evenings.

~ for Peter receiving an important award, the Timothy Award, for learning 426 verses in three years (four Truth and Training books). He's learned more than that all told, but this represents his 4th, 5th, and 6th grade years. If he ever chose a Bible college, this award could translate into some scholarship money. We are very proud of him and yes, I did get teary eyed as he accepted this award, the years of hard work and some frustrated tears, flashing before my eyes as he walked up there. Oh, how I wanted to quit the whole thing many times, but God never let me. We took a break in his third grade year, but otherwise we plugged away year after year, since his kindergarten year. My Paul will earn it as well in two years, and my girls after him. This is one trial worth our perseverance as children a solid foundation in the Word of God, so that nuggets of wisdom and truth will always be available to them, in whatever situation they find themselves. 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 

~ for a letter in the mail about husband's state employee's retirement contributions, and whether he wants them rolled over to an IRA, or refunded in lump sum with tax penalty. He didn't have enough credit years to collect a retirement. I don't know what he'll decide, but I have heard his two years of earnest prayer for a decent, reliable used car to drive to work. His current car is 25 years old and eating up repair money.

~ for the Holy Spirit's assistance in helping me grow old with grace. It is so hard, this growing old. My husband, eight years older than me, feels it less, telling me this is part of the sin curse: that we lose any looks we had, shrivel slowly, and die. It is God's will, he asserts, so all we can do is accept it. But it wasn't God's will in the beginning, and I look forward to being free from a shriveled body in eternity. I had my turn, and now it is my children's turn to be young, beautiful, and full of vitality. No one worried about whether I wore a hat in sunny southern CA while growing up, but I am very careful that my children wear one always while in the sun. Every precaution helps.

My hair is collecting more white tresses, and the skin under my eyes droops considerably, which is partly inherited. More sleep will help and I will endeavor to change my ways, reading my novels at a slower pace, so as to ensure proper sleep.

In the kitchen...

taco casserole with corn, salad, and thawed berries
chicken enchiladas, plain brown rice, salad
baked potato soup, salad
pizza (on AWANA award night)
pumpkin pancakes, turkey bacon, fresh strawberries
grilled chicken, steamed veggies, plain brown rice
hamburger casserole, steamed veggies (this is a new recipe...I'll let you know if it's good)

I am wearing...

long jean skirt, powder blue crocheted spring sweater, nylons for warmth, and leather clog shoes. I wear a heeled clog for errands, and a flatter clog for around the house (this 5 ' 3'' inch girl likes the heels).

Who cares what I wear, anyway? But I guess these questions give the feel that you're here for a cup of tea, and would therefore see what I'm wearing?

I am creating...

a legacy through my mothering, I hope. The kids will tell you in fifteen years what I'm creating.

I am going...

after canceling two dental cleaning appointments, I'm making the appointment today since Beth is healthy, and I fear they won't want us as patients if I cancel again, though Peter feels rotten and doesn't want to go. I did cancel his part of the appointment.

I am also dropping off Goodwill items near the dentist's office. Otherwise, we're staying home and watching a Veggie Tales movie about handling our fears. Mary is likely to need the reminder as she deals with another 3 days (forecasted, anyway) of thunder storms.

We do our school reading and a little math too when we're sick, unless the whining gets to be more than I can handle, in which case I try to dig up all the old movies we have on hand. We watched "The Shop Around the Corner" with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan the other day. It was delightful and very old, though more enjoyed by husband and me than the kids.

I am wondering...

I think I covered this above, about the pediatrician.

I am reading...

I finished book 2, 3, half of 4 (not as interesting, this book 4), 5, and 6 of the Anne Of Green Gables series. Yes, that was a lot of late nights of reading, but the kids being sick also helped me get a little reading in during the day, too. There are three more in the series, but they won't be easy to find. My own set only goes to book 6. The books are different than the movies and I highly recommend them. They combined ideas from a few books and added additional story lines to the movies, making them quite a bit different than the books.

Anne is my best friend these days. She also deals with the aging process in book it can hurt at times, along with the children growing up so quickly before our eyes, though in her case, she still has her looks at nearly forty at the end of that book. I didn't look too bad at 40 either.

The 9th book in the Anne series was delivered to the publisher shortly before Montgomery died, entitled The Blithes are Quoted. Comprised of 15 short stories and many previously published poems credited to Anne and her son Walter, it goes 20 years beyond the other books, one part before World War 1, and another section after World War 1.

Montgomery's Bio below, as I understand it from various sources:

Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874 - 1942) lived a sad, lonely life, raised by stern, unforgiving grandparents. Her mother died of TB when Lucy was 18 months old, and her father gave up custody of her to her grandparents. When Lucy was 7, her father moved away from Prince Edward Island and she only visited him, living with him once for a short time after he remarried (it was an unhappy marriage and it stressed Lucy).

Lucy went to school and became a teacher on Prince Edward Island, Canada, her birthplace. After several suitors who were more interested in her than she in them, Lucy eventually becoming disillusioned with romance, she married "later" in life to a minister who suffered from mental illness. She married after her literary success was already established and she had a good income of her own, feeling that marriage was an obligation at that time in Canada. They had 3 sons; the second was stillborn. Montgomery spent many years caring for her mentally-ill husband, and her writings were her only escape. She wrote 20 novels, 500 short stories and poems, and her popularity was immediate. Knowing her fame, she edited her private journals and rewrote them, presenting her life in her own terms. She suffered from depression, and I wonder if she wanted to soften that fact somehow, when she edited and recopied her personal journals.

I will, some day, read her published journals. Her author page at Amazon is here. I will also be obtaining her Emily series for my girls and me, which appears to be comprised of three books.

I am hoping...

that my children will love the Lord all the days of their life, drawing strength from Him and reading their Bibles and praying as though their lives depended upon it.

I am looking forward to...

all of us being well again.

I am learning... 

that however much I want to be a good this or that, my hormones limit what I can be as a wife and mother. If you've not yet reached perimenopause, you won't understand this as much, though while you were pregnant you likely felt a little of the intense ebb and flow of estrogen. This life we live must be one of grace, given and accepted. We cannot do much to recommend ourselves, but God's grace covers our iniquity, and it is only through him that we build a life of meaning.

Around the house...

the usual look (I hope) of a house suffering from illness. A nightmare, no less. Laundry, dishes and cooking are getting done, but little else, I'm ashamed to say, even though I've only been ill for two days.

Scripture to share...

Ephesians 4:7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Finding Strength


Time to preach to myself, and maybe you want to come along?

Today ten-year-old Paul, three days into a cold, spiked a 103.2 fever. He did not take it like a trooper; he cried out wretchedly that he was dying, and that he'd never felt this terrible before. Surely, he surmised, I've contracted some terrible, fatal disease, to feel this poorly (too many missionary books this year, maybe?).

I've had experiences taking wretchedly sick children to the ER, only to have them perk up from pain relievers on the way to the hospital. So I debated what to do, but honestly, I was puzzled by that fever three days into a cold.

Beth, who is on an immunosuppressant drug, was the first to come down with this "cold", after a visit to the dentist last week. Even she didn't experience this level of discomfort; she had no fever at all.

So, yes, I was puzzled. I knew it was too late for flu, and that he didn't have a history of ear infection, and that the cough was more asthma-sounding than bronchitis-sounding. Maybe pneumonia? But what are the odds of that?

I debated back and forth and ending up taking him to the ER at 5:00 PM, after the fever was not brought down by ibuprofen. I added Tylenol before leaving, so by the time we arrived, the fever was lower grade. They found no secondary infections. The doctor concluded Paul's "suffering from some virus".. ( think so, Doc?).

New viruses come into the country all the time, he said.

So was a gruelling parenting day, with emotions running high. Peter's OCD has been horrific, my Mary's fear of thunder and tornadoes has been very trying, what with our horribly dark and stormy weather the last three days.

Beth's arthritic ankle is very swollen, while both her arthritic knees look fairly good. Is the disease attacking the ankle with a new vengeance, or is this an auto-immune reaction to a virus?

Seriously, I felt like I didn't have a single normal child. They all have their issues and all of the issues stretch me. And I'm such a nervous person. Why would God choose me to mother children who obviously need a more emotionally-sturdy whose body doesn't respond to stress with migraines, and all-over body tension, and a faraway look in her eye?

Mary is eating less and just wants to sit with a blanket around her (sometimes completely over her) every time the skies look dark and stormy, and this is the third year of these behaviors. What can I do about such fear? I pray, I soothe, I cuddle, I coach. Nothing changes. She hid herself in her room because I mentioned taking Paul to the ER, and she didn't want a long van ride under stormy skies.

And my Peter, who has so much potential, so much energy, so much intelligence and passion, and yet on many days his OCD is so debilitating I don't know how he'll ever meet a grown-up goal. And the things that go through his mind are tragic. He's truly suffering and I don't know how to stop it.

I arrived at the ER after a 30-minute drive, most of it spent contemplating my children's issues. I felt so tense, so spent, hating my own weakness. I'm strong, but not strong enough. I persevere, but not without pain and doubt.

Tonight before writing this, I read this blog. And periodically, this blog is updated. Both women adopted children with special needs. With one child, the Reactive Attachment Disorder is so serious that even after a couple years, their new daughter can't experience love or bonding, and she's manipulative, conniving and volatile.

The other couple adopted many special-needs children, one of whom spent 15 years of her life in a crib at a horrible orphanage. She will never grow beyond the size of a six-year-old child, due to her diseased, neglected, malnourished, contracted bones. She had the physical skills of a three-month-old baby upon adoption.

So...what exactly am I lamenting about? Where is my strength? Where is my faith some days? Why am I considering myself and how hard it is for me?

I don't make these lifestyle contrasts to help myself feel more grateful, for gratitude shouldn't come through comparison, but from our awe at the New Covenant we have in Christ. I don't need thankfulness that's rooted in "at least I have it easier than they do."

It's the strength I'm thinking about here. I want more of it. More strength, more self-control, more long-suffering tendencies. I want to be able to assure the Lord, "Go ahead and make it as scary and as difficult as you want. Hold nothing back."

How do we get there? How did the adoptive families get there? How do they take on the responsibility of so many special-needs children...children who will exhaust them emotionally, physically, and financially, until the end of their lives? They will never be done. The children will never move out. Yes, the rewards will be glorious along the way--the Lord always writes glory into the story and it is beautiful--but that doesn't make the daily journey less gut-wrenching.

The difference between those parents and me? What is it?

They've learned to act in obedience and love without regard to the outcome.

Outcome is not their territory, but God's.

Tomorrow doesn't belong to them, but to God.

These children don't belong to them, but to God.

Success is not defined by them, but by God.

The strength doesn't come from them, but from God.

The love doesn't come from them, but from God.

The joy doesn't come from them, but from God.

The financial means don't come from them, but from God.

How can they do it?

 By taking themselves out of the equation and putting God at the helm.

By losing their life to save it.

By decreasing so He can increase.

By living as a slave, bought and paid for Jesus Christ himself. No longer a slave to sin, but to Christ.

It's so simple, and yet without saying yes to very difficult things, we never get there.

The meaning in our earthly lives stems from the answer to these questions: What is the Christian destined for? Why did God save us?

Charles Spurgeon teaches:

He saves us for “His name’s sake.” What does that mean? I think it means this: the name of God is His Person, His attributes, and His Nature. For His Nature’s sake, for His very attributes’ sake, He saved men and, perhaps, we may also include this—“My name is in Him”—that is, in Christ. He saves us for the sake of Christ, who is the name of God. And what does that mean? I think it means this: He saved them, first, that He might manifest His Nature. God is love, and He wanted to manifest it. He showed it when He made the sun, the moon, and the stars and scattered flowers over the green and laughing earth. He showed His love when He made the air balmy to the body and the sunshine cheering to the eye. He gives us warmth even in winter, by the clothing and by the fuel which He has stored in the heart of the earth, but He wanted to reveal Himself still more.

He wanted to manifest His nature? And His nature is love?  He wanted to reveal Himself?

God's will is to remove our own natures and replace them with His, so that as we become reflections of Christ, God is glorified through us. It is only in having our own natures removed, then, that we can fulfill our purpose.  So the next question what point are we willing to give up our own natures? At what point are we ready to surrender fully to Christ?

When the suffering is so great, that we simply cannot bear it any longer. We are ready then.

That's why I don't have easy children. That's why some things don't improve. That's why I'm poorly equipped for the task before me. That's why the happiness is fleeting, but the joy is deep.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Thankful Thursday Kids' Addition 5/15

Colossians 3:15 "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful."

We're in our third day of cloudy, dark, rainy, thundering weather, and the kids are sick with colds (thank you, dentist's office). They're depressed and two are fighting asthma-type wheezing brought on by the common cold/spring allergy combination.

Upon hearing it was Thankful Thursday, two children responded that they weren't thankful for anything, and how can they be with this miserable cold and weather?

Your mind has to rise above right now and this cold, I told them. Looking at the bigger picture of your life, what are you thankful for?

Peter, age 12

~ my dog
~ my garden in the shed/greenhouse and the one I'll have in the ground soon
~ my mom's love
~ my siblings
~ my mom and dad, and that they aren't divorced (all the neighborhood kids' families are divorced)

Paul, age 10

~ I have a dog.
~ that I'm very smart (I'm glad he sees intelligence as a gift, but I cringe when I hear him say this, I have to admit.)
~ loving family
~ my piano
~ good food
~ my Hot Wheel cars

Mary, age 7

~ the lemonade popsicles we made
~ I love God and He's nice to me
~ finding the Ladybug Girl books at the library again
~ my loving mom

Beth, age 5

~ my cars that Paul organized for a car show contest
~ that God gave me a good life
~ my mom and dad and sister and brothers
~ that Jesus is in my life (just when I was wondering if she had genuine faith yet)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Simple Woman's Daybook 5/13


Outside my window...

Finally, it looks like spring. The leaves, unfolded and proud, gift us with a beautiful green canopy everywhere. Flowering trees hint at the beauty of Paradise. The grasses, splendid in brilliant green, provide a feast for the senses. Birds are nesting and singing everywhere, reminding us of His provision and glory.

I am thinking...

Of the expression "when it rains it pours", for a couple reasons.

Spring storms for the northeast Ohio area began in earnest last night with several tornado and flash flood warnings. Seven-year-old Mary, still terribly afraid of thunder and tornadoes, worried herself into a frenzy and threw up at 9:30 PM. Prayer and songs didn't help enough. She made it into the bathroom in time but instead of choosing the toilet, she chose the sink. (At least it's not the bedding or carpet nowadays, for all but the five year old.)

The brunt of the storm hit our area after the kids fell asleep, with high winds, torrential rain, fallen tree limbs, and plentiful thunder and lightening. I kept the radio on low while I read a novel to get my mind off of it. The nearest tornado warning came as close as the next township over.

When it rains it pours....we woke to a major plumbing problem this morning, what with pipes leaking inside the walls and soaking the hall carpet. Again. I was supposed to see a doctor this AM for my migraines, but I had to cancel due to the water emergency. The best we could do was pull up the carpet and shut off the water after our showers, and arrange for my cousin to come tonight.

I am thankful...

~ that no tornado formed.

~ that my cousin will charge far less than a commercial plumber.

~ that Beth requires fewer speech articulation corrections. She slips up when she's tired, but we're seeing progress in her conversation now.

~ for all the wonderful books we've read this year.

~ that Peter walked down the hall last week, carrying a book and declaring that he "loves devouring words and books". I kissed his cheek and smiled to myself, knowing that he chose the strong verb devouring precisely because he's so well read. Book language in means book language out and that excites me!

~ that I get to watch the babies in the nursery slowly grow up. One of our "newborns" is walking!

~ that despite my nervous personality and the irritation that probably causes my family, they still love me with a beautiful grace.

~ for my husband and our nearly fifteen years together. If I only had two words to describe him as a husband and father, I would choose longsuffering and faithful.

In my kitchen...

It's currently clean and there are pans of water on the counters to help us get through the day without water. On the menu:

~ black bean chili and corn bread, with fresh strawberry shortcake for dessert

~ ground turkey tacos, brown rice, corn, and a thawed berry mix

~ garlic cheddar chicken, brown rice, green beans

~ cheesy egg omelets, cafe potatoes, fresh fruit and toast

~ meatloaf, brown rice, spring mix steamed veggies

~ baked ziti, garlic bread, salad

~ grilled chicken, baked potatoes, steamed broccoli, carrots, cauliflower

I am wearing...

a brown cotton broomstick skirt and pink fitted tee, and wedge sandals I bought in Mexico on a weekend mission trip years ago (we were three hours from the Mexican border when we lived in CA).

I am creating...

I wish I could say I've learned enough about knitting or quilting to have something to list here, but it turns out that reading is my very favorite thing, and every time I consider whether to knit or read, a novel or biography always wins out. I thought I wanted to learn to knit, but it was one of those empty dreams that didn't fit for me. It was someone else's dream that I was temporarily trying on, I guess.

My son Paul, though, is knitting quite a bit now. He's very creative with his hands. Mary is slowly learning but the outdoors call her with a song she can't resist, like I can't resist my books. Peter is called by his gardening--his flowers and plants and dirt.

I am going...

to speech class tomorrow, for Paul's ear cleaning appt (wax) on Thursday, and to the dentist on Friday for my husband and me. I haven't been to the dentist in about 2.5 years, so it may not be good news, but there haven't been any problems.

I am wondering...

if Mother's Day will always be so depressing. For all those who've had to put distance between themselves and their mother, this day can be a downer. We can't change our mother's choices, but we can learn from them and keep our own nuclear-family dysfunction to a bare minimum so that our own children will grow up liking Mother's Day. If finding a Mother's Day card that matches their sentiment for us isn't a nightmare for them, it probably means we did okay.

I am reading...

I just finished Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery, and Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett. If I can find book 3 of the Anne series, I will start that tonight. I know it's in our shelves somewhere. We watched Anne of Green Gables as a family movie last Friday, and it gave me the urge to read the whole series. Don't ask me why I love children's literature so much. A well-written, well-told story that's good for the soul is what I love best. Anne's nature inspires us to worship God through his creations, and to live in love, grace, and obedience.

I wonder...would Ann think I'm a kindred spirit, or not? My 5-year-old daughter Beth lives in a dream world, so she's definitely an Anne-with-an-e girl. She's always making up things in her mind and pulling us into them, telling us what her new name is (often it's Bella), and what we're to say and do for our parts. She makes me smile and pinch myself so often. Is this enchanting, thoroughly-loving child really mine...born from my 42-year-old womb to bestow blessing on my middle-age years? God is good.


I am hoping...

to be able to bathe my kids tonight. My cousin isn't coming until after 7 so no water until late tonight. I'm trying to keep them in so they won't get sweaty, but I don't know how long I'll hold out. They come in so dirty every evening from April thru November.

Around the house...

We've vacuumed and swept and wiped down the bathrooms, but there are hanging clothes to put away in closets, and pajamas and towels in a basket to fold and put away this afternoon. We are listening to Sarah, Plain and Tall, an audiobook, while we fold together.

Scripture to share...

In our morning devotions we are reading James. Here is a favorite:

James 1:5-8 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

There are so many jewels in James that it's hard to find just one. My children and I are learning a lot as we discuss this book, especially the parts about the tongue and about not favoring the rich or having prejudices, and about how God gifts the poor with special faith.

A picture to share...

a brother-sister knitting lesson
(our camera is breaking, obviously)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Susannah Wesley's Mothering

We've covered Susannah Wesley, the wife, but not Susannah the mother.

From the writings Susannah and her son John left behind, we have a solid picture of a very disciplined, dedicated mother, who made her children her life's work. I think the best format for our discussion is for me to list all the known characteristics, and then comment some at the end.

First, let me put in a word about Susannah's salvation, which may have occurred later in life, surprisingly. Her sons John and Charles Wesley both had a spiritual awakening near their thirties, following some exposure to the Morovians, who seemed to display a more intimate, personal relationship with God, compared to the Wesley brothers.

The brothers sometimes had spiritual doubts, wondering about their eternal security, though they were strongly churched--strongly rooted in morality and religious teaching and discipline. Both describe a warm, miraculous awakening that unmistakably changed them forever, and gave them personal assurance of their salvation, and more peace in their daily walks.

They wrote to their mother about this awakening, which they had heard their father preach about for years, but had never personally experienced. Of course Susannah was surprised and even a bit alarmed, but in the last couple years of her life she experienced the same unmistakable thing and died in great peace.

I spoke with my Bible-college husband about this, and he believes the brothers were referring to "a second work of grace", which is a popular doctrine in some Protestant denominations.

Wikipedia describes it thus: According to some Christian traditions, a second work of grace is a transforming interaction with God which may occur in the life of a Christian. The defining characteristics of this event are that it is separate from and subsequent to salvation (the first work of grace), and that it brings about significant changes in the life of the believer.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, taught that there were two distinct phases in the Christian experience. During the first phase, conversion, the believer received forgiveness and became a Christian. During the second phase, sanctification, the believer was purified and made holy. Wesley taught both that sanctification could be an instantaneous experience, and that it could be a gradual process.

John's personal writings confer with brother Charles's, that this experience gave them greater assurance of their salvation and a more personal peace. To me it sounds as though their previous religious experiences were on an intellectual plane primarily, while finally, after this awakening, they had heart knowledge of Jesus' work on the cross and what it meant for them personally. I'll leave it up to you to interpret this awakening as you will, but I know that millions of people attend church while never experiencing conversion, because not all churches are evangelical, Gospel-teaching, Bible-believing. Attending an evangelical church doesn't assure a conversion experience, either.

The Church of England, the religious tradition the brothers came from, was not considered evangelical, but their father, Samuel, once attended a Dissenter's seminary before returning to the Church of England and going to Oxford. He could have been exposed to more evangelical doctrines, which he brought into his Anglican parish (his preaching style earned him more enemies than converts, so I presume it wasn't usual Church-of-England stuff).

Now on to Susannah's mothering...

 Susannah is famous for the 16 rules she laid down in her home.

Eating between meals not allowed.

2. As children they are to be in bed by 8 p.m.

3. They are required to take medicine without complaining.

4. Subdue self-will in a child, and those working together with God to save
the child's soul.

5. To teach a child to pray as soon as he can speak.

6. Require all to be still during Family Worship.

7. Give them nothing that they cry for, and only that when asked for politely.

8. To prevent lying, punish no fault which is first confessed and repented of.

9. Never allow a sinful act to go unpunished.

10. Never punish a child twice for a single offense.

11. Comment and reward good behavior.

12. Any attempt to please, even if poorly performed, should be commended.

13. Preserve property rights, even in smallest matters.

14. Strictly observe all promises.

15. Require no daughter to work before she can read well.

16. Teach children to fear the rod.

Other Notes:

After the second devastating house fire, her children were farmed out to relatives for a period of up to two years. When the rectory was rebuilt and they all came back together, Susannah was appalled at the bad habits of mind and manner the children had acquired while away from her. She began a strict daily regimen to reform them, some of which wasn't new but had been started with the older ones in prior years.

~ They all rose before the sun, and there were strictly prescribed times for school, for private devotions, for study, for meals, for chores, for bedtime prep, and for bedtime.

~ She schooled the children for 3 hours in the morning, and 3 more hours in the afternoon, in classical languages, classical literature, in the Bible, and using religious material she wrote herself.

~ Susannah began homeschooling her children the day they turned five, starting with the alphabet, which they were expected to memorize in a couple days. (Mom and Dad were very bright, and all the children were, too, presumably.) Once they knew the alphabet, she began them in the first chapter of Genesis. They had to copy each line, and then read it and spell it without error, before moving on to another line. Sound a little unconventional? Well, it worked, and they all read fairly quickly and many were avid readers.

~ Susannah modeled a solid devotional time of two hours per day. As a young girl she told herself she would give the Lord as much time in devotions as she had in leisure (or was it double the time?) As a mother she saw the need to return to this promise, due to the discouragement and depression she sometimes battled. She organized her children to facilitate this by having them take care of one another. 

"This was the root of Methodism. In the beginning, what distinguished Methodists was their system. John and Charles, as little boys, just watched their mom. If she couldn’t find a room to retreat to, they watched her flip her apron up over her head and pray." (quote here)

~ Susannah developed another method to reform her children after that second fire: She conferenced for an hour a week individually with each child still at home, with the two older girls meeting with her as a pair on Sunday. She questioned them about their soul, about what was going on in their minds, and taught them Christian doctrine individually, as it related to their personalities and circumstances.

~ Susannah felt her responsibility to her children didn't end with they left home. She continued a regular correspondence with them, to encourage them in Christian principles and to act as their spiritual advisor.

An example of Susannah's mother style, found here 

One day one of her daughters wished to do something which was not altogether bad, but which was not right. When she was told not to do it, she was not convinced. It was late and she and her mother were sitting beside a dead fire. Her mother said to her: "Pick up that bit of coal." "I don't want to," said the girl. "Go on," said her mother. "The fire is out, it won't burn you." "I know that," said the girl. "I know it won't burn me but it will blacken my hands." "Exactly," said Susannah Wesley. "That thing which you wish to do won't burn, but it will blacken. Leave it alone."
Concluding Comments:  
First of all, who among us knows a woman as organized and disciplined as Susannah Wesley? Maybe another mother of many? Large families require more organization, to be sure. Mothering is a very sanctifying experience, and the bigger the brood, the more true this is. It's also more true when there are children with special needs.

Susannah used her time selflessly, and modeled for her children a disciplined Christian lifestyle. Her children were her jewels, obviously.

When her one daughter got pregnant out of wedlock, one can understand how devastating that was and how betrayed Susannah felt, after all her self-sacrifice in instilling morality and religion in her children. Though Susannah was estranged from that daughter for a number of years (I'm not sure how long), she did eventually forgive her daughter and they enjoyed a good relationship in the years before Susannah's death.

Homeschooling was definitely a pioneering experience in Susannah's day, although Susannah and her own sisters were also taught at home, while their brothers went off to formal school--something Susannah's sons did as well. In fact, her last son went off to boarding school at age 8, which Susannah didn't approve of because of his tender age (it was arranged by his father and his older adult brothers).

What about the strict scheduling? Is it really necessary?

While I used to balk at strict schedules, I notice that when I stick to a solid routine around here my children behave better and get more accomplished, as do I. I'm a more spontaneous person by nature, but I've learned to push myself out of sheer motherly duty. I'd say my habits have improved in the last two years, and prior to that I'd characterize my discipline as hit and miss. I have a legacy vision now, rather than a day-to-day vision.

Four mornings a week after breakfast I listen to a chapter of the Bible on audio with the children, followed by my reading the commentary on the chapter, and us discussing how it relates to our lives. We follow this with round-robin prayer, and there are specific things we have listed to pray about each day of the week. This morning practice is sometimes gruelling for me as we begin; I'm simply not a morning person, and I often have at least a slight headache upon waking. But once again, I've learned to push myself deliberately, out of sheer will, whereas before I skipped days without even remembering.

The Holy Spirit has worked with me on discipline. I have felt this keenly. Anything I am able to accomplish as a mother is by his grace, with my nature being slowly plucked, and His nature being slowly substituted.

Wherever you are in this process, trust the Holy Spirit to move you along.

I want to add that not having a newborn, infant, or toddler to care for helped this discipline process along (devotional time isn't as chaotic now). My five year old doesn't sit still for the Bible reading and discussing, but is allowed to quietly dress dolls while we proceed. But during prayer she must remain still, without occupation. This took some slapping of her hand to accomplish, but after a couple days she could do it. At night with Daddy 3x a week, we do it at the kitchen table, and she's allowed to color while we read and discuss.

Your Turn:

What jumps out at you about Susannah's commitment, discipline, and style? Does it turn you off, or inspire you?

Do you feel the Holy Spirit remaking you as a mother? In what areas have you seen progress? Do you feel a divine push as you go through your day?

We must face that children still have free wills, and that no matter how committed we are, they may disappoint us with their adult choices. How do you think we can prepare ourselves so that no rift occurs between us and our wayward children?

Have you pinpointed yet what is most important to you as a mothering priority? What aspect of mothering do you spend the most time on? What aspects are lowest priorities for you?

How can we give love an honored place in our mothering, as opposed to rules and teaching? Do you like the idea of one-on-one time with each child? Is it feasible for you? What other ways can we make love rule in our homes?

What do you think makes the most difference in their lives as they grow up and make their own decisions--love, discipline, modeling, or prayer? Or are they equally important?

Thank you for your time in reading and responding. Bless you.