Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Ultimate Gifts

“…We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” ~Romans 5:3-5

“Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message.” ~Malcolm Muggeridge (quoted in “The Ultimate Gift”)

“Any process you are going through will get tougher before it gets easier. That's what makes learning a gift, even though pain is your teacher.” ~ James Garner as “Red Stevens” in “The Ultimate Gift”

In the 2007 movie, “The Ultimate Gift,” billionaire Red Stevens (James Garner) posthumously seeks to bequeath to his grandson, Jason (Drew Fuller), an inheritance that will not only “not ruin” him, but will, he hopes, ultimately transform him into a better person. Though I wasn’t expecting to need tissues nearby, I recommend the movie highly as its two central messages are strong, positive, and even Biblical: first, problems, pain, and trials offer incredible opportunities for growth, and second, there is untold blessing in considering others and living selflessly and generously.

Aside from simply being well done and uplifting, the story also parallels the Christian life in many ways. Like Jason, we all start out, more or less, as narcissistic, hedonistic, self-reliant sinners. Yet, as Red does with Jason, God desires to make something better of us – he desires to redeem us, and make us outward-focused and Holy as He is Holy. God sometimes grants blessings and gifts freely (for example, salvation), but as the perfectly wise Father, He knows that times of trial and testing actually produce the most powerful, transformational growth.

Reread Malcolm Muggeridge’s quote:

“Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message.”

What do those happenings look like? Sometimes …
… we get good news;
… the miracle comes;
… we live comfortably;
… we have what we want;
… we experience success;
… we receive an unexpected blessing.

But perhaps more often …
… we face temptation;
… our faith is challenged;
… our dreams are crushed;
… we encounter disappointment;
… we struggle with difficult people;
… the valley of the shadow of death looms near;
… we have opportunity to be stretched beyond our comfort zones;
… God calls us to do something that seems crazy or even impossible.

And what are the gifts of growth is God trying to impart? The movie suggested the gifts of family, love, dreams, laughter, giving, friends, learning, work, money, problems, gratitude, and a day. All very good, but we cannot forget the Holy Spirit’s gift basket that holds love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

And what about …
… the gift of hope;
… the gift of faith;
… the gift of purpose;
… the gift of grace.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” ~James 1:2-4

So, what’s it gonna take for you (or me) to “get the message?”

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Fine Print

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” ~Joseph Addison

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.” ~Groucho Marx

My friends Genny and Paige recently blogged lists of their favorite books, and I thought, What a great idea! Then I remembered how little I get to read. Aside from assignment sheets, instruction manuals, recipes, and junk mail, I don’t get to read as much as I would like. Now, it’s more now than it was when I was teaching and using all my spare time grading papers and the like, so I really shouldn’t complain.

I do at least have books on my bedside table (though they tend to be in varying stages of dust-collection.) And, having been an avid reader for decades, being married to an avid reader, and now raising two avid readers, I guess I am qualified to post on such a subject.

On My Bedside Table:

The Power of the Word, compiled and edited by Luci Tumas and Patrick Wilson

Under His Wing: Adventures in Trusting God, by Bernie May

Blue Like Jazz, by donald miller

On My Husband’s Bedside Table:

William Wilberforce: A Hero for Humanity, by Kevin Belmonte

A New Kind of Normal: Hope-Filled Choices When Life Turns Upside Down, by Carol Kent

On My Daughter’s Bedside Table:

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O’Brien

Ginger Pye, by Eleanor Estes

The First Woman Doctor, by Rachel Baker

and a host of books in the Animal Ark and Sugar Creek Gang series

On My Son’s Bedside Table:

The Children’s Bible Storybook, retold by Anne de Graaf

Our Favorites:

The Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell

The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo

The Cricket in Times Square, by George Selden

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E. L. Konigsburg

Twenty-One Balloons, by William Pene du Bois

Perelandra, by C.S. Lewis (book two of his Space Trilogy)

The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis

The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis

And the Word Came with Power: How God Met and Changed a People Forever, by Joanne Shetler

The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare

A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens

anything by Jeff Shaara (Rise to Rebellion, To the Last Man, The Rising Tide, The Glorious Cause, etc.)

Revolution in World Missions, by K.P. Yohannan

The Innocent Man, by John Grisham

So, what's on your bedside table?

Now Don't Go Getting Hissterical

“Even snakes are afraid of snakes.” ~Steven Wright

“Of the 2,400 species of snakes, some 270 species have venom that is harmful, but not necessarily fatal, to humans. ... However, experiments have demonstrated that people from all corners of the planet have adverse physiological responses to sudden sightings of snakes.” ~Sharon Lovejoy

“I'm not about to go out and buy a snake for a pet. I mean, I may have faced a few fears but I'm not insane.” ~Kristin Davis

“We found a baby snake when we moved the basketball goal. It looks like he has a little rattle!”

We’ve always gone barefoot in the yard, so that’s not really what you want to hear. Fortunately, after some research, we have concluded that our new friend, “Rougher” as the kids call him, is completely harmless - unless you’re an earthworm, snail, or slug - and he isn't a baby. His tail end was smushed at some point in his life (what is it with us and wounded creatures!!?) and it does resemble some sort of rattle. I can see why they would have been concerned.

Rougher is a Rough Earth Snake (Virginia striatuala). They live primarily in the Southeast United States and prefer the fine dining to be had in the Slimy Vittles Café, as previously alluded to. They are non-venomous and do not bite. The little dude is FAST!! The kids had to talk me into taking him out of his box, and I relented under the condition that they would do it over the bathtub.

Rough Earth Snakes, curiously, burrow underground and are frequently mistaken for worms. Here is a photo of Rougher … playing Hide ‘n Snake with the earthworms. Can you find him? (You can click on the photograph for a closer view. At the bottom of the post is a labeled picture pointing him out.)

Here are a few more pictures of our precious little Rougher. We put some earthworms in his box, and he did try to eat them, but alas … they are bigger than he is. Little guy needs some teeth, I guess - or smaller prey. It was hilarious watching him try to see if he could best them, though. He’s very determined!

Rougher is about 8” long. (They are typically 7-12 inches.) The kids have decided they really want to keep him, but we shall see how long that lasts. I don't really mind - he's pretty fascinating - but, I imagine the novelty will wear off fairly soon. He's not very cuddly.

The kids took him to school on Thursday where he was quite the hit! A couple boys offered to adopt him. Who would have ever thought we would become experts on a species we’d never heard of before? *grin*

OK, so here is the Hide 'n Snake picture again. The parts indicated are just to the left of the words. Sneaky little guy, eh?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ahhh ... the Life of a Girl

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” ~Proverbs 31:30

"Kids: they dance before they learn there is anything that isn't music." ~
William Stafford

My friend, Amy, posted recently about Twirly Skirts and how they have a bizarre and unmistakable affect on girls. It's so true! Now, no one would consider our daughter “fru fru,” to say the least. But, that doesn’t mean she can’t have fun on a date with her daddy! Here are some pictures from our church’s Father-Daughter Sock Hop a few weeks ago.

Hot date in a Poodle!!!

Just the girls!

Hula, Baby!

Twist 'n Shout!

She also participated in our school “International World’s Fair” last night, studying and creating a display about Malaysia, dressing up in a Malaysian-style “Baju Kurung,” serving “Jemput Pisang” (Banana Fritters), and even creating her own Batik!

~the Baju Kurung*~

The freshly-dyed Batik. We used gel glue (instead of the traditional wax), and then painted on the dyes**. Then it sat overnight so the dyes could do their thing.

The next morning we rinsed out the excess dye and dried the cloth. It turned out so pretty!

*Thank you to our friend Amelia (from Malaysia!) for the suggestions about the Baju Kurung and the Pisang recipes!

**Thank you also to "Melissa," another blogger who posted directions for Batik which I found through Google. You can view her directions here.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Birds on a Wire

“Men cry out under a load of oppression; they plead for relief from the arm of the powerful. But no one says, 'Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night, who teaches more to us than to the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds of the air?” ~Job 35:9-11

“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always” ~ 1 Chronicles 16:10-11

I wish I had had more time to watch them. The North-South running power lines at that intersection are frequently inhabited by birds, but this was the largest “North Texas Starling Convention” (as my husband put it) any of us had ever seen. (I wish I'd had my camera!) The kids commented that the wires looked like they were “very thick” – that’s how packed in the birds were – hundreds, possibly thousands of them.

Enthralled by their sheer numbers, I took a closer look. This was not a static gathering of birds as it first appeared. These fowl were embroiled in a dynamic interaction, and it wasn’t necessarily producing a beautiful song. The picture was worth a thousand words as, even though our windows were up to buffer ourselves against the weather, I could “hear” them chattering:

Bird flying around frantically: “Brrrrrr! Man, its cold!! Anyone got a spare seat? Hey, scoot over.”

Bird he lands beside, now scooting over to the left: “Good grief, man! Get your own wire!”

Next bird in line, scooting also: “Hey! Quit shoving!”

And on down the line: “Owww! You stepped on my foot!” “Dude – watch it!” “Uh, excuse me??! What are you doing?” “Hey! Knock it off!” “Uhhh … can anyone say, ‘Personal space!?”

Finally, someone had enough: “Oh, this is ridiculous!” he exclaimed as he flew away.

That bird, then, flew around in a frenzy trying to find another place to settle. Once he chose his location, the whole drama would start again. Occasionally the birds would be moving down and a fight would break out with, I would surmise, one bird refusing to shift and calling his offending neighbor to account. Both birds would then fly off chasing and pecking at each other in a tumultuous dance before finally settling on two different wires, thus starting the process in duplicate.

It was a cold, windy day, so you can’t really blame them for bunching up like that, or for being not a little bit irritable. However, after turning West down another street, we saw some birds on some East-West wires who, though there were many of them as well, were obviously getting along quite nicely. They were sitting peacefully side by side. No one was fluttering about, no one was stirring up trouble. I wondered later if it was their orientation in relation to the wind direction that made the difference. Had they, perhaps, found a bearing that allowed them to stand firm against the gale and be at peace with their circumstances and with each other?

How like us, I thought! How often do we focus our attention on a direction perpendicular to God? And for what? Frustration, discomfort, restlessness, dissention.

In the 1991 movie "City Slickers," Mitch (Billy Crystal) and a friend, both experiencing mid-life crises, decide to head west. During a two week cattle driving experience, Curly (Jack Palance), a cowboy, imparts a profound morsel of wisdom:

“Do you know what the secret of life is?” Curly asks Mitch. “... One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean [nothin’].”

“That's great, but, ... what's the one thing?” asks Mitch.

“That’s what you’ve gotta figure out.”

Curly brings up a good point. What is the one thing in life that makes all other things meaningless in comparison? Like the birds on the East-West wire, we need to check our orientation. Are we focused on the One Thing that defines our purpose, Jesus Christ? If so, he promises we will find peace despite the squalls that may rage around us.

Therefore, ... let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, …” ~Hebrews 12:1-2a

One thing.

Just One thing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

30 Things I am Thankful For

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." ~Colossians 2:6-7

I will praise God's name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving." ~Psalm 69:30

Inspired by my friend, Amy, who posted a similar list in her blog and challenged everyone who read it to "see the glass as half-full," here are thirty things that make me happy, otherwise known as "30 Things I am Thankful For" (but certainly not the only thirty things.)

1. The sound of a marching band during football season
2. No more kids in diapers
3. Looking forward to a reunion at the beach with three college roommates
4. Lemon Meringue Pie
5. Clean laundry
6. Former students asking me to be their teacher again
7. Pictures that turn out good
8. The kids playing sweetly together
9. Theater and Musical theater
10. The quiet when it snows
11. International travel
12. Snuggling up in bed when I am completely exhausted
13. Crisp fall breezes
14. Godiva Belgian Blends – dark chocolate
15. Spending time with extended family
16. Driving cross-country alone
17. Being invited
18. Colorado and the Rocky Mountains

19. Knowing people are praying for me
20. Thin-crust veggie pizza
21. Singing on the worship team
22. Being married to a great cook
24. A sense of challenge and accomplishment
25. Real letters in the mailbox
26. The smell of freshly cut grass
27. Teenagers
28. A positive balance in the checkbook
29. “I love you, Mommy!”
30. Grace

Your turn. What makes you happy, and what are you thankful for?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Education Amendment

“Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” ~Psalm 25:4-5

“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” ~Deuteronomy 4:9

What was I thinking? As if I wasn’t insane enough already, just a day after returning from training in Orlando I was also set to begin a new job. I had worked at a preschool for several years (part of “growing up with my children,” I guess), and I had taught a non- traditional curriculum (basically abstinence-based life skills) part time in a public school district for a couple of years as well. But, now I was going to be a “real teacher” at a "real school," whatever that meant. Seventh grade math. Not that I would have any trouble with the actual math part, but who was I to think that I could be a “real” teacher!?

So, it was with hesitant anticipation that I entered the classroom on the first day of school. My youth ministry background betrayed me as I introduced myself by my first name. As my faltering lead-in was received with giggles, I quickly backpedaled and went with the “Mrs.” title. It was all very awkward at first, but I soon grew to really love these kids (I knew I would - I was just a little stressed to begin with) and we had a good year (though the sleepy guy I occasionally blasted with the spray bottle might beg to differ.)

I taught the next two years as well, moving from 7th to 6th grade and adding English and Science. This year I was asked to serve in administration. I have really enjoyed that as well, and have gained an additional skill set, though I do love the teaching part, too. (And it makes it all worth it when the students practically beg you to teach them again!) I am grateful God has left me here this long, because I have gained valuable experience that will be a great asset on the mission field. It’s almost like He knew my constitution would not be complete without an education amendment.

In the summer of 2003, my husband and I spent two weeks ministering to missionaries in West Africa where I had the privilege of helping lead youth camp for the teenage missionary kids. I fell completely in love with them and have wanted to be back with MKs ever since. (MKs rock!!)

Wycliffe operates several schools around the world for MKs, including a K -12 school in Papua New Guinea: Ukarumpa International School. UIS’s two campuses serve about 400 students from numerous countries. Teachers come from many countries, also, and serve anywhere from two years to a lifetime. There are always needs for MK teachers, in PNG and around the world. Sometimes the needs are so great that translators or other personnel must put aside their work for a time to fill in at the school. Please pray that God will send teachers to fill these positions so that the translators can continue to do the work God has called them to do in the villages.

As for what, exactly, I might do with MK education or youth ministry, I don't yet know. God has yet to reveal his exact plans for me. However, I am investigating the training I will need for these positions and I look forward to seeing how He might choose to utilize my amended resume'. Anyone care to join me?

If you are interested in teaching MKs, know someone who might be, or just want to see what it’s all about, click on the links below for more information.

For a brochure about teaching at UIS, click here. (This is a PDF file and requires Adobe Acrobat reader to open.)

Several videos about teaching MKs and teaching at UIS can be found here.

Friday, February 8, 2008

A Tribute

He and I fought like cats and dogs during our growing-up years. A true little brother, he picked on me, intimidated me, and drove me crazy. I’m sure I probably wasn’t too nice in return, though I think I’ve effectively blocked that part out.

I briefly mentioned his cancer diagnosis in a couple of the early posts, but I figured it would be appropriate to introduce Steve to those of you who never knew him.

Steve was a kid who knew how to be trouble. As he struggled through some hard choices and circumstances in life, though, he began to change … into a man who knew how to be trouble. In all seriousness, though, Steve was a great guy. He knew how to live life out loud. He knew how to have fun. He had a great (twisted, yes, but great) sense of humor. He wasn’t afraid of getting maximum mileage out of shock-value. He loved his family. He was an awesome dad who wanted the best for his daughter. He played with his nieces and nephews with obvious affection. From skydiving to helping with a NASCAR pit crew, he dared to live life to the fullest.

When he was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer in the spring of 2004, we were all caught off guard. But Steve was a fighter. He lived the next two years trying to love his family and make the best choices he could, not only for himself and the aggressive treatment of his disease, but also regarding care for his wife and kids.

Between Christmas ’05 and New Year ’06, I was able to spend some time with him. He had been off of chemo for a few months at that point, but had begun getting sick again. Shortly after he returned home in early January 2006, he was admitted to the hospital. It was soon evident that the disease was getting worse and his chances of coming home were growing slimmer with each passing day. My other brother and I flew to see him twice: first for a long weekend in late January and then again about three weeks later. God was all over our flight arrangements, as the snow was canceling flights in increasing numbers. Our travel situation was a comedy of errors, but God was definitely the playwright.

Steve was moved to an inpatient hospice facility the day after we arrived. Though we were scheduled to go home that Monday, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to leave. Sure enough, Steve lost his fight with the disease that Friday morning with his wife and our mother by his side.

As much as he pestered me during childhood (and adulthood, for that matter! ha!), I had grown to love him very much. I hope he knew that. Through time and circumstances, God had molded Steve into a person I wish I’d had more time to get to know.

Carpe Diem.

Click here to hear the new song, "How You Live," by Point of Grace.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Oppression of Depression, the Sufficiency of God

"Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion." ~Psalm 103:3-4

As people have heard or read our story, I have had some ask me to describe what depression feels like. I absolutely cannot speak for everyone who suffers from depression, of course (it affects everyone differently). However, I am happy to share my own experiences, with the desire that through my transparency others will find hope or, if applicable, the resolve needed to seek out help for themselves.If you’re interested, read on.

**I am not a doctor or counselor. This is not intended to diagnose or cure anyone. If you are really struggling, please see a health or mental health professional.**

Depression comes in a lot of varieties. Some is brought on by difficult or painful circumstances, other cases are clinical (or biochemical); some cases are long-term while others are brief; some produce a general feeling of sadness, others are characterized by anger, while still others cripple people to the point where they might be unable to function. Still others may have combinations of depression with other issues such as mania or anxiety. My experience is only with an uncomplicated, familial, clinical depression.

As I look back, the first indication I see of any problem would have been in high school where I struggled with a low sense of self-esteem. I certainly did not see myself as God saw me in Christ: created with a purpose, redeemed, loved, valuable, etc. During this time I also had my one and only incidence of suicidal thoughts. It scared me enough that I vowed that I would never entertain thoughts like that again (and I have not.) The low self-image continued into college. “Blah” kind of was becoming a way of life for me.

There were bright spots, of course, but, just as depression is circumstantial for some people, my bright spots tended to be circumstantial, and therefore rather short-lived. Difficult circumstances would plunge me further down, too, but because I was always riding just below the surface of emotional “normal,” I never really noticed much of a difference. I thought it was normal. I couldn’t remember anything to compare it to. I kind of see it this way (me riding just below the surface of “normal” with occasional deeper plunges):

I struggled with this for more than 15 years. Briefly, here are some of the things I’ve felt or experienced:

  • low self-esteem
  • general sadness
  • feelings of inadequacy
  • fear of failure
  • very self-demanding, but never good enough
  • unwillingness to “dream” about things that could potentially not happen (underlying this was a fear of disappointment and a fear that other people would think me a fool if whatever I dreamed for never materialized or eventually fell apart)
  • unwillingness, and eventually inability, to fully experience joy
  • guilt over things that weren’t my fault or within my control
  • shame for things other people did, especially if they did not seem to accept any sense of shame for it themselves
  • feelings that I didn’t deserve better than this; acceptance that this is just “the way life is going to be for me”
  • difficulty praying
  • sometimes the knowledge that what I was feeling was completely irrational, but as is common with the nature of depression, I was quite literally unable to do anything to get myself out of the pit
  • a critical and angry spirit
  • defeat and eventually apathy
  • hopelessness

As I have written previously, God was very faithful to bring healing to me after about 15 years of struggle. However, it wasn’t quick and easy; it took not only medication but also lengthy counseling and lots of prayer. I know God could have healed me miraculously, but for whatever reason he chose not to.

This week someone shared something she had read (by Beth Moore, maybe?) about God’s healing power. To summarize, Sometimes God exercises his omnipotence in miraculous ways with the purpose of showing his Supremacy. Other times He chooses not to heal miraculously, forcing us, instead, to increase our dependence on Him and let Him carry us from day to day (for example, the Apostle Paul and his “thorn in the flesh,” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10). He does this to prove his Sufficiency. In my case, I wished (and prayed) for the miraculous healing (I still believe he is able), but I have come to the point where I am content for his Sufficiency to sustain me.

The battle is not over, and medication doesn’t “make it all go away.” I still struggle from time to time, but in general God has used medication, counseling, and his grace to lift me up out of the miry pits of depression. And I am ever reminded of my dependency on Him.

So, what has come with the victory of healing?

  • An ongoing sense of my dependency on God’s Sufficiency
  • A fresh outlook
  • True abundance of life
  • More realistic self-expectations
  • Willingness to risk failure
  • Freedom from the felt need to criticize
  • Hope and the ability to dream
  • Release from the strongholds of shame and guilt
  • The ability to feel joy
  • A sense of God-esteem that includes the knowledge that I am:
    • Forgiven
    • Redeemed
    • Justified
    • Precious in His sight
    • Dearly loved
    • Created with a purpose

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Lessons from the Cat

"Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. ... In [the Lord's] hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind." ~Job 12:7-8, 10

12. The larger the terrorist, the safer the little hidey hole.

11. Be careful where you choose to rest. This is particularly important if you have an aversion to something ... like water.

10. There's a big ol' world out there just waiting to be explored.

9. If you don’t know where in the world you’re going, just take a nap … I mean, map.

8. Just because the tail continues to twitch doesn’t mean there’s a lizard attached.

7. Sleep lightly when in the vicinity of small humans.

6. Fenced in back yard = quiet + safe = boring.
Open front yard = zooming cars + carousing + cat fights = exciting.
Figuring out a way to get from one to the other = priceless.

5. If whining doesn’t work, try scratching the furniture.

4. Poop left on top of the car is insufficient to dissuade humans from banishing you to the garage at night.

3. Black clothing makes the coziest nap mat, especially if someone is planning to wear it today.

2. Birds released in the house will be confiscated.

1. It’s a good idea to know what you’re getting into when you demand your way. Otherwise, you must be prepared to deal with uncomfortable circumstances.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Sharing Resources

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you." ~Psalm 32:8

Some people have asked about what I/we read during this season of our lives. We did read several things that we have recommended to people time and time again. These titles impacted us the most as we focused on various areas of healing. For those who are interested, here are three annotated titles. God bless you!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Sledge, Tim. Making Peace with Your Past: Help for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families. Lifeway Press: Nashville, 1992.

I had heard about this workbook before. There was a small group that used it in a church I had attended in another city. I was always very pleased for them … How wonderful, I thought, that they’re getting the help they need, but thank you, God, that I did not come from a dysfunctional family. When my counselor suggested this title, I resisted at first, thinking it would not be applicable, but let’s just admit what we all know to be true in the backs of our minds: all families are dysfunctional. *grin* I told the counselor I would think about it, but even as I drove away from the session, I felt so drawn to it (by God, I’m sure) that I stopped at LifeWay on the way home and purchased the workbook. As I read the first few paragraphs, I was astonished to see how much (not all, of course) applied to me. I picked my jaw up off the floor and began an incredible journey of healing.

The workbook is designed for use in support/small groups. It consists of twelve units, each with five days worth of study and reflection. The units included are: (1) Discovering Self-Esteem, (2) Recognizing Compulsive Behavior, (3) Release from Shame, (4) Overcoming the Fear of Joy, (5) Help for People Who Grew up Too Soon, (6) Perfectionism and Procrastination, (7) Healing Painful Memories, (8) The Advantages of a Turbulent Past, (9) It’s OK to Be Yourself, (10) Forgiving the People Who Hurt You, (11) Coming to Terms with the Blessing, and (12) Reflection and Direction.

There is a follow-up workbook to this one entitled Moving Beyond Your Past, also by Tim Sledge.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Harley, Willard F., Jr. His Needs, Her Needs for Parents: Keeping Romance Alive. Fleming H. Revell: Grand Rapids, 2003.

Kids are definitely a blessing from God, but they change relationships – just ask any married couple who happens to have little people in the house. However, kids don’t have to destroy marriages. The author of the popular His Needs, Her Needs, Dr. Harley, helps couples recognize where they are putting the kids before each other and offers very practical (if you know me, you know I live for “very practical”) suggestions for reversing that trend. I have also given this book to couples who do not yet have children, or who are expecting their first, as it offers some good advice for childproofing your marriage in advance of the onslaught, uh, I mean “happy addition.” *grin*

The book is divided into an introduction ("And Then There Were Three: Are Children a Threat to Your Marriage?"), three main parts, and a conclusion. Part One, “Romantic Relationships,” includes the following chapters: What’s Love Got to Do With It? (Why Romance Matters), Just Between You and Me (Intimate Emotional Needs), Love Takes Time (The Policy of Undivided Attention), Love Bankruptcy (When Love Busters Break the Bank), and Declaration of Interdependence (The Policy of Joint Agreement).

Part Two is titled “A United Approach to Parenting” and includes five chapters: Ready for Kids? (Deciding to Expand Your Family), Rules of the House (Deciding on Child-Training Goals and Methods), The Time Factor (Practicing the Policy of Undivided Attention), His Work, Her Work (How to Divide Domestic Responsibilities), and Parenting Takes Time (How to be a Committed Mom and Dad).

Part Three focuses on “Special Cases:” Mixed Families, Blended Lives (From Discord to Harmony), Disorder or Gift? (How to Deal with ADHD), and When Grandma Won’t Let Go (Dealing with Intrusive In-Laws). The conclusion is entitled "Love is Fragile, Handle with Care: For Lovers who are Parents."

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Campbell, D. Ross, MD. How to Really Love Your Child. Life Journey: Colorado Springs, 2003.

Again, very practical! This book is filled with “Duh!” moments, but that’s good because while we think we are loving our kids (we kiss them and tuck them in at night, we clothe, feed, and house them, we make sure they are well-educated, we faithfully attend their basketball games and ballet recitals, etc.), the truth is that sometimes, despite these things, they don’t really feel our love - we just don't realize it. From a Christian perspective, Dr. Campbell establishes for parents what are the emotional needs of their children, and then offers specific, practical (and, for the most part, very easy!) suggestions for relating to them in ways that convey our love more powerfully than being their providers could ever do alone.

Chapters include: (1) The Problem, (2) The Setting, (3) The Foundation, (4) How to Show Love Through Eye Contact, (5) How to Show Love Through Physical Contact, (6) How to Show Love Through Focused Attention, (7) Appropriate and Inappropriate Love, (8) A Child’s Anger, (9) Discipline: What is it?, (10) Loving Discipline, (11) Discipline: Requests, Commands, Rewards, and Punishment, (12) Children with Special Problems, and (13) Helping Your Child Spiritually.

Dr. Campbell has also published related titles, How to Really Love Your Angry Child, and How to Really Love Your Teen.

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(Updated 13 April 2013)