“The Question of God”

20170729_152400The whole title of this book is what drove me to order it! “The Question of God – C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life” by Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, Jr.

Wow! What a read. I like to keep track in my reading journal how long I read each time I sit down with a book. Even though this book is only 244 pages long, it took me over ten hours to read it. I stopped a lot to think and write my thoughts down more often in this book than most books I read. There was just so much resonating in my heart!

Two big takeaways for me this time. Freud strikes me as a “sad, sad little man” unable to see outside of his own self. I just cannot imagine what it was like for him and I wouldn’t wish that worldview on anyone. I know. Probably not the kindest thing to say or the most insightful, but it’s the feeling I had throughout the book. Every time I read how Freud wrote about and viewed life and human nature I cringed at the sheer sadness of it. How could someone so intelligent have such a limited view of the world?

“Freud explained that when the child grows up ‘he knows, to be sure, that he is in possession of greater strength, but his insight into the perils of life has also grown greater, and he rightly concludes that fundamentally he still remains just as helpless and unprotected as he was in childhood, that faced by the world he is still a child.”” It’s just so sad to think that his relationship with his earthly parents so wounded him that he grew into an adult, took the analogy of God as Father, put them together and then tried to convince everyone around him that they should be feeling the same way. The whole book goes on through Freud’s life in this way. He seems angry and resentful that he was ever born, that the world did not appreciate his genius, and that everyone and every thing was out to hurt him. I felt sorry for him.

The other thing was that I really love C.S. Lewis and need to read more of his books first hand. I’ve read several, but there are so many that I haven’t read in their entirety. The first one of his books that I will read next is “A Grief Observed.” Another book I need to add to my list is G.K. Chesterton’s “Everlasting Man”.

One more thing before I go. I have pages of notes that mean little to me as soon as the day after I finish a book. I think I need to start taking my time and writing better notes. I may not always have the book to refer back to and even if I have the book, I frequently read a note I don’t understand, look back at the page I was referring to, and still don’t understand what I was thinking. That’s not good!

The Difference

From “The Question of God” by Dr. Nicholi, Jr., Chapter 8 – Pain

“Lewis warns we must not confuse God’s goodness or love with our concept of kindness. He writes, ‘Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness…There is kindness in love: but love and kindness are not coterminous, and when kindness is separated from the other elements of love, it involves a certain fundamental indifference to its object and even something like contempt of it.’ Lewis points out that ‘love, in its own nature, demands the perfecting of the beloved; that the mere ‘kindness’ which tolerates anything except suffering in its object is, in that respect, at the opposite pole from Love.’h our concept of kindness. He writes, ‘Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness…There is kindness in love: but love and kindness are not coterminous, and when kindness is separated from the other elements of love, it involves a certain fundamental indifference to its object and even something like contempt of it.’ Lewis points out that ‘love, in its own nature, demands the perfecting of the beloved; that the mere ‘kindness’ which tolerates anything except suffering in its object is, in that respect, at the opposite pole from Love.’

Kindness, when one thinks about it, may sometimes interfere with love: for example, our kindness may keep us from sending a child to the dentist to spare her pain, while our love, our wanting the best for that child, will insist that she confronts the pain no to prevent more later.”

First of all, I had to look up the word “coterminous”. I’ve never seen it before! “Being the same.” is the meaning, which is what I thought it might mean. Love and kindness are not the same things. They can be part of one another and should be, but they aren’t individually interchangeable.

Several things came to mind when I read this. First was to continue the analogy in light of how “radical unschooling” or “peaceful parenting” works. Out of our love for the child, we would insist that they confront the pain of going to the dentist because we know it needs to be done but we’d be there to ease the pain as much as we could and to be the support and comfort the child needs to be brave and get through. We’d have already been establishing a strong, loving relationship before this, or it wouldn’t work. Through this experience they’d learn a valuable lesson, that bad things can happen but there will always be someone there looking out for them, loving, sympathizing, and supporting them. They are not alone. Someone understands. It’s much like we hope our relationship with the Lord is.

Which brings me to my second point. We should be able to look to God as our child looks to us for real love, not just kindness. Screaming at God that he is mean and won’t give you what you want in this life, is much like a child screaming that they can’t have the peanut butter that they are deathly allergic to. God protects us and guides us and, because He loves us, He cannot hurt us. It does feel unkind at times because, like the small child, we can’t see the bigger picture and we haven’t learned to trust that we may be uncomfortable at the moment but He has our best interests at heart.

I have to add one small thing here. We need to be lovingly kind to our children for them to trust us when things seem bad. Most of our answers should be yes and most of our time should be spent supporting them and not dismissing their pain and suffering as unimportant, especially when they are younger and have so little tolerance for anything other than their own feelings. The older they get and the more support they’ve felt, the easier it gets for them to look outside themselves and be sympathetic to others. I don’t mean give a child everything they want. I mean help them to satisfy their needs and sympathize when they really can’t have what they want. This is how we build strong adults.

The term “tough love” is my next thought. I’ve never really been happy with the term. To me “love” is not “tough”. The words just don’t go together. Hearing the difference between love and kindness confirmed that feeling. What some people refer to as “tough love” is what they believe they are doing when they feel they have to do something someone may not like but is for the best. It isn’t tough love someone needs, it’s kind love, strong love. The kind of love that only works when a relationship of trust has been built over a long period of time. To use the same analogy, you can’t forcibly take a child to the dentist, kicking and screaming, dismiss their fears with “This is for your own good.” or “It won’t hurt. Stop being such a baby.” That is tough love. “I love you but I’m going to hurt you and I’m not going to sympathize.”, gets no one anywhere. A better version would be to ease their fears as much as possible, understand and sympathize with their pain, being kind to them before and after, reminding them that you are there to keep them safe even if it hurts, all the while being strong and fearless for them while being confident that everything will be ok. That is what builds relationships, strong love and kindness together.

And how would I relate this to my current life? The pregnancy clinic I volunteer at came to mind the instant I read this part of the book. Real love and not just kindness is what we hope to offer these men and women that come in for pregnancy, birth, and parenting classes. Unloving kindness is what we would be giving them if we just opened the door and offered free things to keep them going, diapers, baby food, and other supplies. What we do offer is love. We offer the loving counseling of experienced mother’s, not perfect ones that think they know what’s best but good ones that know we’ve all been in the clutches of stress while raising our children and know that what all mom’s need most is a kind, listening ear. We offer prayer, guidance, and support. We offer a word of warning and our experience. Sometimes, like the child that is afraid of the pain a dentist might cause, they don’t appreciate our love. They push it away in fear and anger. They don’t trust us. The relationship isn’t strong enough. Hopefully, we can continue to express love and understanding at these times and show them that we are ultimately here for them and want to help them be the best parent they can be. We also hope to be an example of God’s love, so that when they look at us they see the relationship we have with Jesus and want that for themselves. We hope they look to us and see us pointing to Him.

I’ve digressed a bit, so I might as well go the whole way! I just thought of another interesting analogy. An adoptive family. One couple adopts a child. They build a relationship with that child and the child feels loved and safe, happier than they’ve ever been. The couple decides to expand their family and brings a new child into the home to eventually adopt. The new child is wary of the adults. Adults haven’t proven very trustworthy in the past. But the new child does see the first child as an equal and grows close to them. That first child pulls the new one closer to the adults she calls her parents because she has experienced real love there. The new child looks to the first adopted and the first adopted points to the parents. A new bond begins to form. More humans are saved.

Let’s Be Social!

My note to remember to write about this was “Why am I afraid of posting sometimes?” I think you probably know why and you’ve probably had the same feeling. “Will I be attacked for posting this?” is what runs through my mind every time I find something interesting or when I write what I’m thinking about and what to share it, even this post! The internet and its offspring “social media” can be a dangerous family to be a part of but, generally, its positive aspects far outweigh the negatives.

Sometimes when I get online and read an article and the ensuing comments, I wonder if the whole world has lost its collective mind. It’s as if I’ve gone to a party on another planet where the host is from Mars and all the guests are from different cultures and speak different languages. If I found myself in this actual situation I would try to figure out the social rules and do my very best to get along with everyone in peace. No matter how hard I try, every time I think I’m politely opening the door for someone or offering them a piece of cake, I find that in their culture that is a horrible insult and they react violently, thinking I am just the utter end of rudeness. Reading what I just wrote, I think I’ve been watching too much Star Trek.

In reality, this is how I feel many times a week when I enter the internet in search of information or inspiration. I’m desperately trying to figure out the rules here but I’m confronted with anger and outrage at almost every turn. I even fall victim to it! “Why did my friend not ‘like’ my post? Don’t they see how important this is to me? Don’t they care? Obviously, I’m all alone in my thinking and everyone else out there is just ignorant and obnoxiously focused on themselves!” In reality, no one saw it for a number of reasons. One friend is on a vacation. Why would she be scrolling through Facebook to see what I’ve posted? One family member doesn’t really look all that close at social media. One co-worker is busy raising their own young children, focused on the reality of their home, not what I’m so concerned about posting. It’s like going to a party and being angry that the host is in the kitchen serving food instead of sitting with you over a cup of coffee. It’s not the time or place.

But here I am again, wondering about “the rules”. When I think I’ve got them all figured out, I say something to that effect and four people challenge my assumptions and offer their own set. Remember the “Dear Miss Manners” type, newspaper columns? I think the internet needs one of those but it needs to be a panel of young adults and older “tech savvy” types than can discuss and explain why it’s ok that someone comments with a picture of a movie or tells someone when they are clearly out of line and should probably dial back the aggressiveness. I’d read that every day, especially if it were quippy and fun.

My personal opinion is that the whole internet needs to lighten up a bit and maybe think about what they type in comments and who they are talking to. We all need to remember that at the other end of the line sits a human being with feelings just like you. You wouldn’t walk into the grocery store and make personal remarks about the person in front of you at the check stand. You wouldn’t come to a party by invitation and get loud and personal about the hosts choice of what to serve for dinner. You wouldn’t stand at your child’s school or at church and berate the speaker for not having the same feelings about a subject. Maybe we shouldn’t be doing that online either. Maybe we should try to be a little gentler and more polite. Everyone has those people that say and do as they please out loud and in front of everyone in their life, but offline, face to face, we just ignore that person. We don’t pile insult on insult, I think because we’re afraid of getting punched. But for some reason, when we are online, we feel safe in our home behind our device and take the opportunity to tell people how we really feel. To hell with manners! But does it get anyone anywhere on or offline? I don’t think so. It only serves to hurt people more, cause more dissension, and the injured party now has a written record of the wrongs done to him to go over and over again.

“Can’t we all just get along?” Can’t we ignore people that irk us or refrain from commenting on articles and posts we find so wrong? I think we can and we will eventually find new social rules for social media, but it will take a LOT of time and use. Our children will be better at it than we are and our grandchildren will be geniuses at it. In the mean time, I’m reminded of the honorable Bill & Ted: Go forth and “Be excellent to each other!”

Working on Myself – Impatience

How often did any philosopher, writer, or scientist that I’ve studied from the distant past (you know, pre-internet) get a chance to put their ideas or work out into the public and get feedback almost immediately? Probably none. Most great writers and thinkers probably spent a lot more time than I do quietly reading and writing, maybe talking to a few friends or family members over dinner or coffee, or just thinking alone on the porch or in front of the fire. Then they wrote in their journals, read their old journal entries, and re-wrote old ideas with more information they had gathered.

I’m sitting here angry because anything I write on the spur of the moment and post online gets very few “likes” or “views”. When I reflect, I can see what I’m doing. I realize I’m being impatient. And I’m letting social media distract me from really thinking, feeling, reading, and processing. I’m moving on to the next thing too quickly and not going back over what I’ve already written. I need to slow down. Find time to think. Stop giving myself tasks to do and things to occupy my curiosity and just be quiet. Listen, read, write, repeat. Maybe some day my ideas will get out there, maybe not. But maybe I’ll just be a better person to the people that I interact with every day.

Something I heard in my bible study recently, let your relationships develop in a community. That’s paraphrased, but this is what I’m taking from it. She was talking about finding a biblical mentor, like Paul was for Timothy. If you’re in a community of women working for Christ, you’ll find one. You just need to be patient and listen. It’s the same outside Christian work, if there is any such thing really, work outside your faith. How will I find people that I can talk to, listen to, learn from, and bounce ideas off of? By being in the world doing things. I can be kind, gentle, and a good listener. I can ask questions and write down ideas. I can offer my point of view in quiet ways. And I can write. And what I write I can also read and re-write.

I need to work toward making myself a better person, a better communicator. Like my bible study says, “You can’t give love, if you don’t have any.” and “And you have to know Jesus to share Him.” I need to know myself, too. I need to educate myself more completely before I can educate others. I can’t just jump up with every thought and insist everyone think I’m brilliant.

Learn Nothing Day – 2017

My goal for the next thirty days is to write every day for an hour AND post it. So, if you think these posts come a tad random, that is the reason why. They are! I’ll keep them all tagged “dailies” for future reference.

Today is “Learn Nothing Day”, an event created by Sandra Dodd in an effort to show people that it is not possible to learn nothing on any given day. It does not matter if you are in school or out, in front of the TV, hiking in the woods, or quietly meditating on a beach. It doesn’t matter if you are new Mom rocking a newborn in front a fireplace or a old Dad mowing the lawn on a sunny day. Even if you are all alone in the world, you will learn something every day. It’s unavoidable! No one succeeds on “Learn Nothing Day.” We are all losers no matter how hard we try.

In honor of that day, I’ll fill you in on what I’ve already learned today and it’s only 9:15 A.M.! I’ll go backwards from the latest to the earliest pieces of the day.

I just learned that all black and green teas are “anti-inflammatory”. No, they don’t calm down arguments, or maybe they do. Can you argue over a cup of tea? But they can reduce the inflammation in your body that cause all kinds of disease. I’m glad I’m a fan of iced tea with my lunch and a hot cup of hot oolong in the afternoon.

About an hour before that, when I logged onto Facebook to see what my friends were up to (it’s currently raining and I just know all my fellow desert dwellers will be reveling in it), I was reminded that it WAS “Learn Nothing Day” and posted to remind everyone to celebrate. I also posted a link for those that may have no idea what I’m talking about. This one http://learnnothingday.blogspot.com/

So now THEY have already learned something in reading my post! Ha ha! Share the love!

During my “Christian Basics” online class, I read this question, “Will unbelievers have a second chance to believe in Jesus after He returns?” This has always been a tough one. The answer in their book is no, but maybe. There is no specific reference to whether or not they will, there is only conjecture and inference. My personal belief is yes and I really can’t know. When I was a very new believer I couldn’t accept that God would condemn all those in the world who had never heard of Jesus. What about all those who have died before Jesus came to save the world, those who have lived isolated and never heard of Him, those who have felt lied to and betrayed by humans in this world and never found anyone they could trust that would lead them to the truth? I think at Judgment Day, something will happen, something just and good, something we cannot understand now and will in the future. I will trust that God has a plan and that all is never lost for the innocent.

In my bible study by Beth Moore, called “Entrusted”, I learned something marvelous. “The church of the present – comprised of every Christian on planet Earth – has a rock-solid foundation but it doesn’t have walls.” Many would disagree with this statement but I’d say that this is the way the church, the body of Christ, should be. Hold on to that for a moment. “The body” is porous, it lets in and out impurities and nutrition, it is not isolated. It lets in and keeps what it needs to live and grow. It gets rid of that which it does not. So we should be as the body of Christ. We stand on a firm foundation of the love of God, but we do not hide ourselves away, isolated and stagnant. We breathe in the world around us, let it in, and let it wash over us. We keep that which we need, new members, love, understanding, patience, etc. And we let go of the ugly and profane. It’s a beautiful picture. The more I study the bible from other people’s perspectives, the more I find that it fits so beautifully in this life.

My Great Books of the Western World reading list put me to Lavoisier’s Chemistry this month…ugg…science. I’m so not a fan of chemistry and mathematics. I wasn’t looking forward to this. I think I’ve posted about that before. But this is pretty awesome. I won’t get into all the details just yet since I’m saving it for when I finish and review it, but let’s just say the writing is clear and easy to read and doesn’t leave you bogged down in too many details. Today I learned that people used to know about acids but not where they came from, just what they do. He developed a way of purposely creating them, which he explains in this book, and renaming them according to the element they came from. Sulfurous and sulfuric acid come from sulfur. -ous means less saturated with oxygen, smelly and more stable. -ic means saturated with oxygen, stronger, solid, and odorless. And that muriatic acid still holds that name because they didn’t know where it came from. I’m not sure if they know now or what. I guess I’d have to google it but I’m not learning anything today!

My day started with a cup of coffee and “The Question of God” by Dr. Nicholi, Jr. This is a very good book if you’re interested. From a Christian or Atheist point of view, it compares Freud’s view of the world to C.S. Lewis’. Both were influential in their time, both came from religious families and became atheist. Freud never returned to God and Lewis did. It’s fascinating to hear them compared, both what they wrote and how they actually lived. I was reading the chapter on sex this morning and found this nugget. “Lewis goes beyond Freud to argue that people who control their sexual impulses understand their sexuality more than people who fail at controlling them. ‘Virtue – even attempted virtue – brings light; indulgence brings fog.’” Freud argued that we need to not hide sexuality, we should embrace it. I’d tend to agree. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to control ourselves. As with any passion, it’s good for some things, not so good if over-indulged. Lewis once told a story about a society that sold tickets for “strip tease” sort of act where a person came out with a covered plate and slowly lifted the lid to reveal a piece of bacon. The crowd would go wild with excitement and people would hurt each other to get to it and keep it from others. I think we’d all agree that something had gone horribly wrong with their feelings about food. The same goes for sex. Something has gone terribly wrong today. I’m not sure what the fix is really. I’d rather not go back to Victorian era values of women and sex, but this view of “anything goes” does not seem to be creating a healthier and happier society either.

That brings be to the start of my day. It’s nearly ten o’clock now and I wonder what else I’ll have to try not to learn by the end of the day!

Mother’s Day Dedication

This is the next chapter of my story. To read the previous chapter or to start at the beginning, click HERE.

I’d been attending church for about nine months. Today my children would be dedicated to God on Mother’s Day, with my Husband, Mother-in-Law, and Grandparents in attendance.

I started going to this church at the invitation of a friend. She had been going there for years and they were trying something new. The church was a bit of a drive for me but it was only once a week and, being a stay at home mom with young children, I enjoyed the time alone in the car. I hadn’t grown up going to church. I considered myself a Christian. I believed in God and I had an idea about who Jesus was. I had a bible and had read some of it from time to time over my life.

I have two memories of church when I was a child. The first was a Lutheran school I went to for the 1st grade. I don’t remember why I went there instead of a public school like the rest of my life but I remember being dropped off in front of the chapel on Wednesday’s before school started and needing to be quiet as I came in. The second was “Released Time Education” in the 4th grade. I signed up to go because it was once a week during math class. I hated math, so being sent to a small trailer off of school property (separation of church and state, you know) with a group of kids from other classrooms was a treat. There was a Catholic and a Protestant one. I went to the Protestant one. I learned the Lord’s prayer and got a tiny bible to keep. That was the extent of my Christian education.

So here I was meeting a good friend at a Baptist church to find out what this new thing they were going to try was. It turned out to be pretty exciting. Services were to be held in the gym instead of the sanctuary. There was a band, a coffee shop in the back, and bean bags in the back rows. The pastor rode in on his Harley. His wife sang with the band. He was passionate and loud. I heard “Can I get an amen from ya!” several times. The people were happy, excited, and outwardly worshiping, hands out stretched with tears in their eyes. I was intrigued and looked forward to coming back the following week.

As the weeks went on I became more and more comfortable there. Other friends of ours came to Sunday services a few times when they could. I helped in the nursery once a month. I joined a small group bible study on Wednesday nights and joined the ladies for coffee and desserts afterward every week. I felt a part of the family. I began to really fall in love with Jesus and read my bible more and more. I craved to know more about the Lord. The depression I struggled with throughout my adult life, and really fallen into since my children were born, began to abate. I felt like this was what I had been missing, this was the help my heart was searching for. When the pastor announced there would be a group baptism at the church the next month, I felt led to do it. I’m not an outgoing person and it was very difficult for me to stand up there in front of the whole congregation and be so publicly baptized, but I felt it was something I had to do, something the Lord wanted me to do, a public announcement of my faith, of my being adopted into the Christian family. I had never felt so happy and proud to be a part of something. Looking back, I wish I had made a bigger deal about it. I wish I had a picture!

I typically attend Sunday services alone. My husband always picked up his daughter from her Mother’s house on Sunday morning, so coming with me was not an option. My sons were very young and weren’t able to sit through the service just yet. The church did have a childcare option but I was not comfortable leaving them there. They weren’t happy to leave my side and stay with strangers and our parenting philosophy was not one to force them to get used to it. We were still fully in the bonding stages of parenting and it felt wrong not to honor their desire to stay with a parent. Since my husband was already occupied with picking up his daughter, the boys were happy to go with him. It became a Sunday tradition. I would leave for church and they would get ready to go with Dad. On the way home, they would usually pick up donuts and I would be home just after they were. But it wasn’t always the happiest day of the week for us. There was quite a bit of stress.

My step-daughter spent the rest of her Sunday decompressing. Our home and her Mother’s were very different. Parenting styles, atmosphere, expectations were all different. At her Mother’s she only had to contend with one other person. At our house, there were five of us. She was always excited to see us, but I’m sure it was a rough transition. She was nine years old now and was diagnosed as high-functioning autistic when she was two. The personality doesn’t do well with radical change and she had quite a bit of change to deal with every week. We tried to make the transition as easy as possible, giving her space to relax and unwind, but with two little brothers that were excited to see her and school looming the next day, there were things we had to push and it didn’t always go as smoothly as we planned.

It’s one of the things that still weighs heavily on my heart. I hope she knows we always tried to do the best we could. Parenting is not easy. There are no directions, handbooks, or quick fixes. There are just too many variables. And we’re all growing up at the same time but in different stages. Life is messy.

We had joined families with my Mother-In-Law just before my youngest child was born. I can’t say we moved in with her or that she moved in with us. We found a big house that all of us could fit in and we shared expenses and duties. It was a good move for all of us. She was no longer alone and could live more comfortably. And we were happy to have a third adult in the house, always willing to lend a hand watching the babies or driving someone somewhere. It was a win-win situation for everyone. She attended another church in our neighborhood that she had always gone to, so she was in on the usual Sunday Morning Excitement.

This Sunday would be different. It was Mother’s Day and my church was honoring the newest mothers in the group by having a Dedication Ceremony. Everyone was asked to be there and to invite extended family and friends to witness. My Mother-In-Law was happy to skip her church service to be there. And my Grandparents drove an hour and half to be there that Sunday morning. They weren’t church going people, but they were Christians. My Grandmother had been raised Catholic (something I didn’t know at the time), so she was excited to see some kind of Christian Ceremony in the family again. It still warms my heart to think of her proud face that day.

My husband had arranged to pick up his daughter on Saturday night instead of Sunday morning so she could attend. I had to get our sons up, dressed, and out the door by 8am, which was a feat in itself. They were three and two years old and definitely had their own way and pace of doing things. The big change for them was that I wanted them to wear something other than a camouflage shirt and black rubber boots. The very idea was insulting to them. I was just a young mom trying to show those church people I had it all together and had clean and tidy children. Couldn’t they cooperate, just this once?

The ride to the church was about thirty-five minutes long, so my young sons had already been confined for that long, an eternity for little boys. When we arrived, they sprang from the car and ran toward the grass in front of the church. Dad watched over them as they made circles around a fountain and ran up and down the grass chasing their older sister who always seemed happy to have the attention. We were attempting to wear out the wiggles a bit before we went inside. I met my Grandparents at the front door and told them how happy I was to have them there. I’d always been close to my Grandparents.

Five minutes before the service was to begin, we rounded up the children and walked into the auditorium. We found the place transformed into a perfectly beautiful, feminine paradise. Instead of rows of chairs there were tables draped in soft cloth of different pastels. Each table was clearly decorated for the ladies; flowers, confetti, a small gift for each mother at the table. We came in and sat down, taking up a whole table with our family and friends. As we settled in the music began.

The band was wonderful. All the kids loved the live music. Especially my oldest son. He’s always been drawn to music and he thoroughly enjoyed being able to see each of the band members play close up, with his hears covered by his hands, of course, “just in case it got too loud,” he said. The music lasted about fifteen minutes before it quieted down and the service began. As the pastor began to speak I noticed all the other mother’s in the auditorium sitting in chairs holding toddlers on their knees or standing quietly in the back rocking their babies while they listened. I know I wasn’t the only Mom praying that the children would remain calm during the ceremony or that the pastor would understand a mother’s plight and make it short, but I felt like I was waiting for a miracle. I knew my step-daughter would sit and listen for as long as the pastor talked. She was older, in school, and already a good listener and one to wait patiently. My younger son promptly fell asleep on Dad’s shoulder. Being two must be nice. Tired? Just crawl into someone’s lap and snooze! My older son was not one to sit still or be quiet when he was not interested in the subject at hand. At first he fidgeted with the things on the table. He carefully opened a box of candy, separated each of the colors, and ate them all one by one, telling me all about it in his tiny little voice. He asked several times what the pastor was saying and when the music would start again.

The pastor talked for about twenty minutes. Not long for a church service but for a little boy and his mother, forever! My son began to fidget. Grandma tried to entertain him a bit with some crayons she had in her purse. Grandmas! God bless them! My son really wanted to hear more music and I told him they would play soon but if he couldn’t be quiet we’d have to go outside. His little face brightened, “Ok!” That wasn’t the reaction I was looking for but just as he said it, the pastor asked all the families to come to the front for the Dedication Ceremony. My son hadn’t heard that part. When we got up he assumed we were going outside, exactly what he wanted to do. He was so confused when we walked to the front of the assembly and began to cry as the pastor began talking about each family. I knelt down to him and held him close, whispering that this is the part I was waiting for, right afterward the music would start. He just stood there looking irritated. My younger son, held by his Dad, rubbed his eyes in sleepy confusion.

The pastor spoke of each family. His kind and encouraging words for each of us and the loving prayers of the whole church lifted my spirits. I felt connected. I could feel the Holy Spirit in this room full of His children. I felt invincible. Each of the boys received a small New Testament with the date and the name of the church written inside. They loved them. Small books with so many pages they could hold in their little hands. I still have them tucked away in their baby things.

We left the church and headed straight home. There was no going out for lunch for this family. That would be a recipe for disaster. The boys had sat still long enough. But Dad stopped at the donut store on the way back and we all met at the house for donuts and coffee to celebrate. Sitting around the dining room table with my family happily munching away on donuts, my sons and their “coffee” (otherwise known as sippy cups of chocolate milk). I couldn’t be happier. Everything was as it should be.

Looking back now, twelve years later, I realize something about where I was spiritually. I was in love with the church, the experience, the show, not the Lord. I was trying to fit in with a group of people I believed were “doing it right,” not being the person God made me. My focus was not on the Lord or leaning on Him for support. A lot has changed over the years. There have been many trials and some not insignificant pain. This same month would begin nine months of intense stress I never saw coming, but I know the Lord did. I know now that He was building up my defenses for something that would change my whole worldview. Like giving birth once you’re pregnant, this trial had to happen. There was no way to stop it. I was about to learn some very serious life lessons and I know He was right there, holding my hand as it happened and we worked through it.

To read the next chapter, click HERE.

Thoughts From the Dishwasher

My journey is mine alone.

The choices I make, the paths I take, and what I learn from them is independent of anyone else’s.

Strange that I can just now see that.

There is no point in telling someone what you think they should do and being bothered that they don’t take the advice. Maybe they are taking the advice, applying it to their own journey, their own circumstances. You just can’t see it from your perspective. You could believe that it is there.

There is no point in listening to someone else’s choices and wishing you had made the same ones. They wouldn’t have worked for you. They weren’t yours to make. They may even have been disastrous.

There is value in hearing about other people’s journeys and choices. When you open your mind and heart to another person’s story, in person or through a book or movie, you add that person’s experience to your own. It’s not something to emulate or worry over, it’s just something to help you make your life more full, to make your own decisions on your own path.