some names have been omitted or changed in this post
I took a seat on one of the black chairs opposite the psychologist's desk. Dr. Malvey cleared his throat loudly behind his graying beard and began asking me questions about home, how I felt about it and how I felt about my parents. I didn’t really want to get into it. Feeling I was just being humored I didn’t believe another adult would see what I saw. Gradually I gave him a few examples of home life and how restricting it was... specifics of how emotionally unhealthy it had been and the toll it took on us, especially my mother and siblings. He nodded and took notes, asking some additional questions for confirmation. Eventually he snapped his black leather notebook shut and stood. He shook my hand, smiled pleasantly at me with gray piercing eyes and cordially thanked me for my time and led me out.
Once back in the hallway he retrieved my parents who went back in with him. It wasn’t long before I heard my father’s voice becoming louder behind the closed office door. That made me nervous and I wondered what they were talking about. My sister’s and I exchanged knowing looks and we shrugged. My sister’s just like myself knew something was different about our family even at their younger ages. Who knew what it was that had set him off this time. Finally the door flew open and my Dad walked out with angry footsteps followed by my mother who had red-rimmed eyes from crying. My Dad walked over to the front desk while our mother quietly told us to put away our books, we were leaving. Waiting for my Dad to write a check for the session I saw his face twisted in fury and he wrote the check with a quick messy flourish, curtly handing it to the petite pleasant woman sitting behind the desk.
Once outside and in the car my Dad slammed his door, then buckling his seatbelt, spoke…
“I have NEVER been so humiliated! So embarrassed! For him to tell us, ME, I'm the problem and you aren’t!!!!” He spewed nearly choking on his words.
My mouth fell open in shock.
Someone had told him he was wrong?
Someone had finally told him his behavior was the problem?
His gaze met mine in the rearview mirror... meeting my brown-green eyes as I sat in the backseat.
“Yeah, that’s RIGHT! REAL funny, HUH?!” he shot at me, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “I pay all this money for some help with you, and he sits there and tells me I’M the PROBLEM!!!” he screamed in complete fury. My mother sat silent, hoping he’d just shut up. I knew she was gripping her car door hand-rest in terror as the car lurched forward and he sped out of the tiny parking lot like a maniac.
At the end of the day it didn't matter that he was told his behavior was not healthy.
Because if it didn't spur awareness and then follow with change what good did it actually do?
I just wanted someone to get me out of there.
I just wanted someone to free me from this prison.
I just wanted to run away and never ever return to this hell I was trapped in.
We may think…
Where was God? Why was I born into this? Why is this my life? Why am I in this mess?
Did God even see all this pain? Did God know I was enduring this seemingly never-ending suffering?
Why? Why? Why?
These questions are universal and at times we may each feel as though God is simply standing by watching our life go down the drain, watching our life get swept up in a whirlwind of havoc or get highjacked by flying monkeys. But we can remember that those thoughts are what the enemy wants us to believe… that he wants us to get swept up in a cyclic negative thought process that never ends… leaving us in stuck mode and unable to press forward believing zero victory is coming our way.
But we can tell the enemy
to stand down
and to instead cling
to what God has promised us.
God always has a purpose to our pain and suffering no matter what we may begin to believe otherwise. What we may not realize is that with deliverance may certainly also include suffering… and maybe, just maybe we were kept from suffering a worse outcome than what we even realize… we may never stop to think that God was there all along and even though we suffered through tragedy, endured horrific circumstances or were terribly mistreated that in reality God spared us from an even worse outcome.
No matter what we need to escape from... no matter what the awful circumstances… if we need rescue from circumstances we didn't have a hand in or didn't have the knowledge beforehand that our situation would be horrific and we need an escape route we can rest assured that God will help.
This brings us back… back to thankfulness, to gratitude for God's protection. He is always looking out for us and His love for us is far more reaching than we could ever imagine. Even in the midst of our worst seasons, our darkest hours, our most perilous moments and greatest falls God is still there beside us.
“I know now that greater is He
who is in me than he who is in the
1 John 4:4
So when we begin to wail about our past… that maybe our childhood involved less than stellar circumstances, when we cry out wondering why on earth God seemed absent during yesterdays struggles, when we question God's good during darkness and suffering… when we fall to our knees in despair because we simply don't believe we can take another second of our situation because it's so dismal… we can remember looking back on those moments… someone WAS there… someone was beside us, someone heard us cry out even in weary silence and tears running down our face…
Someone was there as now…
and despite us feeling subjected to the external power of evils in the world,
we know who that someone is….
Someone who is greater than the world…
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014
There will be a time when what you've been through will be used by God…
to tell others, to share, to help others heal.
Thanks to Him, God will put your story in those people's paths.
Be brave enough to share it and watch other's become better too.
It's amazing how lives may not be what they appear to the outside world. Relationships behind closed doors are often so far from how they are presented to others. What some may see as a loving father may just be a man putting on a show for the world. What some people see as a man happily twirling around his daughter as she giggles with delight in the park, her pigtails flying, causing onlookers to smile appreciatively... is maybe a man who in reality ignores his daughter behind closed doors. Maybe strangers see a man who shares an after school moment of ice cream cones with his children and they assume because the father is taking his sweet time with them he must be the doting dad. But what they don't see is how he ignores them once home and buries himself in his phone, laptop, video game, work, football game, etc. Instead he just exists under the same roof with children who don't really know him and who live in perpetual boredom due to his self centered ways, him always chained to the couch not wanting to be bothered by them, their requests and their neediness as he views it. Maybe he buys them everything their little hearts desire… maybe he buys them off with toys, gifts, movies, outings and desserts. He believes he's bought their love and affection. But when it comes to quality time spent together or even discussions of important topics… school, dreams, goals, bullies, puberty, friendships, hobbies, etc… there is a bottomless pit of silence, of awkward, of distance, of detachment.
This is no way for a child to live.
And yet it happens everyday all across the United States and the world.
Fathers who are not checked in… fathers who are present but not really… fathers who want to be able to tell others "My kids are so great…" and "I have a family…" but really at the end of the day it's all a facade to puff himself up, to make him feel important, like he has his life together, the quintessential picture perfect life… a family portrait of love.
When really it's anything but love.
It's really a portrait of one… of selfishness.
So how do we define what exactly makes up a good father in today's world?
Let me begin by asking you this:
How you define love?
That will lead you to what defines a good father.
We must remember that when someone asks someone
if they love their child their answer
will automatically, unequivocally always be:
I mean, anyone is going to say yes… and even a father who is self absorbed will say that yes, he loves his kids. Talk is cheap, we all know this and it's easy as pie for anyone to say that he (or she) loves their children. But actions… now those require effort. Actions require time, energy and consistency. Love requires not just action but also insight… into self awareness… into how one can improve upon what is already there. A person who is absorbed with his own wants and needs is not able to effectively show love through actions (besides through his wallet, as he may only know one way to show love or receive it… through buying it) because he's inept, even deficit in that department.
We must remember that when we are attempting to define whether a father is a good father, a loving father, we need to look closely at his actions. Only then will we find our answer.
LOVE = verb/action
How To Be A Good Father:
1. Love Your Wife
As a man you teach your son how to treat women; how to love them, care for them, provide for them, how to communicate effectively and calmly and even how to be affectionate toward them in a loving non-crass manner and to be respectful. You also teach your daughter what to look for when she marries one day so be the man you'd want her to marry.
2. Be Thankful
When father's don't value their child and instead focus on what they don't have… meaning wishing they had a boy instead of a girl or only focusing on their sons versus their daughters… not only is it hurtful to their wife but to their children. A daughter will always sense that her father is disappointed she's not a boy. A son will always feel his father's rejection if he's not into sports or prefers the chess club over soccer much to his father's disappointment. A son will realize his father' s unspoken preference of him if his dad rejects his sister… leading him to feeling superior and believing he has more value merely based on his sex. When father's don't appreciate each child God has blessed them with everyone suffers longterm.
3. Don't Control
Men are often viewed as the head of the home, to lead, but unfortunately many pastors, churches and society as well have taken this and run with it into very dangerous territory. Head of home or leading does not equate to a free ticket for men to control and abuse their families. Men need direction from their pastors, from their men's groups in their churches… they need support in learning how to lead their families toward God… and not toward sin, control, manipulation and abusive behavior.
4. Provide For Your Family
Providing for your family with a glad heart, with a joyful spirit, not one of grudges or complaining. A man who steps up and does what he's supposed to do without holding a grudge against his wife. Understandably, a wife may need to work or may have a career she wants to pursue but it's important that if she does choose to be a stay at home mother that her work is valued and not met with scorn by her husband and seen as mooching.
5. A Good Father Makes Sacrifices
A father who loves his children makes the necessary sacrifices to put his children's present and future well being ahead of his self-gratification. If he is more interested in purchasing a shiny new car tricked out with all the latest gadgets than getting his special needs son the behavior intervention needed he is not showing his child love. If he is giving his daughter new dvd's or uploading new movies onto her iPhone just to keep her out of his hair so he can work overtime and spend extra hours in the office or on the phone he's not putting his daughter's best interests ahead of his own. He's showing through repeated actions that he comes first at the complete suffering of the entire family.
6. Be Present
Father's are naturally more emotionally capable of being separated from their children, of working longer hours and not being as involved as mothers. But when they are at home, in the presence of their children it's vital that they are tuned in. It's important that they ask their children about school, about their friends, what their struggling with, if they are being bullied (or bullying) and about big issues like peer pressure, sex, drinking, drugs and the opposite sex. It's crucial for daughters to know her dad values her thoughts, her feelings and dreams. It's committing a great act of love when he listens to her and she feels heard. It's also an act of love when a father gets outside in nature with his children, when he's playing a sport or game with his son (or daughter) and encourages them in whatever they excel at.
7. Be A Moral Person
So often in the family courtroom in the midst of divorce we hear judges say to the mother: "Well, he has every right to 50/50, he's the children's father after all. You and he may be getting a divorce but he's not divorcing his children." No one ever bats an eye at this except for possibly the mother. The truth is… that may be all well and good if the divorce is amicable, both parents are morally good people (the father is truly a loving father) and yet they are just parting ways. But if the divorce is due to a father's act of adultery or some other ill behavior like addiction or abuse, that concept is up for debate. He was not putting his children's best interests first. This is not an issue solely between he and his wife. Because when the marriage breaks consequently the family breaks. Judges need to realize this reality and stop trying to put everything in these neat separate compartments because life simply doesn't work that way. When a father doesn't choose the right path in life but instead sin that threatens to tear apart his family he makes the conscious choice to not be a good role model for his kids…. and that's not loving them… that's loving himself.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com 2014
Two simple words that hold such
weight and meaning behind them.
some names have been omitted in this post
I heard the ping of the stainless steel toaster and knew that meant my Eggo waffles were now crispy and hot, ready to eat. I snatched them up and placed them on a white plate and reached for the Aunt Jemima syrup. Still in gray plaid pajama pants and a charcoal gray sleep shirt, since I had some down time before heading out for the day, I padded barefoot to the mahogany kitchen table with my plate.
The laptop computer on the nearby granite countertop was opened to Facebook and my glance took quick note that the message icon was lit up with a red notification showing I had a new message in my inbox along with a new friend request. Immediately the usual ambivalent feelings stirred in me upon seeing I had a friend request and wondering whom it could be. Just seeing that red icon lit gave me gnawing trepidation. Someone from my past was reaching out. That past that often seemed like it belonged to someone else because so much time had passed… other times like it was yesterday but was still mine nonetheless. But who was it?
Part of me wanted nothing more than to just swiftly shut the laptop and go about my day…back to my breakfast that was waiting for me, errands and the signs of spring outside. It had been a very mild winter and the outside world had begun to prematurely explode with spring colors and temperatures in the sixties. Tiny green buds were about to bloom into delicate white fluffs on our bare crepe myrtles that would soon resemble snowy umbrellas. Pockets of yellow daffodils were in full bloom in our flowerbeds and it was only February. I was anxious to get on with my day and forget whatever was awaiting me in my inbox but curiosity overcame me. Pushing my feelings of dread aside I used my long nimble fingers to hover the cursor over the inbox icon then clicked. I had no idea what to expect next. Relief ensued, washing over me. It was a sweet friend from high school reaching out, wondering whatever had happened to me our junior year, as I had inexplicably disappeared. What came next was a flood of memories as I typed a response to her.
some names have been omitted or changed in this post
The next morning I realized Bao had never told his grandmother I was staying with him in their apartment. Yet it became quite clear she wasn't aware of my presence when she caught a glimpse of me in his bedroom through the cracked door. I listened as he spoke to her quietly in the early morning hours and cringed, instinctively knowing this wasn't going to end well. Seeing me, she pushed the door open with all of her tiny frame, knocking Bao slightly off balance as he tried to brace himself with the wielding wood door. An angry and pointed Vietnamese string of accusing words came hurling at me with a look of disgust and then a look of pained disappointment at Bao. I couldn’t focus well as my eyes were blurred from wearing my contacts to bed and having nothing to store them in left me with wearing them to sleep each night only to have them completely fogged over each morning with sleepy debris. Before I escaped to the bathroom to take them out and rinse them as best I could, I tried to pull a blanket around me as I sat on the mattress in Bao’s dark blue pajama pants and oversized t-shirt. Bao quickly tried to assuage her by gently taking her shoulder and explaining that nothing was going on, that we were merely friends and he was trying to help me because I was in a bind. I felt terribly bad for upsetting this older woman unnecessarily and especially after she had not only welcomed me into her home as a dinner guest but also unwittingly and unknowingly as a continual overnight one too. Bao shrank from his grandmother's rapid admonition and I realized this wasn’t going to work. He realized it too as I quickly fled to the bathroom to change back into my jeans and turtleneck. I hadn’t done anything with Bao, as we were just friends, yet I was acutely aware of his grandmother’s internal thoughts of me with her eyes pouring into my back. My face crimson from her stare, I glanced back to throw her one last genuinely apologetic look and she slammed the door shut in my face with a glare.
So often we walk around wounded with scars endured from past hurts and traumas that occurred in our past. We walk around with hurts so deep and past experiences so unbelievable that if ever dared uttered to anyone, people predictably gasp and say "I never would have guessed"… or "You don't fit the stereotype"… maybe even "You? No way…"
And yet, it was you. You may not fit the stereotype, you may not look the part, you may not fit the bill but that was you… it's your life, your story, your history and has undeniably contributed to who you are today. Any scars we bear no matter how deep, how inexplicably painful... we wear often hidden. We don't dare talk of rape, we don't dare talk of one night stands, or pre-marital sex, or maybe an abortion… we don't dare talk about our ugliest moments, our most heart wrenching times that brought us to our knees asking God for divine intervention because we have literally been faced with way more than we could ever handle…. we don't dare speak of the ugliness behind the marital bedroom door and the bruises endured by an abusive spouse… we don't dare show anyone weakness or internal pain because that would mean opening ourselves up for vulnerability, judgment and the wrath of people who love to hate those that speak truth and are beautifully honest even when life's moments are anything but those of beauty. We don't talk about why we aren't wearing our wedding ring even though everyone notices and those that care, even strangers pray for us… we don't talk about how we really aren't "fine" but were dying inside because were depressed and hanging on by a mere thread wondering how we will make it to the next day much less the next hour.
There is so much that we don't talk about when it comes to what were going through and where we've been. Because at the end of the day aren't we often worried about what people will say? Don't we all at some point worry that our story will be seen as "dirty" and (gasp) then we might be viewed as "dirty" too? We shudder to think of that happening and so we close off… we keep quiet… we cloak our face with a poker expression, we don't talk about it and instead kick it all under the rug like not-to-be-seen dirt clods.
Some people may say our story, our life experiences are comparable to "dirty laundry". I remember sitting in a cafe years ago with a group of women… one who had recently endured a terrible loss, a loss no woman ever wants to experience… a miscarriage. My heartstrings were pulled and I felt great sadness, empathy and pain for her. As empathetic concerns and condolences were shared in hushed tones with her one woman spoke "Why on earth didn't you say something? I care, I'm your friend." she stressed to her. Knowing her, I knew she was coming from a well intentioned place and was awed to see her transparent honesty with her friend. Yet the grieving mother seemed suddenly annoyed and snapped "I'm not going to post my dirty laundry all over!"
Her words stayed with me for a long time… and still linger with me today.... her miscarriage, her baby, her loss could never ever be compared to "dirty laundry"… it was out of her control… it wasn't her fault… it wasn't a wanted loss… and it certainly wasn't dirty. Naturally by all means it was her right to keep her loss private and only between close family and friends.
It's certainly everyone's right to keep their laundry in the basket and not let anyone see it…. but it's not dirty laundry in a closed hamper. The "dirt", the "guilt", the "shame" and the "ugly" has been bleached and removed.
No matter what we've been through by someone else's doing, what's happened by mere unfortunate circumstance or what we've experienced through our own sinful choices, our stumbles and fleshly errors… we can remember that we don't have to call our past "dirty laundry".
Because of Christ's love for us we have been cleansed.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014