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An Integrative Perspective of Mental Health in Light of Eternity

February 8, 2013 1 comment
Redemption drawing nigh

Redemption

For those who have a relationship with Christ, we look forward to redemption, both in body and spirit. The introduction of sin into a perfect and spotless world tainted everything, from the land to the health and longevity of the human body. What was once a flawless frame, complete with perfected organs, sickness, disease, and death resulted from the Fall. Most amazingly, the Author of life didn’t give up. Though His plan was eternal, physical fellowship with man, man chose separation. God still had a purposeful contingency, a second chance found through Christ’s blood. We are told in the bible, that for those who accept Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, we have an abiding hope of return to the glorified, original state God intended from the beginning. As Scripture states,

We will all be changed in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:51-53, NIV)

From the kidneys to the heart, our skin and eyes, every part of our being will be made new and perfected. This includes the brain.

Dr. Jenkins (2013) eloquently stated, “My brain is in need of redemption, just like the rest of my physical body. One day, my brain will be in its glorified state.” Time, toxic elements, chemicals, and stress all have tremendous impact in the decay of our fragile bodies. This includes the physical make up of the brain. Most often, when people think of physical health, the brain is not the first thought (No pun intended.). Negative factors, such as those listed above, greatly influence the health of brain material. Combined with genetic predispositions to disease, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, the state of the brain can be precarious, indeed. While evolutionists claim that homeostasis was a natural process that all life forms adapted to ensure the biological maintenance, creationists believe that an all-knowing God planned our bodies with purpose and design (Hart & Ksir, 2011).

Our environment and our personal choices all contribute to the state of our brain. While many issues arise that are not within our control, it is important to consider how we can better care for our health. Unfortunately, many of us do not realize or begin to get serious about these matters until damage is done or the unexpected news is delivered. With our physical mental abilities, come our volition and will.  These, too, will be redeemed and properly focused soley on the Lord.  The mind is an integration of a physical and spiritual state.  There is great hope in our redemption! One day our physical form, every part, will be perfected. We will be changed in an instant and will forever live in the presence of our loving Creator.

References

Hart, C. & Ksir, C. (2011). Drugs, society, and human behavior (14th ed.). Boston, MA:

McGraw-Hill. ISBN: 978-0-07-338090-2.

Jenkins, D. (2013). Models of addiction. Audio Visual Presentation: Liberty University

Exodus Ministries: The Great Debate

Specifically, the concern of many liberals is that Chick-fil-a donates to an organization called Exodus Ministries (also known as Exodus International).  This is a faith-based ministry to homosexuals, families of homosexuals and leadership within the church.  Exodus, above almost all organizations in my opinion, is one of the most speculated, hated (by both sides), and misinterpreted.   Exodus statements are twisted, manipulated, and flat out lied about.  The rumor mill never stops.

Exodus was founded in the late 1970’s by several men whose desire was to leave the homosexual lifestyle and help others overcome homosexuality.  It was brought to my attention the story of a man by the name of Michael Bussee, one of the founders of Exodus now advocates against the organization based upon its practices at the onset.  To be clear, I don’t know specifics of the beginning of Exodus. What I do know is that homosexuals in that period of time (and now!) needed care.  They needed love.  The church kicked them out without trying to support and walk along-side of them.  The gay community was terrified in with what became known as AIDS and there was a profound need.  There were no other organizations or ministries in existence.

I have no doubt they made mistakes.  We all do!  But, their passion, their motives, their heart for the gay community and for those who struggle with same-sex attraction was ignited.  They took a leap of faith, a shot in the darkness, and launched not knowing the specifics of how Exodus would take shape.  What I can say is that the church is often criticized and hated for mistakes.  Let me be clear.  In many ways the church as a whole has stumbled and failed to address issues properly – and we still do.  But, the fact is the church is made of fallible, imperfect sinners.  We don’t have a magic wand.  We don’t carry a get out of jail free card or some dry erase board of our personalities or our tendencies.  We still fumble.  There are very well-intentioned people who genuinely believe they are doing good when they are actually setting back the ministry and message of the Bible.

Consider this: every institution has flaws. 

Education

We have education boards and PTA to evaluate and reevaluate the methods that are most effective for learning and knowledge retention.  But, it is a fact that each individual responds differently.  Each child and even into adulthood, we learn in different ways.  Our personalities, our disabilities, and our passions each contribute to how we ingest information and process it.  The teachers we employ, how much do we pay them?  What about tenure?  How about the curriculum that is used?  The education process is constantly revamping its methods (or should be, I suppose.).

Medicine

We have laboratories and grant-funded medical research teams that are specified in trying to find cures for diseases such as AIDS, autism, breast cancer and Alzheimer’s.  These are debilitating and heart wrenching diseases that scientists are feverishly trying to find effective treatments and cures.  They can only find such developments by trials, tests, and continued research.  They’ve tried and failed in avenues that at one point seemed to have hope, only to be forced to go back to the drawing board.  When it comes to certain illness, hundreds of years ago the medical practices seemed effective but now that science has continued and pressed on for more information, we no longer practice.  Bloodletting, lobotomies, etc.

Government

Don’t even get me started….Seriously….

————————————————————————————————————————————–

The issue of Exodus, it’s practices and beliefs is of importance to me for a few reasons.  I am clinical counselor who retains a Biblical worldview.  And I also have a heart for the gay community.

It is vital to understand a baseline for this discussion: there is a difference between a homosexual lifestyle and homosexual orientation.  Homosexual lifestyle is the acting upon desires, thoughts, impulses, and attractions.  A homosexual orientation is the desire for, thoughts, impulses, and attractions themselves.  This is a necessary distinction to determine what is actually “sinful” according to the Bible.

As far as the view of homosexuality and changing, I would posit that there are people in three “camps”:  1. Those who believe it can be “cured.” 2. Those who believe that homosexuality is an unchangeable, biological fact, and that to attempt to change is harmful and 3. Those who believe that a homosexual can, with proper support, change his lifestyle. (strong emphasis on “lifestyle”.)

It must be understood is that there are people who believe that homosexuality can be cured.  To use the word “cure” has multiple interpretations.  There are people who genuinely believe that through therapy (faith-based or clinical) one can wipe out homosexual orientation.  At this point I must confess, I don’t know much about reparative therapy.  It is a small orientation of thought that I have not been educated in, therefore to make strong comments about it would be inappropriate.  However, I can say this, there are many schools of thought in psychology that I do not ascribe to.  As any theoretical adaptation, man has put forth ideas to observe behavior, modify behavior, and assist clients in their pursuit and navigation through life.  Some techniques are effective, some are not, and many are debated for their effectiveness.

Throughout the history of social sciences, people have modified their opinions and ideas based upon ethics (such as electroshock therapy) and upon new interventions (such as twelve step programs).  As individuals in life, we all go through a cycle of research (limited or extensive), thought, and action.  We all learn lessons, are rewarded, and punished.  When we step back and reflect upon a transaction in life that has not been beneficial and reassess where we can improve, make necessary changes and then move another direction, progress occurs.

My approach to change in the homosexual is a little different from a “curist”.  My belief is that Christ can change any heart.  However, that does not mean that our propensities vanish (although sometimes they do).  A sex addict who accepts Christ may never have temptation again.  An alcoholic who has tried everything, may never desire a drink after an encounter with Jesus.  But for most of us, life is a series of difficult pursuits to avoid what we carnally desire, yet what is harmful and condemned in Scripture.  Most of us battle anger and tempers, food addictions and smoking, though we depend upon the Lord’s strength.

And that is the point!

We need the Lord’s strength to overcome our temptations.  As difficult as it is, our failures of heart, our weaknesses can either defeat us and we surrender back to the lifestyle or can cause us to draw nearer to Christ for strength.

You will find that Alan Chambers states he is thankful for his same-sex attractions.  A controversial statement that many people misunderstand, but the point is that as a result of his weakness, he found God.  And it is God who can help us everyday overcome our failures and temptations, if we allow Him.  This is in His timing.  So often people who are trying to change habits get so frustrated wondering when it will just “happen already!”

But, the process and journey looks different for every individual.

That point cannot be underscored enough.

I believe Exodus is in another phase of evaluation.  A natural one.  As a matter of the therapies that Exodus has endorsed, though not personally practiced, they reevaluate the methods of support that is offered to individuals.  It is important to reemphasize the fact that every method of support is not effective for every individual, just as education is not straightforward across the board.  The intent of this organization has never been to hurt people, denigrate individuals or make strong political statements. I have been to Exodus events and have many of their publications.  The term “ex-gay,” while initially accepted has been vehemently rejected in the last decade by Exodus.

I truly believe that it is the goal of this organization is to love others and to equip the church to balance truth within the absolute scope of compassion.

They mean to assist people in their struggles, to walk alongside them as they navigate through life.  Alan Chamber’s recently spoke a fabulous message in which he states that for far too long people have made this one issue center.  The fact is that we all struggle and move through life.  I have a propensity to worry, to become anxious for which the Bible tells me not to!  Jesus is my comfort, yet I forsake Him when I worry or become anxious.  He died so that I would not be in bondage to that sin.  Another man or woman may have a propensity to homosexual orientation.  And when those desires are acted upon, they forsake Christ.  One statement that Alan makes struck me.  In essence he said, “Christ did not hang longer on the cross for homosexuals.”  How true!  Christ didn’t detail every moment, “Now this minute is for the adulterers.  This minute of pain is for the gossips.  That nail is for the swindlers.”  No!  Rather he bled and died on that tree for the freedom from ALL sin for ALL of mankind.  The unfortunate fact is now we want to divvy out whose penalty was greater.  That is missing the mark and desecrating the whole purpose in the sacrifice.  The point is that we accept his punishment.  Period.  You need salvation, I need salvation.  When we bicker about who is more sinful, we waste precious time and energy.  We all must accept the forgiveness for our sins.  None of us are forgiven unless we allow the Lord to forgive us.  This is an incredibly simple concept with tremendous incredulity.  How amazing is it that God grants us forgiveness for every wrong simply by taking the step of faith to trust and accept it!  Yet, how complex we make it!  How cumbersome it is for many to actually make that step!

Finally, I have learned this:  there are some individuals who will continue to intentionally misrepresent Exodus no matter the facts.  No matter how often mission statements and messages pledge allegiance and uncompromising commitment to loving and supporting.  No matter how often people deliberately overlook the daily, humble action of quietly loving and walking alongside people who genuinely struggle.  There will be people who are malicious and hateful.  What I have to remember is this:

Christ died for them too.

We continue to love in action.  We continue to stand for truth as it is given to us in the Word of God. And we continue to serve.

I leave you with two important bits of information:  One is the quotation from Exodus about its mission.  And the second is the message Alan Chambers made at this year’s conference Alan Chambers:  Made for More.

I’m always curious to see what people are saying about Exodus and as the PR person, I’m pretty sure there’s something in my job description about that too. I’ve heard some winners in the years I’ve spent working on and around this subject. Hmm . let’s see. According to some, Exodus believes in inhumane psychiatry that harkens back to the Dark Ages. Others say we peddle nonsensical, mind-altering remedies to unsuspecting prey that erases any and all attractions. Still others’ seem to think we hold mysterious camps with all the security measures of the FBI training facility in Quantico – just in case anyone would think of escaping. Of course, none of that is remotely true and all of it is wholly laughable, but it is amazing how hearsay begats rumors and rumors begat hard news. So, here’s the 411 on the top myths about Exodus International to set the record straight (no pun intended):

U.S.S. PRAY THE GAY AWAY:

Prayer is certainly an important part of a Christian’s life, but it’s not a magic formula. If you find one let us know. J This mantra ignorantly dismisses the complicated issues that often underlie attractions and deeper still – identity. As I said before, we don’t think many, if any, wake up one morning, down their coffee and decide to be gay. Sexual attractions develop for many known and unknown reasons and no one chooses those. As complex individuals, we must also take into account the way others hurt us and the way we hurt ourselves. For many who contact Exodus, hurt has become a familiar, but unwelcome fixture in life. Talking to God about these things is part of a dynamic relationship with Him, but it doesn’t always change the fact that dealing with it is just plain hard work.

CAMP GAYBEGONE:

As for those mysterious gay-to-straight “boot camps,” they don’t exist. And neither do any other Exodus camps – mosquito infested or otherwise. We do have an annual conference and some local ones too – held at churches, conference centers and Christian college campuses -just like other Christian conferences, though I’ll freely admit that the content is eye-poppingly unlike most other Christian conferences. We aren’t interested in bludgeoning others with our big black Bibles or our views. Truth be told, we can barely keep up with the 300,000 calls and e-mails we get every year from those who do want our input.

Exodus International doesn’t exist to make gay people straight, promote a formula for “success,” to make money or even to pass legislation. We exist to help others live a life that reflects the Christian faith. We’ve found that the opposite of homosexuality is most certainly not heterosexuality. It is holiness. It is loving God and being loved by Him. It is accepting His identity for us, instead of everyone else’s. But those things don’t often make headlines and I suspect that, unfortunately, we’ll continue to see more crazy things out there churning around in the rumor mill.

A Dose of Self-Awareness – Just What the Doctor Ordered

Gauging where I should be.

Gauging where I should be.

I have a fever.  I think.  The thermometer isn’t the most reliable, stupid little thing.  I just bought it too.  Well, I feel like crap.  I guess if I pass out and wake up in the hospital I’ll get extra attention if necessary.  Thankfully, at least I’m not delusional, yet.  (Hey, watch it…)

In talking with a dear friend, I began to reflect (alright ramble) upon some heartache I’ve had in the last couple years.  Funny, when we stop and actually listen to what we say we could learn a few things.  Sometimes, we learn how stupid we sound. (That’s where I’m going.) This time I’m reflecting upon the stupid things I’ve said and done.

About four years ago, I realized something. I really should have been on the debate team in high school.  I would have won, hands down, every time.  If my “high school” me was my “up to a year ago” me, that is.  I’m good with words, quick-witted, bold, and unashamed. I’m confident in this.  If someone comes at me with an arrogant attitude and is uncivil, I will do everything in my power to demean, condescend, and put him or her in their place.  I have no tolerance for incivility or disrespect.  There was nothing more gratifying that knowing that I won the debate.  If only the respect of the audience watching.

I am ashamed to admit that this crept into my passion in issues of faith.  Though my original intention was always to speak for truth and for what was right, my intellect, witticism, and conscientiousness became the prized idol. Admiration from others and respect was the game.  I won, but really I lost.  I sought out debates, I was harsh, critical, brash.  Even in scenarios where I began just wanting to communicate my feelings to friends and loved ones, I would get overly sensitive.  I wanted to win.  My intent started pure, always, but I was taking God off of the throne and putting myself there instead.  I was Master of my own, with pawns at my disposal.  This was my sin.  My attitude caused a rift in relationships.  I was spikey, uncouth, ungracious, and provoking. Known as passionate, but a hot head in political issues and sensitive in forms of communication.

About as comforting as cuddling a porcupine.

What is so sad to me, is that I now realize, that though my passion began with fiery fervor for truth, sadly became about me and not about Christ. I was prideful.  He humbled me.

God cannot receive glory when I get in the way.  I was in the way.  In a BIG way.  Thankfully, albeit, painfully, He took me out of the way.  I want Him to receive the glory.  It is HIS truth that matters, NOT mine.  It matters NOT what I think, only what He thinks.  I must remember:

Philippians 2:3-7

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition of vain conceit, but consider others better than yourselves.  You should not look not only to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who being in very nature, God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but rather made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant”

The Impact of Divorce Upon Children – A Thesis Study in Grief, Trauma, and Stress Children Face When Parents Divorce

September 5, 2011 11 comments

The impact of divorce upon children is enormous.

 Abstract

 When a marriage ends in divorce all individuals connected to the relationship are impacted.  There are perhaps none so affected as children.  Because of their innocence and immaturity, children are unable to process stressful events as adults are.  Their reactions and behavior can range from subtle to explosive.  The purpose of this paper is to provide research that illuminates that various facets of impact upon a child with the demise of a marriage.  Relationships with parents, and sibling are all pivotal in the life of a child.  These, along with therapeutic interventions, statistics, future outlook, and biblical underpinnings will be discussed.  Finally, the author, an adult child of divorce, will provide personal reflection about the subject.

Introduction

            The ultimate end to a marriage is tragic and its affect ripples throughout the lives connected to that couple.  Chaos and stress, probably feelings that have been prevalent for some time prior to divorce, ensue and impact the now divided family unit.  Children are particularly vulnerable to the affects of divorce.  Unable to understand and process such complex matters of life, children resort to alternative ways of expressing their heartache and confusion.  The fact is that the divorce of parents remains with children, to some degree, all of their lives.  Any adult child of divorce can relay past feelings that accompanied the demise of their caretaker’s marriage.  Regardless of the passage of time, few children of divorce are unable to provide some recollection of pain.  Relationships are often strained, physiology and psychology is affected, and the future can seem bleak.  When we understand the gravity with which a child is impacted by divorce, the hope is that couples will devote energy toward any and all opportunities to salvage the marriage.

Statistics

            In the quest to understand the full impact of divorce upon children, one must examine current trends and statistics.  Consider some sobering data (Portnoy, 2006):

  •     Around 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce.
  •     Approximately one-half to two-thirds of those who divorce will remarry.
  •     One in every six adults will divorce two or more times.
  •     Half of all divorces involve minor children.
  •     Forty percent of children in the United States will experience a parental divorce and half of those will reside, at least temporarily with a single parent.
  •     One in three of these children will live with a step-parent before the age of 19 .
  •     According to the 2004 U.S. Census, 1.1 million children lived with a parent who had experienced a divorce in the last year (Thomas & Woodside, 2011).

Ten years following a divorce, well adapted college students reported a continuance of pain and distress about their parents’ divorce (Kelly & Emery, 2003).  They reported more painful childhood feelings and experiences.  Feelings of loss were the most prevalent of the painful feelings.  Further, the majority of these students reported missing their father’s involvement, evening questioning whether they were loved by their father at all (2003).

Manifestations of Stress

Faber and Wittenborn (2010) report that on average, children in divorced families and stepfamilies, as compared to those in non-divorced families, are more likely to exhibit behavioral and emotional problems, lower social competence and self-esteem, less socially responsible behavior, and poorer academic achievement.  The fact is that the disruption of the family unit causes an inability to concentrate, remain emotionally stable, and move through daily activities without some form of distress.  As previously discussed, children are unable to comprehend the details of divorce and many result in false assumptions, such as “This must be my fault.”  When outward expressions of distress are not displayed, many children will exhibit physiological symptoms.  These can range from headaches, gastrointestinal upset, sleep disturbances, and inattention.  Depending upon the level of secure or insecure attachment, these manifestations may be more or less severe.  “Insecurely attached children have been associated with externalizing problems such as delinquent behavior and substance abuse as well as internalizing problems such as anxiety, depression, and other affective disorders (Faber, Wittenborn, 2010, p. 92).” Further, increased levels of parental conflict may lead to increased long-term vulnerability to cardiovascular and other illness (Luecken & Fabricius, 2003).  Parental conflict, perceptions of father caring, and time with mother are significant predictors of overall physical health (2003). “This is consistent with findings that adolescents from divorced families with low conflict reported fewer physical health symptoms and better overall well-being than those from high conflict, intact families (p.226).”  Divorce may also directly affect aggression, distractibility, behavior problems directed at parents, economic difficulties, and geographic mobility (Hodges, Tierney & Buchsbaum, 1984).

Behavioral reaction

The first few years following a divorce are typically a difficult and stressful period for most children and their parents (Faber & Wittenborn, 2010).  It is estimated that families typically re-stabilize parenting practices and pre-transition levels of children’s behavior about 2 years following divorce and 5 years following remarriage (2010).  After the divorce, children typically will respond in atypical ways.  The behavior variances are unique to the family and individual child, but often display symptomatic distress in their circumstantial change.  Verbal cues, play themes, transitional o jects and aggressive or withdrawn behavior may one or all be exhibited by the child.  A six year old child explained divorce in this way,

“It starts with love, then you don’t live together, then you get unmarried, then you love other people, go back and back and back and forth and back and forth.” As he chanted the last phrase, he picked up a Slinky from his own toy box and slowly stretched it, gesturing toward the playhouses on either side of him. With the Slinky fully extended, he concluded, “and then . . . you break.” With that, he let the Slinky snap close and crash to the floor between the houses. (Ebling, Pruett & Pruett, 2009, p. 672)

Children who are not as verbally expressive, often convey stress in imaginative play themes. During playtime, some themes that are often depicted by children are reunion fantasies, damage and conflict, security and protection, and back and forth travel between households (Ebling, Pruett & Pruett, 2009).  The most frequent play theme are reunion fantasies.

Another way that children display grief, loss, and stress is in that of transitional objects (McCullough, 2009). Children often respond to divorce with insecurity, loss of self-esteem, and repressed feelings of anger and loss, which may be manifested as aggressive or withdrawn behavior.

During periods of extreme stress, children may return to the use of transitional objects—more typically seen in the developmental period associated with an infant’s separation from his or her mother—as a way of coping with circumstances over which they feel little control (p. 19).

Transitional objects can be stuffed animals, blankets, dolls, etc.  Anything that provides the child with a sense of security and comfort can be transitional object.  Often times, transitional objects can become personified objects.  “As a child’s need for a security object decreases with increasing maturity, a transitional object may become imbued with personality and agency and emerge as a personified object.” (Gleason & Sebane 2000, p. 420) An object is personified when the child incorporates traits that are human personality oriented.  The blanket, doll, stuffed animal, or imaginary friends are animated and utilized for role-playing.  These can be a source of support and stress relief for children of divorce.  It should be noted that many children have transitional or personified objects who are not under stress.

Because feelings of shame, decrease in self-esteem, self-blame, anxiety and fear of abandonment may be prevalent for the child of divorce, children from divorced homes often perform academically worse than peers (Crow, Ward-Lonergan, 2003).  An inability or difficulty concentrating due to anxiety and worry is not uncommon.  Health issues that have resulted from anxiety can also cause a disturbance in sleep and ability to focus on school work.  Fortunately, with time and therapeutic interventions, most children are able to learn to cope with the grief and stress of divorce.

Therapeutic Intervention

With the tremendous influx of divorced families, therapeutic techniques have vastly improved in helping children cope with the stress and grief they face.  Therapies, support groups, role-playing, and picture books are all great resources to assist the child in coping.  Utilizing such tools gives children impacted by divorce an age appropriate view of the complex nature of divorce.  When a child begins to understand and is allowed to grieve, express emotion, and verbalize their anxieties, he or she has a greater chance to be relieved of the extreme pressure and stress that can impact for the duration of his or her life.

Fictional picture books provide children “an alternative channel of interpreting divorce by emotionally distancing themselves as story characters and expressing their feelings vicariously.” (Mo, 2007, p.23) Picture books allow children to understand the complexities of divorce at a visual level that is appealing and age appropriate in comprehension.  The illustrations provide children the chance to express feelings associated with divorce (2007).

Family therapy, psychotherapy techniques, play therapy and role-playing, art therapy and grief therapy are all models that have been incorporated into work with children of divorce (McCullough, 2009).  Each method has benefits and advantages, depending upon the individual and family.  Another form of intervention that has been found effective is group therapy.  Group therapy attempts to “communicate with children on issues of importance, providing support, enhancing their skill development, and promoting their mental health” (Rose, 2009, p. 227).  The three major advantages of group therapy in helping children of divorce are:

  1. Most schools and human service organizations are faced with large numbers of children who can benefit from help, thus working in groups is an efficient use of resources.
  2. The group work context normalizes the divorce experience and provides support to children who need it.
  3. Divorce raises many uncomfortable issues for children. Many children are more comfortable discussing these issues with peers present than they are in dyadic interaction with social workers. (Rose, 2009, pp. 222-223)

One final element of therapeutic help for children can begin with parents.  Parenting education can equip parents in helping them meet the needs of their children during the stressful time during and following divorce (Kelly & Emery, 2003)

Relationships

One of the most visible results of stress in a divorce is that of relationships.  Obviously, there is a demise in the relationship between the parents, but the relationships directly with the children are now critical and must be recognized and supported.  Some of the less obvious strains upon such relationships are economic, concerns of loyalty, parental conflict, and the previous level of nurturance prior to divorce.  Children often feel they are caught in the middle of their parent’s conflict (Gilman, Schneider & Shulak, 2005). Children living with parents who seek to contain and/or resolve their conflicts, will fare much better over the course of time than children who live in the midst of parental conflict (2005).  At the same time, children who continue a warm and loving relationship with parents and feel that their parents understand their experience will also fare better than children who have a less nurturing relationship with their parents (2005).

Children’s responses should be considered during the aftermath of divorce, and how well a child is functioning or not functioning should not be based on a parent’s need or self-interest to perceive fewer negative effects. (Moon, 2011, p. 348)

Children want to be understood.  They want to be listened to.  And finally they want to be able to express their feelings, which are just as real and raw as their parent’s.

Mother

 Children are naturally indwelt with the need for both parents.  The mother figure fulfills a set of needs and the father figure likewise.  In the case of divorce, eighty-five percent of children from divorced homes live with their mothers.  (Faber, Wittenborn, 2010)  The mother-child relationship may be one of the few relationships which remains intact throughout the divorce and remarriage process.  Mom is primary caregiver in almost all cases of divorce.  This can be highly beneficial, but can also place tremendous strain upon the relationship with the child and the father.  The type of relationship children have with their fathers, following the divorce “can either contribute to children’s resiliency or add additional risk.” (Faber, Wittenborn, 2010, p. 90)

Due to this fact the mother plays the strongest part in meeting the child’s needs post-divorce.  But, considerations of sensitivity and security are often overlooked.

Faber and Wittenborn (2010) eloquently state,

Parents who are sensitive and responsive to the child’s needs induce feelings of support and felt security within the child. These children tend to be classified as securely attached; as such they appear confident that support is available from their caregiver during times of need. Parents who are inconsistent in their response to their child’s needs often have children who display feelings of anxiety, vigilance, and anger. These children are typically classified as anxious/ambivalent and are unable to readily receive comfort from their caregiver in times of distress. When parents are habitually rejecting or not emotionally responsive to their child’s needs, they often have children who are prematurely self-reliant and repress feelings of vulnerability. These children are usually classified as avoidant and do not trust their caregiver to be supportive during times of distress. Disorganized children often experience their caregivers’ behaviors as frightening or experience maltreatment and tend to exhibit inconsistent or incoherent patterns of interacting. (Faber, Wittenborn, 2010, p. 91)

It is absolutely essential for mothers to allow children the ability to express their emotions, fears, and concerns.  Further it is imperative that consistency, sensitivity, and openness are offered regularly.  Structure and security are foundational to the health and healing for children of divorce.

Father

It is an undeniable fact that the court’s preference for mother’s often limits the interaction with healthy, well-intentioned, caring fathers.  Fathers often relay a sense of discouragement regarding “legal practitioners and a legal child custody system which they perceived to be biased against fathers as the reason why they were unable to obtain what they desired.”  (Kruk, 2010, p. 164)

The responsibilities of social institutions to support fathers in the fulfillment of their parenting responsibilities is a largely overlooked issue in the child custody discussion, which has largely focused on the competing rights-based claims of parents; a child-focused framework of child custody determination, focused on children’s needs, parental responsibilities in regard to these needs, and social institutional responsibilities to support parents in the fulfillment of their parental responsibilities, may offer a fresh approach to the issue. A principal finding of the present study is that fathers who wish to maintain a responsible, active parental role in the care of their children are discouraged from doing so, as the most common legal determination in disputed cases is non-residential fatherhood.  (Kruk, 2010, pp. 173-174)

The separation of father and child often begins at the fall of the gavel.  What is tragic is that children are often used as pawns in a game of gotcha between parents.  Someone always loses, often mothers, sometimes fathers, always children.  The children’s level of contact with their father can vary greatly.  Some children are allotted regular weekly contact, others once a week, and still others only see their fathers every other weekend (Faber, Wittenborn, 2010).  And some children have little or no contact with their fathers.  Positive father involvement following divorce has been associated with higher psychological scores, higher self-esteem, and lessened behavioral problems (2010).  However, a sudden loss in daily contact with fathers may lead to feelings of abandonment and anxiety about separation.  Ultimately, the lack of involvement by a father may begin to force children to question and even alter their internal working model of their father (2010).  It seems that indicators of positive father involvement are immediately evident post-divorce.  A poor relationship is characterized by low contact and higher levels of conflict (Peters & Ehrenberg, 2008).   Though all children need their fathers, there is evidence to suggest that girls, in particular, are especially impacted by the involvement of their father.  Disruptions due to divorce may lead to an increase female’s interest in and dependency on males (McLanahan & Bumpus, 1988).  Studies also suggest that positive paternal involvement in pre-school age children also leads to flexible attitudes toward male and female roles (Kruk, 2010).  Attachment in either parent is only possible with a sufficient level of engagement, and changes in engagement after divorce affect accessibility and responsibility (Kruk, 2010).

And as paternal engagement is necessary for accessibility and responsibility, so quality of attachment is largely dependent on amount of contact. Strong and secure emotional attachments between fathers and their children are not possible without routine and meaningful contact, beyond the constraints of court-ordered “access” and “visiting.” There seems little doubt that current laws and social institutional policies and practices present barriers to responsible fatherhood involvement and father-child attachment after divorce. (Kruk, 2010, p. 176)

It is clear that with each increment of increased contact between children of divorce and their fathers, there is also an equal increase in young adults reporting closeness with their fathers.  At the same time, when there is a decrease in contact, feelings of anger also correspond. (Kelly & Emery, 2003)

Siblings

The relationship with siblings can be, both, stable and unstable for children of divorce.  Siblings from the same marriage can increase bonds following divorce and many older children “adopt a caretaking role for younger siblings prior to their parents’ separation and are identified as the closest of all attachment figures in a child’s life.” (Shumaker et. Al, 2011, p.46) In one fifth of blended families, children have both stepsiblings and half-siblings (Ahrons, 2006).  However, children often do not think of their stepsiblings as brothers or sisters (2006).   Closeness between siblings often increases from the experience of going through the divorce of their parents together (Thomas & Woodside, 2011).  The addition of siblings through remarriage can bring added joy to children of divorce, but can also increase feelings of abandonment for the new child.

New Home/Separation

One of the most traumatic elements of divorce for children is the constant change and lack of control in his or her surroundings.  Not only is there a change in who they live with, but most often there is a change in where they live and the duration of time spent at each location.  These are a few perspectives offered by children regarding the toll of transitioning between homes,

  •      “Back-and-forth makes me sick. I want to throw up—both ways.” Another child repeated a mantra throughout the play: “Too long a drive, too long a drive.”
  •   A 5-year-old girl transformed the toy Band-Aid into a tool to help the dolls figure out where they belonged: “This [Band-aid] tells you if you’re in the right house.”
  • Another child focused so entirely on the ordeal of the travel process—stuffing each and every play item into the toy vehicle or her pockets, and then “driving” all over the house—that as soon as the dolls arrived at “dad’s house,” it was time to go back to “mom’s.” (Ebling, Pruett & Pruett, 2009, p. 675)

Children feel a loss of control about their situation.  They are often not adequately informed about the divorce and the implications for their lives.  Most often they are not consulted with about their living arrangements and often they don’t feel considered about their emotions and practical feelings (Kelly & Emery, 2003).   They often feel they live in a divided world.  “The lack of correlation between maternal and paternal involvement suggests that “Mom’s World” and “Dad’s World” are separate and disconnected (Finley & Schwartz, 2010, p. 516).

Remarriage

For children of divorce, it seems just as they are adapting to the new life beyond their parents marriage, new transitions arise.  Living in a single-parent household is a temporary situation for most parents and children (Faber, Wittenborn, 2010). Approximately seventy-five percent of men and sixty-six percent of women eventually remarry.  This can lead to further confusion and frustration for children of divorce as parents commonly respond to remarriage with a period of euphoria.  They become more focused on their new marriage than on their parenting.

Children may perceive the introduction of a new parent and possibly step-siblings as a threat to the attachment bond shared with their mother.  This threat may be further exacerbated by children perceiving their mothers as less supportive and available as well as more negative. These changes in the mother–child relationship have the potential to alter the child’s working models of his or her mother regarding her availability and responsiveness (Faber, Wittenborn, 2010, p. 94).

Future outlook

Most often children of divorce are able to adapt and move through the new normal of life following their parent’s divorce.  But, studies show that adult children of divorce tend to earn less income, obtain less education, have more troubled marriages, weaker ties with parents, and display more psychological distress symptoms (Thomas & Woodside, 2011)  One interesting conjecture about girls living with their single mothers was,

Daughters of single mothers learn that women are capable of managing a family alone. When faced with an unhappy marriage or a premarital pregnancy, they may be more likely than daughters from two- parent families to become single mothers (McLanahan, Bumpass, 1988, p. 133).

Parents must work to re-establish consistent rules, predictable expectations, and firm guidance and control (Johnston, 1990). Children feel out of control.  They need boundaries that they can expect to help give security and the feeling that they know what to expect.  This is true for children of intact families, but especially of children whose families have ended in divorce.  Parents, post-divorce, must work to restore warm and harmonious relationships with their children (1990).

Studies seem to suggest that adult children of divorce may also develop higher levels of acute and chronic health problems in middle-age (Luecken & Fabricius, 2003) This can also be correlated with current income, education, and family support, which report statistically lower than children of intact families.  It has been reported that  declines in physical health in older adults were related to the combination of early parental separation (by death or divorce) and high levels of current stress (2003).  Children of divorce also exhibit significantly more mental health issues than children from intact families (Strohschien, 2005).

Risk Factors

Portnoy (2006) highlights several risk factors for children of divorce which will cause more distress that may lead on to adulthood.  These include:

  •      Continuing conflict between the parents
  •      Diminished or incompetent parenting
  •      Economic decline
  •      Loss of non-parental supportive relationships
  •     Remarriage and re-partnering

However, there are several characteristics that will lead children of divorce toward positive coping.  These include:

  •     Positive coping
  •     The presence of positive social supports
  •     Competent custodial parenting
  •     An involved and competent non-custodial parent (Portnoy, 2006, pp.129-130)

Biblical Insight

The Bible makes it clear that God is not partial to divorce.  While it is allowable in cases of infidelity, it is not to be used as a “first option.”  Even when all else seems to fail, God is always grieved with a broken covenant of marriage, and desires that the bride and groom reconcile whenever possible.  Mark 10:11-12 (New International Version) states, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”  God thinks divorce is a very serious decision.  With divorce rates on the rise and the rapidity of the process in today’s age, God still considers divorce much more than the “end of chapter in life”.  Western society treats marriage like a weekend at the movies; when the plot isn’t interesting enough or the characters lose their appeal, it’s time to walk out.  It is important to note the there are genuine cases of complexity in marital discord.  That is not a fact that the author wishes to undermine, but it is equally true that divorce is taken too lightly, both in society and, sadly, the church.

Though the Bible has much to say about divorce, there is nothing said about the impact of divorce upon children.  However, Ephesians 6:4 (New International Version) states, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”  (emphasis added) If anything exasperates a child, divorce will.  The Bible is clear that man is selfish.  Almost always, divorce is a result of one or both parties not relinquishing his or her will about one or more issues.  While marriage is usually never considered easy, with work, humility, and a relinquishing of selfish rights, it is possible in many circumstances to work differences out.  It is vital to note that there are genuine, necessary cases that warrant a separation or divorce.  (Physical danger to one or more parties in the home, rampant chemical, physical, or verbal abuse, and cases of blatant, continued adultery, provide justifiable, understandable, and biblical support in the consideration of divorce.)

Personal Reflection

My parents divorced when I was eight years of age.  Though it was highly traumatic being initially separated from my father, he almost immediately proved to be an uninvolved father.  My mother remarried and has stayed married to my step-father, who for all intensive purposes is my “dad”.  My father, however, has married and divorced two more women after the demise of my mother’s marriage to him.  I am now thirty-two years old and have no relationship with my father.  I can report as an adult child of divorce, that my parent’s choices have impacted me, thus far, my whole life.  Though I am not hindered by their divorce, I have had to work extremely hard to overcome maladaptive attitudes and patterns of behavior.  It is only with the Lord’s help that this is even possible.  I have now been married for almost thirteen years and have my own children.  Throughout the various stages of my life I have been able to view my parent’s divorce in different ways.  I continue to process the impact it has had upon me and now hold a strong fervor for marriage.  Marriage is not easy.  It takes more work than any relationship mankind forges, but it is necessary for us to learn, grow, and foster health into our marriages for ourselves and the sake of our children.  I have no wish to make my parent’s mistakes.  I have certainly made my own, but I refuse to allow the patterns of divorce and broken relationships to continue.  With God’s help and the recognition of my past, I remain dedicated to my marriage and my children.  Children are adaptable, with therapy, support from solid friends and family, and my faith, I have risen above the grief and trauma I faced as a child, resulting from my parent’s divorce.  This should, however, never be used as justification for parent’s decision.  The gravity of stress a child faces when their parents end their marriage is immense.  That point cannot be stressed strongly enough.

References

 Crow, K. M., & Ward-Lonergan, J. M. (2003). An analysis of personal event narratives produced by school-age children. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Ebling, R., Pruett, K. D., & Pruett, M. (2009). “Get over it”: perspectives on divorce from young children. Family Court Review, 47(4), 665-681. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Faber, A., & Wittenborn, A. (2010). The role of attachment in children’s adjustment to divorce and Remarriage. Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 21(2), 89-104. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Finley, G. E., & Schwartz, S. J. (2010). The divided world of the child: divorce and long-term psychosocial adjustment. Family Court Review, 48(3), 516-527. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Gerber, L. E. (1998). The divorce culture. Magill’s Literary Annual 1998, 1-3. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Gilman, J., Schneider, D., & Shulak, R. (2005). Children’s ability to cope post-divorce: the effects of kids’ turn intervention program on 7 to 9 year olds. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 42(3/4), 109-126. doi:10.1300/J087v42n03_07

Gleason, T. R., & Sebane, A. M. (2000). Imaginary Companions of Preschool Children.  Developmental Psychology, 36(4), 419. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Hodges, W., Tierney, C., & Buchsbaum, H. (1984). The cumulative effect of stress on preschool children of divorced and intact families. Journal of Marriage andFamily, 46(3), 611-617. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Johnston, J. R. (1990). Role diffusion and role reversal: structural variations in divorced families and children’s functioning. Family Relations, 39(4), 405-13.  Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Kelly, J. B., & Emery, R. E. (2003). Children’s adjustment following divorce: risk and resilience perspectives. Family Relations, 52(4), 352-362. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Kelly, J. (2007). Children’s living arrangements following separation and divorce: insights from empirical and clinical research. Family Process, 46(1), 35-52. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Kruk, E. (2010). Parental and social institutional responsibilities to children’s needs in the divorce transition: fathers’ perspectives. Journal of Men’s Studies, 18(2), 159-178. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Lansford, J. E. (2009). Parental divorce and children’s adjustment. Perspectives on Psychological Science (Wiley-Blackwell), 4(2), 140-152. doi:10.1111/j.1745-6924.2009.01114.x

Luecken, L. J., & Fabricius, W. V. (2003). Physical health vulnerability in adult children from divorced and intact families. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 55(3), 221-228. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

McCullough, C. (2009). A child’s use of transitional objects in art therapy to cope with divorce. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 26(1), 19-25. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

McLanahan, S., & Bumpass, L. (1988). Intergenerational consequences of family disruption. American Journal of Sociology, 94(1), 130-152. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Mo, W. (2007). The divorce culture and picture books for young children. International Journal of Early Childhood, 39(2), 23-35. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Moon, M. (2011). The effects of divorce on children: married and divorced parents’ perspectives. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 52(5), 344-349. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Peters, B., & Ehrenberg, M. (2008). The influence of parental separation and divorce on father-child relationships. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 49(1-2), 78-109. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Portnoy, S. M. (2008). The psychology of divorce: a lawyer’s primer, part 2: the effects of divorce on children. American Journal of Family Law, 21(4), 126-134. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Rose, S. (2009). A review of effectiveness of group work with children of divorce. Social Work With Groups, 32(3), 222-229. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Shumaker, D. M., Miller, C., Ortiz, C., & Deutsch, R. (2011).  The forgotten bonds:  the assessment and contemplation of sibling attachment in divorce and parental separation. Family Court Review, 49(1), 46-58. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

The Holy Bible. (1984). New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan Publishing House.

Thomas, D., & Woodside, M. (2011). Resilience in adult children of divorce: a multiple case study. Marriage & Family Review, 47(4), 213-234. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Trohschein, L. (2005). Parental divorce and child mental health trajectories. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67(5), 1286-1300. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Bada Bing! to a Swing

September 3, 2011 2 comments

A swing set only works if the core structure is supported.

Earlier this summer, we decided that the kids needed a swing set. (I suppose need isn’t the right word, but you get the idea.) Rather than buy the flimsy set-up that most retail stores sell, we decided to look for kits and the materials needed to build a swing set. Trying to be the most economical and being tremendously blessed with a husband and father-in-law who have MacGyver skills, we determined that it was best to build the thing from scratch. Even the kits that provide most of the materials were way more expensive that simply piecing it out ourselves, a la carte style. (I can lump “myself” in, because I am lawfully married to Mr. Handyman. Other than that I can claim no credit.) Some lumber, chain, swing seats and stakes,

VOILA! We had fun for all ages under 12. Seems like a great, down home story right?

Then…

That’s right. Then happened.

Through no fault of my husband or father-in-law’s (and since I don’t get much credit, I’m not taking any blame either.) The stupid beam at the top began to warp in the elements after only a couple months. I never noticed it, because I’m just really observant when it comes to metal and wood, but my husband was concerned. So, after only a couple months the swing set was surrounded with yellow “caution” tape. (no, not really.) Kids were banned until further notice and inspection could occur. Even after we were pretty sure that it wouldn’t buckle, (again, we. I don’t know why…) my husband thought it would be safest to attach some 2×4’s (or was it 3×6?) beams to the middle of the structure with bolts.

Bada bing! Back in business. Fun ensues. Happy, happy, joy, joy!!

Last night, I read a passage in Psalms 18 –

Psalm 18:16-19
16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the LORD was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me. (NIV)

I was struck with this passage and noticed a couple of elements. First, the author uses the words “my” and “me” several times. Obviously, he is writing about himself when he uses the word “me.”

“took hold of me,”

“drew me out,”

“rescued me,”

“too strong for me,”

“confronted me,”

“brought me out,”

“rescued me,” a second time,

“delighted in me.”

Eight times in four verses, he uses this word. However, every time he uses a word that typically denotes focus upon the author, he uses it to refer back to who rescued him.

God.

Though there is a lot of “me, me, me, me,” the author uses each and every mark for the glory of God and what He did.

Secondly, there is the word, “my.” This word is used as a possessive for the following word.

my powerful enemy,”

my disaster,”

my support.”

If we took only these phrases of possession out from the passage, we get the clear idea that this dude is in trouble. He is clearly unable and incapable of overcoming some sort of task.  Anytime he refers to himself, he is conveying that he simply cannot continue alone as the situation stands.

There is the necessity of One more powerful to get him through, get him out, and get him to the place where he can stand the pressure.

I began to think of that swing set. Really we are very similar to a swing set. We go out into life and very soon the elements beat us down, warp us, and render us near inoperable, at times. The very material of our structure, our core, can cease to fulfill it’s purpose when we are shifty.

We are weathered and worn.

It’s not until the proper support is firmly attached to the very center of our being, that we are able to stand the pressure and weight of this world. Without it, we will certainly collapse at any unforeseeable moment.

When we firmly affix Christ to the center of our lives, we are able to withstand life.

Pushing and pulling, relationships, finances, jobs, kids, life, can weigh on us and if we are weathered, warped, and too worn out, we are unable to stand and fulfill our intended purpose.

Are you battered, uncertain about withstanding life’s pressures, and left without purpose?

Or are you clinging to Jesus, standing fast and firm, and have the certainty of pulling through, regardless of the weight of the world?

Feelin’ a Little Snarky

After a week that began annoying and ended in physical pain, I have chosen to begin this one a little…hmmm…snarky.  I’m in full jaded wit mode. 

**Sarcasm alert**

So, I guess I’ll just take this time as an outlet for my whiplash wit.  After my little rant, you may wonder if I have schizophrenic tendencies – I’m just gonna flow. (watch out, Eminem….)

I chose to take at least a week of of Facebook.  Several of my fb posse, some of my dearest friends (cyber friends and the real ones, too), went into shock mode.  They may have been tempted to call authorities to check if I:

A. had been held against my will at Area 51

B. was roaming the city, mumbling about Cheerio liferafts,

C. was abducted by aliens (like Randy Quaid) or

D. placed in a rubber room to the tune of Lady Gaga. 

After last week, I think any of these scenarios would be a welcome vacation

Thankfully, I haven’t lost my sense of humor. 

Aren’t you glad?…Don’t answer that.

Though I faced a few personal attacks, my true friends, people I consider my family, immediately lined up  to bless, encourage, and support me.  These last two years, I have had to modify my methods of communication.  You see I am a die hard advocate for communication.  But, I have had some intense times of learning how to effectively communicate.  Yet, in spite of it, there are people who still don’t agree with my passion (in more than one venue, I assure you).  What’s particularly sad, is that those who know me best, know that regardless of how zealous I am, my deepest desire is to convey that I love, in spite of any disagreement.  This is especially true after learning that my brand of wit, even in debate, could sometimes be tinged with a little too much “bite”.  It takes alot to get that “bite” from me, especially in face-to-face conversation, but when writing, I have a tendency to utilize the full arsenal of my gift for edgy wit and arguement.  I am proud to say that I think much harder before introducing “bite” to my “bark.”  These are lessons that have been tremendously beneficial, though heartwrenching. 

I proclaim my right to be a “lump of clay.” 

However, don’ t you hate the few days after a disagreement when you go over and over what you should have said, what you shouldn’t have said, and what you would like to have said, but know that it would be wrong???  I wish I had some precognition to an upcoming discussion.  I could be prepared, rather than, “Beday-beday,bu..bhsjdsllds..”

Think Porky Pig on psychotropic medication.

What frustrates me, though, is when others in conversation, don’t even try to be kind.  Accusatory, vicious, and downright mean, are attitudes that NEVER promote healthy dialogue.  Insinuations, condescention, and inhumility are the icing to the poison laced cake that is disingenuity. 

One of the most ironic aspects of this particular rant is that most of the time, those who are unkind, uncaring, or simply neglectful tend to be my family. 

Ouch….Ouch…..OUCH!!

Does anyone else feel like this?  Am I the only one? 

Yeah, I’ve heard the arguement that this is due to the fact that family “will always be there.”  That these are the people that you are most likely to take for granted that they are “always there”.  How is that a good reason?  When did it become “ok” to be rude, based on the fact that “blood is thicker than water?”

And just because the annoyances from last week continue – I just published this post without realizing it.  Okaaaayyy. Guess I was done. Subconciously, maybe?

Of Garden Gnomes and Compost….

Garden Gnomes

It’s almost June.  And I’m getting ready to start my garden. 

By “getting ready,” I mean that I really like the idea of a garden and I have a complete book that I need to read before I clear the area in the yard, build the platform, get the seeds, dirt, and grow a green thumb. 

Most avid gardeners got ready in early April with their lettuce’s and plans, but not here.  I’d rather, like most things, procrastinate until I get to the point where it’s hotter than hades outside to get the shovel out. 

Getting “ready” to garden, got me thinking about what it takes to grow vitamin rich vegetables and fruits.  I have managed to skim my “Square Foot Gardening” book and looked at the section about making your own compost. 

Wow. 

That seems like a project I could do. 

Just throw your trash in the yard?  Seriously??  I am so there. 

The neighbors a few houses down must be about to grow a friggin’ co-op!! 

With the general cloud that hung over last week in my world, I realized that gardening is so representative of the relationship between us and the Lord.  Literally and metaphorically, speaking. 

God made the seeds.  God made the sun.  God made the water.  But, when we stick the seeds in the soil (provided that we plant in appropriate soil), it all comes together and grows! 

So about that soil…Gnomeo, the square-foot, garden guy (not really, I don’t remember his name.  I can barely remember to take my psychotropic medicine.) recommends that you select only the best soils. 

Translation: Don’t use the suburban crap loaded with chunks of cement that the housing developers sell you, mislabeling it, a “lawn.”

  He suggests using a trio combination, I only remember one: vermiculite. 

(I only remember because its fun to say, “vermiculite.” Seriously, try it, “verMIculite.”).  So you take the verMIculite, soil 2, and soil3 and

VOILA! 

Insta’ cozy bed for the precious, widdle, veggie-weggies. 

This wasn’t the part that fascinated me. 

That may be the reason I haven’t done it, yet.  I’m sort of like a two-year old, in terms of attention span, you know….wait…what???

Oh, right…

So, what was sort of interesting to me was the fact that you can take your compostable garbage (I’m guessing styrofoam, 6-pack plastic rings, and diapers aren’t the target.) like leftover corn stalks, I don’t know pork-rinds, and uneaten beanie weenies.  Plus, any unused horse manure you have lying around . 

What other uses are there for horse manure???

Does dog dirt count? I’ve got a yard, chocked full of unused dog droppings.  It’s about time the resident mutt make a useable contribution around here….

(See, 2-year old attention span…sorry)

Yeah, this post is getting a little messy, time to interject the point!

The Bible even talks about gardening.  Jesus told gave this parable:

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”  (Matt. 13:3-9)

Soil is important!  Even Jesus talked about it!  He explained the reason for his metaphor, saying,

18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Soil is vital to the health of the crop.  Without good soil, any seed scattered will not take root and flourish. 

The foundation for a garden is a prelude to the outcome of the crop. 

Back to the compost – (see?)

I got to thinking. 

What is compost? 

Waste.  The leftover junk that smells, may be moldy, and really is unusable for any other reason. 

(Well, except the horse manure…)

In life, we can take our junk to God’s garden.  We can unload our leftovers: our personality quirks, our pasts, our addictions, our smelly, moldy stuff. We allow it to hit the rich soil of God’s grace and watch him water and grow vitamin-rich, nourishment in our lives.  But this requires effort on our part!  We must be sure we are planting in the rich soil that is a balance of biblical truth, the love and forgiveness of Christ, and the infiltration of the Holy Spirit’s leading. 

The Soil, the Son, and Living Water.

VerMIculite.

Once we have seed within a good soil, compost it, water it and allow the Son to take over, we have to be vigilant.  We weed, pulling out any thing that enters the garden that doesn’t benefit the garden:

Again, weeds.

Pesty insects.

Pesty animals. (rabbits, squirrels, birds, dumb mutts….)

We have to take precautions, knowing that these things are bound to threaten the thrival (is that a word?) of the garden.  We watch the garden.  Prune out the threats.  Set boundaries and barriers to inhibit the pests from threatening the crop.  Cultivate the soil, continuing to take advantage of the richness in the foundation (the Word of God, accountability from mature brothers and sisters in Christ, prayer). 

Such careful work will yield a successful crop. 

One more time….

VerMIculite

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