Parenting

I’ve been thinking of writing about this topic for a long time. It’s a topic in which I have experience and also training (during my college degrees in Family & Consumer Sciences (Home Economics)–both bachelor’s and master’s). It’s a topic I tremble to write about mainly because I made so many mistakes in raising my two children. There are many ways to parent; every child’s as well as every parent’s temperament is different. The only training we get for this very important job flows from watching how our own parents did it. We have never been required to learn about child development, marriage and other very important topics to be a parent ourselves.

I suppose I should start with my earliest recollections of the relationship between my parents and me, and also my sister and me. First, some background information on my parents. My parents married young-Mom was 18–having turned 18 in November and they married in February of the next year. My Dad turned 18 a month after the marriage, so basically they both were very young. My mother came from a family of eleven children. Her birth parents had 8 children but her mom died from complications at the birth of mom’s sister, Ola. She was three years old. My grandfather sent the baby to be raised by his sister, leaving Mama the youngest at home. He soon married again–a lady who had never married. The two of them had a set of twin girls born when Mom was six and a boy born a few years later. Mama’s relationship with her stepmother was not good. I’m sure Mama Veal was overwhelmed with seven children and she didn’t know how to parent at all. She would often lock the children up in the smoke house for punishment. It was very scary for Mama and she grew up very insecure. She graduated from high school (at the time that the eleventh grade was the last grade in high school). She desperately wanted to be a ‘beautician’ but her parents wouldn’t pay for further education.

Daddy, on the other hand, was the oldest of 3 boys. His dad was in construction–specifically building bridges. Consequently, they moved often to wherever the work could be found. Daddy was a very smart man but never had any opportunities. He told me that during his eighth grade year, he attended 12 schools. Also, by this time, he was growing big and strong and my grandfather needed him on the job. So, Daddy had an eighth grade education. He, too, worked in construction most of my life. He worked as a foreman at a prestressed concrete company. Daddy’s parents were partiers/drinkers and often left him alone at night to watch his brothers while they went ‘out’. He told of being afraid on those nights.

Life for my sister and me was somewhat better than both of them. Linda (my sister) turned five years old two weeks after I was born. She was the first grandchild on my dad’s side and they lived near his parents and daddy worked with his dad. She wasn’t very happy about my intrusion into her world. Also, Daddy was quite disappointed that I wasn’t a boy. Very early in my childhood I knew that he wished I had been a boy and I remember wanting to dress like a boy (jeans) and trying to kiss my elbow so I would turn into one. I adored my dad and wanted to please him. We were close and he took me everywhere with him until puberty and then he dropped me like a hot potato. I believe at that time he realized I was truly a girl. Discipline in our home was verbal or the silent treatment. I had never been spanked, or struck in any way. If my mom was mad or upset with me, I got the silent treatment. To this day, if I don’t get a quick response from someone, I automatically assume something is wrong–I did something wrong.

Early in my life (12 years old) I met this good-looking boy at the skating rink which I frequented. He appeared to be strong and confident and wasn’t afraid of anything, it seemed. I, on the other hand, was afraid of my shadow. I marveled at his strength and confidence. Long story short: we married a month after I turned 19. It was against the wishes of my parents and sister.

Doyle had been raised primarily by his mom and grandparents. His grandfather did not spare the rod and there was a lot of severe physical discipline in their home. Also, there was loud arguing and shouting in his home. And as our children grew, I was upset by his method of discipline. It was foreign to me, but he was the strong one–the confident one, he surely knew best.

At the time I didn’t know anything about emotional baggage and how it affects our relationships–especially marital ones. We both drug steamer trunks of it into our marriage and as we began to unpack it, neither of us knew what was happening. The only thing going for us was Jesus; we both loved Him and desired to live according to His Word.

It was years later when I went back to college and began to take child development classes and parenting classes that I realized how inept I had been in raising our children. They were 12 and 16 respectively. Patterns had been set and damage had been done all because I/we were doing the best we knew how. When I started teaching high school students in child development and parenting, I remember realizing that most every other task/job we undertake, we get training for in some way. To get a driver’s license, you have to train for a year, pass a written test and a driving test. In order to hunt, you have to complete a hunter’s safety course and pass. Any time we are employed, there is a training period. However, to be a parent one only has to have a sperm donor and a fertile reproductive system. There is so much that young parents could learn from a few parenting classes. If your nuclear family was functional, you probably will make good decisions for your own children. Yet, in my opinion there are far more dysfunctional families than functional ones.

I know that we stumbled and bumbled our way through parenting but I also know that we raised them to love God, to attend a congregation of believers and to pray. I truly don’t know how people who are not believers complete this incredibly gigantic task without the help of the Holy Spirit. Marriage and parenting are not for sissies. They are both extremely difficult, but extremely rewarding at the same time.

Doyle and I have both apologized to our children for our mistakes and now we just trust God to work it all for good in their lives. They both turned out to be wonderful adults and both have beautiful families. I’m sure they have an inkling of what this post is all about as they are both now on the journey of raising children. We pray for them and our grandchildren everyday.

If you are interested in what the Bible has to say about parenting, I found a few verses of scripture that you might find interesting:

In Proverbs, we are told, “Those who spare the rod of discipline (it is as though they) hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them” (13 v24) and also, ‘Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it” (22 v6). ( The statements in Proverbs are not promises of God, but rather good advice from Solomon, the wisest man in the Bible.) And in Ephesians 6 v4, we are told, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” In Deuteronomy, we are advised to, “Teach (God’s word) to your children. Talk about (God’s ways) when you are at home, and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” Also in Deuteronomy, we are told, “You and your children and grandchildren must fear the Lord your God as long as you live. If you obey all his decrees and commands, you will enjoy a long life.” (Fear in this context is a reverential awe–not fear as in being afraid.) When Jesus came on the earth, He reduced the commandments and decrees to only two. These two encompass all the others. He said, “You are to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and secondly, Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Advertisements

Cemeteries

As most of you know, I visit a sweet elderly lady in a nursing home and have been for more than four years.  She was 89 when we met and I, and my friends, helped her usher in her 90th year soon after that.  Her birthday is September 11, 1924.  I have celebrated with her every year since and soon we will be celebrating 94!!

As I’ve visited with her and asked her about her family and her life, she seemed to come alive as she spoke of her parents and brothers.  She was the youngest of 4 children, all were boys but her.  One day she told me her parents were buried in the Augusta/Richmond City Cemetery, West View.  After church last Sunday, I asked Doyle if we could find this cemetery and, so, we did.  It was overwhelming when we went through the gates.  It is an enormous cemetery.  We drove around and then walked around, but realized it was like looking for a needle in a haystack.

When we got home, Doyle did some research through Find a Grave–a site connected to Ancestry.com.  He found a photo of Miss Thelma’s mom’s grave.  He also found census records from 1920, 1930 and 1940 which listed the family.  So today, we were in Harrisburg at a ribbon cutting for one of the Turn Back the Block homes and decided to go back and try again.  We stopped by the office and the lady wrote down the section, row and lot for both parents and she told us it was between 5th and 6th streets.  We spent well over an hour in the humid heat looking for these graves.  We found Miss Thelma’s grandparents graves (her mom’s parents).  But Mama Jones was no where to be found.  As we were leaving we saw a worker and stopped to ask if he could help us.  He took us straight to her mom’s grave and next to it was one of her brother’s graves;  it was nowhere near 5th and 6th Streets.  Her mother died in 1974 at the age of 86, and her dad died in 1957 at 80 years old and those lots were not marked as well.  We never found his.

As we walked around this city cemetery and pulled weeds off stones to try and read them, I couldn’t help but think, these people are just forgotten.  No one keeps these graves or lots up and even though the grass is cut, the weeds around the head stones are so thick and high, that a number of them are totally obscured.  What a shame!!  As I was thinking how terrible those people are, I suddenly thought–that is me!!

My parents and many of Doyle’s family are buried in the same cemetery in rural south Macon.  Even though Doyle and I used to spend Sunday afternoons, when we were dating, perusing the old cemeteries in Macon I don’t really enjoy going to the cemetery.  It seems pointless–my family is not really there!!  But today gave me a jolt.  My dear sister, Linda Kull Fountain, is faithful to keep flowers, not only on our parent’s graves but our grandparents as well, changing them out every season.  I suppose if it were left up to me, sadly, their graves would look just like the ones we observed today.  The only difference is that our parents are buried in a Memorial Garden and there are no head stones, just bronze plates flat on the ground with the names and dates, but they get somewhat overgrown and dirty, too.  In fact, the last time I was at Mama’s and Daddy’s graves, I saw where someone, perhaps the cemetery workers, had driven over their graves so much that there was a two tire path.  I fully intended to call back over there and ask that they find another route to drive through, but I never did.

In 2014, Linda and her husband, Jimmy, Doyle and I went to Switzerland in hopes of finding some of our ancestors.  Our great grandfather, Fredrich Karl Kull and his brother Julian came to America from Lensburg, Switzerland, when they were only 18 or 19 years old.   They landed first in Chicago, but when the Homesteading Act in Alabama came about, they traveled south and claimed some land as their own in Ardmore, Alabama near the Tennessee border.  My grandfather Louis Christian Kull was born in Chicago, but grew up in Alabama and there is where he met our grandmother, Mattie Lee Hames.  They married when my grandmother was 15 and he was 19.

We had been told that a bakery in Lenzburg that our family ran was still there and even had our great-great grandfather’s name on the wall inside the building.  So after touring Switzerland for 8 days, we rented a car and drove to Lenzburg on the German speaking side of Switzerland and spent 2 full days there.  We did indeed find the building which is now a restaurant.  It was closed, but we were blessed to find the proprietors inside cleaning.  They allowed us to come in and see the list of names of the people who had owned/operated the building over the centuries.  We got some great pictures, including those with the name of Friedrich Kull-1869-1892-and Erbschaft Kull-1892-1927.  Then we set out to find Kull folks in the surrounding cemeteries.  Doyle said we found 300 dead Kulls and one alive.  We quickly discovered that there are no really old graves in Switzerland.  It’s rare to find one over 20 years old.  It seems they remove the stones and bury other people there.  Doyle has always teased me about being a ‘Kull’ (cull), but I was delighted to learn that in Switzerland they pronounce it ‘Kool’ (cool).

This brings me to the decision Doyle and I have made to be cremated instead of interred. So, I suppose no one will ever be able to ‘find a grave’ with Janet Kull Stewart or Doyle Thomas Stewart on it.  Just as well, I can’t imagine our grandchildren taking time to travel to Macon (where we have burial plots) to tend or view our graves.  Doyle has decided to build a double bird house which will contain our ashes.  Merrigail said she would keep the ashes of whoever goes first and then either scatter or bury us together.  I love that idea!!  Afterwards, our final home will become a home for some of God’s little children-a name Doyle has given to all the birds that frequent the feeders at our house.

Until next time….

 

 

Principles…

I’ve been ‘musing’ about a couple of topics lately and decided to focus on this one 😊.  It’s not necessarily ‘inspired’ but just a topic on my heart….

First, a definition of Principles:  b: (1)  a rule or code of conduct. (2). habitual devotion to right principles- a man of principle.

Those who know my husband well, know that he is a very honest (to a fault) and sometimes outspoken person, especially if it is something he feels very strongly about.  He is somewhat less reserved than I am when considering the audience or about offending someone who thinks differently.  This is not to say that he pushes his views on others but rather is not afraid of verbalizing them.  He will often say,  ‘You can believe how you wish, but this is how I believe and why.’  On the other hand, he will apologize quickly if someone seems offended by his comments.  The apology isn’t for his beliefs, rather for having offended someone.

With all the current events of our day and the increasing interest in all things political, people have polarized about issues and clumped themselves together with people of   like mind.  It’s difficult today to have differing views about issues–in fact, it’s become almost dangerous.  We, older people, grew up in a very different world–one of strong convictions and beliefs.  And, whether you were conservative or liberal or something in between, standing up for your beliefs was praised and honored.  Our motto was ‘Live and Let Live’–disagree but still remain friends.

The amazing thing to me is that businesses are getting into politics, too, polarizing themselves with this group or that one.  What is that about??   Well, that’s where my musing is going.  Several years ago (and my info may not be totally correct) the illegal and legal immigrants from Mexico began to boycott ‘American owned’ businesses in order to prove that their financial influence was significant and US companies need them–even though some were likely not paying taxes and contributing financially to the running of the government.  We had been eating at Mexican restaurants ever since we moved to the Augusta area–every weekend.  The food was tasty and inexpensive.  When this became news, Doyle said, ‘I will not eat at Mexican restaurants again.’.  Now, he knew that his action would not matter one iota in the big scheme of things, but because he felt strongly about their audacity; he stood on his principles.

The next business that made the news (in our home) was Home Depot.  They were reported on the news as participating, as a business, in gay pride parades.  We believe homosexuality is against Biblical teachings.  We have gay friends and it’s not that we don’t care about those who choose this lifestyle, we just love them and move on.  But my question is, why would a business give public support for a controversial issue such as this?  So, Lowes gets most our business nowadays.

Then the transgender controversy hit the news and there was heated discussion about which public bathroom/locker room these people would be allowed to use.  Target spoke up and said they could choose ANY restroom in their store determined basically on their choice of gender.  So, what about people who are perverts that just want to go into the restrooms for undesirable reasons?  So, my dear husband said, ‘I won’t give Target my business’–not that we ever went in there, anyway ☺️.

Another situation that affected our lifestyle was after the horrible Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland Florida.  The students began to speak out about gun control, even making a trip to Washington to speak to Congress, led by student, David Hogg.  It is very positive to deal with such tragic issues as this in our country.  However, this young man took the protest to a whole new level, organizing a group to go into Publix and lay on the floor to shut down the business because they  supported a political candidate endorsed by NRA.  The company caved and responded by pulling support from the candidate.  Now we will not support Publix.  We are strong believers in protecting the second amendment.

Several businesses pulled their support from Laura Ingraham after she commented ‘negatively’ about David Hogg.  He mentioned in an interview that he had been rejected by four University of California schools and Laura Ingraham tweeted that “he was rejected by four schools and whines about it”.  He responded by calling for sponsors to boycott Ingraham’s show.  Advertisers fled Ingraham’s show with more than a dozen–including Johnson & Johnson, Liberty Mutual, Office Depot, Expedia, Nestle, Hulu, AT&T, Arby’s, Wayfair*–pulling their ads from her show (info from Newsweek and Los Angeles Times).  Why in the world are businesses taking sides–getting involved in politics???

Now, I have to admit, Doyle’s strong convictions have been somewhat of an embarrassment to me.  I am not as informed as he is and haven’t formed those strong convictions.  He is quick to say, ‘Thank you for inviting us to “X” Mexican restaurant, but I don’t go to Mexican restaurants.’ On the other hand, if it’s a special occasion already planned, he will participate as if he had no issues with the restaurant.  He has been ‘ragged’ mercilessly by our friends.

When we went on vacation with our daughter and her family in early June, Doyle shared the businesses we don’t support.  She rolled her eyes and I was a bit embarrassed.  It’s not that my convictions are not strong; I just feel like I am missing out and it won’t make a difference anyway, but Doyle often points out to me that if everyone who felt strongly stood up, it would make a difference!

As I pondered this whole thing, I decided that I am proud of his strong convictions.  His love for me is just that strong and protective.  He is a passionate person.  He does everything he does with all he has and is and that makes me proud that he is not ashamed of his beliefs–even if he tells everyone 😳.

Doyle and I have dear friends who are liberal in their political ideology; we have friends who have chosen an alternative lifestyle; we have friends who hate guns and wish them all banned.  But, we love these friends and give them the freedom to think and feel differently than we do.  After all, Paul told us in I Corinthians 13 that of all the gifts He (God) gives us, the greatest of all is love–unconditional love.  We are all God’s children, He loves us all, no matter who we are, what we do, or what we believe.

Until next time…..

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

Careers

As my oldest grandchild, Ashlee, who will be a high school senior in the fall,  begins to explore colleges, I began to think about how, back then, we decided  ‘what we want to do when we grow up’!  It’s a nebulous, difficult, but oh, so important life decision.

When I was still teaching Family & Consumer Sciences in middle school, it became apparent that this discipline was on the way out.  I decided to focus my eighth grade classes on careers.  First I would have them complete career interest assessments which I found online.  They were required to complete at least three, then decide on a career suited to their interests and research this career field, writing a paper on it.  We discussed stories of people who went into careers because the family expected it, or who chose a discipline because it was an easy route and hated it when it became a daily routine.  In fact, I have a dear friend who is a pharmacist and she recently told me that her dad, who was also a pharmacist, told her he would only pay for her college degree if she studied pharmacy.  She hated it then and even though she is fast approaching retirement, she confided that she hates it even more now.  She is very creative and sews beautifully.  She told me that when she was a little girl in a small town in Georgia, she would ride her bike to a department store and spend hours exploring  and touching fabrics.  She so wanted to go into some sort of fashion/interior design field.

I had more than one young lady in my class tell me it was a waste of her time to explore careers.  One said, I will just work with my dad in his furniture store–I don’t need a college degree.  The other one said she was going to marry a rich man and would never need to work ☺️.  I’m happy to report that both of these young ladies got their college degrees and fortunately also fulfilled their dream.  One is instrumental in her father’s furniture business and the other one married a Georgia Tech graduate who makes great money and her part time job is with the art council in her area and is loads of fun for her–it’s more of a  hobby than a job.

You are probably wondering, what about you (and Doyle)? How did you determine your career?   I recalled my early aspirations to be a social worker.  It was the early 60’s and the Vietnam war was raging.  I was so idealistic–Doyle says I still am 😊.  But love got in the way and even though I went off to college in the fall of ’65, I only had eyes (and heart) for Doyle and at the end of that first quarter, I came home to announce we were getting married in the spring and I was quitting school and getting a job.

We were new Christians in our first year of marriage and were diligently seeking God’s guidance in our lives.  Doyle had been working at Robins Air Force Base as an aircraft mechanic since graduation from high school.  As God began to put on our hearts that Doyle should begin college to become a counselor of some sort to help young people, he quit his job and we moved to Tifton, GA for him to begin college at ABAC.  Our little son was 9 months old.  His guidance counselor at ABAC talked him into going into counseling in elementary schools.  She assured him it was an up and coming field to guide young children, before they reached high school.  Counseling requires a master’s degree so he got his undergrad in elementary education.

In the meantime, I was staying at home with Bart and Doyle was working any job he could get and going to school full time.  We lived in an apartment building where there were four units, two up and two down.  We lived in a downstairs apartment and there was an elderly lady living upstairs over us.  One day she came down and said she had just heard on the radio that they were going to pay people to become nurses and she insisted I go to the labor department downtown and apply.  Me, a nurse ??, I thought, but off I went.  (She stayed with Bart.)  It was a government program called MDTA–Manpower Development Training Act.  Sure enough they paid me $45 a week to go to school to become a licensed practical nurse.  Although it was usually a 12 month program, we were in a pilot program to finish in 9 months.  I absolutely LOVED nursing.  (Ironically, I grew up a Christian Scientist and we didn’t believe in doctors and medicine and I had only rarely even gone to a doctor’s office.)  After getting my license, I worked at Tift General Hospital.  I worked in labor and delivery, the newborn nursery, surgical floor and the emergency room.  I decided I wanted to teach nursing, so began college at ABAC, too.  I completed a year before becoming pregnant with our daughter, which ended any career but motherhood for many years.

Back to Doyle:  he started teaching after completing his degree–cum laude, I might add!!  He taught in an all black school in Tifton.  It was 1970.  It was the last school to be integrated since all of the 800+ students walked to school.  He taught language arts to 6th graders.  That experience is a musing of it’s own and one he’d need to tell.  We quickly realized that we couldn’t make a decent living on a teacher’s salary ($323/month) and so we decided a master’s degree was in order.

By this time it was apparent that counselors were not going into elementary schools as had been promised.  So, as crazy as it sounds, we made a trip to UGA one day and just walked from building to building talking to several different departments.  We landed in Rehabilitation Counseling and after talking with them, we both felt this was the area of counseling God was leading him to pursue.  The dean told Doyle that even though they offered stipends to some of their students, they had all been given out.  He asked us how we planned to finance this degree.  Doyle said, ‘We will come on faith’.  God had never let us down before and we were confident that we were in His will and He would provide.  A week or so later, the dean wrote him a letter welcoming him to the department and said, ‘We’ve never had anyone to come on faith, but we welcome you.’  (We kept the letter.)  When we arrived in the fall, someone had dropped out of the program and he got the stipend.  As, I said, we knew He would take care of us 🙏🏼.

Off we moved to Athens–actually, to Nicholson about 15 miles north of Athens.  (A friend in Tifton sent us to a friend who had a house in the country, so that is where we lived.)  I worked at St. Mary’s Hospital for a while on their medical floor on the 11-7 shift.  Bart was in kindergarten and Merrigail was about 18 months old and in day care.  I was so unhappy.  It seemed that people were dying everyday at the hospital and I had to walk the halls at night to stay awake.  So, my precious husband, in his unconditional love for me, secured a 47 mile paper route for the Atlanta Constitution.  It was an afternoon route which he and Bart, who spent the morning in kindergarten class, would run after they both finished with school.  On Sundays, the paper was so large that it would literally fill our car and Doyle had to pick up the papers at 2 am.

We lived in Nicholson for a year and after completing the course work required for Doyle’s degree, moved to Reidsville, Ga in the fall of 1973.  An internship would be the final requirement.  Two were offered:  one at Warm Springs Rehabilitation Center for a 6 month paid internship with no guarantee of a job afterwards or  either a 2 month UNPAID internship in Reidsville with a guarantee of a job.  Obviously, with a wife and 2 kids, we needed the security of a job at the end, so off to Reidsville, GA we went.  I honestly thought we were moving to the end of the world.  The day we went to check  out the town, it had rained and it seemed there were puddles everywhere–especially at the elementary school.    The school was dilapidated and sad, the library was in a small house, and there were only two churches, a baptist and a methodist.  After we moved in, no one had ever heard of Vocational Rehabilitation and because the claim to fame for Reidsville is it is the ‘Home of the Georgia State Prison’, everyone assumed he was working at the prison.  Well, I have digressed, again!.  Doyle’s responsibility was to open a Division of Rehabilitation Services office in Reidsville, which had been served by a ‘circuit rider’ so to speak, over the years.  It would be a satellite office out of Savannah.  I continued to be a stay at home mom during most of these years.  (By then I had neglected to renew my nursing license.)

When we moved to Reidsville, Merrigail was  not quite 3 and Bart was in first grade.  I began to investigate to see if there were any resources for preschoolers.  First I went to the library and asked if there was a children’s story hour.  The librarian laughed heartily and told me no, but you can do it.  So, I began to go every week to the library and hold story hour for young children.  Next, I learned that there were no ‘mother’s day out’ programs or anything else to socialize preschoolers other than an hour in Sunday School each week.  I went to the community government offices to see if and how I might begin a preschool for Reidsville.  There didn’t seem to be any regulations at all, so I went to the two churches and secured the Sunday School rolls of children ages 3 and 4 and sent a letter to the parents.  I limited myself to 10 children and did tons of reading and researching about educating preschoolers.  Doyle got busy and built me a large child sized  table, a wooden stove/sink cabinet for my ‘play centers’ and I began collecting educational toys.  We already had tons of children’s books.  I found books on teaching young children and the studied the methods that were being used.  (We didn’t have Google then or it would have been so much easier!!).  I operated ‘Miss Janet’s Play School’ for 5 years in our home (we had a room in the back of our house dedicated to play-school). I sold my equipment and my waiting list to a friend at church when Merrigail was about 8 and moving on up in elementary school.

When Bart was in seventh grade and a new high school student, (our schools were K-6 and 7-12), we received a letter from school requesting permission for him to participate in the new sex education program at the school.  It was about 1980.  Christian groups were in an uproar about this new curriculum and I had been to a meeting or two about it.  We were encouraged to investigate the content before allowing our kids to participate.  So, I went to the high school and asked to see the material they would be using.  I was told they didn’t have it together but, if I would come back the next morning at 8, I could see it.  So, I did.  I was taken into the Home Economics Department and shown a film that they would be using.  (I am convinced they had not previewed the film.)  I found it not only offensive but inappropriate for any school aged child but especially 13 year olds.  As I expressed my dismay over the film, the home economics teacher became very defensive and told me that I had no idea the number of teen pregnancies there were and she also told me she taught parenting, child development and other very important subjects.  I took home economics in high school and we focused on cooking and sewing, so I had no idea this discipline involved such important and life altering subjects.  This teacher was a young woman with a small child.  I can’t tell you when it happened but during my time with God, He began to impress on me that I should get my teaching degree in–Home Economics!  I needed to be in that classroom.   So, in January of 1983, I enrolled in the college of Home Economics at Georgia Southern College in Statesboro.  It was about 30 miles from home.  I had a great advisor who made sure I would be able to finish this career prep in the shortest amount of time.  The classes that I had completed 15 years prior transferred and I began as a second quarter sophomore.  I was 36 and terrified.  Until my senior year most of the classes were taken along side nursing students as well.  Both disciplines require quite a lot of science.

Interestingly, just prior to my senior year, I made a visit to the school superintendent’s office to let him know that I would be available to teach home economics in our county beginning fall of 1985.  He told me I was in the wrong field, if I had chosen elementary education, he could promise me a job.  I assured him I was in the right field and thanked him.  That same summer, I was at the postoffice and ran into the lady who had retired from teaching home economics at Reidsville High School years before.  She said, ‘I will be teaching your kids this year!!’  I asked which one, Bart or Merrigail?  She said, ‘No, the home economics classes at the high school!!–Mr Sikes (the superintendent) called and asked me to teach one year until you graduated’.  This is just one of many experiences that Doyle and I have had in our marriage that proves God does guide those who ask for His help.  I graduated in spring of 1985 just days prior to Bart’s high school graduation–as I’ve alluded to in earlier musings ☺️, and began my teaching career that fall.

So, choosing a career is not always so straight forward, especially those for whom choosing a career is not a priority!!  My Ashlee wants to do something in the medical field.  She has participated in Emory’s National Youth Leadership Forum, which introduces high school students to the medical field.  She learned to draw blood, stitch up a cut, and give injections, among other things.  She also has asked to shadow several doctors as she and her mom have suffered through some medical issues.  I admire her proactive manner of ‘trying out’ different medical fields.  I am confident that she will make a real difference in many lives in her chosen career.

Until next time………..

 

 

Church

I’ve been thinking about church–my own church experiences as well as the Biblical meaning of church.  What exactly is ‘The Church”?  Does the church of today look anything like the church of first century Christians?  Does it look anything like what Jesus envisioned when he sent his 12 disciples out to ‘make disciples over the whole earth’?  Why are most church buildings lavish and expensive?  What makes the building and the people attending become a church?  Are churches sacred?

We are now seeing store front churches, churches that are in metal utility buildings, with folding chairs and a portable pulpit.  These churches no longer have a grand piano and expensive organ, but rather a band with guitars, drum sets, and keyboards.  The music is usually loud and repetitive, the atmosphere dark, like  you might find in a bar.  The people are in jeans and t-shirts, not sporting their ‘Sunday Best’.

The other extreme is a beautiful architectural building with stained glass windows and expensive padded pews and a masterfully created pulpit from which a minister delivers his sermon in either a robe or expensive suit.  The music is ‘high church’ music like Bach and Beethoven, and the hymns are often written by old 18th and 19th century musicians. There is usually a choir that delivers an anthem. The people are in their finest and most formal clothing, to ‘honor God with their best’  And, there are usually rituals such as repeating creeds and prayers and participating in responsive readings.

We’ve all heard that church is the people, not the building.  Yet, much emphasis is put on the physical building, a building that sits empty most of the week.  It is a building that is expensive to maintain.  Also, it seems that our churches today are more like social clubs, often not seeming to be interested in reaching out to include strangers into their circle of friends.  Regular attendees have special pews they sit on every Sunday they are in attendance, and are upset if someone sits in ‘their pew’.  They look around each Sunday for people they know, often ones of whom it is to their advantage to know–beneficial in a social/business sort of way.  Their eyes scan over people they don’t know and have no interest in knowing.  People attend church for various reasons and some have agendas beyond a place to worship God.

There is a lot of politics in church, in all denominations.  Pastors look forward to rising up to the ‘big’ churches, maybe graduating from junior pastor to senior pastor.  Churches today are not much more than a business with bills and salaries to pay, usually by the business manager of the church who oversees the financial aspect.  How much of the money donated to the church goes to maintaining the building and employees and how much to a ministry of helping others, reaching out into the community, if you will?

Is church attendance necessary if you are a believer in Jesus?  Is it possible to be a Christian and not affiliate with a church group?  I am reminded of the story told as an example of why it is important to be in church.  It goes like this:  a pastor was visiting  a person who claimed to be a believer but said they didn’t see any point in going to church.  As they talked, sitting in front of the fireplace, the pastor took the fire poker and drug out a coal from the fire.  As they talked the ember began to die and lose it’s heat and glow.  The pastor pointed out that as a Christian, we need to be in fellowship with other believers in order to grow, that if not we, like the ember, would lose our faith and influence.  I’ve always loved that analogy and believed it was spot on.  However, after reflecting on my church experiences over the span of my 71 years, I now am not sure if that is true.

My earliest church experience was as a very young child attending a Methodist church in our community.  My mother had been raised in the Methodist church and it was just natural that she would seek a church of that denomination.  We didn’t go very long.  I later learned that my mom didn’t feel welcome there.  It was a very cliquish church, in her eyes.  Not long after that, our neighbor invited Mama to go with her to a Christian Science Church in downtown Macon.  Even though it was a very formal church, I suppose Mom felt comfortable there because we attended that denomination until I graduated from high school.  I was a devout Christian Scientist.  The church service was just for adults 20 and over and was held at the same time the young people were in Sunday School.  In the adult service there were no preachers, but rather readers.  There were two of them and they read alternately from the Bible and from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (a book written by the founder of this religion, Mary Baker Eddy).  There were many wealthy people in that church.  My Sunday School teacher was Mrs. J. W. McCook, of McCook Lumber Company.  Her parents were the Hays from the famous Hay House in Macon.  (It is now a museum.)  We occasionally had youth meetings in the basement of that huge antebellum home.  This is the denomination that doesn’t believe in going to doctors.  There were ‘Practitioners’ that we called upon to pray if there was an illness.  I am grateful to Jesus that none of us had any serious health problems all those years.

When Doyle and I became serious in our relationship, I told him we needed to be in church together.  So, he went with me to the adult service at the Christian Science Church and because the atmosphere was so different, so formal, he faked a coughing spell and we had to leave before it even began.  (Now he claims he wasn’t faking, but I don’t believe it for a minute.)  The church was quiet when you entered and stayed that way the whole time.  There was no socializing, talking or visiting at all.  So, I said, ok, we’ll go to YOUR church–which happened to be a Baptist church.  It was there in that country church, with a preacher preaching hellfire and damnation, that I first heard that Jesus (God) could actually live in my heart and was with me every minute of my life.  I didn’t have to do anything, but believe and follow Him.  I was awestruck and immediately received and believed.  Doyle and I became very involved in that little church, the one through which we both believed and were baptized.

Our next church experience came, when after giving our hearts to Jesus, Doyle (and I) felt a calling to minister to young people.  To do that, Doyle needed further education so we moved to Tifton, GA with our little 9 month old baby boy for him to begin his college career at ABAC.  As we looked around that small town at the churches, Doyle said as we drove past First Baptist, that’s one church we won’t attend–it’s too big and formal.  Well, that first Sunday, guess where we first visited–yep, First Baptist. As we sat in the back of that massive church, the people around flocked to us after the service, introducing themselves and taking us immediately to the pastor to meet him.  It was a warm, welcoming group of people.  As Doyle neared the end of his 2 years at ABAC and we made plans to move to Statesboro for him to finish his degree, the pastor called us in and asked  Doyle if he would be willing to stay in Tifton and take the job of youth director.  After some scrambling to change from Georgia Southern to Valdosta State, we stayed in Tifton the next two years and Doyle commuted to school and worked late into the night at the church.  It was a wonderful experience and everyone, including us,  cried when we left Tifton.  We loved that church, the people literally took us under their wings.  The next six months we lived in Sylvester and Doyle served First Baptist there as youth director.  From there we moved to Athens for him to enroll in the Vocational Rehabilitation program and get a Master’s degree.  In Athens, we attended Beech Haven Baptist Church, but never got very involved for several reasons.  One we lived about 15 miles outside of Athens and two, Doyle was delivering the Atlanta Journal and Constitution 7 days a week and going to school, not to mention we had two young children. And, we were only there a year.

Next we moved to Reidsville, in south Georgia.  Without going into detail, our church experience at the Reidsville Baptist Church, for about 5 years,  was not a good one.  The people were warm and welcoming, but there were other problems.  So, since there were no other Baptist churches in town, we began to attend Reidsville United Methodist across the street.  We were very involved in that church the remaining 15 years we lived in Reidsville and still have dear friends there.

In 1992, we moved to Augusta and since church had always been an important part of our lives, we began to visit various churches.   Honestly, we visited a great many churches of different denominations.  A couple of them were terrible experiences–NO ONE spoke to us, even with big “Visitor” badges on our chests.  It was then that I realized that church folks know one another, but are reluctant to reach out or even be aware of people outside their circle.  I reflected on the churches we had been a part of over the years and wondered if we were guilty of the same thing and just never realized it.  It is so easy to get comfortable with a group of people and never make a point to seek others out.  So, we joined a congregation for a brief period, mainly because the pastor was so friendly and called our names each Sunday as we exited the church–he actually took time to learn our names and we felt so included.  However as we searched for a Sunday School class, we never felt included.  In fact, Doyle like to tease me about one class we attended for several months.  My gynecologist was a member of that class and he never acknowledged that he knew me.  Now, granted, I only saw him once a year!!  So we began to look again.  The next church we joined was a large Methodist church and the first Sunday we visited, a woman ran up to Doyle, grabbed him and smacked him on the lips and told him he was the best looking thing she had ever seen.  “Wow”, Doyle said, “That’s my kind of church!!”  Much later we learned that the precious woman that greeted him that day was a beloved mentally challenged lady that loved on everybody.  She has since moved away with her sister, but she still calls us on a regular basis.  Oh, that we would all take lessons from her and show our love to everyone.

We have gotten somewhat involved in Trinity on the Hill UMC.  Early on, Doyle was asked to join the administrative board but said no one ever said a word to him at those meetings.  They were busy greeting and chatting with one another.  We attended the Wednesday night suppers for a while, but the tables were exclusive, not inclusive.  It would be obvious that folks were saving their table for their friends.  We didn’t attend very long.  We got involved in a ‘supper club’ of sorts with several couples in the church at one time.  Then there was a major staff problem that eventually split the church and many left the church.  Half of our supper club friends were on one side and half on the other.  So, as you can imagine, the group stopped meeting.  We didn’t have a dog in that fight and had no feelings one way or another.  I attended many Bible studies at church and again I felt like a knot on a log most of the time.  Many of the attendees had grown up together and knew each other well.  This is not to say they didn’t speak or weren’t nice to me, but I obviously didn’t fit into the ‘group’.  At one point, I was asked to create a Bible study called ‘Bible Basics’.  The idea was to have a Bible study for people who were reluctant to attend a Bible study because they didn’t know much about the Bible and felt intimidated.  It was a general overview of the Bible, how it came to be written, who wrote it and how to be familiar with the 66 books that comprise the Bible.  I did lots of research online and created what I thought would be informative for persons unfamiliar with the Bible.  I taught this class 3 times and never had more than five or six people attend–even my sweet husband came so I would have more people.  Ironically the ones who did attend were more knowledgable about the Bible than I ever thought to be.  It left me feeling that because I was not a part of the ‘in’ group, no one was interested in attending.  I knew there were other groups that had 15-20 people in attendance.  Later, I facilitated a couple of Bible studies in my home.  I personally invited my friends, many if not most, who were not members of my church.  Even then, I think most came so as not to hurt my feelings–we never continued them after two studies.

So, I ask myself, is there something wrong with me?  Am I too sensitive?  Should I have intruded into the circles of people and forced a relationship?  Am I placing too much emphasis on being included and liked rather than on perhaps what God might have been doing in someone’s life with my weak efforts?  I know I have always been a ‘people pleasing’ type of person.  I hate conflict and shy away from it if at all possible.    If I don’t feel included, needed, loved or appreciated, then I back away.  I suppose it’s my defense mechanism.  I guess you might argue that church is what you make it to be and maybe I didn’t try hard enough.

I am often listening to Andy Stanley’s sermons, and lately in his 90 series, the subject was just that.  “People often love their religion more than the people for whom the religion was designed”.  It’s a problem that has been with us since the beginning.  Jesus often rebuked the Pharisees because they loved their laws, rules and religion more than the people.  They shunned certain groups of people because they didn’t fit the mold and felt arrogantly confident that their way was the only way.   Jesus sought the hated and despised (Matthew the tax collector) and the common men (Peter, James and John).  His parables were often about the poor and forgotten–the Samaritans, a despised group of people, or the rich who erroneously put their faith in their bank accounts and wealth.  Jesus was inclusive everywhere He went, reaching out to crowds of hungry people, feeding them with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, calling little children to himself and telling us that unless we become like little children, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Somehow, I don’t think he would recognize the church of today.  I have a feeling he would rebuke us as well as we divide ourselves into denominations and fight over doctrines we won’t absolutely know until we get to heaven and can ask Him personally.  Jesus didn’t preach about doctrine–his sermons were about love about how to live with one another.  He told us the only two commandments that we were to follow are to 1.) Love God with all your heart, soul and mind and 2.)  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Then he goes on to explain who our neighbor is.  You can read for yourself who your neighbor is in the parable of the Good Samaritan.  (Luke 10: 29-37, read it in The Message version, you will love it ☺️)

We spent the first few years in our church involved, then we backed off (as I explained above) and were more spectators than participants.  Then as Jesus wooed me back to Himself, I got somewhat involved again, but just couldn’t seem to find my niche.   I turned to community non profits and got really involved there.  I spend at least one hour and often more every morning doing an online Bible study and doing my homework from Bible Study Fellowship (a non church related intensive Bible study that runs throughout the school year.)  We are studying Romans this year.  As I am working in the yard, I use my wonderful Plantronics ear phones and listen to sermons from North Point Church or Tim Keller sermons from a church in NY city.  I  talk to Jesus all through the day about things and people on my heart.  Most of my spiritual food doesn’t come from the church.  But, I love my church, I love the ministries such as Super Saturday, a ministry to mentally challenged adults, and the fact that we are a Red Cross emergency shelter, and the support for Release Time, a ministry to elementary school aged children in Richmond County, the mission trips to underdeveloped countries several times a year and many others.  And there are some wonderful people in my church.

Well, I will stop my rambling, but in the end, I have concluded that a person doesn’t have to attend church to grow as a Christian. In fact, sometimes it can even be a stumbling block, when the emotions you feel when you leave the congregation/class are not positive.  However,  I  am certain it is important to maintain friendships with spiritual people, upon whom I can call on for prayer or with whom I can discuss spiritual things.  Many of my spiritual friends attend other churches and it is they that I would call should I have a need.

I do pray that I haven’t offended anyone in this musing.  It is simply my thoughts and my experiences.  If your experience is different and positive, I am happy for you.  It is as it should be.

Blessings,

Janet

SaveSave

Consequences

Someone asked me the other day, ‘When are you going to do another musing?’  I thought about the others I’ve written and realized that I can’t write anything on my own.  I have to be inspired– inspired by the Holy Spirit–the Spirit of Jesus that resides in my heart.

Well, guess what??  This morning as I was listening to a wrap up teaching on the  First 5.org   app, the inspiration came.  But, in order to write this I need to tell you a little background about the study I am doing–it’s I & II Kings.

This scripture is a record of King Solomon’s reign; he was King David and Bathsheba’s son.  (If you are at all familiar with the Old Testament, you know the story of David and Bathsheba;  Solomon was a product of this sinful relationship.)   But that is not the story that inspired me 😊.  Solomon grew up and was chosen by God to take over the ‘kingship’ from his father and was given the responsibility to build the temple of God, which he had forbidden David to do.  In the beginning, when Solomon was a young king, God told him to ask for anything and He would grant it.  Solomon asked only for wisdom to rule his kingdom, and because God was so pleased with him, he granted him riches and fame as well.  However, back in Deuteronomy, God had given the Israelites guidelines for a king.  He said a king must not build up a large stable of horses or send his people to Egypt to buy horses because he forbade them to ever go back to Egypt.  He also said a king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord.  And, lastly, that he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.  (Deuteronomy 17:  16-17).

Right off, Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh, the king of Egypt and married one of his daughters.  He also married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon and from the Hittites–all pagan nations.  In all, King Solomon acquired 700 wives and 300 concubines. In I Kings 10, we are told that King Solomon accumulated great wealth; even his drinking cups were solid gold.  He had a fleet of trading ships that returned every 3 years loaded with gold, silver, ivory, apes and peacocks, so he became richer and wiser than any other king on earth.  He built up a huge force of chariots and horses.  He had 14,000 chariots and 12,000 horses.

Do you see a problem here?  Even though Solomon was very wise–in fact he wrote most of Proverbs which is full of wisdom–he was not obedient to God.  He did fall and his fall was hard.  He was able to keep the kingdom for the rest of his life even though one of his officials rose up against him.  Solomon tried to kill him, but he fled to Egypt and stayed until Solomon died.   God said, ‘Because of Solomon’s sin I will punish the descendants of David–though not forever’.  At the end God ripped most of the kingdom from Solomon’s son who succeeded him,  by dividing it into 2 parts.  He only was left with two tribes, which merged into one.  The other 10 became a kingdom of it’s own.   These two kingdoms  became Israel and Judah.  God preserved David’s descendants because it was through this lineage that Jesus was born.

The light bulb came on when I realized that in reading the Old Testament, we tend to think the consequences for sin  happened  in a short time period–and we conclude that punishment for disobedience to God (sin) is quick and sure.  But, alas, sin’s consequences are more often than not slow–very slow.  I suppose this can be viewed as the grace of God.  He gives us so many chances/opportunities to repent and turn from our sin.  But we justify ‘it’ or we say to ourselves, this isn’t going to hurt anybody, I’ll stop (this behavior) tomorrow, next week, or next year.  I’m enjoying this; it seems good and right, God couldn’t possibly punish me for this; it makes me happy and makes me feel good about myself.  Sadly, we know the real truth deep down.  God’s guidelines are black and white, not gray.  He is not concerned with our happiness–he desires our obedience.  As Christians, too often we hear the prompting of the Holy Spirit when we are willfully disobeying what He’s asked of us, but we ignore it.  Soon, we don’t even hear it anymore.  Sin always has a downward spiral.  What starts out as curiosity, or ‘dabbling’ in sinful behavior which is exciting and glamorous to start with, soon requires more and more and more. When our world comes crashing down and we realize how far we’ve fallen, it’s usually too late, our family’s lives have been damaged and our own life is in shambles.

We all sin, we live in a fallen world, and are born with a bent to sin.  Once we have recognized this sinful nature and invited Jesus in to guide us, we have a desire to obey Him.  How do we know what He requires?  It’s all in His Word.  It is imperative that a Christian regularly read and apply God’s  Word.  It’s when we continue in sin that the trouble begins.    When we’ve been ‘born again’, it’s like a new born baby.  Look how long it takes a baby to grow into adulthood–our spiritual growth is just like physical growth, it is gradual but sure if we are aligning ourselves with other like minded believers and are reading His word.  One cannot make the profession/confession to be a Christian and then go on living as before.  This seems to be a sign that the point of confession was an emotional experience and nothing more.  A true repentance begins a process of changing one’s life for the better–a turning around and going a different way, if you will.

I stumbled across a song sung by several different people, but the one I heard was by Casting Crowns.  It is called Slow Fading.  Here are the lyrics:

Be careful little eyes what you see
It’s the second glance that ties your hands
As darkness pulls the strings
Be careful little feet where you go
For it’s the little feet behind you that are sure to follow
It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white are turned to gray
And thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It’s a slow fade, it’s a slow fade
Be careful little ears what you hear
When flattering leads to compromises, the end is always near
Be careful little lips what you say
For empty words and promises leave broken hearts astray
It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white are turned to gray
And thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It’s a slow fade, it’s a slow fade
The journey from your mind to your hands
Is shorter than you’re thinking
Be careful if you think you stand
You just might be sinking
It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white are turned to gray
And thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
Daddies never crumble in a day
Families never crumble in a day
Oh, be careful little eyes what you see
Oh, be careful little eyes what you see
For the Father up above is looking down in love
Oh, be careful little eyes what you see

Following is the music video–worth taking time to watch.  Just click on ‘Watch on YouTube.

 

Well, I hope I haven’t lost you on this one.  Honestly when I start to write something God has laid on my heart, my fingers fly on the keyboard and scriptures come to mind.  It’s something I’ve never experienced before.  Blessings on your day.

Janet

 

‘Til Death Do Us Part….

Sometimes when I work in the yard (or less often when I’m painting 😊) I listen to podcasts downloaded on my phone.  My favorite ones to listen to are Andy Stanley’s sermons delivered to his church at Northpoint Community Church (and then sent by satellite to the other churches) in the US.  One of his newest sermon series is on marriage.  It is called ‘What Happy Couples Know’.  It started me thinking about marriage–my marriage in particular but also marriage in general.

Andy says that we all go into marriage with a ‘box’ filled with our hopes and dreams.  The problems begin when my husband hands his ‘box’ to me which over time becomes more like expectations, often expectations I either don’t know what they are or I’m unable to meet them.    He goes on to say that when that happens we do one of four things. (1)  We leave, taking our box to the next relationship (which could explain multiple marriages).  (2) We win–usually this is a relationship in which one has a stronger personality and insists on working out of his/her box.  (3) We conform–we become what our partner wants us to be (and in the process lose ourselves). (4) We compromise–this relationship is not happy nor is it necessarily unhappy, it’s contractural–you do your part and I’ll do mine.   In order to do work out one of these four types, we either convince, convict, control or coerce.  Of course, I am simplifying the sermon, so it’s best to listen yourself. (The series is fantastic and I encourage you to listen or watch it.)  Here is the link:  northpoint.org/messages/what-happycouplesknow

Doyle and I have been married 51 years.  I was only 19 when we married and he, 22.   I knew absolutely nothing about marriage except by observing my parents.  They didn’t have a happy marriage until much later in their lives and even then it wasn’t ideal.  Mama waited on Daddy hand and foot.  He was helpless on his own–or at least that’s how I saw it.  She would lay out his clothes, comb his hair and do everything else for him.   I thought the way to be a good wife was to wait on my husband as well.  Now, I’ve never laid out Doyle’s clothes or combed his hair, but I never expected him to help me with the housework or the children.  I’m sure in the beginning he would have if I’d asked but I thought it was my place to do it all.  Plus, he didn’t have a role model at all, as his dad left when he was 5 years old.  As the years rolled on, he was busy restoring our old house and working hard at his career, so I continued to do it.

We had some stormy years.  The worst time was when I went back to college in 1983 to get a degree in Home Economics Education.  Bart was 16 and Merrigail 12.  Doyle was very supportive of my ‘call’ to go back to school and did all he could so I could attend class (my commute was 35 miles each way) and not have to worry about working as well.  (Why I decided on this degree instead of nursing, which I started off in, is another musing 😊.)   Doyle was sharp and witty, I was naive (I didn’t catch on to jokes, etc  very quickly) and felt dumb most of our lives.  My sister also was sharp and smart and completed college in the normal stage of life–after high school–even though for most of it she also was married.  Doyle was good at everything he undertook, graduating Cum Laude from Valdosta State University, while supporting a family and working at every job he could find.  I had never excelled in anything.  I went into this experience of college life to prove to myself that I was not dumb.  As a result, I poured myself into school; I literally ate, drank and slept school.  I was 36 when I began and even had to take inorganic chemistry my very first quarter–I was terrified.  I studied hard and worked hard.  I suppose as I grew intellectually and in confidence, I was not the same person who began this endeavor.  I didn’t realize at the time, nor intend, to neglect my family in any way.  Much later when we discussed this difficult period Doyle told me he felt abandoned emotionally.  I continued to take care of household things and in my mind, I was doing more than enough.  I was pretty much totally focused on school and succeeding that I, in retrospect, ‘left’ him and the children–not physically but emotionally–it was not a conscious thing at all.   Toward the end of my schooling, I was also gone a lot physically.  He was angry with me all the time and I couldn’t figure out what was going on; it was a horrible time in our lives.  It would have been so easy to physically ‘check out’ as well.  I was getting a college degree and would be able to support myself; I didn’t have to put up with his moodiness!!  But when I married Doyle, we, as new Christians, vowed that divorce would never be an option.  I didn’t see the change in myself and how it must have made him feel, but I knew I loved him more than anything and I continued to make the choice to love him through this difficult time.  I only got through it with lots of prayer.  I know this period of time was difficult for him as well.  We made it through those years.  I ended up graduating Summa Cum Laude in 1985 from Georgia Southern College (it had not yet become a university), but it was earned at a very high price.  Bart graduated from high school and I from college just days apart.

We have always had laughter and fun in our home.  But, there was also a lot of anger and frustration as we struggled financially and with Doyle’s ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), which we didn’t even know about then.   He brought a lot of anger and frustration into our marriage stemming from his condition and  from his  childhood and I didn’t know how to handle it very well.  We were both very immature when we entered into our covenant marriage and literally grew up together.

We were very involved in church life, raising our kids in church, making sure we were there every time the doors were open.  More often than not, putting church and church people ahead of our own family.  I was involved in facilitating many ladies Bible studies over those years.  We had a couples Bible study every week as well and Doyle led those, usually in our home.  During that time, there were some family issues I was struggling with and my prayers seemed to hit the ceiling and fall back down.  I couldn’t see any answers to my prayers, so in discouragement, I decided to stop praying and studying the Bible–it didn’t seem to make any difference anyway.  It was about the time we moved to Augusta from South Georgia.  We continued to go to church (after we finally found one), but was not involved much at all.  We were going our own way and doing our own thing.  Thankfully, Jesus wooed me back to Himself through the first Bible study I took at our church, Trinity On The Hill UMC, called ‘Falling in Love with Jesus’.  I came back to Him hungry to know His word, to really know Him–not just know about Him– and to live according to His guidance.   I realized that my faith had been immature in those early days.  I was looking for the gifts, not the Giver of gifts.  My faith was dependent on answers to prayer, not faith that God is working even when I don’t see any results–perhaps I won’t even live to see the results, but I am confident now that He is working in the lives of my loved ones.

I took many Bible Studies and spent time lots of time praying and reading.  Doyle is not a reader and I became anxious for him to share my passion for Jesus.  I have always taken him coffee to wake him up each morning and since we were retired, I asked him if we could read through the Bible together and he agreed–of course I did the  reading, but he was very engaged in the hearing.  (At this point we’ve read through the Bible in four different versions.)  Later, we began to pray together after our reading.  It was such a sweet time and God truly knit our hearts together.  I believe,  if we had done this early in our marriage, we could have avoided many of the conflicts and problems we struggled with.  There is just something special about hearing your soul mate’s heart as he talks to God.  The old saying that’s been around a long time is true, “The Family that Prays together Stays Together”.

One other thing Andy talks about in his series is always believing the best of your spouse and speaking well of him/her to others.  Also, he says we should have  a ‘submission competition’ with our spouse–both racing to the end of the line–so to speak,  to defer to one another and always want the best for the other.  Just that advice alone would save many marriages.  In our entire marriage if there was ever extra anything, (money, food), we would each want the other to have it.  There has never been any selfishness in our relationship.

As our lives wind down to the end–as Doyle often says ‘ We’re a lot closer to the finish line than the starting line’– there are a lot of regrets.  Too often, things and other people were more important to me than my husband and children.  There are no excuses, but I know there are many things I would do differently if I were granted a ‘do over’.  Sadly, none of us can ‘do over’.  We can just ask forgiveness from God and our loved ones and work to make these last years as special as possible.

As I was reading the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) again this morning, I was reminded  that Jesus spoke directly and candidly about marriage, especially unfaithfulness in marriage, even warning about lusting in your heart for someone else.  It’s not just the act of adultery that is sin, but also the feelings in your heart for someone outside of your marriage.  He also condemned divorce.  After all, marriage was His idea–one man and one woman, until death parts them.   We all have had divorce in our families and it’s a painful experience.  We also are human and make mistakes, but  when we are repentant, ‘God is faithful to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness’. I John 1:9    He is the healer; living a life close to Him is the only way to  a great marriage and true peace and joy.

 

 

SaveSave

SaveSave