Is Mother’s Day Hard for You? Me Too.

mothers day blogIs Mother’s Day hard for you? It is for me. And for three kids. (This blogpost is a favorite among my readers. I hope you appreciate it too.) 

It’s tough for me because my mom (top photo, above) was my best friend and she died in the middle of the night. Too soon. Only 62. Sudden heart attack. I cried on and off for two years. Have you grieved deeply too? Have you wet pillowcases with your tears and crumpled used tissues? 

It’s tough for my kids because they have never met their biological mothers: Belinda, Nari, and Oksana. Two of the three have made a sort of peace with this primary loss, this absence.

“Why did she give me up?” — their spoken words. Their deep, deep heart cry: “Wasn’t I good enough? Didn’t she love me?” I rattled the right adoptive mom lingo, “She made an adoption plan for you because she wasn’t married, didn’t have family support, or the money to raise you, and she made the best choice she could.”

These well-meaning words to my children fall flat. They don’t answer their deepest question. And they don’t answer mine.

Why, God?

Why, God, did you choose to take Mom to her true home the year I needed her most?

He showed me the answer in the Bible, an answer I didn’t like but over time accepted.

 The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. Job 1:21

Did your mom or mom-in-law pass away this year? Or did your child die? Are you trying to get pregnant and each passing month your sadness deepens? Perhaps you have another reason for tears on Mother’s Day.

You’d think a day of celebrating moms couldn’t hurt. For many, many of us it does. We have to find new ways to celebrate.

When my mom died 22 years ago, I selected a poem for her “In Memory of” card. I had little time to choose it, for no one expected her to pass on. . .yet. As tears wet my cheeks, I slow-motioned to my bookshelf to find Seasons of Your Heart by Macrina Wiederkehr. Years before, Wiederkehr’s way with verse had awakened my senses to seeing God in the ordinary: shopping malls and maple trees, teacups and Christmas lights, breadcrumbs and bare feet.

I needed her words now. I needed God now.

Life had become ugly. I ached for beauty and brightness.

Finding an Answer

As I read and reread the poetry, trying to find just the right verse, my broken heart started healing. Hope was returning. Oh. . .so. . .slowly.

Then I turned a page and found the one. Excited and happy yet fragile and sad, I carefully copied a part of the verse, perfect in its expression of my mom.

I looked for myself
in so many places
and then, in my weariness
I forgot about myself
and looked for You.
And behold,
I found myself there
waiting for me
in you.
I am beautiful at last.

We women won’t find true beauty at work or in the cocktail lounge. It’s not at the salon or the PTO. You won’t even find it in the mirror.

True beauty, the kind that matters, is in Christ alone. He defines you. He says you are valuable and strong and beautiful, my sister in Christ.

A New Celebration

Ever since my mom died, I began a new celebration that soothes my soul. On Mother’s Day I plant bright and hard-to-kill flowers — no green thumb here! — tucking them by this maple and that birch, and in pots all around. It’s my living Mother’s Day card.

As their roots grow deep and their petals unfurl, I remember. I remember the flavor of my mom’s spaghetti, the way she walked tall, the scratch of a match to light her cigarette. I also remember God’s faithfulness to me on the blackest of days.

My prayer is my children discover their own celebrations for their birth moms. One has spoken of a tattoo:

“Love is patient, love is kind. . .It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.” 1 Corinthinans 13

Beautiful. Just beautiful.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

 

 

If You Feel Abused, Were You Abused? (Part 2)

abusedAbused? Were you abused, phyically or sexually, in your marriage? In part 2 of this multi-part series on domestic violence, guest writer Jim Newheiser carefully looks at common assertions and takes a balanced view. This post appeared first here at the Biblical Counseling Coalition website and is reprinted with permission.

Read Part 1 here: When to believe the victim, when to believe the abuser

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I am thankful to God that many necessary and important books and articles are being written to increase awareness of physical and sexual abuse. Abuse affect both the society at large and the Christian community in particular. Spiritual leaders have been rightly admonished for their failure to protect at-risk women and children.

Battered wives have been wrongly told that if they were just more loving and submissive, their husbands would change and the abuse would stop. They are then wrongly sent back to take further verbal and physical beatings. Many church leaders need to repent of their failure to “rescue the weak and needy; [and] deliver them out of the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:4).

While I affirm the importance of understanding the dark nature of abuse and protecting the victims of abuse, I am concerned that some, in their zeal to correct the failure of the past, have swung too far the other way. This can lead to false accusations and unnecessary family breakups.

I would like to give a few examples of what I believe to be common overstatements, and for each one, I will describe the good intention behind the statements, the harm which can be caused because of imbalanced thinking, and a more balanced way of expressing the same concerns.

If You Feel Abused, Then You Were Abused?

ASSERTION: If you feel abused, then you were abused.

  1. The valid concern: This statement is often made to express the reality that abuse may have taken place even if the abuser does not recognize or acknowledge his behavior (yelling, pushing, bullying, coercion, threats, and intimidation) as wrong.
  2. The harm that can be caused: On the other hand, the Bible teaches that it is possible to wrongly interpret the words, actions, and motives of others (1 Corinthians 2:11).

For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 2:11

For example, Eli falsely accused Hannah of drunkenness because her lips were moving as she prayed (1 Samuel 2:12ff). We cannot judge one person merely by the subjective feelings of another. For example, a man may be in a rush and accidentally bump into his wife (with whom he had had a recent conflict) as he turns a corner. She may accuse him of doing it deliberately to harm her when that was never his motive.

Words also can be misunderstood. What is taken by one person as angry and abusive might have never been intended as such. Nor might it have been interpreted this way by an objective third party.

Scripture reminds us: “Love hopes all things” (1 Cor. 13:7); in other words, love seeks to assume the best.

3. It would be better to say: A person who feels abused should be helped to objectively evaluate what has happened and to get assistance if genuine abuse has taken place. Part of this objective evaluation involves considering the ongoing pattern and cumulative effect of the accused person’s behavior, as well as the immediate accusation at hand. Proper evaluation over time keeps us from wrongly escalating the consequences for one individual incident while also not dismissing the whole situation because one incident wasn’t deemed as abusive.

Sometimes a Victim Has a Sin Issue Too

ASSERTION: It is never the victim’s fault.

  1. The valid concern: Many abusers claim that their victims are to blame because the victim provoked him or failed to be as good a wife or child as they should be. Many victims suffer from false guilt. There is no valid excuse for physical or sexual abuse.

Even if the abuser believes that he was provoked, he is never authorized by God to take physical or verbal vengeance.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

2. The harm that can be caused: Some victims have sin issues which also need to be addressed. I counseled in a case in which a wife would berate and insult her husband, saying “Come on Jesus man, hit me!” She admitted that she felt that she had won the argument when he finally struck her. Again, I emphasize there was no excuse for him hitting her. But she also needed to address her personal sinfulness.

There have been cases of sexual assault in which the woman got herself into an extremely compromising and dangerous situation (i.e., drunk, alone, and making out with a man with whom she is not married). Again, the man should have stopped when she said, “no” (also see Habakkuk 2:15). If he assaults her, he is guilty of a crime and should be punished. But she also needs to acknowledge before God her personal sin in the situation. Deuteronomy 22:23-24 addresses situations like this.

3. It would be better to say: Abuse is never justified, but victims may need to examine themselves to see if they have any sin for which they also need to seek God’s forgiveness.

(Friend, if someone has abused you, please seek help from a caring pastor, a spiritually wise woman at your church, or from a biblical counselor, who counsels the compassionate, effective Word to your hurting heart. Learn more about biblical counseling by Skype.–LAM)

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

 

 

Believe the Victim or the Abuser? (part 1)

victim
An abuse victim needs loving support from friends and spiritual leaders. In this multi-part series, guest writer Jim Newheiser
 recognizes a pendulum swing in addressing this very difficult problem. And he provides balance. Read on and let me know: Do you agree with him? Disagree? Please leave a comment or contact me.

This is part 1 in a multi-part series, which appeared first here at the Biblical Counseling Coalition, and is reprinted with permission.

heart

I am thankful to God that many necessary and important books and articles are being written to increase awareness of physical and sexual abuse as they affect both the society at large and the Christian community in particular. Spiritual leaders have been rightly admonished for their failure to protect at-risk women and children.[1]

Abuses which should have been exposed have been covered up, leading to more unnecessary suffering which grieves Christ.

Battered wives have been wrongly told that if they were just more loving and submissive, their husbands would change and the abuse would stop.

They are then wrongly sent back to take further verbal and physical beatings. Many church leaders need to repent of their failure to “rescue the weak and needy; [and] deliver them out of the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:4).

While I affirm the importance of understanding the dark nature of abuse and protecting the victims of abuse, I am concerned that some, in their zeal to correct the failure of the past, have swung too far the other way. This can lead to false accusations and unnecessary family breakups. I would like to give a few examples of what I believe to be common overstatements, and for each one, I will describe the good intention behind the statements, the harm which can be caused because of imbalanced thinking, and a more balanced way of expressing the same concerns.

Always Believe the Victim?

ASSERTION: Always believe the victim.

  1. The valid concern: This statement is made out of sympathy for many victims of abuse whose claims have been rejected as unbelievable when no one could imagine that the perpetrator, who seems like such a nice guy, could have done such a bad thing. Or those hearing the claim may prefer not to get involved in the messiness which will surely follow if the claim is substantiated.
  2. The harm that can be caused: Innocent people have been harmed by false claims of abuse. Some alleged victims have learned how much harm they can do to another person with an accusation of abuse. I had a counseling case in which a fifteen-year-old girl threatened that she would falsely accuse her stepfather of molesting her if he didn’t give her what she wanted. We had another case in which an alleged victim had someone else scratch up her face so that she could call the police and accuse an innocent party of doing it. To be falsely labeled as an abuser can destroy a person’s reputation, damage his career, and potentially lead to false imprisonment. The Bible teaches that a high standard of proof is necessary before we can treat someone as guilty (Deut. 19:15).
  3. A better way to say this would be: All claims of abuse must be taken seriously. When hearing an allegation of abuse, we should immediately offer compassionate care, ensuring that the threatened party is safe. Allegations need to be investigated, in many cases by the civil authorities (Romans 13:1-7); however, it is not biblical to treat the accused party as guilty without proof.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:1-4. ESV)


[1] Because most cases of abuse involve women I will refer to the victim as being female. I acknowledge that men can also be victims of spousal abuse and have counseled men in such situations.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

 

Hurt by a Man in Authority? Here’s Help!

authorityAuthority figures–whether fathers, husbands, church elders, government leaders, or employers–influence women’s lives. How we women respond to them reveals our hearts. This article by counselor Julie Ganschow appeared first here on her website and is used with permission.

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When Authority Figures Disappoint Us

As Christian women, we function in a world that is watching to see how we will respond to the authority figures in our lives. Fathers, husbands, and church elders are the main authorities under which we function. Sometimes our leaders disappoint us, don’t respond the way we want them to, or even do things that are extremely hurtful to us.

  How we respond is an indication of what is lurking in our hearts.

Women who respond to authority with anger and rebellion are often applauded in larger social circles or on social media. Our female friends and acquaintances don’t want to see us get pushed around or “abused.” As as result, they bandwagon with the offended/hurt woman and jump to her defense.

This is very unwise.

Proverbs 18:13 says,

He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him. (NASB)

Often, those defending a woman who has been hurt do not have the full story. They speak out in support of her without knowing the facts of the situation.

Unless you can have access to the other party involved, be very careful about coming to conclusions. It is very easy to take up a reproach on behalf of someone you care about or when the cause is important to you for personal reasons.

I see this a lot when a woman is claiming that she has been harmed in some way by her church leaders or by her husband. Typically, there are so many factors involved in such situations that unless you have access to all persons involved you cannot possibly know the complexity of the matter.

Questions to Ask Before Responding

To keep from being a fool, ask a number of questions (who, what, when, where, and how) and seek to understand the problem. Verse 17 tells us,

The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him. (NASB)

It is imperative that you learn both sides of the issue before taking a position in support of the woman. It is easy to form a wrong conclusion about something without having all the facts. Perhaps you have been in this position, and learned too late that you spoke or acted prematurely on behalf of someone. It is much wiser to take your time and learn the background and pertinent information about the issue and the people involved before you say or do something that will bring shame upon you later on.

While asking questions, it is important that you listen to what is being said in response. This is why Proverbs 18:15 says,

The mind of the prudent acquires [gets] knowledge and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge [information]. (NASB emphasis added)

You want to be actively seeking to learn information about the problem and the person who is in the middle of the problem. Listening is much more than merely hearing what is being said. This is active listening; the kind that is engaged in hearing and processing what the speaker is saying. In addition, the listener is discerning the heart issues being revealed as she talks (Luke 6:45). Again, asking clarifying questions will help you to gain an understanding of the problem.

Ministering with Understanding

When you are confident you have a good grasp on the problem, then you can proceed with ministering to the heart of the woman. It may very well be that she has been wronged; how she responds to it will either bring glory or shame to the name of Christ. Our responsibility is to help her form a biblical response to those who have hurt her.

1 Peter 2:18-23 is a wonderful passage to begin teaching her what will honor God. Remind her that Jesus completely understands suffering under an unjust authority and that He is with her in her suffering (Hebrews 2:18; 4:15). Show her the pattern He left for us to follow: when He was reviled he did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but entrusted Himself to Him to judges justly (1 Peter 2:23).

No one is saying this will be easy, and she may balk at your counsel. You may have to be persistent, helping her to see the issues of her heart as revealed by her words and deeds (Luke 6:45).

The goal is always repentance and restoration before God. It may not be wise for her to return to the situation (physical abuse, spiritual abuse), but there should be peace between the parties if at all possible (Romans 12:18). This is what glorifies God.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

Parenting Teens: Tips from a HS Counselor (part 3)

teensTEENS: Parenting teens means trusting God and showing them you care. These tips from Leia Joseph — a crisis counselor, high school music teacher, and mother — appeared first here on The Biblical Counseling Coalition website and is used with permission. This is part three of a 3-part series on parenting teens.–LAM

I have had the privilege of spending the last 13 years working as a music teacher and crisis counselor for teens. The following six tips represent a handful of lessons I have learned along the way. If you are the parent of a teenager or pre-teen, I pray that you find this helpful.

Here are part 1 and part 2 in this parenting teens series.

5. Drop Everything to Show You Care

But care about other things too.

There is nothing like the knowledge that someone will be there for you no matter what. The simple understanding that a parent will walk out of an important meeting at work or cancel a night out with friends because his or her child is in need insurmountably communicates love and provides security to that child.

However, your teen is growing more and more independent. Teens know when they are your whole world. They can tell if there is nothing else fueling excitement, creativity, and purpose in your life apart from them. This brings its own set of pressures and vices.

Practical Help

Explore the passions God has given you. Take care of your own well-being. Seek the Lord about whom you can serve and minister. Always be willing to put these things aside for your own child.

6. Trust God’s Plans

God’s plans ultimately outshine your dreams.

teensI have only just begun the parenting journey and already know the gut-wrenching reality that my son’s pain is my pain tenfold. You love your children more than anything in the world. You would even give your life in order for them to live if necessary.

Still, good parents don’t equal good kids. Despite all that you pour into your teens with love, prayer, and opportunity, they may still push it all away. Even still, persevere in loving, praying, and trusting that God loves your teens even more than you do.

As my pastor, Mark Dever, often says, “Where there is life, there is hope.”

They may graduate from high school and find themselves entrenched in sin, but their story isn’t over yet. Be faithful by loving and caring for them today. And trust that the Lord will ultimately write a better story for your child than you could ever imagine.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

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5 AMAZING NAMES GOD CALLS YOU!

Blessed, Daughter, Saint, and more!

In this delightful, four-color ebook, you’ll discover the precious names God calls you. Today so many Christian women don’t fully know their wonderful identity in Christ. Isn’t a time to know yours? Filled with scripture, photography, personal stories, and encouragement!

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