Strength Through Hardships

If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.butterfly

In case you didn’t know it, this is not a Bible verse. Most people disagree on the source of this quote, attributions  differing from a Chinese proverb to Maimonides to Anne Isabella Ritchey. No matter its source, it shares a wisdom that we can find reflected in this passage in Matthew:

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.  Matthew 4:18-20

They left their nets and followed Jesus, seeking to fish for the souls of people. In Luke’s telling of this story, we learn that Jesus first asked Simon and Andrew to let him use their boat as a place to stand away from the gathering crowds as he spoke to them. After he finished speaking, this happened:

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.  So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. Luke 5:4-7

Even though he just changed their immediate income needs, they chose to follow him. Why? Because he could show them how to save people rather go fishing every day. Which choice was harder to make? If we’re honest, following Jesus had to be a difficult decision. The Bible tells us that they followed Jesus willingly, but I bet they thought about the hardships this might cause their families and themselves. Yet they went. It was the better choice and changed their lives forever.

I wrote a few weeks ago about my daughter and how to recognize a prodigal, concluding that she is not a prodigal, yet, because she still expects something from me and others. She’s unwilling to face her struggles on her own.

When we raise our children, we want to give them everything. As a single parent, I couldn’t, but that doesn’t mean I made wise decisions. There were times I tried to eliminate her struggles because I knew the pains (I imagined) she had suffered due to my poor choices early in life.  Did I do the right thing?

I’ll never know. She did experience hardships, and definitely is doing so now. Were there ones I should have allowed her to face that I stepped in and removed the obstacles too soon?

I’m reminded of the butterfly and its cocoon. If you’re not familiar with it, I’ve included it below:

Once a little boy was playing outdoors and found a fascinating caterpillar. He carefully picked it up and took it home to show his mother. He asked his mother if he could keep it, and she said he could if he would take good care of it. The little boy got a large jar from his mother and put plants to eat, and a stick to climb on, in the jar. Every day he watched the caterpillar and brought it new plants to eat.

One day the caterpillar climbed up the stick and started acting strangely. The boy worriedly called his mother who came and understood that the caterpillar was creating a cocoon. The mother explained to the boy how the caterpillar was going to go through a metamorphosis and become a butterfly.

The little boy was thrilled to hear about the changes his caterpillar would go through. He watched every day, waiting for the butterfly to emerge. One day it happened, a small hole appeared in the cocoon and the butterfly started to struggle to come out.

At first the boy was excited, but soon he became concerned. The butterfly was struggling so hard to get out! It looked like it couldn’t break free! It looked desperate! It looked like it was making no progress! The boy was so concerned he decided to help. He ran to get scissors, and then walked back (because he had learned not to run with scissors…). He snipped the cocoon to make the hole bigger and the butterfly quickly emerged!

As the butterfly came out the boy was surprised. It had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. He continued to watch the butterfly expecting that, at any moment, the wings would dry out, enlarge and expand to support the swollen body. He knew that in time the body would shrink and the butterfly’s wings would expand.

But neither happened!

The butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly…

If we remove the hardships, we remove the opportunities for a person to thrive. By no means did I, or could I, remove all of the obstacles in my daughter’s life. She had plenty, and she is living many more now. I’ll never know if there was one I should have left for her to stumble over. What I do know is, unlike the butterfly, she can still become strong.

We must let our loved ones struggle, or they will never fly.  This is not ever easy to do as the observer.

Something to think about as you go throughout your day.

 

I Said No to an Abortion

Me at 17

I am a statistic. A statistic for women who chose not to have an abortion.

I was seventeen. Most of the people I knew pushed for me to have an abortion, pressured me to, in fact. This was only a few years after the Supreme Court passed Roe vs. Wade. Unlike today, a teen pregnancy ruined reputations. It generated scandalous gossip. We lived in a small town. People talk.

Prior to becoming pregnant, I held no strong conviction about abortion. My church taught that life began at birth.

For the first time in my life, I stood against the wishes of my parents, community, and friends. I said no to an abortion. I didn’t expect to make this decision at that age. I had graduated high school a year early and started on the fast track for college and a career. I expected to go beyond a four-year degree, maybe even get a PhD. I wanted to find a career that allowed me to help people and gave me the opportunity to write.

With an abortion, I could stick to my plan. Without it, I waved good-bye to my dreams.

Still I said no.

Because I said no to the abortion, I can point to five people in my immediate family who wouldn’t exist.

FIVE PEOPLE!

Heidi Cox

Heidi, photo by David Blue

My beautiful daughter, Heidi, would never have drawn her first breath. She is a gifted and talented actress, screenwriter, and producer. She has the most beautiful singing voice, but an abortion would have snuffed out her voice within a few minutes. Many people benefit from her sweet and kind heart. She helps people with special needs, whether Alzheimers patients or autistic children. She inspires people with her own story. She is my Starshine.

If I had chosen the abortion, I would not have married Heidi’s father. Even though I divorced him a few years later, without that marriage my second daughter would not exist. Yes, Tisha struggles in her life now, but she has an exuberance for life and a smile that lights up a room. Tisha gave birth to three of my grandchildren. My grandchildren bring joy to my heart every day.

My children and me three years after my divorce.

My children and me three years after my divorce.

Five living, breathing people in my life that would have never drawn a breath.

I can not imagine life without them.

Two of my grandchildren on the first day of school

Did I give up on the goals and plans for my life? That’s one of the reasons most people list as a reason to make abortions available.

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?  Matthew 16:26

I did not give up on my goals. I altered the plan. I chose to be responsible for my poor choices and not to become a victim. I pursued my dreams anyway. I worked hard and got my Bachelors and Masters degrees. In my career, I’ve helped people in various ways including:

  • running a welfare-to-work training program
  • conducting crime prevention and safety seminars
  • training adults how to communicate with each other with respect
  • helping adults develop the skills they need to advance in their jobs which, also, helps them support their families
  • teaching families how to get out of and stay out of debt
  • sharing my story through this blog
  • speaking to people about finding faith in the midst of tragedy
  • sharing my faith with church groups
  • empathizing with hurting people

I doubt I would be good at any of these if I had the abortion.

When I refused to have an abortion, tongues wagged. So what? I bet tongues wagged in Nazareth when Mary became pregnant. People eventually move on and forget, especially if we move on and show them the value of the lives we’ve saved.

Many more people walk this earth because someone else said no to an abortion. I know quite a few of them.

How many do you know?

Note: If you’ve had an abortion, God still has a place for you. I am not here to condemn you. I’m here to help people understand that abortion takes away more than one life. Many of my friends suffer because they made the other choice. If I can help, please comment below. Your comment will not be seen unless I approve it to appear on the blog. Just tell me what you prefer.

Houses Divided at Christmas

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Many people suffer from depression during the Christmas season. Some are experiencing their first Christmas after a loved one has died. Others worry about the family dynamic on Christmas day–Will Uncle Ralph pick a fight?  Will Cousin Sarah get drunk? For others, the limitations of getting everyone together can create stress and disappointment.

Anyone who’s divorced with children knows the heartache of Christmas. Where will the children be? How do we divide up the time? As the children grow up, marry, and start their own families, it becomes even harder. Which family will they spend Christmas with? Who will we have to leave out? Add to this married children of divorce who have married a child of divorce, and the problem is staggering.

Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three… Luke 12:51-52

Even though these verses don’t refer to this specific situation, this is another example of why divorce is not God’s plan. We are facing it, ourselves. After many years of Christmases with most of our family gathered together, we’ve hit an interesting crossroads. One child is saving her money to come home for a wedding in April, instead. The others are headed to various family members’ homes, just not ours. Aging parents can’t make the trip.

I know Christmas is not about who is where. It’s about the birth of Christ, and the world’s awareness of God’s gift of salvation. It’s a time of blessings.

But it’s also a time when families gather together.

So, we will be trying out new traditions this year. New ways of approaching the day. On the plus side, we won’t have to rush to get dressed and get the turkey in the oven before family arrives. We can take it slower. And we will see most everyone over the next week. We get a prolonged Christmas.

Someone you know is facing a Christmas alone or separated from loved ones. Reach out to them, share with them your lives, and, most importantly, share the story of Jesus and the hope he brings.