Christmas Without the Parents

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

We’re in the thick of it, now:  the Christmas season.

Kids are counting down the days to Christmas, the radio plays carols non-stop, stores hold sales, homes and businesses decorate with red and green and lights, and people throw parties. Don’t forget the parties.

Every year I think, I want to go to this special event or do this specific thing, and most years I manage to do very little from my “I want” list. Why? Life doesn’t stop. The every day things still must get done. I’m working. Bruce is working. The kids have homework and school activities. Family visits need to be figured out. The time flies away before you know it.

Is it any surprise with all of this hoopla that the stress of the holidays hits children who don’t live with their parents harder than most?

Victoria and Amari are not talking about it. Yet, I know they’re struggling. Amari has become whiny. He throws temper tantrums. Victoria has become harsh and speaks with an angry tone almost every time she opens her mouth. They are … what? Feeling abandoned? Angry? Upset? Sad? Disappointed? Jealous? Helpless?

Probably all of those feelings and then some. Their current behavior states loudly what they don’t know how to verbalize:  It’s Christmas, and I wish my parents lived with us. I wish my parents knew how to be parents. I wish my parents would stop doing drugs. I wish my parents were not in jail. I wish…

It’s a lot for a child to process. It’s a lot for ME to process. I wish, I wish, I wish.

Their mother confessed to me the other day that she’s depressed. This time around, I’ve not allowed her access to the children. She knows why. She misses her children.

It’s hard. It’s tough. She’s depressed because of it. So, she resorts to begging. She claims her children can’t be better off without her. That they need her as much as she needs them. I do believe they need a mother, but I don’t believe she’s the person they need. They need a real mother, not one who can’t do the things parents should do. She doesn’t understand this.

To counter this, she asked me if they ask to talk to her, and I told her the truth. No. Should I have told her that? Part of me thinks she needs to understand the consequences of her actions. Part of me worries that she’ll take this and fall deeper into depression. I don’t know whether I did the right thing or not, but I told her the truth.

The grands do, occasionally, bring up a memory about Mommy, but it’s happening less and less. They don’t ask to write, visit, or call her. They know where she is. They know, in the past, they have talked to her on the phone and visited her in jail, yet they don’t ask.

As I read back over this, I realize this sounds depressing. Yes, things are tough emotionally for the grands. Yes, we would prefer a different set of circumstances. Yes, I’m saddened that my daughter has chosen this road.

But…

This season, of all seasons, reminds us that there is something better to live for. Christ did come to save us. He offers a love that is light years beyond any love my husband and I can offer our grandchildren. It’s boundless. It’s new every morning. It’s in the promise of a child born in a manger.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. I John 4:9-10

So, we talk about what Christmas is. We line up a few activities, but not a lot of them. We decorate. We have an Elf on the Shelf (whom Amari carried on a long, catching-up conversation with when he arrived). We spend time focused on Christ’s birth. We focus on family. We laugh. We find joy in the season.

As you go through this month, it is my hope that you will slow down and avoid the trap of over scheduling yourself and your family. Not everything has to get done. What you do need are the special times spent with your family. Many people struggle during this time of year, not just children who don’t live with their parents. Reach out to them. Use your time to bless them and show them the love of Christ. Take the time to enjoy each other and the blessings of a child born in a manger over two thousand years ago.

Find a way to make joy in your world.

 

 

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What Does Redeeming Love Look Like?

This happened last Saturday…

 

 

 

 

 

The grands, while cleaning the bathroom, managed to pull down the towel bar. They came to me, faces solemn. With a comforting hand on Amari’s shoulder, Victoria rambled a convoluted explanation of something her brother had done. Her story was hard to follow, but I got the gist. Amari got the towel stuck between the bar and the bracket and kept pulling on it. Victoria tried to get him to stop and let her help him, but he ignored her and kept pulling until he pulled it out of the wall.

To say I wasn’t happy is an understatement.

After I could see straight, I went into his room to punish him for refusing to stop and listen to his sister. He lost several privileges and had to clean the bathroom alone, without his sister’s help. Afterward, my husband sent him back to his room for time out.

That’s when he broke. Through the torrent of tears, I heard, “I didn’t do it.”

Until then, he’d accepted his punishment without a whimper or complaint. I called him to my room and asked him, again, what happened in the bathroom. Tear tracks staining his little round cheeks, he looked up at me with the saddest eyes, and said, “I didn’t do it.”

He had accepted his punishment up to this point without complaint, a point I’d wondered about, so I summoned Victoria to my room.

“What happened in the bathroom?” I asked.

Amid tears, Victoria confessed. She’d been standing on the side of the tub (which she’s not supposed to do), lost her balance, and grabbed the bar as she went down.

“Why did you let Amari take the blame?” I asked.

“He wanted to. It’s not the first time. He’s always taking my punishment.”

Amari loves his sister so much that he was willing to take the blame, to let her appear blameless.

Sound like anyone we know?

we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Titus 2:13-14

Unlike Christ, Amari cracked. He couldn’t go through with it. When he took the blame, he didn’t understand what he’d signed up for.

Christ knew.

And He did it anyway!

What about us? Can we relate to Victoria’s response? Sometimes, I think we take Christ’s grace for granted, failing to acknowledge the true suffering we caused him. When we do confess, we often do it like she did, with tears and sorrow.

This season, as you hustle and bustle through your days, preparing for the holiday, don’t forget that Christ came into the world to save us from our sins. He took our sins upon Him, so we wouldn’t have to pay the price.

Because He loves us.

Love One Another, Not Judge

lovecloudMy last two posts drew a lot of attention and caused me great sadness over our inability to love one another.  Your responses reminded me of two harsh truths:

  • Many people remain in abusive situations
  • Many people leave the church due to its reaction to their situations

Why can’t we get this right?

We’re not the only generations with this problem. We just have a larger vision of what’s happening in the world thanks to the internet and social media. It’s a two-edged sword. I can reach people with my posts, but so can others who share negative and hateful things. What causes them to say these things? They believe they are right and doing what is right.

What does Jesus have to say about what is right?

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”                   Luke 10:  25-28

We have clear directions from Christ, using the old testament (Deut. 6:5, Lev. 19:18) to reinforce his teaching.  Do you remember the expert in the law’s response to this? He asked, “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus responds with the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). In case you’re unfamiliar with the culture at this time, a Samaritan was considered the lowest of the low. A Jew would not interact with a Samaritan at all. Was Christ saying Samaritans are better than Jews? No. He used this story to demonstrate that all of us are neighbors and should care for and help each other. No one is better than anyone else, and all deserve our love.

So, I ask of you, if you know of someone hurting–due to abuse or some other issue–reach out to them with the love that Christ commands. Don’t let misguided Christians set them down the path to unfaithfulness.  Christ told us to love one another. He didn’t say judge one another.

Remember this the next time you’re tempted to judge someone. Odds are you don’t know the whole story, anyway.