The excitement is over. The packages are unwrapped. The food is now put away and the last of the eggnog is served. There’s a rousing game of horseshoes in the backyard along with the dogs and the goats. And now, I’m taking a moment to sit and quietly reminisce.
Memories flow through my mind like a gentle stream. Christmas through the years: my first bicycle, the Mary Poppins doll, doll clothes and doll houses. Unable to sleep, while thinking of the stocking treasures awaiting me.
I think of the years of watching my children and their excitement. It was my turn to be the over indulging parent: Roller skates, scooters, dolls and cars. Finding the green Power Ranger and searching for the perfect Cabbage Patch doll. Late nights at Walgreens on Christmas Eve.
There were the dark years, when I never thought I would enjoy Christmas again. There were as many years as laughter during that time.
The kids are grown and the excitement has changed. Christmas is celebrated on different days. It’s still about food and fun. And, family is still the center of it all.
I still get excited about Christmas. But, it’s not the stockings or the gifts that fill my dreams. These days it about having all of my family together.
Merry Christmas and Happy Néw Year from the Benson-Douglas crew!
While scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, I see that many people have already put up their Christmas trees and holiday decorations. Many have stated that since Thanksgiving won’t be the same this year due to Covid, they want to move on to celebrate the Christmas holidays. I can honestly understand the sentiment. There was a time that I wanted to skip over the holiday season completely because it was just too painful. However, are we missing the real meaning of both Thanksgiving and Christmas?
When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of turkey, cornbread dressing, pumpkin & pecan pies and family. The holiday is about being together as a family. We trace our tradition of Thanksgiving back to the Plymouth colonists. Their first year in the new world was awful. They were hungry & miserable. The native Americans taught them how to survive. The first “thanksgiving” was a festival to celebrate their first harvest. Things were still hard, but they could see a reason to celebrate.
It wasn’t until 1863, during the Civil War, that Thanksgiving was proclaimed a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln. He requested that Americans ask God to “commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civila strife” and to “heal the wounds of our nation.” FDR signed the bill in 1941 to make Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday of November.
The Christian Church celebrates the birth of Christ during the Christmas holidays. Originally called Feast of the Nativity, it grew to become a a carnival-like celebration much like Mardi Gras. The Puritans did away with the celebrations and it wasn’t until 1870 that Christmas was declared a federal holidy in the USA. Americans began to embrace Christmas as the perfect family holiday. Christmas traditions were reinvented to fill cultural needs and pieced together from many other customs. St. Nicholas became Santa Claus. Rudolph became a symbol of courage and overcoming adversity. Charles Dickens, Washington Irving & Clement Clarke Moore have had more influence on the traditions that we celebrate at Christmas than Matthew, Mark , Luke or John.
I find it a bit troubling that so many are willing to skip right past the season of “giving of thanks” and jump to the season of “give me everything.” I know that in the frenzy to get everything “done” for Thanksgiving guests, I often forget to be thankful. We are already planning for Christmas. The only positive thing about Thanksgiving is time off and the Christmas sales that will commence. There are lists of what we want to receive, budgets for what we can spend. The stores have been shouting about the excesses of the Christmas holidays since October. The celebration of Christ’ birth is too often lost in the political correctness to which we now subscribe. I am SO guilty of this!
If the origins of this United States holiday is actually hardship, then wouldn’t it make sense that 2020 would be a super Thanksgiving year?
It’s been a rough year. Lives have been changed in ways we are still attempting to comprehend. The Covid virus has brought with the illness a true sense of panic and helplessness. Death hovers around every thought, every outing.
Isn’t it time to be thankful for what we do have?
Thanksgiving was meant to be a celebration of survival, to offer hope for a better future. Maybe we should be more aware of giving thanks and looking for our direction from God. Let’s take time to truly be thankful for any blessings we have. I for one will be grateful for my husband, my family, my home, my friends and my job. I will try to remember that every breathe is a gift from Him. In my moments of panic and worry, I will turn to God and remember His promises to me. While I am not guaranteed anything but suffering in this life, I will be grateful for the moments and look forward to my future.
When you pass throught the waters , I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over your. when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
“For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord. “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Chirst Jesus.
“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”
Matthew 6:9-13 KJV
I didn’t truly learn the essence prayer until August, 1978. I had been a praying person for much of my life. I prayed often: at church, before a big test, when I really wanted something, at night, before “some” meals. I thought I had a handle on it. You bowed your head, used the “church” words and bargained with God. My first week on the SFA campus, I was all alone. For the first time, I experienced truly talking (and listening) to God.
Later, I would learn even more about prayer. During a BSU retreat, Len Sehested spoke and challenged me about my prayer life. Using The Lord’s Prayer, she guided us through the ways of praying. I discovered that I was more interested in “asking” than “praising”. It changed my prayer life.
During my darkest times, I found that I didn’t really want to pray. I wanted to scream. And, I did! I ranted, cried, begged, accused and (if I’m honest) bargained. I discovered that my prayers, my conversations with God, can be honest and raw. I’ve yet to be struck down for expressing my true feelings and thoughts. My prayer life grew.
Today, when I cannot sleep, I pray for my kids and their families, for requests from friends and church family. God will often bring to mind a specific need. I have the privilege of leading a zoom prayer time each week as well as praying for requests from our church each Sunday. My involvement in ministry has changed. I no longer stand in front of the congregation to lead worship; I now worship and intercede for my church family through prayer.
In case you’ve missed it, my faith is an important part of my life. And prayer is a huge part of it all. I don’t like to be called religious. Religion is to faith what ketchup is to French fries. Religion alone is not very satisfying. But, Faith stands on its own. And, prayer is the salt that we all want.
If prayer is not part of your life, I would encourage you to try it. There aren’t many rules. It’s just talking to God, honestly. After years of reading about prayer, I still find my self bargaining at times. There are still times that I wonder if my prayers matter. But time and time again, I return to the scriptures and my talks with God.
Today, I am 61. I am 31 years past the dreaded 30th birthday. Hard to believe, but I’m still a living, functioning member of society. Life does exist beyond the 30’s. In this time, I have been a daughter, a student, an employee, a wife, a mother, a widow, a Mumzy, a 2nd wife and a stepmom. I’ve experienced many things, both good and bad. In my 3 score and 1 year, a lot has happened.
Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear.
I was born during the Eisenhower administration. In my lifetime, there have been twelve US Presidents: one was assasinated, one resigned, one survived being shot, two were been impeached. The Supreme Court has seen 26 justices. Politics are never more evident than in today’s social media world. As I type this, one more justice is awaiting confirmation and the possibility of a 13th president hangs on the November election.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
Psalm 8:3. NIV
I followed the NASA missions and celebrated the triumphs and mourned the disasters. I remember the Apollo 1 fire as well as the Challenger and Columbia disasters. Before Tom Hanks brought it to life on the screen, I sat in my 4th grade classroom and listened as Apollo 13 made it safely back to earth. Skylab was launched and crashed to earth and the International Space Station was built.
Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.
Psalm 30:2 NIV
Todays young adults have never experienced measles, chicken pox or the mumps. I’ve had all three. I also have a small pox scar on my left arm. (I tried to explain the process to my kids and they just don’t get it.) I remember the sugar cube with the polio vaccine. AIDS, Ebola, Zika, Bird & Swine flu and now the coronavirus have all become part of our normal vocabulary.
Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.
Psalm 127:3 NIV
In these 60+ years, the nuclear family has moved from the normal to the exception. In my teen years, if you were having sex it was a secret. Today, if you are NOT having sex it’s an embarassment. Marriage is a convenience that is shunned by some and fought for by others. In the process of raising strong women, we have taught them that it’s “your body and your choice” even if that means murdering a part of yourself. I believe in choice. I just differ on the point at which that choice should be made. I have to join those that opine what would happen if our government supported adoption as strongly as it supports abortion rights.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
I’ve watched (and participated) in the social media growth. I love being able to stay in contact with friends and family on a daily basis. I despise the vitriol that is evident across the pages, however. I’ve watched as a good friend attacked another dear friend over a perceived political slight. I’ve been unfriended for being too “religious”. I’ve had to hide or unfriend some newer acquaintances that are just too militant and/or negative. I miss the days when you could have an opinion without being afraid of the attack.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
My college days were spent in east Texas at SFASU. In the early 80s, coming “out of the closet” seemed to be the thing to do. I did not always understand, but I have always believed that you have a right to love and be loved. So, while I may not have embraced the lifestyle, I still chose to embrace the friendships. I had an older friend and family member ask me how I reconciled my gay friends with my personal beliefs. She had been the recipient of an unexpected and unwanted sexual overture with a roommate during her college years. As a result, she was struggling the some of her favorite student’s lifestyle decisions. I explained that I loved these friends for who they were not their orientation. I have since realized that this is true of many things. I can love my friends even if we disagree about politics, religion, sex or any other difference. If I am invested in the person, the rest is just “window dressing”. I would hope that is reciprocated.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
EECCLESIASTES 4:12 NIV
I’ve lived in the country and the city and learned that there are good and bad aspects to both. Community is where you decide it is. No matter how large or small the city, you live in your own small world. You make your home where you choose to find your contentment.
A person’s days are determine; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.
Job 14:5 NIV
I have no idea how much life is left in the 61 year old body. I do plan to continue to expand my horizions. I’ve taken up watercolor painting and quilting since my 60th birthday. In the past year, we’ve added two miniture goats to our family. They have been an education. I’m still active in my church and strive to be more than a “religious” person and I will conintue to share my beliefs. I love our blended family and look forward to our family continuing to grow. I continue to treasure the friendships I have from all of my years.
This is Sixty-one. This is me. I’m more comfortable in my skin that ever. I look forward to the journey around the sun. I hope and pray you make the trip with me.
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.
The only way I get up every morning is because I have hope. There would be no reason to even try to function if I did not believe there was some kind of plan, some dream to fulfill. My hope is in my faith, my God.
Before you write me off as some eccentric religious nut, take a moment to understand why I have this hope. I have lived in the black hole of depression. I know what it is to be totally broken and directionless, helpless to pull myself together. I was a prisoner of my deepest hurt, my deepest fear, my deepest loss.
I went to sleep on November 1, 2005 as a happily married mother of two. But, at five minutes past midnight, November 2, all of that changed. I was thrust into the role of single-parent, widow, head-of-household. Not only did my husband die, but so did all of our dreams. I had always considered myself to be a strong and independent woman. I now knew that I was a weak, lonely and totally directionless person. How could I provide for my two teenage children when I could hardly dress myself? How would I comfort them when all I wanted to do was sit and cry and scream at God? Why did I have to live this way and could I escape from the agony that had become my life? I saw absolutely no hope. And then I began to search. . .
I found comfort from others who had walked a similar path. They understood and they shared their own sorrows with me. I learned what the writer of Galatians meant when he said to “carry each other’s burdens”. By sharing our fears and our grief, we helped each other. I started to see the darkness lighten.
I questioned every belief that I professed to believe. I researched. I examined them. And, I found hope in them. The familiar 23rd Psalm came to mean something completely new to me:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23 NIV
As I struggled to get through the absolute worst time in my life, I found hope and even joy. I found joy in my children and hope for their future. I had friends who surrounded me and showed me that there is hope where there is love and caring. My faith brought me to a closer walk with the God I had for so long taken for granted. I may not understand all of the reasons, but I do understand that God has the best in mind for me.
As we are in a time where our country and our world is plunged into the unknown, I have hope. I don’t have to like what’s going on around me. It’s not required that I understand or even agree with actions that are being taken. I have only to do my very best to follow the command “Love others as well as you love yourself.” If I give as much consideration to the comfort and well-being of others as I do for myself, my world will be a better place.
Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
There words are from the 1964 song by Barbra Streisand. I have come to a greater understanding of the meaning during the past weeks. While I have been very grateful to keep in touch with my small group, my prayer team and my church family through Zoom, WebEx, Email and Streaming platforms, I have missed the physical connection. I miss the greetings and interaction with Billy and Carol every Sunday in “our” seats at Regal. I miss the hugs, laughter and discussion time with Otto, Sharon, Richard and others in our small group time on Wednesday. I miss sharing the joys and concerns of others during prayer time every Sunday with Dawid, Jane, Robert, et al. I miss hearing all of the voices together with the worship team in corporate worship time. I crave the actual physical interaction that comes with each of these groups. Hebrew 10:25 states:
“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
Hebrews 10:25 TLB
Attending church services has been a part of my life for years. But, I now realize how very precious that time together truly is.
The Pandemic has also highlighted a few other things in our lives (some good and some not so good.) We have seen firsthand how self-serving actions can cause others to suffer with the toilet paper shortage. Panic came to the forefront and hoarding was the name of the game. I’ve lived through a few hurricanes and floods that caused Houston to shut down. But, I don’t think I’ve ever see things quite as bad, especially when there were no real shortages. There were people out to make a buck through stockpiling, but there were also people that were willing to give. One example is “Katy Neighbors Helping Neighbors”, a Facebook page started to share needs. If someone need baby wipes, or formula, or cleaning supplies or anything else, they could post their need. Usually, someone would offer to share or knew a store that had it in stock. I saw LOTS of sharing and meeting needs on that site. Food pantries were stretched to the extreme, and people stepped up to help and meet the needs.
Families have been forced to be together. Kids are doing school on line from home. Parents may be working from home. There’s no escaping with restaurants only serving take-out and malls and movie theaters closed. I’ve seen parents step up and get involved with their kids school time. Game nights (or afternoons) have come back into style. This has been an opportunity to learn something new through on-line classes. I’ve heard of some grandmothers that have done sewing and/or cooking lessons with their grandchildren via facetime or other apps. There has been time for family walks or bike rides, family meals, or just family time.
How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!
Psalm 133:1 TLB
As we begin the process of reopening Texas and the rest of these United States, I hear mixed messages. There is frustration that things are not moving faster. And, there is the fear that we are moving too fast. I hear about the need to return to work as well as the complaints from those who receive more on unemployment than they do at their job. I see the excitement for the return of socializing mixed with concern over the continued social distancing guidelines. It’s easy to fall prey to fear and depression that accompanies the seemingly overwhelming task ahead of us. We are approaching a “new” normal. Masks will continue to be the accessory of choice for many. Hand-washing has moved up in priority (where it should have been all along.) I’ve joined the ranks of actually USING the hand-sanitizer I carry with me. Fist bumps will replace handshakes. Air hugs and kisses may be the “thing” for a while. We will survive this time. We will adjust. I refuse to give into fear mongering.
“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Matthew 6:34 TLB
What has your experience during the Covid-19 pandemic been? Have you found meaning in some of the “norms” that you took for granted. Have you spent time with your family and strengthened those ties? Are you ready to step back into the reopened world?
The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.
Social Media affects all parts of our life. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube (just to name a few) are ingrained in our day to day routines. During the recent pandemic and social media has been the place to get information, to attend church and to just stay in touch. There are some really good things that occur on the platforms.
I love keeping up with my extended family through Facebook. I have watched my great-nieces and nephews grow up through posts. I have reconnected with school friends and teachers. I have been able to host “watch parties” of church services for The Bridge on Sundays during our time of social distancing. It’s been great to share my church with others all over the state. Our small group has been meeting through WebEx and we even had a family wedding via Zoom. All of these things have been great. I love seeing posts that recognize local accomplishments during this time. We’ve seen food distributed by schools and organizations, hand sanitizer made and distributed by local distilleries, masks being handed out in central areas. All of these things have been good.
But, along with the good, there are some bad things that occur because of social media posts. Information that is not correct is often posted as fact and then the false information gets passed along (very quickly). Those that live with a “glass half-full” attitude concerning life, can promote panic among others. (I suspect the hoarding of toilet paper was exacerbated by panicked posts.) Rumors become “truth” in a flash when they are shared across the social media platform. It’s easy to make negative and/or hurtful comments with a post on Facebook or Instagram. There is empowerment that comes from the facelessness of a keyboard. We will post words on these sites that we would NEVER say out loud to a person’s face. We attack friends and family with a simple comment.
And then, there’s the Ugly. Social media platforms while promoting social equality and interaction between users, has given us a way to deepen the gulf between the differences. Political ads and campaigns have always been harsh and often ugly. But, social media has allowed “US” to be included in the muck and mire. Opinions are no longer welcome (unless you agree with me?!) Because the written word doesn’t convey emotions, there is no tempering of the vitriol that we spew to protect/support THE side. Half-truths and out and out lies take an equal if not greater footing with truth. I’ve seen (and felt) relationships dissolve for these reasons. I believe in healthy debate. I think you have as much right to your opinion as I have to mine. But, I don’t get the need to attack, the need for emotional vomit when I say something that is contrary to your thoughts.
Another aspect of the ugly side of social media is the opportunity for sex trafficking. Underage students are posting/receiving explicit photos on various platforms. Sex traffickers seek out the disenfranchised youth and make offers that are “too good to be true.” How many busts have been reported that originated in a chatroom or some other social media app? My kids grew up at the beginning of chat rooms and there were way too many girls/guys sneaking out at night to meet someone they only knew from a chatroom. Sometimes it turned out ok. But, the times that it didn’t outweighed them.
So, what’s the questionable part of social media? I will admit to be old. But, I will add, that I have also been called an “over-sharer” on social media. With that in mind, I have to wonder some posts I’ve seen most recently. Is it really necessary to document every moment of the day and post it for others to see? Am I missing something here? I understand the YouTube tutorials and have watched several to figure out how to use or do certain things. But, why do I need to see how you get dressed for the day or other intimate details of your life? Most of us wouldn’t live on a busy street and leave the windows uncovered for any voyeur to watch the details of our daily lives. So, why do we exhibit these same things on the web? Is privacy being sacrificed on the altar of self-importance? Have we raised a generation that does not know how to be an individual and only feels accomplished when others “like” or comment on our posts?
We live in a world of fast food and microwaves. We have lost the art of planning, patience and perseverance. I would hope during this time of recovery, we can take the time to consider our interactions and decide:
Finding the good things and keep them up
Being aware of the comments I make and the way they may hurt others.
Avoid being pulled into the dangerous world of misinformation and vitriol.
Concentrate on encouraging the living breathing people around me.
Social distancing. It can be boring. And, we all think that we are OK to be out and about. It’s those OTHER people that are the problem. Here are some things to consider in today’s environment:
While people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest), some spread might be possible before people show symptoms. There have been reports of this occurring with this new corona-virus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community. So, we should probably enact the “better safe than sorry” attitude.
You may be taking every precaution and feel very safe about visiting with an at-risk person. But, can you guarantee that the people with which you have contact are taking the best precautions? What about their interactions with others? The best advice may be “Act like you are already contagious.”
Wearing gloves can protect your hands from coming in contact with the virus, but you still can pick up and spread the virus on the gloves. Wearing a pair of gloves all day may actually do more harm than good. Good hygiene is the best alternative.
Be aware of what you touch. Don’t forget to clean your phone, your mouse, your keyboard. Antibacterial gels/hand washing won’t do much good if the items your touch most often are never cleaned/sanitized.
Some of us are still required to go into the office to work. I carry a disposable towel with me from the car to the office and use it as a barrier when I have to touch the stair railing, door handles, elevator buttons and light switches. I dispose of it when I enter the office. I have a bottle of disinfectant that I used daily on my desk items, my desk phone and my cell phone, the copier buttons, light switches and door handles in the office. I wash my hands often and use Hand Sanitizer quite often. When I leave for the day, I reverse the process and use a disposable towel on the way to the car, taking advantage of the garbage cans in the parking garage. Then, I use my hand sanitizer before touching my steering wheel. Because I am still working in an office, I am hesitant to be around any high risk persons.
Social distancing is challenging. But, the better job I do at protecting others from ME, the faster the curve will flatten and life will return to normal (whatever that might be.)
There are several platitudes that we say in order to find or give comfort:
1. Into each life some rain must fall.
2. God will never give you more than you can handle.
The first statement is rather sanctimonious. It basically says “Get over it. We all suffer!”
The 2nd statement is a misrepresentation of a Bible passage: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength but with your testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
I’ve come to understand that my strength depends on God. If I’m only tested to my strength, I will never need God. However, when I understand that “God will provide”, I know that I rely upon Him for all of my strength and endurance.
I think of The story of Noah. He was told to build a BIG boat. He was ridiculed. I doubt he truly understood, but he obeyed. The children’s stories make us think the journey through the flood lasted 40 days. The rains may have lasted that long, but Noah and his family were in the Ark for almost a year. I wonder if they had enough toilet paper? Do you think Noah survived on his own power? God gave Noah the Ark plans. Did He share the long term (ie: one year on the water) plan? Noah’s Faith was tested.
Are you ready to spend a year of faith living? How about a month or a day or even an hour? I want to say yes. However, the control side of me wants more information and frankly, more control. We are in the midst of panic and fear in our world. Will we trust God to provide everything we need even when we don’t have toilet paper? Do I have a choice?
“So don’t worry at all about having enough food and clothing. Why be like the heathen? For they take pride in all these things and are deeply concerned about them. But your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them, and he will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to.
“So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.
We’ve all heard the story of “The Three Little Pigs’. The first little pig built his house out of straw. The second little pig used sticks. The third pig used bricks. The wolf was able to “huff and puff” and blow down the first and second houses, but the brick house withstood his efforts. As a child in VBS, I also remember singing the song about the foolish man and the wise man:
The wise man built his house upon the rock The wise man built his house upon the rock The wise man built his house upon the rock And the rains came tumbling down
The rains came down and the floods came up The rains came down and the floods came up The rains came down and the floods came up And the house on the rock stood firm
The foolish man built his house upon the sand The foolish man built his house upon the sand The foolish man built his house upon the sand And the rains came tumbling down
The rains came down and the floods came up The rains came down and the floods came up The rains came down and the floods came up And the house on the sand went smash.
So, how many of us truly heed the warnings of these two children’s stories?
We live in a “microwave” world. We have no patience to wait for anything. We eat fast food, drink coffee from pods, use credit to the extreme, treat sex as a dating option, and seek “happiness” above all else. We’ve lost the need or the desire to plan, wait and/or build something of value. We struggle and come apart over the “stuff”. We live in a culture that confuses wants with needs. I NEED a bigger house. I NEED a new car. I NEED the new phone. I NEED to be happy. I NEED to have the BEST.
Instead of being content with what we can afford, we buy and sell and trade. We save for the temporary things that we will tire of when the next newest thing is unveiled. But, we forget about investing in the things that matter. We are so intent in our pursuit of happiness, that people and relationships become secondary. We don’t take the time to repair and/or build our marriages or relationships. We treat relationships that should be the most precious with less regard than the latest IPhone.
As we build relationships, we establish a solid footing for marriage. We build the brick house for ourselves. When sex becomes the basis for my happiness, I build a house of straw or sticks without a foundation. A challenge or problem within the fragile walls will knock it down. I know that I’m old school. I do believe in the marriage vows “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.” Unfortunately, the truth of many a marriage is this: “to have and to hold today, (unless you disappoint me or become a bigger liability than an asset to my happiness) or until something better comes along.”
I do believe that we have to return to our strong belief in family values. I do not advocate the “Leave it to Beaver” life, but I do believe that marriage and family have to come first. My children were always important to me. I was the typical Momma Bear and they knew they could depend on me to stand up for them. However, my husband came first. If I did not focus on building a strong marriage, my kids wouldn’t have the family that they needed. These are the “bricks” that I have found critical to a successful life/marriage:
My Relationship with God
My Relationship with my spouse
Taking care of my children
I met both of my husbands through church. Faith has been a huge part of each of my marriages. Without God, I could not have survived some of the things I have endured. We believe that God is in control. We have to trust in Him for all our needs. My kids were also raised in the church. I would make a pallet on the floor of the gym where we had services and lay my baby on it while I practiced the hymns and/or offertories on the piano. Gracie learned hymns in the womb with I practiced. The church was a 2nd home to my children. Sunday’s were not optional. We would be in church that day. Never a question.
Date nights every month away from our kids are important. When my children were small and money was tight, we were known to drop them off with a sitter and go home to watch TV alone. It was what we did as much as just building time together, alone. It’s important to spend time growing together. It’s so easy to get pushed apart with children in the house. There’s so much to do. Sleep is often at a premium. It’s work to remain a couple and not just co-parents.
I’ve spent my life being a working a mom. I went to the office and sometimes traveled for work. I don’t think my children ever felt slighted. In fact, after being laid off and home for 9 months, they were ECSTATIC when I returned to the work force.
There are many, many options in life. I would challenge myself as well as others to decide which battles in which you engage. Is the fight for newest or the best “thing” critical to your life? Or, will it just bring a moment of happiness and feed the “NEXT” wolf? Will my house stand against the huffing and puffing?
Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’
“These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.
“But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.”