Will You Roll the Stone Away? – A Sunday Snippet

On that first Easter morning when the women found the stone rolled away, the tomb of Jesus was empty. He had risen as He said, and crushed the sin which separates us from God.

Many adult children of divorce have a stone in front of a tomb filled with unforgiveness, anger, bitterness, frustration, hopelessness and fears.

Parental divorce can produce all that and much more. One can easily add regret, sorrow, disillusionment, depression, anxiety, and more divorce to the list. The stone is lodged tightly so nothing can get in or out. Many of us like it that way. Keep all that ugly stuff behind the stone.

The smell of hurt
Why we do this was explained at another tomb. Earlier Jesus went to raise his friend Lazarus from the grave. Martha, the deceased’s sister, protested because it had been four days and “by this time he stinketh.1 Love the King James version here, but Martha was correct. Stuff buried for four days, four months, four years, or four decades stinks.

We know this because, occasionally we (or a loved one) get a waft of the stench when we react poorly to a stray comment a parent makes, or our spouse doesn’t meet a need, or a friend “betrays” us, or our fears are triggered by something and we lash out, or we’re anxious with no tangible reason to be so. Our tombs leak.

It’s time to roll away the stone
When Jesus rose from the grave He overcame man’s greatest enemy—death. But if He could beat death, isn’t it reasonable that Jesus can help us overcome our hurts and all the stuff behind our stone? The Bible encourages us to “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”2

But that’s a big step for many of us. God knows that, and He is not going to force you to do anything you’re not ready to do. But He does want you to know He loves you enough to want healing in your life—true healing, not Band-Aid healing.  He wants to take away your anger, hurt, and fear. The question is, will you let Him?

In our time
Maybe because I’m a guy it took years before I allowed God to help me. Guess it’s like asking for directions. But to my surprise, He didn’t move the stone all at once. He’d pull it back a little and we’d deal with whatever smell came out—maybe the smell of bitterness. Then back it went. Eventually, we moved it away from the tomb door, but it took quite a while.

To be honest, my tomb still has a pretty strong residual stink to it, but it is so much better than it used to be. Thank God!!! This Easter season, I encourage you to talk to God about cleaning up the stuff behind your stone. And remember that with God all things are possible

 

1John 11:39
21 Peter 5:7
3Matthew 19:26

Images
Thinkstock
Bible with Cross Shadow by David Campbell

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When Mothers Leave – A Survey for Some of You

After completing a workshop on Father Hunger, which explains the long-term impact of the father’s absence after a divorce, I was asked, “What about when mothers leave?” I couldn’t answer. All the research I’d seen dealt with the impact on the kids after the fathers left. But I assured them I’d return with a wealth of helpful information.

That’s when I learned how little data was available on this topic. Even though authors like Jen Abbas (Generation EX: Adult Children of Divorce and the Healing of Our Pain) and Stephanie Staal (The Love They Lost) experienced their mother’s departure, neither addressed it directly–and the issue has gone largely unnoticed in the world of research. So, my Masters thesis explores the impact of a mother’s departure on the children at the time, and after they grow up.

This is where you come in. The survey link below is for those whose mother left after the divorce—she was the non-custodial parent. If this is you, please complete this survey. If it is someone you know (sibling, friend, relative, coworker), please share this and encourage them to complete it.

I will summarize the findings of my thesis and the survey here when it’s complete.

Thanks for your help.

Survey – ACOD Whose Mother Left After Divorce

Billy Graham and Overcoming the Impact of Parental Divorce

With Billy Graham’s passing at 99 years old, we have lost the Moses of our era. It’s difficult to name someone who has had a broader and more positive worldwide impact than Billy Graham. However, he would be the first to say it is not about him, nor has it ever been.

For nearly 60 years Billy Graham taught true healing starts with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Adult Children of Divorce Ministries is committed to helping those who struggle with the residue of parental divorce, and we agree. The video below shares how anyone can be freed from the fears, anger, unforgiveness, father hunger, and other issues common to adults with divorced parents.

Please grab a cup of coffee and watch this. These few minutes could change your life in a wonderful and eternal way.

An ACOD and The Ghost of Christmas Past

 

Christmas joy filled my childhood home. With snow falling and carols flowing from the record player, Hallmark movies were pale imitations of the Yuletides I enjoyed. Glorious Santa celebrations, complete with gifts, laughter, food, and fun, continued until I turned the corner into my teen years. There awaited my parents’ divorce.

Regretfully, the Christmases my mom, sisters, and I enjoyed after that point are dim memories. My mother moved mountains to make each December 25th special, but my appreciation for her efforts was pitifully small. Season’s greetings just weren’t the same for a teenage boy who missed his dad. The day was special, but something–actually someone–was missing. Also, unbeknownst to me, this period birthed a ghost of Christmas past.

Unlike those of Charles Dickens’ fame, mine wasn’t front and center. This specter hovered at the corners of my mind and shrouded my view of the sacred holiday. For years, at the first sound of Noel-tinted melodies, the ghost would awake from hibernation and get to work. However, its job wasn’t to teach me lessons from Christmases past. Planting seeds of remorse was its charge—thoughts of Christmases that never were, or holidays that should have included my dad and mom together.

In adulthood, I worked retail. Many in this field will tell you that the time of year people should have the most Christmas spirit seems to be the season they have the least.  So my retail management career, combined with the efforts of Casper’s evil twin, slowly produced an intense distaste for the season that celebrated my Savior’s birth. Though happily married with a growing family, an unexplained cloud hung over the festive tunes and TV programs. Smiles came hard, and joy had deserted me years earlier.

Why do I share this during this “most wonderful time of the year”? For two reasons: first, too many adult children of divorce can relate to these emotions, but have never given them voice. Second, to encourage you.

As I learned to turn toward the pain of the holidays and how to move on, God exposed the unfriendly ghost and I sent it packing. Then, like the Grinch, my heart grew three sizes that day! Over time, the clouds from the past parted and revealed the beauty of a baby born in a manger. A beauty that transcends who may or may not be celebrating with me around the tree.

This is a gift God would like to give you too. Seem impossible? “With God, all things are possible”1—even restoring your joy. Pray to Him and ask Him to bring healing to your heart. It’s a journey, but one God wants to do with you! Why not make that your new year’s resolution?

 

 1Matthew 19:26

Images
Hark the Herald Angels sing – http://www.dwellingplaceindy.org/hark-the-herald-angels-sing/
Emily’s Christmas Tree Cookies by Ralph Dally
madhouse Macy’s at Xmas by Eric Mueller
Star of Bethlehem Nativity by Garrett W

Thanks-giving to Parents Who Really Try

Divorce isn’t easy for anyone. Furthermore, on this site I tend to focus on the fallout parental divorce produces—and rightfully so. If adults with divorced parents hope to break the divorce cycle, we need to identify some of the contributing factors.

However, there are countless divorced mothers and fathers and stepmothers and stepfathers who honestly try to minimize the ongoing impact. They accept that hybrid relationships can be difficult, awkward, or confusing for us, even as adults.

Some travel distances to stay involved with us.
Some sacrifice their own happiness because they believe it will help us.
Some refuse to badmouth their ex because that ex is our mother or father.
Some go above and beyond financially to help.
Many display grace when facing new husbands and wives.
Some pursue us even when we push them away.
Many lovingly do the stepparenthood dance of being a parent, yet not being the parent.
Some avoid family functions to decrease our discomfort.
And the list goes on..

If you’re blessed with a parent or stepparent who is described by the list above, first give thanks to God. Unfortunately, these wonderful individuals are not as common as we might hope. Second, give them a call, or a special hug to thank them. Tell them what you are thankful for. You may just give them the best gift they receive this entire holiday season!

Images
Father and daughter by Chany Crystal

“Facing the Holidays” ACD Workshop is Coming Soon.

It’s no secret Thanksgiving and Christmas can be far from joyous times for adults with divorced parents. What often is the secret is why.
On October 28th I’ll be at Sycamore Counseling Services in Livonia, Michigan to present a workshop that will equip ACD with tools to help them not only hate the holidays less, but actually enjoy them–in spite of what may be going on around them.
Whether you “tolerate” the holidays, hate them, ignore them, or if you are divorced and want to know what your adult kids are experiencing,  I hope you’ll join us as we work together to restore “the most wonderful time of the year.”

When the Prodigal is a Parent

Marriage offers many benefits, but primarily a healthy marriage provides balance. Since spenders wed savers, risk-takers bond to safety-lovers, chocoholics find physical trainers, and spastics unite with steady-rudders, balance is maintained because they keep each other in check.
But divorce severs that tether allowing natural tendencies and desires to go unleashed. So, basking in post-marriage freedom, drinkers can drink more, couch potatoes couch more, spenders spend more, and philanderers play the field. However, we get entangled in all this. 

Wanting to scream
How do you greet Mom’s 12th boyfriend? Are you responsible to keep your father from eating Cheetos and Red Bull chasers for dinner? Does Mom really think she looks good in that outfit made for women 25 years younger? Tired of explaining to your kids how “til death do us part” fits into grandpa’s fourth wedding? Frustrated because your parents don’t get why you’re upset with their life choices? Perhaps a look at prodigals may help.

Perspective on Prodigals
The word “prodigal” comes from a story Jesus told about a young man who left the blessings of his home and “wasted all his money in wild living.”1 The son eventually realizes he messed up and plans to return home groveling. But the father sees the son returning and runs to greet him. Instead of condemnation, kisses and hugs are showered on the son. Then the father throws a my-rebellious-son-who-I-dearly-love-has-returned party. Jesus’ point is we are the prodigal and God is the father. As such, we should respond to our prodigals as the father in this story—but we usually don’t.

How we deal with our prodigals
Our response to prodigal parents is often:
1)     We brood over how things should be, could have been, or how we wish our parents should act.
2)    We harbor bitterness and unforgiveness, and withhold grace because we focus on our parent’s prodigal ways (and the hurt it causes) forgetting we, too, are prodigals in God’s eyes.
3)    We dabble in their behaviors because we’ve secretly wanted to do it anyway and if a parent can do something it’s justified for us…even if we know it’s wrong.

How does God deal with prodigals?
He loves them.  And we need to follow God’s example, but how do we do that?
1) Pray for them – prayer may change them, but often changes our attitude toward them.
2) No badmouthing. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.2  It’s tempting to talk them down, but find the positives and talk them up—particularly in front of your kids.
3) Maintain boundaries – Often their decisions impact us because we allow them to. Our desire for their love, or fear of losing it, can cause us to comingle in their dysfunction instead of maintaining healthy boundaries in love3.

While prodigal parents can challenge us, they can also stimulate spiritual and character growth. We just need to remember their actions are their choice. Our response is our choice.

1Luke 15:13, NLT
2Ephesians 4:29, NLT
3Henry Cloud, John Townsend, Boundaries, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992.)

Images
Shutterstock
The Parables of Our Lord – The Prodigal Son by John Everett Millais by Birmingham Museum and Art  Gallery
Talk to the hand by Matt Foster
Bible with Cross Shadow by David Campbell