Daddy Issues

This one might hurt a little.

‘Cause Father’s Day isn’t just fun and (baseball/bags/poker/tennis/golf) games. Sadly, this third Sunday in June can toss up all kinds of heartache and here’s why:

There’s a whole slew of troubled guys out there who happen to have reproduced.

And more than a few of their kids grew up… hurt. So many battle-scarred adults were wounded by the person responsible for protecting them:

Dad.

(Others were just collateral damage in his own private battles.)

All this means there’s a mess of kids – young and old – for whom Father’s Day seems a little ridiculous/offensive/pointless/painful. Or a lot.

I’d venture to guess that most of those troubled dads got that way because their dads were troubled.

(Unfortunately, it’s often an inherited trait.)

Doesn’t take a PhD in Clinical Psychology to figure out that a lot of deadbeat dads were raised by men who were chronically distant or distracted. Dismissive or demanding. Demeaning or downright mean.

Or maybe Dad just took off. Without thinking twice about the fallout.

Either way, daddy issues almost always come back to haunt somebody. Usually two somebodies:

Parent.

And child.

The sad truth is there are a lot of lousy dads. And even more mediocre ones. But the good news is there are some really fantastic fathers out there too.

My kids got one of the all-time greats.

His name is Steve… but he mostly goes by Dad, Daddy, Dizzle or (my personal favorite)…

Hoosier Daddy.

He’s the best of the best. Steady, strong, hardworking, humble, faithful, fun and fiercely devoted. He counsels, coaches, comforts, consoles. He folds laundry and settles disputes. He’s good with a mower, shovel, glove and putter. And he can grill a mean rack of ribs.

He plays with our kids and prays with our kids.

And he practices what he preaches.

He loves them. Dearly. Deeply.

Day after day after day.

Real love means sacrifice. For dads, it means willingly relinquishing their desires (perhaps their dreams too) so their kids can grow up healthy, safe and strong… and pursue their own dreams.

Being a good dad requires intentionality and investment.

Because you know how kids spell “love?”

T-I-M-E.

The best dads give their kids that gift, again and again.

(Even when it’s inconvenient or seems “unimportant” in comparison to other demands.)

If you got a dad like that, it’s pretty easy to respect, appreciate and celebrate that guy. But what if you didn’t?

Honor your father…

Anyway.

(Because God said so.)

Notice the lack of conditions/caveats/qualifications. It doesn’t say “Honor your father if (fill-in-the-blank).”

If he was honorable. Or admirable. Or available. (Or even around.)

It just says honor him.

Sometimes that means expressing gratitude (for a job well done) and admiration (for a life well-lived).

Sometimes it’s just acknowledging that he did the best he could. (Often this requires some hindsight… and humility.)

But if your dad was someone who abused you – physically or emotionally, intentionally or repeatedly – how in the world are you supposed to do that impossibly hard thing? Honor him?

Honestly, I have no idea. Because my dad didn’t abuse or abandon me. He didn’t belittle or manipulate or prey on me… he protected and provided and prayed for me.

Maybe “honoring” your dad just means allowing God to be your Father… and asking Him to help you not repeat the cycle of abuse.

Or maybe it means mustering every ounce of mercy and bravery that God offers and saying, “I forgive you.” Even if you’ve never gotten a glimpse of remorse or a whisper of “I’m sorry.”

Because forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.

(When you open it, you’ll find buried treasure inside. For some, freedom. Others, healing. Some, transformation. Others, a whole new identity.)

The truth is it’s our Creator who defines us. The real question isn’t who your father is… or even who you are… it’s whose you are.

Who’s your Daddy?

If you don’t already know Him, I pray you’ll get to know your Heavenly Daddy.

I just hope you’re not too wounded or bitter to even try.

Maybe you blame “our Father who art in heaven” for your troubled/absent/abusive one. You figure if He’s really God (all-knowing, all-powerful and all that) then He’s responsible for the dad you got (or didn’t get, as the case may be).

Fair enough.

But God’s not a dictator. He didn’t “make” your father do – or not do – anything. He isn’t responsible for that great big gash your dad left on your heart.

He just wants to be the one to stitch it up. (And make it better than new.)

He promises to be the Dad you never had: protective, patient, kind, strong, gentle, wise, merciful, fair, full of good humor and giver of good gifts.

He really is the… Best. Dad. Ever.

And He loves you like crazy.

From the bottom of my heart, I wish you a Heavenly Father‘s Day.

Wendy

P.S. Pretty sure if all dads were good dads, a lot of the world’s problems would vanish in a heartbeat.

When Mother’s Day Isn’t Happy

To all the broken-hearted women who wish they could fall asleep Saturday evening and wake up on Monday morning… this one’s for you. The women for whom Mother’s Day delivers a twinge of sadness… or a dull ache. A shooting pain… or one that sears straight through your soul.

This one’s for the precious mommas who can’t hug their grown children… because they’re separated by miles and stay-at-home orders and the threat of a deadly virus.

So Mother’s Day will be spent in what feels like the worst way:

Alone.

All the flowers/FaceTime calls/Hallmark cards/candy in the world – while lovely and appreciated – simply can’t compare to the sweet gift of togetherness. (< That is the most coveted Mother’s Day present of all.)

But there are some women whose sorrow won’t lift even when the COVID restrictions do. There are some whose sadness is soul-deep.

These are the women who hurt at every mention of Mother’s Day… and it has nothing to do with Coronavirus or quarantine or keeping 6 feet apart. These are the women whose heart breaks afresh every “second Sunday in May,” not just this one.

Childless mothers.

Those who buried their beautiful children…

Or never had them. (Because their bodies just couldn’t cooperate.)

They suffer excruciating phantom pains:

Of lives they cannot share. Embraces they cannot feel. Memories they cannot make.

So many moms who’ve lost a child to stillbirth or miscarriage or cancer or stroke or suicide or accident or abortion or estrangement… (Sadly, this list goes on and on.) Women who silently bear their burden of bereavement. At graduations, weddings, baby showers. On birthdays, holidays, all the days.

That kind of grief is real/raw/relentless.

For women like them, this “holiday” to celebrate mothers holds next to nothing.

Except anguish.

(And unfortunately, there isn’t a cardiac surgeon in the world who can repair that kind of broken heart.)

More than anything, mothering means nurturing.

And I can almost feel your ache to nurture… to teach and care and comfort and counsel. To feed a little body… and soul. I see your heart that holds more than enough love for another human being (or three). I sense your willingness to do almost anything just to be able to be – and do – what you wish.

Mother.

You long for the title – and its responsibilities – because you were made in the image of God – the very Essence of flawless nurturing. He is the perfect (and undeniably the most patient) Parent ever. Not only is He our Heavenly Father… He invented and ordained the art of mothering.

Like an eagle that rouses her chicks and hovers over her young, so he spread his wings to take them up and carried them safely on his pinions. The Lord alone guided them… (Deuteronomy 32:11-12a)

So what to do when you’re aching to rouse and hover and carry and guide… and you can’t? (Or never could.)

Start with your feelings.

Notice them.

Feel them.

And maybe… if you’re feeling really brave… share them. (But only with someone worthy of your trust and willing to hear your whole – good/bad/ugly – story.)

Give yourself grace and mercy.

(And maybe some flowers and chocolate too.)

Listen, I’m not suggesting you pretend that Mother’s Day is your favorite day of the year. And I’m not trying to make it happy/breezy/sunny/carefree but possibly… hopefully…

Tolerable.

Tender.

True.

Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Parent. Soak up all the love gifted to you by the One who adores you… and has good plans for you. (Really.)

I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord. “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future.  Then you will call my name. You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you. ~ Jeremiah 29:11-12 (NCV)

Choose this Mother’s Day to honor your own momma. (Or her memory if you – like me – are missing her something fierce.)

Blessing her will bless you.

(Promise.)

The commandment ‘Honor your father and mother’ is the first one with a promise attached: so that things will go well for you, and you will live for a long time in the land. ~ Ephesians 6:2-3 (CEB)

Be kind to yourself. (Please do this, for heaven’s sake.)

It’s not selfish; it’s necessary. Like water/sleep/food/air.

Nourish and tenderly care (for yourself)… Ephesians 6:29 (NRSV)

And know that there are lots of moms out there who see you… and feel deeply. For you and with you. Your story matters to a whole lot of people who care.

Love and sympathy from one of them,

Wendy

P.S. Today is my mother’s birthday. (She’s celebrating in heaven… but I’m having cake here and now.)

Happy 75th Birthday to the very best mother and friend a girl could ask for.

 

All Kinds of Crazy

What a strange new world.

The rhythms and routines of daily life – once barely noticed – came to a screeching halt a few weeks back. And now the world as we knew it is suspended… indefinitely.

I don’t know about you, but my schedule looks vastly different than it did before March 13th. Except for showering and sleeping. Well… some days.

(Today is not one of them.)

It’s tough to get your bearings when you can’t see anything but the backyard or balcony. If you don’t have either, I pray for the preservation of your sanity. (Seriously.)

This is our new normal.

Personally, I’d like to get back to the old one. (Maybe with an extra helping of perspective. And heaping sides of gratitude and compassion.)

But I guess that isn’t an option. Not entirely anyway. Because this virus is taking a heavy toll.

I remember how different the world seemed after 9/11. Then – like now – most of us really came together. We cared… gave… grieved. We comforted and consoled.

And we counted the cost.

And here we are… counting again.

41,000 lives lost. (And by the time you finish reading this, it’ll tick even higher.)

That’s a whole lot of bereft families and broken hearts.

And that number doesn’t include the other victims of this crisis. The collateral damage, if you will.

I’m not minimizing the death toll. Not one iota. But I think maybe it’s time to acknowledge our other losses too. To say it’s ok to feel dazed/ disoriented by the far-reaching effects of this pandemic. It’s normal to feel discouraged/distressed about how different the future looks from just a few weeks ago. It’s understandable if you feel distraught/devastated… even if none of your loved ones have died from COVID-19.

This. Is. Hard.

And this “virtual” reality feels… well… unreal.

Trying to outlast this virus seems like a lost cause because folks are dropping every day. Not only those who die from Coronavirus but those who succumb in other ways.

To slashed income. Or domestic violence. Or burnout from working 12-hour shifts. Day after day. Week after week. (No relief in sight.)

There’s other unsettling fallout too. Like the shocking and sudden realization that there isn’t much you/I/we can control.

Like job security… financial security… food security.

There’s more than a little desperation going around. And nobody coming around. That’s a profoundly negative equation. (Isolation + desperation = unmitigated disaster.)

I think it’s high time the people who deliver the news start reporting (loud and clear) that we’re smack in the middle of another pandemic.

A mental health emergency.

This crisis has followed right on the heels of the contagious disease and even those who’ve outrun or recovered from Coronavirus are starting to feel the effects of its ruthless twin. Regardless of where we live, more and more are finding ourselves in…

An acutely SAD state.

(As in… Stressed. Anxious. Depressed.)

And who can blame us? Coping skills – in unprecedented global crises – can be scarce. And when there’s no place to go…

We go all kinds of crazy.

Relationships come unraveled. Sobriety is shattered. Suicides (and attempts) skyrocket.

How do we dig up some hope in all this wreckage? Where’s the steady calm when the whole world’s spinning out? Who’s got answers? And antidotes?

Anyone?

Human beings are pretty resilient and resourceful. But we’re not invincible. (We’re not infinitely clever/creative/capable either.) We don’t have enough willpower or prescience or inner zen to anchor ourselves (when we’re adrift) or find our way (when we’re lost) or develop a cure (for all that ails us).

Not one of us.

We need someone a whole lot stronger and smarter than our so-called best and brightest. We need a superhero.

A savior.

We need a hope-provider and healer. One that specializes in bodies, psyches and spirits. One that can fling stars and split atoms and soothe troubled souls.

Pretty sure every single one of us could use a good doctor/therapist/holistic healthcare provider right now.

Let me introduce you to a great physician and wonderful counselor.

His name is Jesus. And he can see you anytime.

He’s the answer and the antidote.

And he will carry us through.

You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times… So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does. (1 Peter 5:9-11, The Message)

Wendy

P.S. Please know I’m not trying to put a spiritual Band-aid on a severed artery. Stress, anxiety and depression are complex mental health issues with physical, emotional and spiritual causes and effects. (And God has given us amazing doctors/therapists/holistic healthcare providers to help us in times like this.) If you’re experiencing ongoing symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, please, please schedule a Telehealth appointment.

Stat.

That’s a Wrap

Only 362 days ’til Christmas!

That’s right, friends. Christmas Past has passed. And Christmas Future is way out there. But the Christmas Present remains.

Steady. Strong. Faithful. Gentle. True. Always true.

Immanuel… God with us.

His presence is the present. And it never gets lost or broken or outdated or recalled. It doesn’t dissipate, won’t depreciate, and can’t be destroyed.

Of all the promises God has made to us, the guarantee of His ever-presence is the one I cling to most. Whether I can sense Him or not, He’s near. Never distant or disinterested. He has proven Himself to be intensely personal, endlessly forgiving and full of surprises. (The good kind: joy, adventure, humor… and one day, HEAVEN.)

You surround me – front and back. You put your hand on me. That kind of knowledge is too much for me; it’s so high above me that I can’t fathom it. 

Where could I go to get away from your spirit? Where could I go to escape your presence? If I went up to heaven, you would be there. If I went down to the grave, you would be there too! If I could fly on the wings of dawn, stopping to rest only on the far side of the ocean – even there your hand would guide me; even there your strong hand would hold me tight! ~ Psalm 139:5-10 (CEB)

The gift of Christmas means we never, ever have to be alone.

Behold… and be held.

…But the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you the most joyful news ever announced, and it is for everyone!  The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem!” ~ Luke 2:10-11 (TLB)

That wonder-filled, worldwide birthday extravaganza we just celebrated? It’s for Him. The Savior/Messiah/Lord. The babe in the manger.

We wrap our gifts because God wrapped His.

And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” ~ Luke 2:12-14 (NLT)

The gift – God’s one and only Son – swaddled and given to us.

His birth signaled the beginning of the end for all that’s wrong in our world: war and poverty, pride and prejudice, sin and sickness, hate and hopelessness. And death itself.

The gift of Jesus is the gift of a lifetime… and forever after.

It’s a gift that calls for an all-out, everybody’s-in(vited), wildly-celebrated, centuries-long, universally-propitious holiday!

Extra merry, if you please.

And presents too… under the tree, inside a stocking, tossed on the porch or stuffed in a mailbox. (I hope St. Nick gave naps and PTO to all those weary postal workers. Bless them.)

One of my son’s favorite presents this year was a heated blanket (a Chanukah gift from his Auntie Jo). As it turns out, that present is a brilliant metaphor for God’s gift of Jesus, who surrounds and protects us… and gives our lives weight and warmth.

Jesus is – in every sense of the word – our covering.

He who lives in the safe place of the Most High will be in the shadow of the All-powerful.  I will say to the Lord, “You are my safe and strong place, my God, in Whom I trust…” He will cover you with His wings. And under His wings you will be safe. He is faithful like a safe-covering and a strong wall. ~ Psalm 91:1-2, 4 (NLV)

Maybe that’s why we call Him Comforter.

That newborn baby – born to an unwed mother in a smelly stable – proved to be the mightiest and most storied King, Creator, Counselor (and yes, Comforter) of all.

A child has been born to us; God has given a son to us. He will be responsible for leading the people. His name will be Wonderful Counselor, Powerful God, Father Who Lives Forever, Prince of Peace. ~ Isaiah 9:6 (NCV)

He covers us and consoles us. His presence wraps around and warms us from within. Gentle, soothing, serene.

What a wonderful God we have—he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does he do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (TLB)

The help and comfort He offers are lifesaving… and everlasting. Jesus didn’t come to pat us on the back, give us a pep talk and watch us march to our deaths. He came to rescue and resuscitate us… and redeem all we were bound to lose. He lived and died, all for us.

As C.S. Lewis observed:

“Jesus came not to make bad people good but to make dead people live.”

The gift of Jesus is life.

Invite Jesus to wrap you up in His mercy. A blanket of forgiveness and freedom. Freedom from fear, shame, loneliness, pain… and whatever else litters your past (mine too).

The gift of Jesus is love.

Invite Him to drape you in His tender loving care. The kind of love that means you never need to feel alone, afraid, ashamed or abandoned.

The gift of Jesus is joy.

Invite Him to tuck you into the sweet serenity and bountiful blessings of His presence. When Jesus is near, there’s no lack of rest or refreshment. No shortage of grace or peace.

The Christmas Presence is yours for the asking.

Unwrap… and enjoy.

Wendy

P.S. Wishing you a comfy, cozy, warm and wonder-filled New Year!