Tag Archives: hope

Ep.5 of 6 – Alive and Living in Ireland

187x109-2The subtitle of today’s programme is, “What Might Be the Impact of an Abortion?”

  • We’ll look thoughtfully into the impact that abortion can have upon women. We’ll hear a real-life story, as well as some anecdotal evidence.
  • We’ll also look at situations of abortion regret, the wounded soul; and how some have found hope and healing.
  • The hidden pain of Ireland: the symptoms of abortion regret.

So You Are Going to Be a Daddy!

PIC_So You're Going to Be a Daddy

Written by Joseph Schneller

You’re just about to find out your wife’s pregnant with your first child. Your friend, Nate (father of two), has said that having a child represents more life change than getting married. Your wife’s about to find out that babies aren’t the only ones who lie in the fetal position sucking their thumb. But let’s take this one step at a time.

For some reason, the idea of how your wife has to use the pregnancy test stick thing is enormously funny to you. The kind of funny where tears run down your face and laughing fits hit you in waves. At one point, between hysterics, you tell her that if it’d make her feel better, you’ll take a pregnancy test, too. This also strikes you as the pinnacle of funnyhood.

She, on the other hand, has been reading books such as Taking Charge of Your Fertility and realises that her husband is “attempting to cope with his anxiety.” She understands that your uncontrollable laughter is Step 1 of your coping process, soon to be followed by:

Step 2: bed-wetting

Step 3: the desire to purchase a fast, red automobile.

After waiting three minutes in which the world stops spinning, you and your wife mutter a quick prayer, look one another in the eye and count two pink lines on the stick. Thus follows the most basic and unpresuming conversation the two of you will ever have:

Wife: Is that two lines?

You: I count “two.”

Wife: Are you sure that’s two lines?

You: Well, there’s the one line there, then there’s another line by the first. So, taken together, that makes two.

Your wife looks at you and screams like a 13-year-old girl who’s just seen her best friend for the first time since yesterday. You look at your wife and scream like a camper who’s just spilled a jar of honey on himself in grizzly bear country.

After dancing around awhile, counting the lines again, crying, then recounting the lines, your wife gets on the phone to notify first-tier family and friends. Second-tier friends will have to wait until the second trimester, which apparently begins on March 28. Your wife knows this without even looking at a calendar. She then counts the pink lines again.

While she’s on the phone, you realise that the baby’s growth and development are really the secondary purpose of the nine-month gestation. The primary purpose is so that you can get used to the idea of being a father. Right now, the most profound things you’re saying are, “Wow!” and “Oh, man!” and “That’s just, I mean . . . wow!”

You see, your wife’s been meditating on motherhood since she was four years old. You, on the contrary, have been considering fatherhood for about, hmm, five minutes (if you round up). So, in an effort to control your breathing, you head downstairs and flip on “The Show Before the Show That Precedes the Pre-Game Show.” That’s when you find several items on the coffee table that weren’t there last night:

  1. What to Expect When You’re Expecting
  2. a magazine on pregnancy
  3. a baby name book the size of a cereal box

These have appeared so quickly that you realise your wife had them stashed away at the bottom of her wardrobe.

Flipping though the pregnancy magazine, you think about asking your wife if she went to the bookstore while you were, uh, blowing your nose this morning. But then you glance at a page that says your baby’s heart will begin to form during the second month.

“Really?” you say out loud. “That early?” Sitting down, you mute the TV and turn the page.

So you’re gonna be a daddy.

Joseph Schneller became a dad for the first time in July of 2007.

* * *

Why Dad is important

A husband’s involvement during pregnancy can make a significant difference in a wife’s prenatal and postpartum experiences. Research shows that the presence of an emotionally supportive husband can help a woman more quickly adapt to pregnancy changes and lead to a more positive labour and delivery; it’s even been proven to influence a mother’s sense of competence in infant feeding. A study published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal concluded, ”Father involvement is an important, but understudied, predictor of maternal behaviours during the prenatal period, and improving father involvement may have important consequences for the health of his partner, her pregnancy and their child.” Whether analysing emotional, physical or relational benefits, all evidence suggests that women and children fare best when husbands and fathers are involved.

Pamela Woody

© 2009 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

Six Features of a Father Figure

PIC_Six Features of a Father Figure

by Tracy Crump

My husband, Stan, was just 7 months old when his dad died, and his mother never remarried. I have often wondered, How did Stan learn to be such a good father to our two sons? While a mother’s love is invaluable, boys need men to teach them to be fathers. My mother-in-law knew this and wisely introduced her son to positive male influences throughout his childhood.

According to OneParent.ie*:

“More than one in four families with children in Ireland is headed by a lone parent. Mothers head the vast majority of one-parent families (87%),”

Many mothers would like to have admirable role models for their sons. Finding the right one becomes crucial when we remember that good fathers reflect God’s love toward His children.

If we could assemble the perfect father figure, what would we see?

Big heart

No matter their age, all boys need affection. But male love looks different from female love. Male love is active and physical; it plays ball and roughhouses; it encourages with a slap on the back and defends when necessary.

As a preschooler, my husband stayed with the Campbells, a family with five sons, during his mother’s work hours. The boys, all much older than Stan, provided the physical “guy love” he needed and taught him how to handle male aggression through their good-natured camaraderie. Taking him under their wing, they taught him an important trait of good fathers—to protect those you love.

Open arms

Nothing bolsters a boy’s self-worth like spending time with a man who enjoys his company. While sports and other activities are great, sometimes guys just need to hang out together.

When Mr. Campbell came home from work, he would often sit with Stan while they read the comic strips together or talked. At other times they would walk in the garden or play with the dog. Without realising it, this kind and gentle man taught Stan how to focus on and enjoy a child.

Gentle, firm voice

Boys need clear boundaries. And while mothers can go a long way in socialising their sons, boys learn best how to be good disciplinarians when fathers demonstrate self-control as they dole out punishment.

With five boys in the Campbell family, their home provided plenty of opportunity for Stan to see kids reprimanded. Not once did their dad raise his voice or react in anger. He used a conversational tone when he corrected his sons but clearly communicated the limits. The boys rarely went beyond them. Years later, Stan would use these same techniques with our sons.

Dirty fingernails

Fathers instinctively know you have to keep male hands busy. Boys need someone who will get down in the dirt with them, teach them how to build birdhouses or change the oil in the car.

When Stan was in grade school, he occasionally stayed with the Morris family that included three generations of males under the same roof. He and Rickey, who was Stan’s age, often followed Rickey’s dad to his workshop where he refurbished lawnmowers. There, Stan not only stayed occupied but also learned valuable skills that he has used and passed on.

 Laugh lines

Dads are notorious for being silly and fun. Boys need someone to have burping contests with and to show them the lighter side of male life.

Granddaddy Morris was a master at seeing the humor in everyday situations. Though he knew life couldn’t be amusing all the time, he loved to make jokes and play harmless pranks. But even in jest, Granddaddy never belittled anyone and taught Stan to respect others’ dignity while having fun.

 Devoted eyes

One of the most significant things a father figure can model is love for his wife. Boys need a man to show them what being a loving and committed husband really means.

Stan remembers Granddaddy Morris speaking in respectful, almost reverent tones about Mabel, his wife of 50 years. Always the tease, he would “get some sugar” or hug her until she said, “Stop that, Willie! The children are in the room.” Stan had no doubt that Granddaddy truly cherished his wife.

You may not find all these qualities perfectly packaged in one man, but your son will reap the benefits from being with a variety of males who exemplify traits you want him to learn. Uncles, grandfathers, coaches or godly older teens may each contribute to a boy’s training for adulthood as well as fatherhood.

Safety First 

Always let safety be your first priority and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you to the proper mentors for your son. Below are tips to keep your son safe when choosing mentors:

 Meet your son’s mentors. Insist upon getting to know anyone with whom your son spends time.

 Be the initiator. Observe interaction between your son and potential mentors, and be the one to request they spend time together.

 Talk to other parents. You can learn much about a man’s character by his reputation in the community.

*http://www.oneparent.ie/our-families.html 

Teen Identity

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by Tiffany Stuart

In many ways, Irish teens have never had it tougher. Perhaps a surprising statement, given Ireland’s obvious affluence compared to the rest of the world. If you’re a parent today, you know what I mean. Social pressures are more pervasive and destructive than ever before in Irish history. Parents often feel helpless to equip their teens with the tools to navigate – and steer clear – of harmful relationships, attitudes and behaviours.

Ideally, the process of equipping our kids to live and thrive in an often Christian-hostile world begins as soon as they are born. In fact, parents are the single most important developmental influence in a child’s life, apart from the Holy Spirit himself. But even if time has slipped away, and your teenager seems out of reach, you can begin to lay building blocks to help your teen grow to maturity in Christ and make a positive impact on his or her world. Love, commitment, self-discipline, perseverance and a lot of prayer are required, but you can do it.

Assisting your teen in forging a strong, positive identity is one way to help her form convictions based on truth, and then stand firm in them regardless of what everyone else does.

As parents, we can build our teen’s identity by using a brick mason’s approach. Masonry is an art that requires intense study of the project’s design before setting the first brick in place. The job is messy, requires hands-on application and commitment.

Parental brick-layers labour alongside our teens as they experience the joy of discovering their significance in Christ and their identity. Teens today are overscheduled and often lack the skills to communicate or set boundaries. They need our help to decide which bricks fit and which ones don’t.

The challenge? To encourage them to be who God made them to be, rather than who we want them to be.

Brick-by-brick, we can make a difference for our teens and in their world.

Brick #1: Encourage Self Discovery

My husband Derek shared a devotion about integrity with our fourteen-year-old son Justin and his friend Tim* (name changed). Derek asked them, “How committed are you to integrity?”

“I’m not that committed. But I want to be,” Tim answered.

Derek said, “Telling the truth is integrity. Thanks for being honest.”

“I get in trouble with certain friends,” Tim said. “The pressure to be liked affects me.”

“Until you decide who you are,” Derek told Tim, “you will be like a chameleon, blending in to whatever situation or whoever you are with.”

Derek mentioned a former game show and said, “Will the real Tim please stand up? Until you figure out who the God-designed Tim is, you will struggle with your friends.”

Brick #2: Acknowledge Natural Abilities

Teens yearn for our support and relationship. It’s important to affirm their natural abilities. Be their cheerleader. Attend activities even if they say, “It’s no biggie.”

Encourage athletes to stay involved in sports throughout secondary school. Challenge the artsy to try a new instrument, audition for a play, take a watercolour class or voice lessons. If they love to argue, consider the debate team. Talk about career choices that use their talents. For example, maths skills are priceless for computer software engineers.

Brick #3: Create a Family Motto

When my friend Beth’s three teens were growing up, their family motto was “We aren’t quitters.” Anytime her son or daughters wanted to stop short of a commitment, they heard this phrase. Eventually Beth’s children believed, “I belong to a non-quitting family.”

By creating a tagline, our family identity is established. Then when difficulties arise, our motto serves as a stake in the ground declaring who we are as individuals — and as family.

Brick #4: Value Uniqueness

Physically and emotionally, teens’ lives constantly change. They can feel overscheduled, unknown, abandoned, or even betrayed. Adolescents still want a unique place in our home. They need to know they belong and that they matter.

Encourage busy teens to enjoy down time, which strengthens their creativity and problem-solving skills. Inform your son his sense of humour is missed when he’s gone. Tell your daughter you notice her thankful heart.

Brick #5: Highlight Spiritual Gifts

Ever since our son Justin was little, he has shown kindness to kids that are different. As a first year student, he continues to tap the heart of the lonely.

One of Justin’s teachers asked the students to share who their best friend was and why. Both a popular and unpopular guy picked Justin. Their reasons: “He shows interest in me. He makes me laugh. He sits by me. He sticks up for me.”

We affirmed Justin for using his gift of mercy with his friends.

Study verses about spiritual gifts with your teens: Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31; 1 Corinthians 14:1-40; Ephesians 4:7-16; and 1 Peter 4:7-11.

Brick #6: Reinforce Spiritual Identity

No brick is more foundational than this one. When teens understand their worth in Christ, they can reject negative thinking that peers, insecurities and problems hurl on them. Just because teens fail — which they will — doesn’t mean they are a failure.

Teens develop confidence when they believe they are loved by God — no matter what. This inner strength will carry them through trials and peer pressure. As they search for significance, our teens can influence their peers to do the same.

Google “Who I am in Christ.” Print and review with your son or daughter. If someone tries to embarrass them about a mistake, say, “There is no condemnation for those in Christ” (Romans 8:1). Don’t criticize them when they are knocked down. Instead extend your hand and your heart.

Construct A Strong Identity Wall

Building our teens’ identity is a long process. The Great Wall of China took years of extensive labour before it fended off enemies. Our teens live in a hostile culture too. They need a wall of protection. As parental masons, we can help them stand up under fire.

The challenge is to be like Beth’s family — and not quit.

Adapted from an article by Tiffany Stuart, Focus on the Family. Copyright 2008. Used by permission.

Loving Your Wayward Child

PIC_Loving Your Wayward Child

I don’t have to put up with this. I’m outta here!” Amber stomped to her room.

I don’t remember what the issue was, but a couple of hours later, Amber was gone. Several frantic days later, we discovered that our leaving cert student was living with two older guys. The girl who’d talked about being a youth worker was jumping into the sinful lifestyle she had previously decried.

Amber isn’t the first child, and certainly won’t be the last, to abandon the values he or she was raised with. Sometimes children question their faith in a way that can be nerve-wracking for parents but is a natural part of growing up and making faith their own. At other times, kids make a series of bad choices but don’t walk away from God. Some kids, however, rebel against parents, God and anyone else who gets in their way.

No matter the scenario, it can be a time of stress, anxiety and heartbreak. What should a parent do when their child goes astray?

  1. Don’t be too embarrassed to ask for support and prayer. When Amber left, I felt like such a failure. But when my husband and I admitted to others what was going on, we found comfort, understanding and wisdom from Christian parents who also had prodigals.
  1. Don’t blame yourself. When children enter the prodigal world, we tend to think it’s because we did something wrong. After all, Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” But this Scripture was never meant as a guilt trip, nor as a guarantee.

Sure, we make mistakes, but ultimately kids make their own choices. Parents are no more responsible for their children’s choices than children are responsible for their parents’ choices. Young people leave family and faith because they decide to.

  1. Know the difference between helping and enabling. After Susan’s runaway son, Jon, was kicked out of his apartment for not paying bills, Susan welcomed him back home. But Jon often partied all night, and Susan fielded the calls from his employer, making excuses for Jon when he didn’t arrive at work the next morning.

Finally, Susan realised she was enabling her son’s irresponsible behavior. She stopped covering for him and let Jon face the consequences of his actions. Parenting a prodigal often means practicing tough love. Helping him in the long run often means saying no.

  1. Don’t forget the rest of your family. One day I was complaining to my friend Rhonda yet again about our prodigal. “What’s going on with your other kids?” she asked. “Yes, you love Amber. But you have two other kids and a husband who need you. Stop focusing on Amber so much that you ignore them.

Sometimes we have to entrust our prodigals to the Lord—and let Him work while we continue with the rest of life.

  1. Realise your parenting has changed.Even if your daughter comes home tomorrow, it will be different,” a co-worker told me. “She has emotionally removed herself from your authority. Now you learn how to parent an adult child.

When a child leaves a parent’s care and protection, the relationship changes forever. We can let our prodigals know we love them, but we have to let go of our responsibility for them.

  1. Build a unified front with your spouse. After Tami left home and got into financial difficulties, her parents decided together how they would field the requests for money they knew would come. They even role-played scenarios. They agreed to tell Tami, “I’ll talk to your mom/dad about it, and we’ll let you know.

Also, don’t forget to work on your marriage relationship. Make sure you don’t spend all your time together talking about the prodigal. Change the subject, and enjoy each other.

  1. Set boundaries. During a prodigal season, otherwise lovable kids are often at their worst. They may become rude, demanding, manipulative and abusive. Some parents think they have to put up with bad behaviour in order to display God’s love. That’s not so. Your child has seen God’s love through you for years. The prodigal benefits more from the parent who says, “I love you, but I won’t tolerate disrespect.

Set boundaries in any area that concerns you, especially if your child wants to move back. For instance, when Mike’s son asked to come home, Mike let his son know that if he brought drugs into the house, Mike would call the Gardaí.

Make sure your child understands your boundaries and the consequences for overstepping them. Be loving but firm.

  1. Deal with your feelings. Parents of wayward kids face many emotions: anger (at the child, at themselves, at a mate, at a child’s bad companions), grief, sorrow, depression, guilt. Whatever the feelings, we have to acknowledge them before we can deal with them.
  1. Remember God loves your child more than you do. Parents of prodigals feel helpless. That’s why we must lean on God and His grace. He constantly draws them to himself and will be with them even when we can’t.
  1. Look to a brighter future. In talking with dozens with parents, I learned that the prodigal season is just that—a season. Amber outgrew her prodigal stage within a couple of years as she realised she didn’t like being a “wild child.” Sooner or later, most children return to good relationships with their parents and their heavenly Father.

Meanwhile, keep the big picture in mind. While Alison’s daughter was doing drugs and having babies out of wedlock, Alison clung to her faith that God could redeem her daughter’s wayward years. Eventually her faith was rewarded, and today her daughter faithfully serves God.

As you continue to love and pray for your child, have faith that your child is God’s work in progress.

 

© Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Jeanette Gardner Littleton is the author of When Your Teen Goes Astray. Note: Names have been changed.

What Makes Marriage Work?

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It takes a lot to mess up a marriage, just as it takes a lot to make a marriage work.

In my professional experience as a relationship counsellor and my 29 years of marriage, I believe that most of us enter into this most important relationship with high hopes and dreams of happiness, fulfillment and success. And yet are any of us really prepared for what is required to make a marriage successful? I have heard it said that nothing makes us ready for marriage but marriage itself.

I know that my own relationship has taught me a lot about others but mostly about myself. And my clients have privileged me with witnessing their courage as they wrestle with their relationship challenges and triumphs. Good relationships are about living out of our commitment day by day and together entering into the ‘whatevers’ that life throws up at us. I believe healthy relationships are characterised by the values of Commitment and Investment. Marriage is essentially the witnessing of two people making vows to commit to each other, and to invest their time and love in the new entity of a relationship together. I remember being impressed by the statement of a newly married young man that he wanted to be ‘the best husband he could be’ for his new wife- perhaps a rare attitude in today’s world.

Marriage isn’t an arbitrary sequence of events: there are common principles that influence relationships that work well and those that don’t. So what are those key principles that make marriage work? I believe there are 3 essential factors in good long term relationships:

  1. Friendship
  2. Learning how to handle conflict together
  3. And a willingness to continue to grow with and learn from each other.

Friendship

Sometimes when I am sitting with couples I am reminded of what God said as He completed His creation of mankind: ‘It is not good for man to be alone’. And yet so often I hear of stories of loneliness and aloneness in people’s relationships. There was the example of the hard working couple, two careers, two young children, lovely home, every convenience, gadget and tool you could want, supportive extended family, generosity to family and friends but so very, very desperately unhappy.

What had gone wrong with the fairy tale life they both thought they were working so hard for? In the busyness of their lives there was hardly a moment for each other and the moments they did have were spent arguing. Somewhere along the line they had stopped doing what friends do.

So what is it that friends do?

  • Make sure that they communicate
  • Make time for regular dates
  • Give each other respect
  • Value their partner’s/friend’s input and influence.
  • Deposit regularly into each other’s emotional bank accounts.
  • Pursue common interests- goals, fun, values
  • Share intimacies (and for couples – romance)

All these attributes of friendship and more are the common glue that keeps relationships working even in the tough times. We need to Like the person we live with, and Like the person we have become, (most of the time) not just love them.

Conflict

This second essential factor reminds me of the story of a couple who thought they had to split up because they were constantly having fights. On exploration, the fights weren’t particularly out of the ordinary but a comment from the husband alerted me to the underlying expectation. He had been one of a large apparently happy Christian family. He said he had never seen his parents fight and that he thought good Christian marriages never had any conflict. So because he and his wife were arguing he thought there was something very wrong and maybe they were heading for the divorce courts. He, at least, had no model for conflict resolution from his family of origin. On reflection he supposed that maybe his parents took their disagreements ‘behind closed doors’ but this didn’t help him to know how to handle conflict in his marriage.

For relationships to survive and strengthen it is essential to be realistic that conflict inhabits all relationships and being willing to learn how to handle it together and handle our own subsequent negative emotions, Most couples who come for counselling are struggling to resolve conflict in one form or another. It is inevitable that there will be conflict and that without some conflict our relationships will not flourish; they will become boring, lifeless and vulnerable.

Most of us don’t have good conflict resolution skills, so early in our relationship it can be very important to get know our own (i.e. your family’s) conflict style as well as our partner’s and how they differ. I am yet to see two people in any marriage who have the exactly the same skills, so understanding the differences and finding ways to communicate are imperative- eventually coming up with a style that works for both of us.

John Gottman, who has researched and written on marriage for many years divides marital conflicts into two types: solvable and unresolvable. He states that 69% of all disagreements are unresolvable, so somewhere in our arguments we are going to have to come to terms with accepting what we cannot always get what we want and get on with our lives. Most of us know (but too often forget) the prayer: Lord help me to change the things I can change, accept the things I cannot and give me the wisdom to know the difference.

Another important understanding after a conflict situation is the making and receiving of repair attempts. In strong marriages both individuals make the effort to repair any perceived damage to their friendship and relationship and the other acknowledges and receives the repair attempt. ‘Making up’ can be part of deeper intimacy and understanding in healthy relationships.

Growth

Finally, healthy relationships commit to and invest in ongoing growth and learning. If we hear the question ‘are we there yet?’ we would have to answer ‘No’. Neither our individual lives not our relationships are static. We are creative beings and marriages that last are constantly changing and growing, sharing goals and expectations, adjusting to circumstances, learning from experiences and other relationships, seeking out answers to challenges and allowing ourselves to become more intimate. It could almost be said the main goal of growth is intimacy – emotional, physical and sexual.

I think too often we see marriage as the goal in itself, the day of our wedding the pinnacle of success, rather than the start of the journey, the beginning of a relationship that is new and exciting but also unknown. I believe we all have great expectations of marriage and want to be happy but anything with big expectations requires commitment and investment, marriage no less than anything else. But it is that commitment and investment which actually make us better individuals and make our marriages a successful journey.

One of the hardest challenges facing a marriage is the breaking of trust through an affair. But even an affair can initiate growth. I can speak of a couple who, following the birth of their first child, successfully negotiated the pain and hurt of an affair. It was not easy, it involved a period of separation but as they were each thrown into a place where they had to look deeply inside themselves, test their values and reassess their integrity they were each able to make a decision to re-commit to their marriage vows and re-invest in their relationship. Three years down the track they and their relationship have grown and they can face new challenges with more wisdom and maturity.

  • Can you see areas in your own life where you have let commitment slip or stopped investing?
  • Is your marriage (and any other important relationship) worth some reflection and assessment?
  • No matter what the state of your relationships, they can all benefit from a ‘going back to basics’. What made them work in the first place?

Commitment and Investment reflects your own integrity and nearly always is responded to in kind.

Go ahead, try it again. I am sure it will be worth it.

If this article has prompted you to act or raised any concerns, it may be helpful to talk with a relationship counsellor or trusted friend.

Written by Bernadette Milsted

Copyright © 2011 Focus on the Family Australia. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

Create Your Own Christmas Traditions

PIC_Create Your Own Christmas Traditions

Travelling Christmas
“Our two families live on opposite sides of the country so our first Christmas as a married couple was always going to involve a big decision. Friends advised us to spend it alone so as to avoid offending anybody but we weren’t keen; we both come from big families and are so used to spending Christmas surrounded by people.

We eventually settled on spending Christmas Day with my family, and travelling to my husband’s family on St. Stephen’s Day to stay for a couple of days. I know that his Mum in particular found it difficult not having him there for Christmas Day, and I will feel so strange this year away from my family for the first time, but it’s all part of growing up! Sometimes we can be scared of change, but it can be a really good thing.” – Clare

One of the reasons Christmas can be stressful is trying to meet the expectations of so many people. If you’re newly married, you might find you both have different ideas of what a ‘perfect Christmas’ might be.

Step-family Christmas
Our first Christmas together was a disaster! My family tradition had been to get up at a ‘reasonable’ hour and have a huge breakfast together before opening gifts. Gary’s tradition was ‘the earlier, the better’ to open gifts – who wants breakfast with so much excitement? In the end our children didn’t open their gifts until after 1pm. We’ve compromised now and created new ‘traditions’ together, which work for all of us.” – Penny

If your circumstances are different this year – whether it’s because you’ve got married, become a new parent or stepparent, family members have left home, or even you’ve been through a separation, divorce or bereavement – you can take this opportunity to create your own Christmas traditions. It might not be the Christmas you’ve ‘always had’, but you may find it a positive and memorable family time all the same.

Even if your circumstances haven’t changed, if you find Christmas stressful, then consider doing things differently this year! Here are three steps to celebrating Christmas your own way.

Planning and Expectations
1 – Plan ahead
If you’ve always done Christmas a certain way, change can be challenging. It helps, though, to start discussing your plans with your partner and your children, and possibly your extended family too. Decide as a family where you’re going to spend Christmas day, and when you’re going to see other relatives, and then let everyone else know as far in advance as possible.
If you can give people some advance notice of your plans, then hopefully they’ll accept the plans more readily and with less disappointment if it means they don’t see you when they were expecting.

2 – Cut a deal
If both sets of grandparents want to see their grandchildren on Christmas Day, but it’s just not possible to be in two places at once, then make a deal. You could offer to spend Christmas with one set this year, and New Year with the other, and then alternate it next year. Or, if it’s practical, take the plunge and invite them all to your home for Christmas dinner (remember, you can ask them to bring food with them).

3 – Involve the kids
If you have children, you will probably find Christmas becomes much easier if you include them in discussions and planning. Often children – especially teenagers – can come up with creative ideas you may have missed. For example: “if we go to grandma’s for dinner, then we can leave in the afternoon when everyone goes to sleep and meet nana on the afternoon walk they always go on.”

And, of course, if your kids are involved in the decision-making process, they are more likely to accept the plans and actively enjoy Christmas.

120% Christmas
We live in the same town as both our in-laws! Two families. Two Christmas celebrations. Two dinners. More sprouts than I care to remember and a strange feeling in my stomach for a couple of days afterwards.
Does it work? Well, yes and no really. I can greatly see the benefit in bi-annual family Christmas festivities. Or one for Christmas, one for New Year. Two in one seems a bit of a patch up really.

I love Christmas dinners, but the second can be a chore not a blessing. There is only so much rich food you can eat before the eyes glaze over and you dream of some plain brown bread or some muesli. I didn’t really have much of a “spark” in the second family gathering as I felt slightly bereft having just left my folks. For my wife it was probably a mirrored feeling as she had been eagerly anticipating getting to this stage and was sad at what she had already missed.

Overall though, both families seemed happy enough and we went home exhausted. I’d say we managed 60% of each family Christmas. The overall result of 120% in total meant we slightly outscored the whole of our old Christmas. We both felt the loss of 40% of what we used to know and love, and somehow the new 60% felt more of a struggle than we expected.” – Dave

 

With thanks to Care for the Family UK

Newlywed Shock

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by Michelle Cox

I’m sure it must have been a huge shock when my husband discovered that his new bride wasn’t perfect. By the time our wedding day arrived, we were best friends as well as sweethearts, but that didn’t lessen the impact of discovering we’d have to make major adjustments as we joined our lives.

Paul cringed when I squeezed the toothpaste in the middle of the tube. The soapy washcloth that he left on the side of the tub drove me nuts. He was a morning person and bounced out of bed at first light. I was a night owl and avoided mornings whenever possible.

As we talked to our friends, we discovered that we weren’t the only ones dealing with newlywed shock. What a relief to find that all couples experience a period of adjustment.

Thirty-three years later, we look back on those early days and laugh, but at the time, those adjustments seemed enormous. As newlyweds, Paul and I discovered five helpful marriage principles, which can be summed up as “The Five C’s”: compromise, communication, changeability, commitment and cooperation. Young couples are discovering the same principles, and perhaps they will be helpful to you, too.

Compromise

For newlyweds Jeremy and Lydia, climate control led to some interesting moments. He liked the temperature cool in the house and car. She froze and turned the heat on even in the middle of summer. They compromised by buying an electric fan he could use in the house, and he made sure she had a jacket and blanket in both their vehicles.

Communication

Kim and Derrick discovered that preconceived notions of marriage affected their first months as a couple. Kim knew that Derrick’s mum always prepared a huge breakfast for her family, and she was determined to do the same for her new husband. She stressed over her lack of cooking abilities, but in the weeks that followed their honeymoon, Derrick breakfasted on fluffy eggs, beans, and bacon or sausage.

When a new medication made Kim sick one morning, she was determined to maintain the image of wifely perfection. So she dragged herself into the kitchen and placed a paper towel on the table. She poured a soft drink into a glass and positioned a breakfast bar on the paper towel. No way was she going to let her man go without breakfast!

Derrick, however, thought his breakfast was hysterical, and he laughed. When she cried, he realised that Kim was putting pressure on herself about something that wasn’t important to him. After talking about it, Kim was able to relax. Now they both laugh about his memorable breakfast.

Changeability

Culture shock affected Robin when she and Nathan returned from their honeymoon. She was a city girl. Nathan was a dairy farmer. Moving to the farm meant adjusting to a new lifestyle, including the not-so-fresh country scent that traveled home with her husband after a long day on the farm.

The fact that both were willing to change their habits to accommodate the other’s feelings made for a smoother transition.

Commitment

Tim and Laurel’s first few months of married bliss took an unexpected turn when he developed a chronic illness that affected his ability to work, leaving the young couple with large medical bills. Their commitment to each other and to their wedding vows brought them closer and enabled them to make it through those difficult days.

Cooperation

Shortly after their honeymoon, Michael and Tiffany discovered that housekeeping chores were an issue. With dual careers, deciding who would do what became a challenge. Cooperation made a big difference.

Yes, newlywed couples have many adjustments to make. Enjoy your newlywed years; they’ll be gone before you know it. Agreeing on holiday traditions, learning to cook, handling money and deciding who will be in charge of the remote control will all fall into place.

And you’ll soon discover that the situations that seem like disasters today will become the memories you’ll laugh about tomorrow. 

© Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Single Parents – Learning to Trust Again

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It’s not easy, as a single parent, to learn to trust again. If you feel you have been rejected by your partner, you can feel pain almost beyond description. The pain of that broken relationship might leave you thinking, ‘never again.’ It simply hurts too much. It rocks your self-worth, your security, your desire to be needed. The person who has rejected you seems, in effect, to have said, ‘You are no good. I don’t want you or need you.’
It’s normal to resolve never to be so hurt again, and to build up barriers to protect yourself. Your previous experience will affect you and much depends on your own self esteem. If you have low self esteem, then somebody might say something comparatively innocent to you, but you read ‘rejection’ into it. If you’ve been hurt in your childhood as well as in your adult life, this is difficult to overcome.
Going out and meeting other people, building relationships (not necessarily romantic attachments) is risky. Yes, you open yourself up to the possibility of being hurt again. But isn’t the alternative – living a totally isolated life – too lonely to contemplate?
Building a wall around yourself can be helpful in the short term, while you come to terms with the breakup of your relationship. Then begin to look outwards, even though you might feel vulnerable.
Try to take on board that although you’ve been hurt in the past, it doesn’t mean everyone else is out to hurt you. Discovering that others don’t treat you the same way as your ex did will give you hope, and help you regain your self-esteem. It might be difficult for you to accept deep inside that you are lovable. There are helpful books on the market, and if the roots of your rejection go very deep, counselling can help too. It will take time to rebuild your own self-worth and trust in others – be prepared to work at it.
Attempt to accept yourself as you are, even though someone else might have rejected you. Be careful not to carry false self-blame into your new relationships – at the same time as being self aware enough to recognise when you have been at fault.
It might seem strange to realise that being willing to forgive your ex for the pain he or she caused can make it easier for you to trust again. Being unwilling to forgive can only damage; it makes it difficult for you to move on. Holding on to pain and resentment makes people bitter and self-centred. Forgiveness means letting go, releasing. It doesn’t mean pretending the wrong didn’t matter, or wasn’t important. The wrong remains – but it doesn’t have to rule you.
It isn’t only your ex you’re releasing – it’s yourself. While you hang on to anger and unforgiveness, you are bound to the other person. You are not free to move on and trust again.
So try to take those first vulnerable steps towards other people, and start to believe in them and in yourself once again. It’s worth it! 

This article is adapted from an article on the Care for the Family website. All rights remain with Care for the Family. Used with permission

Online Dating

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Online dating is a big business these days. When Beth and Steve met online over 12 years ago it was a real taboo and something that a lot of their friends and family felt wasn’t a safe or wise thing to do. Now ‘more than 20 million people visit at least one online dating service a month and there are more than 280,000 marriages a year that occur as a result of online dating.”[1]

Beth was living in Dublin and dearly longed to be in a relationship, Steve was a very contented singleton from the UK. As Christians, they wanted to meet people that shared the same values. So signing up to a site and giving all their details was something they both put a lot of thought into.

“I liked the site’s statement of faith and their security policy”, says Beth. “As someone who was eager to find someone special, I was aware of my vulnerability. The internet can be a dangerous place if we are not careful, so I wanted to be sure that if I shared my profile (and my heart) I would be safe.”

I did it more out of vague interested, says Steve. Me and a friend were surfing the net and thought it might be an interesting thing to do. I was quite content with my life and was not expecting to meet anyone, let alone my wife.

Beth and Steve connected very quickly and chatted online for a while but soon they were talking on the phone. Before they met face to face they knew that they would marry. “I know that doesn’t happen for everyone”, said Steve “but we when we shared our attitudes to faith, family, music and life in general it just felt right.”

Steve travelled to Dublin for a weekend and rather than staying in a hotel, Beth’s sister had welcomed him to stay in her house. “My sister didn’t want me going into town to meet a total stranger in case I didn’t come back. She wanted to keep him close so she could check him out I think”, laughed Beth.

Obviously, we need to take care when talking to people on the internet. But, that is the same for meeting people when out socialising or getting set up on blind dates.

Beth says, “We feel very blessed to have found each other. It is God who brought us together. He just happened to use an online dating site. I emailed a lot of frogs before I emailed my prince.” 

Copyright © 2015 Family.ie. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

[1] Online Dating Magazine – http://www.onlinedatingmagazine.com/faq/howsuccessfulisonlinedating.html