Category: grace

Ten years ago, our firstborn daughter snuggled her newborn into that warm crook between her shoulder and neck, tilting her head toward the baby’s crown. She gently patted her daughter’s back and whispered, “One day we’ll be best friends but for now I’m your mama.”

This wise, grown woman was now bending her heart into mothering her own child. Meanwhile, as she’s transitioned into motherhood, my daughter and I are transitioning to a new relationship – that of a friend.

How do we navigate the journey from parent to friend? We’ll always be a parent, but in adulthood, we can become friends. What is that status called? Are we priends? Frarents?

People will tell a new mom how awful teething is but will say, “Just wait until they become teenagers”. For me, the most challenging phase has been parenting adult children and learning to be friends.

We don’t live in the same town with our grown children but we are connected by text, FaceTime, and email. We may not connect every week but those quick communications are made easier by technology and living in the same time zone.

Our children don’t need our advice or financial support. They have married good people and love each other and their families well. I’m proud of them, but also had to deal with the feeling that a part of my mission has been completed. Of course, that’s not the case. We’re a family, and they’ve faced challenges, just as my husband I did as we were raising them. An injury keeps one out of work for weeks, or a job change comes with a move farther away from home. Uncertainty looms for a spouse as her company reorganizes and another meets a disappointment with unexpected change at her job. As I follow the ups and downs in my adult children’s lives, I have struggled with feeling helpless. When they were younger, I could comfort them after a lost volleyball game or help with a last-minute science project. But there’s nothing I can do to help them when they face grown-up trials.

We went through a particularly difficult time after our younger one graduated high school. I remember standing in the aisle at the Christian bookstore scanning the shelves in the “Family” section looking for guidance. I felt like screaming, “I’ve read all these damn books and it didn’t help!” In spite of the challenges and tough decisions, our love for him was clear. He saw our love was unconditional. We continued to believe in him. Our faith fueled our hope and saw us through. Today he’s the one who most enjoys times we can all be together.

whole puzzle

Today, I revel in the friendship I share with our adult children. Conversations on topics where we share similar interests in music or share memories of family times are easy and comfortable between us. We laugh and genuinely enjoy being together.

But these new relationships are not friction-free. There are times when I squirm a bit inside at the some of the adult decisions they make that seem foreign to how we raised them. Even though I treasure our friendship, inside, I am still a parent. I worry. I remind myself our friendship is more important. I have to refuse to give in to fear.

Our first-born daughter is in the midst of parenting her now-ten year old. As I listened to her weighing the options of deciding whether she wants to push her daughter to put on a sweater on a chilly day, or choosing to skip this particular battle so they can get out the door in time, I remembered my own years filled with everyday parenting decisions. I pray that her long-ago words will be true in her relationship with her little girl – she’s a parent now, but will one day be her daughter’s friend as well. The process of becoming learning to be friends with my adult children has taught me to be more observer and supporter. I’m no longer responsible for making the plans and scheduling their lives.

As we learn to adapt to this new season in our lives as a family, we are seizing the moments together to focus on strengthening our friendship. I’m loving this part of the journey.

This post first appeared on Perennial Gen blog.

Linking up with Holley Gerth and Coffee for Your Heart.

 

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family grace

 He sat quietly trying not to be seen but he had to come back. He had to try again to get this thing called recovery. He had a piece of it but it’s hard outside our walls.
It’s hard to work your job, go to school, attend recovery meetings and meet with your sponsor – the things that keep you sober. So you miss an AA meeting because your job has left you worn. One becomes five when no one is requiring a signed slip like when you were in the ARC. You don’t have a required group to attend where the tools of recovery will be reinforced. You aren’t surrounded by 99 other men, many supporting and pulling for you. You’re out there. On your own. And sometimes it’s too much.

“Welcome back”, I said as I saw him sitting in the chair outside the Intake office. He’s always been a soft-spoken man and this day perhaps softer as he said, “thanks for having me back.”

Really? As if we wouldn’t or as if we aren’t the ones grateful you chose to come back and regain order and sobriety and peace. Thank you! Thank YOU for knowing this is a safe place.
This story of redemption is one played on repeat. I confess my failures and sins one day and take them up again the next. I fall victim to gossip and pride because it’s hard out there when I stop following the program of following Jesus.

I’m scarcely different from these men who have couch surfed in crack houses or lost their business, their nursing license, their teaching positions, lost it all because of the disease of addiction.

The only difference is that my failures have been kept quiet. It’s like that for most of us. The envy, hate or whatever it is that haunts us makes us no different. Just more presentable. Not to God but to each other.

God stands before us with open arms saying ‘Welcome back’, again and again through his forgiveness and grace.

Thanks for having me back.

faith grace recovery

I was raised in a church where alcohol and tobacco use is not allowed for its pastors and members. We come from a Wesleyan background where this was more commonly adhered to at one time.

This being the only church I’ve known, imagine my surprise when as a child, I saw a priest smoking! I knew with certainty that I’d spied something not meant to be seen by others. Later I learned smoking and drinking were acceptable for Catholic priests and parishioners.

***

The commercial featured a boy who was a picky eater. A bowl of cereal was put in front of him. His expression of disinterest unchanged as his friend said, “He won’t eat it. Mikey hates everything.” A pause, and then he takes a spoonful while the friend exclaims: “He tried it. He likes it!”

When it comes to alcohol, my stance is if you don’t try it, you don’t have to worry about liking it and the accompanying responsibilities.

***

I also grew up with stories of drunken uncles whose arguments erupted into brawls. These stories were told as funny with laughter accompanying each one. Why do we laugh at this behavior that leads to anger expressed in physical harm? ‘Oh, they were drunk. Ha ha ha.’

We laugh at drunken behavior but whisper about drug use. No wonder we’re a mess.

photo from Unsplash

The freedom of drinking has become more a part of the lives of younger evangelicals. Bloggers write about that glass of wine. (Does wine sound more acceptable?) The 30-something podcaster mentions it and it seems there is a whole generation of young evangelicals who have found the freedom to enjoy alcohol as if putting an exclamation point on grace.

Which also means, there is a whole new generation of young evangelicals where one out of 10 will become an alcoholic. It doesn’t happen quickly. It can take ten years or more for it to become an obsessive addiction. You’ll barely notice the slippery slope of this disease.

I’m not against the use of alcohol. I don’t believe drinking is a sin or that you’ll go to hell if you do. I do believe, for many, they’ve opened something they never had to find out. Like Mikey, they’ve tried it and they like it. Only, they really, really like it and then they need it.

The next few days we’ll look more closely at alcohol and addiction within the church. Redemption isn’t reserved for a group of men in a residential rehab program. As we say in Celebrate Recovery: it’s hurts, habits, and hang-ups and we all have them. Whether it’s a substance, a habit, or hurt, we need the redemption of Jesus.

grace The Church

“It’s common for a person to relapse, but relapse doesn’t mean that treatment doesn’t work. As with other chronic health conditions, treatment should be ongoing and should be adjusted based on how the patient responds. Treatment plans need to be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs.” Understanding drug use and addiction

We are not a treatment center.

Our sign says Adult Rehabilitation Center.

 

Our goal is to provide this rehabilitation through addressing their problems which more often than not, include addiction.

While we differentiate between treatment and rehabilitation we do identify addiction as a disease. This can be hard for many of us to wrap our heads around. The common thought is, just stop. Stop drinking so much. Stop taking all your prescribed meds for the month in two days. Just stop it!

I don’t have the scientific knowledge or words to explain this. I can’t find the exact analogy that would make this more relatable. I only know that addicts aren’t this way by their own choosing. No one thinks they’re going to be an addict or alcoholics. There isn’t even a clear predictor of the cause of this disease. Yes, it seems to run in families but no family is immune.

David grew up in the church. His father is a pastor with regional oversight for his denomination.
Sue’s dad was a lawyer.
Arnie’s family all held white-collar professional jobs.
Sam’s brother was a neurosurgeon.

Some are the only ones in their family with this disease. Or maybe the only ones addicted to the “wrong” things. There are acceptable addictions like workaholism and smoking. We applaud one and frown on the other.

Sue was college educated and taught school. She never drank before college but once she started, she couldn’t stop. She ended up in jail in a DUI charge. Her family wouldn’t bail her out. She eventually lost her job. It took this well-educated, bright woman 11 attempts at sobriety before something clicked. Twenty-five years later she can’t tell you why it finally did. She is only grateful it did.

None of these people wanted to be who they became. All of them are thankful for who they are now. They are part of the redeemed.

I haven’t struggled with addiction. But I wasn’t who I wanted to be. Something was missing in my life. I knew it. I also knew the answer. It’s the same answer we offer them: redemption through Jesus. For some, he has miraculously removed the desire to use drugs. For most, he uses people, programs, and groups, to help in the ongoing battle.

It is the same with sin. There are temptations all around. They are not eliminated from our lives. God works through a myriad of ways to walk with us in our daily journey as redeemed. For all of us, life is lived one day at a time.

There has to be a willingness to change. There is healing. There is grace. One day. Every day.

faith grace recovery Salvation Army

I don’t know Margaret’s story. I only know her critical spirit matched with a voice like a sharp-edged knife could make my shoulders scrunch with tension.

It was our first pastorate. We were not what she expected. Their congregation of retired pastors and long-time members were entitled to more. She took it upon herself to let us know.

Margaret let us know plenty in the two years we were there. She and her husband invited us to dinner at their house. It was a simple meal meant to provide our need for food. No more, no less. This would be an indicator of Margaret’s way of life. No fluff, no need for compliments, just clear and direct.

Most Sundays she inspected me. She’d put her hands on my shoulders squaring me with her as she flattened my color or smoothed my lapels.

She marched into my office one day informing me our son had given her a real scare. He was crossing the street as she was parking their car. He hit the front of her car with his hand intending to make her think she’d hit him. He succeeded. More than startled, she was, let’s just say, not happy.

I listened, nodded yes in agreement that wasn’t appropriate behavior but inside, I was smiling. I could only think how she couldn’t see what everyone saw: she was an old biddy!

Margaret was a talented pianist. Hum any song in her ear and she’d pick it up and play along. Lead a hymn that is noticeably high for your range and Margaret magically lowered it to just the right key. No fuss. No need to tell her what a talent this was. She could have been the originator of the expression “it is what it is”.

She and her husband were faithful in attendance and giving. They gave of their time, talents and finances.

Whatever her hard edges were, Margaret was no stranger to redemption. While her rough exterior was evident, so was her desire to serve. She held her faith in Jesus dear. It just didn’t look the same way in her life.

Familiarity is comfortable. Even in redemption. We question the different, the unfamiliar. We question practices and which Bible translation is the “right” one. But His grace fits all. God’s grace isn’t limited to color, gender, geography or talents. Redemption is given to all who believe and accept Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

 

faith grace Salvation Army

faith grace recovery Salvation Army


You’ve heard deaths from drug overdose are rising at alarming rates. These are our statistics. This is our county.

The sad reality of recovery is that even those who’ve experienced a year or more of sobriety relapse and sometimes, it’s fatal.

*Scott finished the program and left on his own. He came back earlier this year when a good friend of his, another graduate, was beaten to death in an alley known for drug deals and use.

*Roger came back for his third time. He had done well. He’d kept the same job over a year. But he’d left the principles of recovery and, as so many do, was doing it on his own. Then he and his girlfriend overdosed. He was resuscitated with Narcon but she couldn’t be revived.

Last year we noticed the rise in fatal overdoses from men who’d been in our program. The recovery community is close and word spreads quickly about relapses and ODs.

As the year came to a close we printed photos of those lost to addiction and put it on the Christmas tree in our chapel. It was a time of deep sorrow looking at the faces of men, some barely 30, lost to what many don’t see as a disease.

Earlier this year we attended Mike’s funeral. He was several years in recovery. Mike counted being part of his grandchildren’s life as one of his greatest gifts of recovery. He was in his late 50’s at the time of his death, a death contributed to from what is commonly referred to as wet brain. It’s a type of dementia caused by long-term alcoholism. The medical name is Wernicke-Korsakoff.

Whether it’s long-term or immediate death from substance abuse, friends, and family are left to mourn their loss.

Pat is 3rd from left

Alex in back

There’s a David Crowder song that makes me think of Pat. And it’s hard to get Alex’s dimples out of my mind. Some days I forget we won’t see them again. But the sting of death returns and my smile turns sour. Too young. Too soon. Too sad.

It’s tempting to think about the maybes and what ifs. If we’d kept him on restriction or maybe we missed something.

We could never continue in this ministry if we allowed those false thoughts to take space in our minds. Each person is responsible for their own recovery.

Good love has boundaries. But it’s grace is without limits. Perfect love, God’s love,

Perfect love, God’s love, is beyond our understanding. It’s a love that never fails.

“I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” Romans 8:38-30 the Message

grace hope recovery

Some personalities are hard to capture in words. Lettie is one of those.

She was a force.

I never knew her age but somewhere in her 60’s when we met her she was as energetic as ones half her age. Her days were largely spent helping others. She seemed to know just the right time to drop off flowers to someone feeling especially lonely that day.

Lettie was one of the pillars of this tiny congregation we’d been appointed to. She took leadership over a group of senior women working more behind the scenes. She was most comfortable in the kitchen although she didn’t shy away from talking.

Wednesday nights often found Lettie in the church kitchen helping feed the 30 kids who came through our doors. From pre-school to high school they lined up to give her a hug as she held her arms open wide.

Somewhere in Lettie’s life, she’d found herself in AA. It wasn’t something she talked about nor was it something she hid.

Life hadn’t been easy for Lettie and while she was giving of herself to others most days, once a month she’d make the 5-hour drive north to visit her husband in the state prison. In many ways, her husband’s imprisonment was her freedom. She made no bones about his wicked ways. It was as matter of fact as was her being in recovery.

Through Lettie’s giving, she received the gift of gratitude. It seems an oxymoron to get when you give but her life bubbled over with gratitude. She was grateful for God’s saving grace. She was thankful for daughters who loved and served God. Gratitude doesn’t make room for pity or complaining. She did neither.

Lettie was as imperfect as the rest of us. But she was faithful to the one who was restoring her life one day at a time.

grace Salvation Army

When we were kids there was the boogie man. I wasn’t sure what he looked like but I knew it was scary. Left to my imagination, he would have been shrouded in dark shadows, hunched over with a wicked smile. Maybe a little like Ebenezer Scrooge.

For years I thought addicts looked like dead-eyed men, swaying on their feet in front of convenience stores asking for change. Their clothes were crusted with dirt as they hung from their bony frame. Their skin was weathered from the sun and their faces hadn’t seen a razor in months. Aren’t these the faces of alcoholism? Of crack?

What does an addict look like?

President Trump has declared an opiate crisis in our country. The word is out. It’s broadcast on the evening news and Netflix documentaries. We have a drug problem. Addicts are being made every day and they look a lot like me and you.

There are more people addicted to prescription medication than any other drug. Kids are more likely to get their drugs from their parent’s medicine cabinet or from the doctor to help ease the pain of a sports injury. Xanax will ease the stress and Vicodin will soothe the pain.

Let’s not forget our love affair with alcohol. The morning news anchors laugh about one more glass of wine. Wednesday is called Wine-day and the commercials show all the fun we’ll have with a Bud Lite in hand.

The problem isn’t necessarily the substances, the problem is us. We decide how best to medicate us. If one is good, two will be better. There’s a saying for alcoholics: one drink is too many and 1000 is never enough.

Steve, JoJo, Thomas, Anthony, Terrance, David, Matt, …none of these men look like addicts. They look like my son or your brother. You wouldn’t cross to the other side of the street if you saw them walking your way. Today. Today they are healthy, clean, employed and productive. They are still addicts.

We don’t look like sinners. We keep our secrets and hide our hurts, habits, and hang-ups. I know. I’m well practiced at this too.

When men enter our rehabilitation program, we start with the basics. We start with the outside. Collared shirts have to be tucked in and belts worn. Their hair can be no longer than their collar, and no beards. It’s about change. If you aren’t willing to change the small things how can you expect to change the big things?

Their outward appearance is a starting place. What we hope will change most in inside.

They don’t look like addicts but they can look like redemption.

All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God that yesterday’s gone
All my sins are forgiven
I’ve been washed by the blood

All My Hope, Crowder

faith grace hope recovery

Sean looked tired yesterday morning as he sat in his spot in the chapel. We are such creatures of habit. We sit in the same place while we are trying to build new habits into our lives. It was early. The chapel was almost empty. I walked over to give him a hug and ask if he was tired and he mouthed “bad day”.

There are some things that happen over and over and the repetition numbs you. Even good things. But not this. Not when one who has celebrated such success has a relapse. A few weeks ago he was recognized as the runner-up for Man of the Year. He shared, with such freedom, his story to encourage others. The one-year medallion was waiting to be picked up. There was so much hope. So much promise and future. And a slip. A slip we have prayed will not be a long fall.

And a slip. A slip we have prayed will not be a long fall.

I never want to feel numb to the sorrow I feel. How can we show grace if we become numb? How can we love if we don’t feel?

 

My mind swirls with questions. Do we celebrate too much? Is the crown of success too heavy to wear? We have these monthly awards to celebrate sobriety. We recognize a select few as having shown outstanding progress in all areas, not just sobriety. Recovery is more than not drinking or using.

Is it too much? I asked that aloud yesterday. A few nodded their heads with raised eyebrows as if to say…maybe, yes, maybe it’s too much. But Eric, oh Eric I love your honesty. Eric said, “For what? A year?” He’s been doing these things for a full recovery a year. It’s not too much Eric says.

And I don’t know. I do know, I must always remember we aren’t responsible for another’s recovery. For the success or failure. We merely stand with arms open saying here’s my gift. Take it.

Isn’t that what God is doing with us? All of us. Here it is…Here I am….take it. My gift, my grace, my mercy, my love…to you.

Overwhelm me with that love so I can share it.

And surround Sean with your unending grace.

faith grace recovery