This Generation is Floundering against all Odds

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When I was growing up we knew right from wrong, at least in our own household. Our “standards” were expected to be kept even when we were away from home. These values were black and white. You didn’t steal other people’s property. You worked hard to get what you wanted. You didn’t cheat on a test or in a game. You told the truth or you suffered the consequences. Your word was your bond. My sisters and I headed into the future grounded by a strong foundation and internal principles.

By the time my own children were in public school, these absolute truths were changed and disavowed. All of a sudden values were different for different folks. What one person valued may be another person’s nemesis. Truth became personal and more difficult to define. There were flexible rules and a stigma placed upon thousands of years of proven behavior. There was no foundation to rest upon except in the empty churches that were diminishing in number.

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Traditions were frowned upon, unless they were just for fun or to draw people together. History was mocked, defamed, and changed. The people of the past were no longer revered and remembered. Their principles were considered out of date and old fashioned. Documents and books that had served us well in the past were now ignored and efforts were made to alter them or abolish them altogether.

People who in former days would have turned to God for strength began to turn to substance abuse and addiction to get them through. The unprincipled and the unbelievers hearkened to the loudest and most popular voices for information and guidance. What happened was a total upheaval of the infrastructure that had kept society in check.

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The educational system celebrated their new-found freedom to bend and manipulate young minds. What they reaped we now experience as we watch America’s value system and Constitutional principles crumble around us. The future is unknown and terrifying. Those who believe in the Bible, the Word of God, see it as fulfillment of Prophecy. Every chapter, every verse leads up to these perilous and predicted times.

The hand writing is on the wall. When you ignore your past moorings, you are doomed to failure. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. His unchanging Word speaks to our hearts in this present day. Without faith we can do nothing.

We are living in a time of confusion and apostasy. By trusting in our own made up priorities and values, we cut off the source of all truth. In our arrogance, we figuratively trust in the arm of weak flesh. We put our faith in dead idols that can neither hear us nor see us. We light candles to unknown Gods and are consumed with our own lusts. We have become a degenerate nation filled with our own self-importance and intellectual prowess.

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I for one like the winds of change I see ahead of us. There is still hope in America if we turn our hearts away from vain pride and evil corruption. Let us open our hearts and minds to things eternal. Our choices define us. Our choices will also condemn us if we fall from the Grace that is offered to us freely and lovingly. It is never too late to come home to the Father and God who made us all.

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Marriage Joins Two People for Forever or Not!

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Bride and Groom

Weddings are generally happy times. Two smiling faces, love in the air, expectations and the anticipation that surrounds the festivities. I’m heading to Atlanta for my oldest son’s wedding (third time’s a charm; or at least we hope!). I’ll be seeing two of my daughters there as well. The photos will appear in my next blog.

Commitment and faithfulness are difficult to come by in these frenetic times. I’ve read that the most important part of any successful relationship is not only chemistry, but the ability for each partner to feel comfortable with the loved one. I remember “walking on eggs” most of the 30 years in my first marriage. It seems that every word I said or every action I took either irritated my partner or caused a negative reaction. I tried to be so many people to please him, but nothing worked.

I’m hoping my son has found the perfect combination of comfort and caring. Living in a relationship where everything receives criticism is agonizing. You’re afraid to speak. You tip toe through the motions of living. There is nothing you can do or say to change things. Even my laughter was mocked. What you really need and want is love and affection, but all you get is disdain and indifference.

Life is much too short to spend your days in suffering. To really feel alive you must be able to be yourself, for better or worse. Acceptance is a gift you give the one you love. Neither of you are perfect. You have to take the good with the bad. If you end up punishing your partner through silence or indifference, you end up on the receiving end of unhappiness. One person does not a marriage make. It takes two people to meet in the middle to form a partnership that becomes one in mind and purpose.

Growing together creates more love than you can ever imagine possible. It doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it only one person’s problem. Rigid stubborn hearts cannot form this kind of union.

From what I’ve seen of my son’s new relationship, they have what it takes. We were there at Thanksgiving of last year and were surprised to see how settled they appeared and how relaxed they were in each other’s presence.

A low self-esteem in either partner makes an unbalanced marriage. If one person is arrogant or self-absorbed, they want everything their way. When the “other” in a union is confident it is much easier for them to be patient and to avoid saying something cruel or cutting. If you can’t think about anyone else’s happiness but your own you should never get married in the first place.

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Me and my sweetheart chatting while resting. My daughter caught us unawares.

Above all, don’t marry for the wrong reasons. Join hands with someone you know you can trust. You know them so well that you feel safe sharing the private yearnings of your heart and mind. And they will not use your own words against you or belittle you in any way.

Learn how to forgive yourself for past mistakes. Each day is a new start. Move from weakness into strength. Invite God to be a partner in your marriage. Support the person you love and don’t allow your ego to get in the way.

Confide in your partner and share the burdens of grief and worry together. Allow nothing to come between you, not the children, not finances nor other people. After a time, a butterfly will perch on your shoulder and envelop you in happiness. After all, you’ve earned it!

Labor Pangs are soon forgotten Once you receive the Prize

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(Yes, here I am in all my exhausted and pregnant glory, expecting our 5th child)

Our first home had a cement floor that we covered with throw rugs to keep our feet from freezing in the winter. The kitchen was overlaid with grungy black tiles thickly coated with layers of old yellow wax. I knew it had to come off, but how?

Finally I tackled it! Not with a scrubbing-brush or gallons of product that our budget couldn’t afford, but with a razor blade. I knew I had to be gentle or scratch the tiles. I figured if I could scrape five or more squares a day while my two toddlers were napping, I could get it done in a few months. Speed was not the objective. A shiny black floor was.

By sticking to my guns, I beat my goal and had it done in a month. I reasoned that if I could do this with every dream and every challenge, just think what I could accomplish! Every time I walked into that room and saw the deep sheen on the floor, cooking for my family and taking care of my babes did not seem so daunting. I needed this kind of optimism because we ended up with six kids.

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After going three weeks over my due date, the first one brought 24 hours of excruciating labor. The doctor debated a cesarean section, but kept saying “let’s wait a little longer;” until finally her little head crowned and she was born.

The second child, a boy, was born 14 months later. My water broke at home and we rushed to the hospital. My husband was still registering me when he was born. “Wow, this birth thingie is going to be a snap from here on,” I thought.

It wasn’t. Four years later, during fireworks on July 5th , I went into labor with my third child, a boy. I was also three weeks overdue with this one. After another long labor, he weighed in at 10 pounds.

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Sidney, child #3

The fourth child introduced me to stress diabetes followed by two more ten pound babies and difficult deliveries. But once the births were over, and I held those precious humans-in-miniature and nursed them joyfully, the pain and suffering was quickly forgotten.

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(Chris #2, Holly #4, Paula #5, Sidney #3, Pamela #1

“Nothing worth having was ever achieved without effort.” Most of us have heard that Teddy Roosevelt quote many times. We’ve experienced it when we finally get that perfect job, or find the right mate after we’ve gone through several “duds.”

There are struggles and growing pains in every new thing we try. We think we will never find satisfaction or success. But if we’re patient, we may get to see completion. Then we realize we were watching the unfolding miracle happen before our very eyes.

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The first time you must  punish your child for disobeying the rules or for going against your family values, you probably experienced pain; perhaps even guilt or shame. Not that the punishment didn’t fit the crime, but that you had to do it at all.

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Paula, my 5th child (Aunt Jean’s paintings behind; and a baby quilt I made.

One of my daughter’s was forever breaking the rules. The frightful thing was that she accepted the “grounding” or the scolding willingly knowing that she deserved it. But that consequence didn’t stop her from disobeying the next time. Even as a teenager, if she were grounded for a week or even a month, it didn’t seem to make any difference. She just went out when she was free and again disobeyed the curfew. I didn’t know how to deal with her effectively.

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Here’s that cute little nubbins at age three.

Her father was absent most of the time. When I’d explain the situation to him, he seemed not to hear. His response was nothing as he left for work. My daughter had to experience the results of her actions again and again. Later in life, long after there was no one there to reprimand her except herself, she went through some hard times before the “light came on” and she altered her choices and behavior because it was healthier and safer.

We sometimes see ourselves in our children. We try to hold them back through warnings or discipline so they won’t have to experience the pain that we did. They could listen to us if they would. They could be obedient and save themselves a truckload of you-know-what, but they don’t. They go blindly forward in spite of our words and our anguish.

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Here’s all five of them on  the mountain with Mom, ready to throw rocks over the cliff. (# 6 wasn’t here yet.)

I always believed that if my children knew how deeply I loved them everything would turn out all right, but sometimes it doesn’t.

Accepting your child as he or she is with all their flaws and imperfections is the key to their own self-acceptance and outlook as adults. You need to continue loving them even though their life choices may not have been your own.

It may be difficult. You may not necessarily approve of their actions or behavior. You love them anyway. God does this for us as parents and we’re far from perfect. He loves His children unconditionally. Can we do any less for our own?

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#6, getting a bath in the sink.

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Learning to stand.

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#6 now a toddler, dressed up for church.

Get Involved and Wipe Away that Generational Gap

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(My grandson, Andy, has a Korean mother who is musical. He also inherited his Danish great grandfather’s gift for the violin from his father)

My Danish grandfather made a habit of reading the dictionary every day. He wanted to improve his broken English and add new words to his vocabulary. Because of his example, I used the dictionary early on in my education, and I taught my own children to do the same. Through grandpa’s example, I always knew that if I didn’t know the answer, there was always a book or other information where I could find it.

When I discovered the Public Library, I had a fountain of information at my fingertips. I wanted my children to experience my thirst for knowledge, so we trucked home a new round of books each week.

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“An Open Book” 20 x 16 mixed media on canvas (SOLD, prints available) (My granddaughter Amelia was my model)

It’s too bad that more people don’t have positive role models in their lives to help them recognize possibilities rather than roadblocks, and opportunities instead of closed doors. That’s what parents should do for their children.

I don’t think any of us intentionally set out to be bad parents. Most of us don’t want our children to grow up to become drug addicts, thieves and lawbreakers or worse. We would like to see them grow into contributing members of their community and church. Even though our goals and family values may not be the same, we can all agree that we’d like to see our children grow into happy healthy adults.

The adage “like father like son” often comes true. You can’t discount the importance of example and how it plays out in your child’s life.

I have fond memories of watching my Danish grandfather “slop” the hogs. I remember the distinct smell of the “mash” mixed in with scraps of leftover food. I can still recall the sound of them grunting in satisfaction as they slurped up what I considered a gross concoction of leftovers.

I remember still the satisfaction on grandpa’s face as he mimicked the pigs and watched the look on my face. I didn’t always understand what he said, but his voice and singsong words tumbled from his mouth like music.

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“Americana” 20 x 16 mixed media on canvas

After dinner one day, he was sitting quietly on the couch reading to rest his full stomach which he patted playfully. When he saw me he said “come give papa a smack.” I’d heard him use this term before, but wasn’t exactly sure what it meant. He kept up this silly banter insisting that I give him a smack so I took a book, climbed up beside him and smacked him over the head.

The look of surprise on his face stunned us both into silence. The he laughed and mumbled some more Danish words before he taught me that a “smack” was another way of saying “give me a kiss.” He patted his cheek to emphasize where the smack was intended to land.

There were many things that “Pa” taught me that came more from just being who he was than from any intentional purpose. My sisters and I felt privileged to call my mother’s parents Ma and Pa, as she did, because we lived above them in an old two story house for many years.

Papa was a blacksmith by trade, and a musician from his internal joy and passion for life. He played the violin and he composed music. Through his playing of both piano and violin, I gained a love for the music of stringed instruments; especially the cello.

My mother had a musical family and one of my aunts would play the piano while the sisters sang together. Her brother and his family played the fiddle, the banjo and guitar and the whole family played and sang, entertaining throughout our whole community.

Family traditions can form a strong network of love that may help keep young people on track. The thought of disappointing my parents or grandparents in any way kept me from doing some of the wild and crazy things my friends did. Often called “the ties that bind” this network reminds us of family values and those we love. Some may look upon this support as restrictive, but I view it as a safety net that certainly kept me from trying many of the things that entice youth.

I’m grateful for my parents and both sets of grandparents. Their lives are still cherished long after they’re gone. The influence of my Danish grandpa’s music and his playful spirit still resonates through succeeding generations and will probably continue to do so.

I’m always surprised when my own children retell something I said when they were younger or recall an action that I’ve long since forgotten. You never know the affects of your love, your example or influence on the lives that go after you. Don’t diminish those moments. Make the most of them!

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(A memorable walk in a cave formed by Mt. St. Helen’s eruption) (I wasn’t cross-eyed, just blinded by the flash bulb. My oldest daughter and her boys)

Ordinary People – Who are they?

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“India Rising — Prince of Thieves” acrylic on canvas

A man watched his depressed wife murder their two children and then hand the gun over to him so he could fulfill his part in their suicide pact. He shot his wife and then could not pull the trigger to end his own life.

Afterward, when neighbors were asked to describe this husband and father, now accused of murder, they shrugged and said “he was just an ordinary man.”

Ordinary people sometimes commit egregious acts. The problem is that we only see the outside shell. It is what goes on inside the mind and the heart that triggers a horrible incident. What did that “ordinary” man do in his spare time when he wasn’t working or socializing with the neighbors? Was he drinking too much or getting hooked on something stronger?

Was he feeding the fires of revenge and hatred? Was he depressed? Did he spend his alone hours watching pornography and indulging in sexual fantasies or sadism. As Emerson once said “We are what we think.” We cannot know someone completely if their secret thoughts and acts are hidden.

When someone snaps, it’s usually the result of a gradual descent into depravity, pain, or grief; an accumulation of events that eventually reach a boiling point or explosion. The internal poison and pain build up until it must either find an outlet or an escape valve. Without this release, under pressure, acts of violence against self or others may occur.

There are no ordinary people. We are all subject to trauma, evil and sin. We all experience emotional and physical pain. It is simply an inescapable part of life. How can society prevent suicide or acts of violence from happening? How can we keep our family, friends and neighbors from acting out and, instead, reach out for help and assistance?

We need to pay attention. If you haven’t seen a neighbor in awhile and you know they are home, seek them out to see if they are all right. Don’t worry about being “nosy.” Assume a caring attitude and offer help. Sometimes a simple thing like taking the children for an afternoon to relieve an overwrought and over worked mom is all that is needed.

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My neighbor Alice hadn’t seen me or my children for awhile. One day she showed up on my doorstep with a shovel and a start of a plant from her yard that I had admired. “I think you need some sunshine,” she quipped. “Let’s plant this start together – do you remember this?” She displayed the green leaves with the lavender spray of flowers.

As we planted, we talked. The sunshine not only warmed my body but my soul. I never told her what was bothering me, although she suspected postpartum depression since I’d just given birth to my fourth child a few weeks before. It didn’t matter. Her presence gave me the support and caring I needed and probably prevented me from doing something foolish.

As Rivvy Neshama wrote in her book “Recipes for a Sacred Life: True Stories and a few Miracles,” if we would just “look around and ask ourselves what is wanted? What is needed?” We might be able to prevent a tragedy in our own family or neighborhood.

Ordinary people look like you and me. They may even act like you and me. But the fact is that there is no such person. Each individual is unique and unrepeatable. Instead of trying to lump them together into a common understandable and repeatable entity, we should seek out the traits that make them different. Not for the purpose of dividing us, but to recognize the special qualities that define each of us.

If a red flag goes up or your gut instincts tell you something is wrong, heed the warnings. Don’t give your trust to just anyone. Trust must be earned. Canned phrases like “Muslims are peaceful people,” or blacks can’t be trusted” only add to your internal confusion.

Not everyone has your best interests at heart. Even “ordinary” people may intend harm. Learn to trust yourself. I know I’ve done it. I’ve talked myself into disregarding my gut instincts by saying things like “that’s racist,” or thinking that “just because he or she is Arab doesn’t make them a terrorist.” But what if they are? What if those warning vibes going off in your head are right and there’s a reason why they’re going off?

“Love thy neighbor” but make sure your neighbor has good intentions. As Ronald Reagan once said “Trust, but verify.”

Ordinary people deserve your good will, but looks can be deceiving. In this distressful and confusing world, kindness and friendliness are needed more than ever, but don’t be a fool. You only have one life to live and perhaps one chance to save it.

Consider your surroundings. Proceed with caution. And trust your internal antennae. Don’t throw caution to the wind because you’re ashamed of feeling uneasy in someone else’s presence. Protect your instincts first and act before it’s too late.

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“Broken” 11×14 mixed media (SOLD); prints available.

When it comes to Advice or Help, Who do you Trust?

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“Blending In” 11 x 14 acrylic on canvas (A red wing blackbird flutters its wings and replicates the sunflower petals.

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Young children come into this life trusting others, mainly because they’re so dependent. They soon learn who comes when they cry, who feeds them and makes them comfortable. If this care is consistent, they not only trust the giver, but come to depend on their care. As trust develops, bonding strengthens between mother and child, and father and child.

When I was dating late in life, I was criticized for being overly suspicious and hesitant about many things. “Why don’t you trust me?” one person said. My answer was simple: “Trust must be earned. It is not given away.”

I still believe that to this day. You can get completely over your head or in a whole lot of trouble if you simply trust everyone who comes into your life. Young children and teens are vulnerable to compliments, gifts, suggestions because they are so open and trusting. As you grow into adulthood, you learn, oftentimes from hurts and mistakes, that not everyone is trustworthy.

I was offered a lift to church one evening by a neighbor’s son when I was in my teens. I’d seen him in their driveway over several weeks and months. When he asked if I’d like a lift, I hesitated, but only for a moment. Before I could change my mind, I was bouncing along in his truck ignorant and happy until he passed our turnoff. When I complained, he said he had an errand to run, and it wouldn’t take long.

I protested with urgency, explaining that I’d be late, but he ignored my pleas. When we got to the end of town, he pulled into a darkened lumber yard. We were the only vehicle in the lot. As he jumped out of the truck, I told him to hurry, that it was important that I get to church.

He walked some distance away into the darkness. A light never came on anywhere, and I began to fear he was misleading me. I prayed for all I was worth. “Please Heavenly Father, help me be safe. I just want to get to church.”

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“Sunshine” oil on 11 x 14 canvas

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About 10 minutes later, he walked back, jumped into the truck and wheeled away. Without another word, he drove me back to church and dropped me off. What went through his mind that night and what his real intents and purposes were I’ll never know. I only felt grateful that through my prayers and persistence, I was kept safe.

I’m always reminded of Ted Bundy’s handsome face. He fooled many young women because of his charm and good looks. But he was anything but nice! Trust must be earned. If you want to keep your own daughters safe, teach them this principle. Trust is dependability and consistency. It is not a promise made by a stranger or a bad friend. Trust is built by knowing someone and what they do.

Sometimes your gut will unmask a villain, but only if you trust your first impressions and instincts. Sometimes you scold yourself for feeling bad about someone because of their looks or their color. Instead, you should trust how you feel in their presence. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll trust in the Lord to help you make the right decision.

Integrity and Respect are Two Sides of the Same Coin

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“Twitters and Twigs” 11×14 oil on canvas

On NBC Nightly News they reported on a Neurologist who was treating five different women for Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Each had had expensive tests, including an MRI and had been prescribed meds that were costing upwards of several hundred to thousands of dollars per month. In their efforts to get financial relief, the women obtained second opinions that revealed they did not have MS.

The reporter said “The doctor was nothing more than a ‘con’ man. “He got away with it because he was a well-known and respected doctor. He was charming. He had charisma and a friendly persona.”

The downfall of a once successful man can usually be blamed not only on dishonesty, but lack of integrity. The doctor knew what he was doing was wrong, but he thought he could get away with it. He didn’t really care that his actions were criminal or that it would cause others pain. He only thought of himself and the money that would end up in his own pocket. Now he has been revealed for what he really is on the inside: a thief, a liar, and a selfish greedy scum bag. The man is an “empty suit.”

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Turkey Buzzards circling for a feast

They are around us everywhere, even on the elevated floors of congress and in the highest halls of academia. The rules that others play by, they simply ignore: “Put your money where your mouth is; you talk a good game, can you play a good game?” Actions always speak louder than words.

If you “live by the sword,” you will usually die by the sword. “What goes around comes around.” If your poison tongue spews venom outward to deceive others, eventually your words and acts will come back to haunt you or destroy you. In the past, people shook hands in agreement; their word was as good as a signed contract. When did words come to mean so little?

Speaking of words, do people trust that you will do what you say?” Are you reliable? When your name comes up in private conversations will the discussion be positive? Is your character praiseworthy?

Reputations are built one step at a time through the accumulation of successful interactions with others. Integrity strengthens those negotiations. Integrity once earned, cannot be taken from you. It is a priceless quality that is valued and appreciated by many, but cannot be purchased, stolen or copied.

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“Fish Market” 24×18 acrylic on canvas

Integrity is that part of your being that is deeply enmeshed with fiber, tissue, heart and soul. It is intrinsic to a person’s character and reputation. You can only increase its value through practice and consistent behavior that builds trust.

Without integrity there is no respect in the true sense. This kind of standing enhances love and diminishes fear. Integrity is eternal. It will cover your nakedness when you pass from mortal to eternal life and become your crown of righteousness when you stand before Almighty God.