Have You Experienced Being Indivisible? How About Iraq?

If you are in the military, have a loved one in the military, or would like to get a little better appreciation for the sacrifices and challenges facing those who are giving their lives to protect our safety, then I want to encourage you to watch Indivisible. (By the way, I’m guessing the pressures and problems would be very similar for any military personnel from a democratic nation.)

Indivisible (2018) is based on the true story of Army Chaplain Darren Turner, who was deployed to Iraq back in 2007, fresh out of seminary and basic training.

This left his wife, Heather, alone at Fort Stewart to care for their three young children among the community of other women whose husbands were also deployed.

Every deployment is dangerous and gut-wrenchingly difficult, but Darren ended up supporting the Special Forces, which was sort of the hardest of the hard!

I have a son in the military who was deployed to Iraq, and I can vouch for the constant strain and fear that I battled as a mother, who spent many hours on her knees while he was gone.

Indivisible does a masterful job of relating the terrors and traumas of war. Will our loved one survive? Will he be injured? Will he recover?

Even if he survives, will he be able to overcome all the horrors of death and destruction that he’s experienced?

What about the wives who’ve been left behind, who are constantly plagued by an emotional roller coaster of worry while trying to be emotionally stable for their children?

For many families, life is never quite the same after living through a deployment, and trying to rebuild a strong marriage bond is more of a challenge than some marriages can handle.

The lessons that Darren and Heather learned (and have been willing to share) are critical for young couples who are serving in the military. I wish every person in the service or who has a loved one in military service would see this movie!

It’s raw. It’s real. It’s sad, but there’s also a message of hope for a light at the end of the tunnel of PTSD and broken hearts.

God made a way for Darren, Heather, and a bunch of brave young soldiers and their wives, and He can do the same for you.

No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NABRE).

Birthday Party. Birth Day Love

Dainty little girl!
Talks a blue streak; knows her mind,
Yet, she just turned two!

Shelley and I have a special appreciation for our shared grand children, because we prayed together, long and tearfully, for five years before Samuel was born. And then, Samuel was born frighteningly early, at 27.5 weeks as a micro-premie who spent his first 105 days in a neonatal intensive care unit. 😦 That kept us all on our knees for months and rejoicing ever since! Elanor—on the other hand—came without complications, but we don’t love her any less! She has been an unmitigated joy and keeps us amazed with her incredible vocabulary and dexterity.

Have you ever noticed how each child is precious and special . . . but for different reasons? As the youngest of five, I would sometimes worry about whether or not my mother loved me as much as my older brothers and sisters, and so I would ask her, “Who’s your favorite?” She would smile and say, “I don’t have a favorite! I love you all with all my heart!” I loved that and remembered her example as my own very different but all wonderful children were growing up.

I was so crazy about my firstborn that I secretly worried about whether or not I could ever love another child as much. But, without any effort on my part, I immediately “fell in love” with our second son the moment he was born, and the miracle continued with each child. I realized that what my mother had told me wasn’t just a sweet lie to make me feel good. It was true! Each child (and now grand child) is totally unique and lovable, but my love for them is so much deeper than any “because they are or do this or that!” I love them simply because they are mine. Period!

This inexplicable love of a mother for her children has helped me understand the love of God a little better. He created each of us, and He loves each of us, not because we are so clever or cute . . . or even good. (Despite our best efforts, our “good” isn’t really all that good!) Yes, God wants us to be wise and good, but He hangs in there with us through thick and thin not based on our being all he’d hoped we’d be, but because He loves us with an everlasting love. If you’re a parent, I hope you know what I’m talking about! Never give up. God never gives up! Accept his love! He’s waiting with open arms!

“13 Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.14 But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.15 Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me” (Isaiah 49:13-16).

Have You Had a Breakthrough?

Last week, we were treated to one of the premiere showings of the newly released movie, Breakthrough.

It’s based on the true story of John Smith, a 14-year-old Missouri high schooler

who fell through the ice on Lake St. Louis back in January of 2015.

He was underwater for more than fifteen minutes before being rescued, but then he was declared dead at the hospital.

His mother, Joyce Smith, was unwilling to accept his death and started praying for God to bring him back to life even though he’d had no pulse for over an hour.

Miraculously, his pulse did return, although he was only given a 1% chance of making it through the night, and his pastor and parents were warned that because he had been brain-dead for so long, he would most likely be a vegetable if he did survive. His pastor, Jason Noble, brought a group of ministers in to pray over him that night.

You’ll have to watch the movie if you want to hear the end, but I guarantee it will make you laugh and cry, and you’ll be glad you watched.

Although Joyce Smith was a believer when the accident occurred, her son was not. What happened changed his life, and now John is not only a Christian, he’s excited about God! If you want to hear a few minutes more, there’s a short interview with the real John Smith (who was adopted from Guatemala) below:

https://www.foxnews.com/faith-values/god-still-does-the-impossible-the-incredible-true-story-behind-the-faith-based-film-breakthrough

Lisa Durupt (in the movie) at the L.A. Premiere Showing

What about you? Do you believe in God? Do you believe in miracles? Do you need a miracle? God doesn’t promise to do everything we ask, but He does promise to go with us through every trial and make all things work together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Why not entrust your life to Him, prayer for his help and guidance, and see what happens?

For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:24-28).

(Because I was watching the movie with a big group as part of a volunteer appreciation event hosted by Exalta Health, I didn’t take any photos, so these are all images I found online. I hope the makers of the movie don’t mind sharing!)

Melted Dreams

Sometimes all our dreams,
Like hollow chocolate, melt
And disappoint us!

It was the perfect day for an Easter egg hunt outside, and in less than 15 minutes Alan and I had distributed all the Easter eggs, candy, and chocolate rabbits—especially the chocolate rabbits (everybody’s favorite gift)—around our field.

Quick as a flash, our grandchildren flew around the field, gathering up all the surprises and treats.

However, to the children’s horror, two of the bunnies (which had been hiding in the sunshine) must have experienced green-house effect heat and melted down into little masses of mess! 😦

Isn’t this a picture of so many of our fondest dreams in life? We have such high hopes and work so hard preparing for the future.

We are eager and “do everything right” as best we know how, but suddenly something unexpected dashes our hopes for “the perfect” ending and turns our “high point” into a low point.

At times like this, I am reminded that every dream and ambition apart from seeking God is like a hollow Easter bunny that will not withstand the heat of life. Better to keep my eyes on the Lord and find my joy in Him! “Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146:5). “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee” (Psalm 73:25).

God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness

Some movies are memorable because they dramatize historical events in unforgettable ways, some live on in our memories because they are so artistically produced, but some are compelling because they bring to life creative, new stories to reinforce ancient wisdom.To me, God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness fits into this last category. It’s a 2018, PG-rated film that is A+ in my book, despite receiving less than stellar critical reviews. The major theme concerns learning to balance “our rights” with love and forgiveness, but the film also deals with many issues of faith. The story (completely fictitious) revolves around a church, located on a university campus, which is accidentally burned down by a distraught student. Although I’ve not seen the previous movies, it’s the third of a series.  God’s Not Dead came out in 2014 and is based on Rice Broocks’ book, God’s Not Dead: Evidence for God in an Age of Uncertainty. The first film follows a Christian college student named Harper whose faith is challenged by a philosophy professor who believes God is just “a pre-scientific fiction.” There is also a God’s Not Dead 2 released in 2016 that continues the story. Both of the first two movies were well received by Christian audiences, so maybe I need to go back and view them! Alan and I definitely thought the third of this series was very worthwhile. The characters were likeable.The story was both tragic and heartwarming.There was some sweet romance. There were disagreements. There were tensions and troubles.There was good modeling for young people and admirably wise counsel about how to grow in faith and grace even in challenging settings.There was a good resolution with a (reasonably) happy ending. What’s not to love?I will say it took me a little while to get used to the minister’s struggle with bitterness, but then it occurred to me that forgiving others is challenging throughout life. So, even though it’s ugly to see, it’s real and needs to be explored. I’m also not exactly “up” on the teen scene, so it was a little hard to judge, but I’m guessing the movie was reasonably realistic in its depiction of campus life.That being said, I was glad to have watched God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness and will definitely watch for any sequels. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).

Chicken Divan

“Chicken Divan” was one of my mother’s signature casseroles when I was growing up. It is truly delicious, but I took it for granted and for some reason never added it to my repertoire. Retrospectively, I wonder if that was because Mom so often made it for our family when we’d come to visit. I never much thought about it until the last time my first-born came to visit with his family. Now, perhaps it should be explained that as part of our home school, I taught all the kids to cook, and most of them (six of whom were sons) took to it like ducks to the water. To this day, they can all turn out gourmet dishes if they’re so inclined, although my four oldest sons are married to awesome cooks, so they don’t cook as often as they used to.

At any rate, rather than asking me to make Chicken Divan for him, Aaron asked if he could borrow Grandma’s recipe and make some Chicken Divan for all of us! Mom’s recipe was written out on one of those very worn 3X5 cards in her little recipe file, so I have no clue where she got it, but after studying a bit, I’ve learned that Chicken Divan (according to Wiki) was developed by Anthony Lagasi for the Divan Parisienne Restaurant in New York City in the early twentieth century (when my mother was young) and “remains one of the  most classic American casserole dishes today.” Who would have known? So, it wasn’t just my mother’s specialty dish, it’s a common casserole beloved by many! If you haven’t tried it or don’t have a favorite version of your own, here it is:

Classic Chicken Divan
(Makes about 12 servings, although some may want seconds!)

1. Cook until tender: 2  ten-oz. packages of  broccoli or 3 cups fresh broccoli (chopped)
2. Fry (separately) 6 chicken breasts, browned with a little butter, some chopped celery leaves, salt, pepper, and thyme, and then steam them until  they are cooked through. 3. Place the broccoli in the bottom of a 9X13 casserole pan and arrange the chicken on top. (At this point, I intervened a bit, because Grandma’s recipe really wasn’t very precise. You need to cube the chicken into bite-sized pieces after it’s cooked. Aaron, ever gracious and willing to accept suggestions, redid what you see above so that the chicken was spread evenly over the broccoli.)
4. Pour a sauce made from the following evenly over the top:
½ cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp. lemon juice
one can condensed cream of chicken soup
½ tsp. curry powder (or a little less)
5. Sprinkle one cup of bread crumbs over the top. Bake for 45 minutes in an oven preheated to 350°. Dot with American cheese and return to oven until the cheese has melted and is starting to brown.

Grandma would have recently celebrated her 104th birthday were she still alive! Isn’t it strange how we never forget and always miss those we love who’ve passed on? I am thankful she believed in Jesus as her savior, so even though Aaron and I won’t ever get to go over to her home for some more Chicken Divan, we will one day get to be with her in heaven!

“For he remembered that they were but flesh;
a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again” (Psalm 78:39).

Some Timely Tips for Doing Life with Your Adult Children

Do you (like me) find yourself wondering what you did wrong when you hear what one or another of  your adult children is thinking or doing? As would be obvious to all who are living through the honor of interacting with adult children (but perhaps not a no-brainer to young people): It’s actually a lot harder than it looks to be good parents to grown offspring, even really, really admirable grown offspring, like mine. Alan’s being the medical director of maybe the world’s largest Christian psychiatric hospital hasn’t really made us professionals either.

However, as we’ve been floundering our way through this stage of life, we came across a great resource that has significantly encouraged us, so I want to recommend it to you! We read it to each other while on our Southern Caribbean cruise these past two weeks, celebrating our 46th anniversary. Ever since, we’ve been ending our daily prayers for our kids with this mantra: “God, we release our children to your loving care and tender mercies” (from page 115).

Doing Life with Your Adult Children walks readers through the various cultural mindsets of the different generations (all five of them) sharing Planet Earth at this time, reminding us that “our job as parents is not to agree with all the values of our children’s culture but to have a greater understanding of how culture influences the way they think and act.” This has been a game changer for us. Up until now, we’ve wondered why our kids didn’t just naturally take on our values. Surprise! Faith in the Bible, love of country and family . . . even gender identity based on DNA is no longer the norm. Of kids brought up in church, some 60% will drift away in college, making lifestyle choices that would curl the hair of our parents and make our grandparents roll over in their graves.

Not to fear! Hold on. Keep being faithful to what you believe is right and good. More than half of our wandering children will come back to their roots and faith. Meanwhile, author Jim Burns offers all sorts of helpful insights into what’s going on, what the culture is teaching, and how to love your kids and grand kids in ways they can actually feel no matter what they believe. One of many principles (similar to Dr. Gary Smalley’s advice on how to treasure your spouse) is to treat your children and grandchildren with AWE: affection, warmth, and encouragement. Amen? No matter what your young adult is thinking or doing, every “child” (grown ones too) needs big doses of real, genuine, open-hearted love, the way our heavenly Father lavishes his love on us.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t set boundaries or allow our kids to struggle with the consequences of their choices. The book also gives some helpful suggestions for how to engage your “failure to launch” young adults and help them mature into responsible, independent adults. There are also tips on how to become better in-laws (such as “wear beige” . . . “keep your mouth shut and the welcome mat out”) and how to interact with your grandchildren in ways that will leave a legacy of love for them.

From the very beginning—which describes a scenario I’ll bet every couple has experienced—to Chapter 1: “You’re Fired!” (PRINCIPLE 1: YOUR ROLE AS THE PARENT MUST CHANGE) to the very end, laced with ideas for how to party down with your grand kids, the book kept us engaged and learning!

Interested? I actually had an advance copy, but the book is coming out March 26, 2019 and can be pre-ordered from Zondervan or Amazon online. If you buy it, I hope you appreciate it as much as we have! Parenting parents is a tough job!  🙂

Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come” (Psalm 71:18).