Unsolicited Advice

Three Generations - Four Mothers

Three Generations – Four Mothers

“Don’t give advice to your adult children unless they ask for your advice.”

I made this statement to a friend whose daughter recently got married. Now she has a son-in-law for the first time. This couple recently moved to another state and my friend wondered about sharing some practical advice with them that she thought would be helpful.

We have three sons-in-law, and I realized early on that as soon as our daughters got married, their source of advice switched. As well it should.

The Bible says in Genesis 2:24

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

So, the man and wife each LEAVE their father and mother and become one. Notice it doesn’t say “and become six” which would include both sets of parents.

Leaving is not just a physical act, it is also intellectual and emotional.

  • leaving physically  – changing location of “home”
  • leaving intellectually – understanding what it means to become one, choosing your spouse over others
  • leaving emotionally – feelings that your love and loyalty goes to your spouse first

That is why we shouldn’t give unsolicited advice. When we do, our adult child is put in the middle and must decide between following the parent’s advice – or the advice of their spouse.

That is not fair.

Do I always follow this practice myself?

Absolutely not!

Do I never give unsolicited advice?

Unfortunately, I do.

But I have three daughters who will respectfully let me know – “Mom, this is not your business.” It is a very good thing that they do. I don’t want our daughters or our sons-in-law to dread my interference in their lives.

I had 20+ years to tell our children what to do – to mess with their lives. That was enough time.

We often look back fondly on the “good old days” of our children being young and think that our grandchildren should have the same opportunities. We remember how we used to do things and think it was so much better.

But was it really better? Was it better because we were young and we remember how it felt being young?

Our children and grandchildren will look BACK on these current times and someday remember them as “the good old days”. Imagine that!

What can we do when we see something that sincerely concerns us about our adult children or grandchildren?

Pray.

Philippians 4:6-8  (TLB)

6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. 7 If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.

When our adult children do ask for advice – give it respectfully and thoughtfully. What a blessing it is to have adult children seek our advice!

When my parents lived with us, Phil would often ask my father for advice, especially when it came to plants and trees, my father’s field of study. My dad is the kind of person who never gives advice unless asked, which is a reason we were able to live together so well. In the past several months, two of our sons-in-law have asked Phil for advice. Phil also does not give advice unless he is asked. We were blessed that they valued Phil’s thoughts.

So, remember to treat our adult children as we want to be treated. That is why the golden rule is golden…..

The Best Ever Christmas Tree

Tree with Lincoln

We couldn’t afford it, but I wanted a REAL Christmas tree. This was in 1980 and trees didn’t cost all that much. Yet we had only $15.00 in our checking account and a Christmas tree would not have provided food for our then three children.

  • Our bank balance was low for several reasons.
    We had just closed on the purchase of our first home.
  • It was November and the furnace needed a “tune up” immediately so that took our $200 reserve fund.
  • We didn’t have much money to start with. I was staying home with our three children aged 3, 2, and 9 months old, so we were living on a library cataloger’s salary.

God had shown himself so faithful in the purchase of our house. He had provided all we needed and there was one more paycheck coming before the property taxes were due. God had promised to supply all our needs according to his riches in glory and we had witnessed that, one bill at a time.
Christmas trees are not a need.

I knew this, yet I wanted a Christmas tree for our first Christmas in our first home of our own.
So, I told God how I felt. I wanted a Christmas tree, but if it was not to be, I asked God to change my heart about a desire for a tree.
That week, the last in November, we were driving back from a holiday dinner at a friend’s house who lived in Cashiers, a remote community farther up in the mountains. Phil came around a curve and we saw something dark and large lying in the road. He pulled our little VW bug over and stopped.

There in the middle of the road was a big, BEAUTIFUL, Christmas tree!
It must have fallen off a truck hauling Christmas trees from the tree farms up the mountain. It was dark, there were no trucks around, nor any other cars. The tree was there just for us!
It was our Christmas tree – and much lovelier than one we would have purchased. Phil opened the trunk, which is in the front in a VW bug, put the tree part way in, and tied the trunk down as far as he could. He slowly drove the 18 miles home.

Did God provide that tree? Does God care about Christmas trees?

Some Christians I know and love feel that all the trappings of Christmas take away from it’s real meaning. These individuals choose to celebrate Jesus’ birth in simple ways. I respect that and honor their motivation.
I also know that receiving that Christmas tree during a time of financial need made me feel God’s love for me in a very personal way. I felt that my Heavenly Father heard me and answered the cry of my heart.
Why?
Because He loves me.

Was it a coincidence that the tree fell off the truck at that time? No other car could have passed by it without effort because the tree was smack in the middle of the narrow, winding road. It meant that the tree fell off and we were the first car to go by.

Maybe it was chance.
Yet it answered my prayer to the God of the universe who is my Heavenly Father.
Gifts often demonstrate love. Christmas is the time we celebrate God’s gift of his Son, Jesus.

John 3:16-17(NIV)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Every year when I put up our tree, I remember the best tree we ever had. More importantly I am reminded of my Heavenly Father who knows my heart and loves me. God gave us His BEST GIFT when He sent Jesus.

May you have a Merry Christmas celebrating God’s love – which He demonstrated by sending Jesus to earth.
PS – a great story to read to your children is – The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Huston. It is a lovely story with a meaningful message.

Picture Perfect?

DSC_3441

What would Jesus’ family Christmas photo have looked like?

“It’s like we get those perfect Christmas family photos everyday now on Facebook and social media.”

I heard the above statement on the radio and it certainly struck a chord with me. My friend, Alice Marie, and I had just been talking about the unrealistic impressions that “perfect photos” often bring.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE pictures on Facebook! I joined Facebook in the first place so that I could see the photos our daughters posted of our grandchildren. I also enjoy seeing friends’ and acquaintances’ pictures and activities, some from very far away.

Yet what impression are we sharing? That we are “perfect” and all is peace and light on the home front?

We all are familiar with the idea that “a picture speaks a thousand words” – but are those words accurate? Do they reflect real life?

Let’s imagine for a moment that there was photography at the time of Jesus birth. What would the first family photo of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus look like?

  • Mary and Joseph had traveled that day, so they probably looked pretty tired
  • They had the dust of travel on their clothes
  • There was no room in the inn, so they were offered a stable for shelter
  • Their clothes were certainly not “festive” or “color coordinated” (so, ok, Phil – color does not ALWAYS matter)
  • The animals were nearby, though they were not the pets often included in our holiday photos

So, here is the picture – the family is gathered in a stable, a great setting considering the current trend to use rustic backgrounds for photos. They are in rumpled, dusty clothes, a grouping of three – odd numbers are always good visually. The lighting is good because oddly enough, there is an unusually bright star shining right over the new baby. How fortunate is that?

But wait! There seems to be various men and boys crowding around to get in the picture! They brought sheep with them! They don’t seem to be related to this family of three. (maybe they can be photo shopped out later)

The parents are smiling, weary, but happy smiles gazing fondly at the new baby.

The Baby….

What would that photo of Jesus look like?

Would it radiate with the glory of His heavenly Father? Would there be any indication of the incarnate presence of God? Jesus birth made the angels announce – Luke 2:13-14

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

The more I thought about what a picture of Jesus would look like, the more I thought that He would probably look like an ordinary baby. Tammy Youmans said her grandson Micah said – “Jesus rolled himself up into a baby.” I love that image.

We are so much more than our outward appearance, aren’t we? So was Jesus when He was here in human form.

Jesus was fully a man – and fully God.

As we celebrate Jesus’ birth with family and friends this year, let’s take LOTS of pictures and share the joy and fun we experience.

Let us also remember that pictures don’t show the heartache of loss of loved ones, the pain and suffering that is often unseen but is a part of all of our lives.

Let us remember the words of hope the angel shared – Luke 2:10-11

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

God’s perfect gift – Jesus.

Contrast

Phil and Gayle 1975

“How did you and Phil ever get together?”

We just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary, and the answer is still the same –

God

We could be the poster couple for “opposites attract.” Just ask any of our friends, or our children for that matter. Phil and I are very different. That has created definite excitement in our marriage. May I use excitement to describe these extremes?

  • I think money is to use – he thinks money is to save
  • I think decorating means arranging items by color and visual harmony – he thinks it means putting items wherever they fit
  • I think it is relaxing to have friends over for food and fellowship – he thinks relaxing is being quiet by yourself
  • I think it is fun to be in big crowds and be a part of what is going on – he dislikes big crowds (unless it is a major league baseball game)
  • I like to sit near the front at church gatherings, concerts or performances – he likes to sit in the back

These are just a few examples of the contrast between Phil and myself.

Contrast as a principle of design is defined as “the juxtaposition of different elements of design in order to highlight their differences and create visual interest.” Differences create visual interest because things don’t all look just the same. Contrast creates excitement in art work. Light and dark elements of a painting create drama, just as neutral values that are all the same seem dull or uninteresting.

Contrast can also easily become conflict.

Jay Fesperman, a very wise and Godly man shared at a marriage retreat – “If both people in a marriage always agree, one is unnecessary”.

We do NOT have that problem! We often don’t agree. Yet how do we prevent the contrast of our relationship from plummeting into the depths of hurtful conflict?

What has allowed us to stay together and resolve our contrasting viewpoints low these 40 years?

Godly advice.

Ephesians 5:31 Amplified Version

31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be joined [and be faithfully devoted] to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery [of two becoming one] is great; but I am speaking with reference to [the relationship of] Christ and the church. 33 However, each man among you [without exception] is to love his wife as his very own self [with behavior worthy of respect and esteem, always seeking the best for her with an attitude of loving kindness], and the wife [must see to it] that she respects and delights in her husband [that she notices him and prefers him and treats him with loving concern, treasuring him, honoring him, and holding him dear].

This says it all.

Phil and I do not live up to this standard – yet this is what we come back to when the contrast in our relationship threatens to tear us apart.

We do share several things in common –

  • God is first in each of our lives
  • We are both deeply committed to our family
  • We walk in forgiveness toward each other – yes – this is a choice
  • We respect each other, we don’t always agree, but sometimes we agree to disagree

I am humbly thankful for our marriage, because as imperfect as it is, we are committed to walking out the next 40 years together – with God’s help.

God had a plan when He brought us together.

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2015