Category Archives: Men

timshel

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Thou Mayest…

Freewill…

This brings SO many thoughts and feelings to my mind.

My tatoo

For a long time now, my youngest sons – twins, Caleb and Aaron – and I have been talking about getting coordinating tattoos. We discussed getting matching tatts, but decided it would be more meaningful to each spend some time praying about what our own personal version of that would look like. Ironically, Caleb was the first to decide – this is almost never the case. He is definitely my child. Almost every time we eat out, the rest of the group is waiting for Caleb and me to choose from the menu.   We are just not quick to make decisions when faced with more than a few choices. When you add the permanency of a tattoo to the equation, I am just about dead in my tracks. Making a decision about the placement, size and design of a tattoo on my body simply overwhelms me. So, a couple of weeks ago, when Caleb said, “Let’s go get our tattoos SOON,” I was overwhelmed with all of the decisions this was demanding from me. I did some research and began putting together what I wanted mine to look like. Caleb and Aaron decided that they wanted “timshel” in Hebrew. Caleb wanted his on his knuckles and Aaron wanted a larger font of the same on the side of his forearm. I have recently discovered I have a love for trees, and I’ve always known I have a passion for words, so I decided to combine the two and to my delight, I remembered that several of the original book covers had a tree on them.  Caleb’s color has always been blue and Aaron’s green, which is why I have the colored hearts/leaves on my tree.

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At this point you may be wondering what in the heck “timshel” even means, and moreso, why in the world would we all want permanent tattoos declaring this?!

I’d love to share the story with you because it is one of the ribbons in my life that I can trace back to my teen years in Byron, Michigan, where a teacher took the time to get to know me and recommended a novel that would have a great effect on my entire life.  Andrea Broaddus was not everyone’s favorite teacher.  She had a big personality and she called it like she saw it.  She often called me out, but because I knew she was speaking truth and wanted the best for me, I did my best, as a teenage girl with my own big personality, to take in her advice and make healthy changes.  I had just finished Sinclair Lewis’ Babbit and whined about how boring I thought it was and was just starting (and being a bit traumatized by) Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle when Mrs. B. suggested I read John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.  She told me that there were many references to biblical characters and the story of Cain and Abel, which only dissuaded me from reading it.  I had very little biblical knowledge at that point in my life and was in no way considering becoming familiar with the Bible anytime soon.  But, as I said, I trusted her to see things in me and for me, so the next novel I read that year was East of Eden.

I was a bit of a drama queen back then.  I typically liked to play the victim and give up when it concerned me.  I would willingly fight for the people I loved, but my knee-jerk for myself was to make excuses and give up, often blaming others so that I didn’t have to admit I quit when things got too challenging.  I was more a Cain than an Abel… or so I thought.

I was completely enamored with this novel.  I couldn’t put it down and then I wept big mournful tears when I finished it.  I prayed I would have a college professor who would assign it, just so I could read it again and discuss it with more people.

It never happened…

In my early-20’s I bought a copy and read it for the third time.  I also located a copy of the original movie version with James Dean, as well as the modern version with Jane Seymour.  After initiating my husband, I told him I would like to name our son, if we ever had one, Caleb Aaron.  He agreed.

A few years later, I was pregnant and we agreed that if this baby was a boy, we would name him Caleb Aaron.  And then Hannah Elizabeth was born, much to our absolute delight!  We each had sons from our first marriages and now we had a daughter.  We felt like our family was complete.  We scheduled the vasectomy when Hannah was just 2 months old and a week later my dear friend lost her 4 month old baby girl on the night of her husband’s vasectomy from a botched prescription.  The baby passed away in the daddy’s arms.  I was a hormonal wreck after having Hannah, so I immediately canceled my husband’s appointment.  In my emotional state, I was sure something awful would happen to our family if we followed through.

A few short months later, I began to feel awful – as if my previous morning sickness from my other pregnancies all returned in triplicate, and after doing 2 home tests that showed a pink line faster than ever before, I confirmed what I was afraid to believe because I had recently started teaching at my oldest son’s school – where I taught East of Eden, btw – and things seemed just lovely just as they were.  I had been baptized while I was pregnant with Hannah and I decided to pray for patience, much to my believing friends’ dismay.  They advised me to pray for wisdom instead, but it was too late…  I soon found out that I had “two buns in the oven,” as my OBGYN told us at our first appointment where she had a feeling and did an immediate ultrasound.

My pregnancy was fraught with trauma.  My dear grandma passed away in October just after she asked me which twin I was going to give her.  She meant this as a tease because she had all girls and she knew I was overwhelmed with having  2 older boys, a one-year-old and twin boys on the way, but I was sure that God was preparing me to lose one of my babies.  A week after her passing, my OBGYN discovered I had complete placenta previa and I was placed on home bedrest for a little over a month before I began to hemorrhage late one night and had to go to the hospital for the remainder of my pregnancy.  I was in that same room for 3 months, solid.  I was not even allowed to be wheeled down the hallway or stand at my window.  It was terrible because I felt fine.  It was also the most wonderful time in my life because I had SO much alone time with Jesus.  I was so confident of His leading in every step of that journey.  When I began hemorrhaging and they told me they were going to do an emergency c-section that morning, I knew He had us in His hands.  I truly believed I may lose one of my babies, and believed it would be Caleb, but I trusted Him completely and was as prepared as any mama could be to walk through this time to bring Him glory.  I don’t think I’ve ever had that much faith since that morning…

As they rushed me down the hospital hallways, the people on all three of our teams (Caleb, Aaron and I each had a team of medical staff for the delivery) introduced themselves to me.  As we talked, we began to realize that they were all connected to me in one way or another.  Some of them were aunts or uncles of students of mine, some were related to people we went to church with, or knew other family members of ours, and all of them it seemed, were Jesus-followers.  So, when we arrived in the delivery room, there were prayers going up all over the place for my babies.  Bob was sent to get washed up and change into his scrubs just after they gave me that horrible shot in my back (UGH!).  I laid back and remember feeling incredibly dizzy.  I was bleeding uncontrollably and for just a minute, they lost me.  When I came to, I had NO idea what was happening.  My husband wasn’t in the room yet because they had kept him out during my little crash.  I looked around and said, “I feel kind of awful.  Can you let my husband in here?  I just know I’d feel so much better if he was with me.”

Everyone chuckled.  We were both still clueless.  Then they let my Honey come in the room and I immediately felt better.  He gave me a play-by-play, minus the blood and gore, of what was happening with our babies and my body.  Both of our sweeties were struggling some and had to be incubated immediately.  Aaron was biting at the umbilical cord and Caleb was struggling to thrive.  After they took them down, my big, strong husband passed out cold into a chair I yelled for them to bring when I saw the look on his face.  That’s when the remaining staff told me how I had flat-lined for a minute because I had lost so much blood.

Disclaimer: I admit I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t have an incredible near-death experience with Jesus talking directly to me.  But I’m alive, so I’m good!

They wheeled me down to my room and would not allow me to see my babies until I could walk on my own.  Therefore they found me on my cold hospital floor 3 times before my husband insisted on a wheelchair to take me down the next morning.  They were the cutest little frog/chickens you’ve ever seen!  Caleb’s incubator had a little card on it that said, “I’m the oldest” and Aaron’s said, “I’m the biggest.”

We spent the next 8 days gavage feeding them my breast milk and trying to get Caleb to thrive.  Bob and I would sing, “Jesus Loves (Me) You” over and over in order to keep them awake to eat the 1-2 ounces they desperately needed to survive.  Aaron seemed much more healthy until they came to tell us that we could take Caleb home, but Aaron had a brain-bleed that they had to keep a constant eye on.  I remember running my thermometer under hot water to fake a temp so that they would let us all stay there together.  It melted and broke open.  So, I had to go home on the coldest day of that year with my teeny baby and leave the other one at the hospital.  It was torture…

The following day they told us we could bring Aaron home.  They said that since we had so much experience, he could go home for the weekend, but we had to bring him back on Monday to recheck and maybe be readmitted.  Our church family prayed over him and on Monday his bleed was gone.  The doctor did the test twice because he couldn’t believe his eyes.

One of my favorite memories of that time happened the day after we brought Aaron home.  Hannah looked at me with her hands up on each side and said, “Where’s the more babies, Mommy?”  She thought we were just going to bring a new one home every night, I guess!

We decided to name the boys, Caleb Robert and Aaron Patrick.  I was teased for naming them symbolic names for Cain and Abel many times, but I named them because timshel, thou mayest.  Caleb means faithful, devotion, whole-hearted, bold, brave and Aaron means lofty, exalted one, high mountain.  Caleb was one of only two people over the age of 20 to make it into the Promise Land.  Aaron was Moses’ brother, the first of the high-priests of the Israelites.

What I love about Steinbeck is that he doesn’t leave his characters one-dimensional or simply good or bad.  He shows us how God made us all with every possibility, if only we step into our freewill.  We don’t have to be victims.  We aren’t good guys or bad guys until we use our “timshel” to choose what to do and who we will be.  When I was embarking on adulthood, East of Eden was the beginning of my journey out of self-sabotage and it helped me parent just a bit better than I would’ve without it.

When my children were teenagers, I gave them each a copy of this novel.  I warned them that much of the story was harsh and even lewd, at times.  They’ve known since always that the twins’ names came from my love for this story and the effect it had on my life.  I never discussed the content of the story with them until their late teens or even recently because I wanted them to be who God made them and not be influenced by the characters in this novel.  The interesting and often disturbing thing has been how similar our Caleb and Aaron have been during various seasons of their lives to their character counterparts.  Sometimes this was so unnerving that I’d read it all over again so that the end of the story would comfort me and remind me how to encourage my children to develop all the facets of their personalities.  The beauty in all of it is that through this powerful work and the influence of God’s unconditional love throughout their lives, my little miracles have grown into confident, loving and Jesus-following men who make my heart sing (most of the time).  Of course they have struggles, as we all do.  I’m not claiming perfection, in any way, but they’ve embraced their freewill.  They are stepping into their own timshel and I am at peace knowing that because they are on this journey with Our Father, they will do amazing things in His name and for His glory.  I’ve always known He miraculously allowed me to raise them, and didn’t take them almost 23 years ago, because He has a great plan for them and my joy comes from watching them walk in His will.

SO… it was time.  We’ve been talking about getting “timshel” tatts for years, but I think we’re all finally embracing His unconditional love and trusting that we can walk in the freewill He’s graced us all with and take responsibility for our choices and our lives.

Timshel…

Caleb’s Tattoo:

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Aaron’s Tattoo:

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Wisdom…

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Abigail…

Are you familiar with her?

Her first husband was Nabal.  He was extremely wealthy.  He was a mean, sloppy drunk.  His name literally means “fool.”

Abigail had to make amends to their neighbors on the regular because her husband was such an ornery cuss.  The choices he made make it obvious that his number one priority was money and stuff – stuff that had value, which meant more money.  He treated his wife much like angry drunks treat their wives in this day and age, with contempt and disrespect.  My first reaction to this information was that of an upper-middle class white woman of the 21st century.   I kept thinking, “Why in the world did she marry this guy in the first place?  He was abusive, embarrassing,  not attentive to his wife.  What did she see in him and why, oh why was she still married to him?!”

Well… Abigail didn’t marry Nabal a few years ago.  She married him in a time when men made the decisions about such things.  Parents chose mates for their children based on their stations – how much land they owned, how much wealth their families had, etc.  It wasn’t a really big deal if a husband took out his frustrations of the day on his wife, with his angry words and/or hands.  Wives were acquisitions, more like property than partners, especially when their husbands were insecure and broken, as in the case of Nabal.  The part that still confuses me is that Abigail loved and served the same God that I do, but her husband did not.  My Bible tells me that Nabal was a “son of Belial,” meaning he followed this false god  who was known as a devil, and not at all the same God his wife served.  Her actions and conversation in the Bible make it apparent that she was raised in a Jewish home with parents who loved God and trained her well in that belief, although, I can find no evidence of who her parents actually were.  It seems strange that who her future husband worshiped wasn’t a deal breaker in her father’s decision.  It makes me wonder if her parents had passed away or became destitute, and she had no other choice.  By all accounts, Abigail was a beautiful, very wise and kind woman, so it’s not difficult to imagine why Nabal would marry her.

Her story goes something like this:

She was married to Nabal, who was despised by his community.  He was selfish, greedy and a volatile alcoholic.  There is no mention of any children between them.  He offended their neighbors frequently, and Abigail was known for wisely making amends without dishonoring her husband in the process.

During the time that Saul was after David and both were claiming to be King, David and his men were protecting Nabal’s livestock in the fields.  During the time of festival, David sent word to Nabal, who was shearing the sheep David and his men protected, that he and his men needed food and he humbly requested that Nabal return the kindness and feed him and his hungry men.  The response David received was insulting, at the very least.  He indicated he didn’t even know who David was and suggested that he could be one of many escaped slaves.

Upon receiving this response, David, told his men to sword up because they were going to visit Nabal’s home, where they would kill his entire family and his servants and their families.  One of the servants reported to Abigail what had transpired.  She assured Abigail that David and his men had been wonderful protectors in every way, that Nabal had wronged them, and urged her to fix things or they would all perish.

Abigail quickly loaded up plenty of food for David and his men with her servants’ help and without a word to her destructive husband, rode out on a donkey to meet the hungry, angry men.  I just love the way she got things done without a bunch of hoopla or drama.  She saw the problem, and was SO connected to God and His will, she knew just what to do and how to do it.  She intercepted the men and instead of arguing with David or justifying anything, she told him how much they were owed because of their hard work and protection.  She bowed down before him, with her face to the ground.  She connected with David by telling him she had been treated disrespectfully by her husband for years and that Nabal was a fool who was followed by folly wherever he went.  She then prophesied over David the blessings that the Lord had for him in the days to come:  becoming the true King, and a man who pursued God with all of his heart who would leave a lasting legacy.  She reminded him that killing Nabal’s entire household would only mar his reputation and his future as a respectable king… Brilliant!!  David and his men accepted her generous gift and he sent her home with a blessing over her.

Upon arriving home, her husband was very intoxicated and had guests over, so she decided to wait to tell him what has happened the following day when he would be fully present and less reactive from his alcohol consumption.  Upon waking, Abigail told him everything.  My Bible tells me that his heart failed him, he then turned to stone and about ten days later Nabal died.

When David heard the news, he rejoiced at God’s justice and then he sent word to Abigail that he desired to marry her.  She went willingly, even happily.  They had a son together and I’ve no doubt Abigail lived a much happier life than she did married to Nabal.

It’s funny.  When I first starting studying her, I was shocked to realize that the Abigail who was married to Nabal was the same Abigail who was married to David.  I just didn’t put it together.  She was such a leader, wise, kind, strong, brilliant, and beautiful.  I wish the Bible told us more about her life.  That she stayed with her abusive husband until he passed away is quite a feat.  That she worked so hard to keep their people safe and respectable is impressive.

I love that she didn’t play the victim in a situation that could’ve warranted such behavior, especially in the time she lived in.  She didn’t become bitter or turn inward.  She chose to think of others and see the big picture while putting out her very difficult husband’s fires pretty regularly.

Abigail challenges me not simply because she was kindhearted, wise, and possessed so many other virtuous characteristics, but more so because she was so connected to Our Father.  This is where we find our wisdom because we seek His will and not our own human and often self-serving desires.  This is where we see others through the correct lens and extend love and kindness without judgement and with humility.  I know that I often try to feel overwhelmed by doing all of the right things at the right time in the right fashion.  When I slow down and stop trying so hard to DO and I, instead, spend time BEing with My Father, the other things usually fall into place, and even when things get crazy (because things WILL get crazy for everyone here and there if you’re a human being), I’ve found that if I look to examples such as Abigail’s, I need only to be in regular, intimate relationship with Him to make wise and thoughtful choices.  Choices that He leads me to are always best for me and for the situations I find myself in.  I know this may seem like an oversimplification, but I believe that when I’ve struggled the most, I’ve been the farthest from Him.  I get busy with the wrong things, I don’t make Him a priority, I sabotage my relationship with Him for various reasons, laziness, brokenness, busyness, etc. and then when the big junk comes, I’m trying to figure it out on my own or by asking everyone’s opinion, except My Father’s.  Have you been there?  I think we all have.  Sometimes I beat myself up because I believe I shouldn’t still be wrestling with this at my age.  That’s just where satan wants me, so it’s imperative that I pick myself up and spend some time with my Father who loves and forgives me without condition.  I’m not Abigail, yet, but I’m thankful for her example.  I’m His beloved daughter.  I’m not a quitter and I’m no fool.

Modern Day Adam

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What kind of dad did you have?  Not the face he wore in public, but the dad you had at home.  Was he steadfast, loving, encouraging, generous with his time and attention?  Did he love your mother tenderly, deeply and show you what commitment looks like?  Did he play ball with you in the backyard, or board games on Friday nights?  Did he work hard for your family, mow the lawn, take out the trash and provide for your family’s financial needs?  Did he attend your school functions, your sporting events, and take you out for a “date” now and again, just so he could get to know you more intimately?

Do any of us have this experience?  Is it even possible?

My father loves my mother very much.  He wrangled us all up to clean the house on the weekends when my mother worked, so that she would come home to peace and be able to enjoy what weekend she had left.  He took me out all by myself once when I was 18 or 19 years old to a Chinese restaurant and I was beside myself.  He asked me questions and told me about himself as a young adult.  It remains one of my most treasured memories of my life.  My father and I have a very broken relationship.  He has been broken since his childhood and unfortunately, the brokenness has seeped into and affected his children and their lives in untold ways.

When I was very pregnant with our daughter,  I was baptized.  Just a year before that I began my serious search for Jesus.  Even as a child, I had always been curious and when I delivered my first child seven years before my baptism, I also birthed a certainty that He was real – right there in the hospital delivery room.  My husband and I were attending a little church in Michigan.  I struggled with God for a bit, not willing to give up the “fun” I thought my life was full of, afraid of what following Him would really mean, but eventually, I gave in and asked Him to help me be who He wanted me to be.  That’s when the real fun began.

I kept hearing about how loving Our Father was, but every time I did something wrong, I was sure He didn’t love me anymore.  I would begin to “hide” from Him by skipping my devotion time more and more, by not praying as often, because I was pretty positive He wasn’t listening anyway.  When someone asked me about my relationship with my earthly father, I began to see the connection.  I was projecting the conditional love and rejection I expected from my human father onto my Heavenly Father, and since I can never be perfect or completely without sin, I was telling myself regularly that I wasn’t good enough to be loved by God.  The tragedy is that, over that past many years since my self-discovery, I have found countless other Jesus followers who are struggling with the same thing, to different degrees, in their journey with Him.  Their broken relationships with their fathers are having a significant impact on their relationships with Our Heavenly Father.

The truth is, I believe that if satan can attack and destroy the men in our culture, then he knows that eventually he will destroy our entire culture.  He’s been at it since Adam in the garden.  If we don’t have God-following men, who are willing to lay down their lives to pursue His will, then it all crumbles, doesn’t it?  Children need fathers they can look to for a godly example.  Wives need husbands of integrity to lead their households in deep abiding love.

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So, what’s happened?  How did we end up with epidemic proportions of families broken and wounded by husbands & fathers who have physically and emotionally abused them, who have betrayed their wives, who are addicted to pornography, who are more concerned about the approval of their co-workers than their families?

Is it that men are just jerks?  Selfish, weak, cruel?

The Bible says, “… each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33) (Emphasis added by me).

I’ll admit to you that I struggle with this at times.  When my husband displays his weak and very human qualities, I sometimes resent that he isn’t a little more Christlike (because I always am.  HA!).  I have this American idea in my head that he’s supposed to earn my respect.  God, through Paul, made it very clear that I must respect my husband regardless of my current mood.  It’s how He made men.  They require unconditional respect.  He infused me with a need for unconditional love and if I had to earn it from my husband or the other people I hold dear, I would be an empty shell.  I know the deep and lasting wounds of feeling like I can never be enough and being unlovable because of my relationship with my earthly father.  I am often not very lovable.  The irony of my marriage is that for many years now, my husband loves me unconditionally and with abandon.  He continually reassures me that I am worth loving, even when I am being ugly and seemingly unlovable.

We are inundated with examples of alpha females and beta men in television shows, books, and movies.  Are we really surprised we’re all beginning to follow this example?

This first struck me years ago when I was watching an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond” with my husband.  We were laughing uproariously at Deborah rolling her eyes at her t.v. husband, Ray, doing something childish and selfish, and frustrating his wife, as well as once again choosing to placate his mother, while his wife felt taken for granted.  It suddenly wasn’t funny anymore.  It hit too close to home and I felt as if I had stopped drinking the kool-aid and was seeing how harmful this mentality is to our culture at large.  Yesterday, as my husband and I were watching “The Big Sick” at the Alamo, Ray Romano was playing a very similar role, and it reminded me, once again, how saturated our culture is with “dumb, juvenile husbands” and wives who tolerate them, as my fellow movie watchers continually laughed at this dysfunctional relationship on the screen.  We are products of our environment to a large degree.

This is one of the main reasons we decided to disconnect our cable several years ago.  I did not want my children taking in the normalized version of men on the regular, nor did I want that for my husband and me.  While I’m aware it makes very little difference to the networks, I still couldn’t be comfortable with paying for something that was so destructive for my family.  I wonder when exactly this trend began.  Mr. Brady was a wonderful father who loved his wife and was respected by her and their children.  He had faults, but he was a good guy.  In the 80’s, the only show I could find that fit the theme and may have started this trend was “Married with Children.”  Shows like “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Mr. Belvedere” had strong male leads with strong women as well.  Unfortunately, money voted for imbecilic men and strong, disgusted women, so this is what we see on the screen, by and large.

Here’s another theory of mine:  Perhaps the mamas and daddies of the previous recent generations were raised by dictator fathers and so, on some level (consciously or unconsciously) they raised sons who are more relational, but display less leadership qualities.

I know that there are people who want to blame this on the feminist movement, but I don’t think women wanting to be leaders is a negative thing.  I think the Bible has many instances of strong women.  Jesus treated women with dignity and respect.  I believe it is a twisted male need for control that ignores Jesus’ example of the role women should fill in our society.  But, this topic is a whole other blog…

So, I want to stand against satan and protect my family, protect my husband.  My part in that is to speak out when I see disrespect for men being awarded.  I need to work harder at treating my husband with UNCONDITIONAL respect.

Also, I need to support movies when the lead is a strong, loving, leader.  So, I should tell you the “The Big Sick” has this.  Kumail Nanjiani is kind of the anti-Raymond and the story is based on his real life, so that gives me hope.  He isn’t perfect, but he steps up and stands up.  He’s a man with hard-won integrity.  I like that.

The Bible says, “… each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33) (Emphasis added).

So…  in my experience, when we submit to His ways, things typically fall into place.  Also, His ways usually are much easier said than done for this girl.  That’s not me making excuses, that’s me admitting I’ve got a long way to go.  But, I’m going…  and I’m going to keep reminding myself how blessed I am to not have to earn my husband’s unconditional love.  I’m also going to remember that even if he didn’t love me so completely, I am still called to respect him unconditionally.  There’s no “if” in Ephesians 5:33…

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