Mary’s Story – The Pain of Childlessness

Desires of a Barren Woman By Emily Hurd

Mary’s Story – The Pain of ChildlessnessA lifetime longing for life in one’s belly
is not a joyful life.
The most wonderful love can’t fill this void
no matter how hard he may try.
For what sin am I punished,
That I may never enjoy,
clinging to my breast, a blonde haired baby boy?
To know the love of a sweet child,
and the feeling of being whole-
These are the things I’ve always wanted to know.

Mary sat at her dressing table and brushed her hair carefully as she had most nights of her 57 years. She smiled as she looked in the mirror; and, she liked what she saw. She was wearing the nightgown that Joe had given her on their 2nd honeymoon five years ago.

Joe was out walking Gilbert and Sullivan, their adopted mutts. He didn’t know it yet, but when he got home, he was going to get “lucky.”

As she brushed, the mirror carried her back over the years as it often did. But the memories weren’t painful anymore. They were just the building blocks that made her life so special now.

She and Joe had grown up in devoutly Catholic homes just a few blocks apart. They had both gone to the same parochial school; then she had gone to the girl’s high school and Joe had gone to the boy’s high school. They were dear friends all through high school. Their lives were good in those days.

During college, they had dated more seriously and began to plan a future together. They were both going to work for two or three years to build up their nest egg and then start their family. Both wanted lots of kids because that was how they had grown up – big families, with lots of friends around all the time.

Theirs was the first wedding among their college circles; and there were lots more over the next few years. Weddings were always fun and offered such hope for the future for all of them.

Mary kept working after they started trying to have a baby in earnest.

Before long their married friends were expecting their first children. Mary and Joe were excited for them.

Then some of those couples started having their second child. Mary was still excited but a little anxiety started to creep in.

Family dinners were beginning to have the stigma of Aunt Mary and Uncle Joe. She truly loved and enjoyed their nieces and nephews but loving them didn’t fill the growing dread of her being unable to have her own child.

After a few more years, Mary convinced Joe that they should at least get a medical evaluation to see if there was a reason they could not conceive. They did several times; and the results were always the same: no apparent medical or physical reason on the part of the male or female that would prohibit or inhibit conception.

The root of bitterness

Mary found it easier to send regrets to invitations from other couples than it was to feel the pain in her heart as she sat and listened to them chatter on about their children. Oh, they tried to be kind, but it was natural for them to talk about what meant most to them: their children.

Mary and Joe were both advancing with their jobs. Joe was in sales with a well-established regional company and Mary was in human resources with an national company. Money wasn’t an issue but Mary read somewhere that stress could be an issue in conception. She was able to get a 12-month leave of absence to try to relieve the work-related stress.

Unfortunately, she was reminded every time they tried that she had to get pregnant in 12 months; then 11 months; and so on; or she would have to return to work without any a baby to come home to.

It hurt a lot when she was reminded each month that she was not yet pregnant. She took to her bed with a bigger burden of pain than her regular monthly discomfort.

They tried all the infertility treatments that church doctrine allowed with no success. There was a lot of embarrassment and a lot of dignity and money spent in these attempts.

Joe traveled a lot in his job and Mary began to look forward to the nights he would be away. She could be free to cry or scream or curse at all the unfairness they were suffering.

It was getting to the point that seeing a pregnant woman or a woman with her children in the mall would cause her to clinch her jaw and taste the bile rising in her throat.

Drinking and drugs were so repulsive to her that she wasn’t tempted to use them to mask her pain.

Instead, she would take to her bed, curl into a fetal position, and clutch the pain within her as if her womb was aching for the baby it would never carry.

She could get through the weekdays because work was a sufficient distraction. Nights and weekends were awful.

Mary didn’t know who to blame.

Some nights she blamed herself; other nights she blamed Joe. The most painful nights were the ones when she blamed God; her guilt was overwhelming.

Confession didn’t help. The priest would tell her to remain true to God and do the appropriate penance but nothing would ever really take the pain away.

She finally decided that she was never going to bear a child; but that didn’t ease the pain of the loss she felt continuously.

Joe suggested adoption but she had no desire whatsoever to adopt. She wanted a baby to form in her own body, to birth it, and then watch it grow up; something like all their brothers and sisters were enjoying.

They started another round of weddings with nieces and nephews; and another round of pain at the prospects of the newlyweds against the impossibilities in her own life.

Over time, she had lost all desire for Joe and he had reluctantly moved to the bedroom down the hall. She obeyed the church edict in her spousal duties; but the church couldn’t make her enjoy it.

The day came when she told Joe that she had taken a promotion with her company that would require her to move to the home office in the mid-west. She didn’t want Joe to move with her.

Joe was dismayed and explained that he understood her lack of desire for him but he didn’t understand why she wanted a separation. He committed his love to her and reminded her that he had promised twenty years before to stand by her “for better and for worse.”

If she needed to move, he wouldn’t stand in her way, but as far as he was concerned, they were still married.

His commitment to her actually made her feel more guilty, but she didn’t let on. They’d both done a lot of acting over the years, especially Mary.

They explained the separation on her job and the demands of his career; and family and friends accepted it with appropriate sympathy for both Mary and Joe.

Making Changes

Mary got settled in her new apartment and plunged into her new job. She felt a little more peace due to the excitement of making a change. Days were busy but the nights were still filled with more of the same pain and longing.

She still felt the same despair when she saw women with their children. There was a park across from her apartment and most evenings she cried as she sat on her balcony listening to the children laughing and playing in the park; knowing that she would never hear the laughter of her own child.

Professionals had told her years before that she needed medication for her anxiety but she had always refused. She didn’t like having to take pills just to live her life.

There was a church a few blocks from her apartment and she decided to go to Mass one Saturday after she had been there a few months.

She looked forward to the mass and she went early so she could have confession and take the sacraments. The priest listened as she described her anger and pain. Then he said something very strange.

He absolved her and told her that an appropriate penance would be for her to look into Hannah’s Sisters. She could find a brochure in a rack in the narthex.

Mary learned that Hannah’s Sisters was a group for women who were living through emotional pain regardless of the source of the pain.

The original group was for barren women and was named for Hannah, the barren woman who made a vow to give her child to God if he would give her a son. God honored her request and her son, Samuel, lived to become a great prophet and high priest for Israel. You can read Hannah’s story here.

The brochure had contact information. When Mary awoke the next morning after another night of tossing and turning, she decided to call the woman.

She called that evening and they made an appointment to meet for coffee the next day.

Margaret, the Hannah’s Sisters leader, was waiting for Mary. They got their coffee and found a place where they could talk undisturbed.

After exchanging pleasantries, Mary asked her about the group.

Margaret explained that there were only three members at the present time.

Mary asked, “Why are there so few members? Surely there are more women hurting around here than that.”

”Of course, there are,” Margaret replied, “but we don’t keep them around for long.”

“What do you mean!”

“Mary, we’re not a social club. Women don’t use us to provide an on-going social function like so many self-help groups. We want to help women overcome their pain, and when they do that, they can make the appropriate decisions to be reconciled with their families and friends.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” Mary said doubtfully.

“Mary, if there were a way that you could be free of your emotional pain in just a few weeks, would you be interested in knowing more about that?”

“Of course,” Mary answered, “but I doubt that’s possible after what I’ve gone through.”

“Mary, we care a whole lot more about where you want to go than about where you’ve been. In fact, we will never ask you about the source of your pain. If you want to learn about a simple and effective way to be free from your pain, whatever is causing it, come by the parish hall tomorrow night at seven o’clock and we’ll explain everything to you.”

The next evening, Mary joined Margaret and three other women on couches in a small room off the parish hall.

After introductions, Margaret explained that every week they review the three Life Principles and share their progress. She explained that they never talk about their problems because dwelling on past hurts always makes the hurt worse.

Most emotional pain is caused by rumination. In many cases, the original cause of the pain occurred far in the past. And if the pain is ongoing and there is no solution to the problem, then ruminating on it can cause more anxiety with inevitably leads to stress, depression and even physical pain.

She explained that the life principles they teach offer an easy way, that anyone can use, to deal with the negative thoughts that cause so much emotional pain.

“You asked yesterday, ‘why so few members?’”, Mary reminded her. “We’ve had over two hundred members over the years; but as they become successful in applying these principles in their lives, they don’t need us any more. So currently, we only have three members; four, if you want to join us.”

Mary nodded and Margaret went on to explain the three principles.

Three Life Principles

Life Principle 1 – Whenever a thought enters your mind that makes you angry, sad, or bitter, you simply say to yourself out loud, “I will not think about that.” When the thought comes back, and it will, you say it again, “I will not think about that.”

“If you prefer, which I do, you can say “I take this thought captive,” because that phrase comes right out of the Bible.

Each time we dismiss a thought, the thought is compelled to go away because that’s the way we are made. We own our thoughts and we do not have to think about anything that hurts us.

Margaret explained that this idea had been around for thousands of years. “We simply do not have to let negative thoughts control our lives,” she said.

She explained that each time we “take a painful thought captive,” we create a little bit of peaceful space in our emotions. As you take more negative thoughts captive, you create more peaceful space.

“The reason this works so well is Life Principle 2.”

Life Principle 2 – When you consistently practice the first principle, negative thoughts will pop up less and less often until you really don’t think about them at all.

She explained that we all have a part of our mind, called the subconscious, which has the role of helping us be happy and content. If our subconscious thinks that we are happy thinking about negative things and getting all worked up all the time, it will keep feeding us those negative thoughts so we can be happy.

But if our subconscious hears us saying “I take this thought captive” consistently, it concludes over time that we don’t really want to think about those things and it will stop sending those negative thoughts to us. It’s like our subconscious blocks those negative thoughts automatically.

Doing this consistently replaces your habits of anger, sadness, or bitterness with a new habit of peace.

Life Principle 3 – Use your habit of peace to make the best decisions for you and your future. She explained that this is true freedom: the freedom to do what we need to do when we need to do it to become the best that we can be.

When we’re not spending all our time thinking about painful things, we have peace. We can use this peaceful time to think about ways to get along better with others, to do the right things, and to reconcile with our loved ones.

Margaret said that she’s sure these principles work because she has shared them with women for over 20 years. She said they all have learned to break their habits of anger, bitterness, victimhood, or whatever and create new habits of peace.

Margaret handed Mary a card. The card had the Three Life Principles on one side and blocks for each day of the week on the back. She explained, “Every time a negative thought pops into your mind, I want you to say out loud to yourself, ‘I will not think about that’ or ‘I take this thought captive.’” If you’re someplace where it would be weird speaking out loud, put your hand over your mouth like you’re covering a cough and say softly, ‘I take this thought captive.’

“Then put a check card in the block every time you dismiss one of your negative thoughts. Each week when we meet, we review how each of you is doing. I predict by the end of four or five weeks, you will be making very few check marks on the card because the Life Principle 2 will be taking effect in your life. The question now is, ‘Will you do this?’”

Mary must have looked a little skeptical because Margaret suggested,”Mary, I suspect that you have a negative thought right now telling you that this stupid idea will never work for you. This is a good place to start taking it captive.”

Each of the women shared her results of taking their thoughts captive for the previous week. Each had fewer negative thoughts that the week before. One girl, who was in her seventh week said this was her second week with no negative thoughts at all.

Still skeptical, Mary said to herself several times driving home and that evening, “I take this thought captive.” Each time, the thought went away briefly.

When the painful thoughts of childlessness barged in like they did every night, Mary took them captive out loud. She was amazed when each thought went away. They came back, like Margaret said they would and she took them captive again. After doing this several more times over the next half hour, Mary dropped off to sleep; the first time in years she had done so without crying.

The weeks passed quickly. Mary made good progress and she was excited as the number of negative thoughts diminished daily.

Mary found she had time to think about Joe and about the fact that she would never have children.

She called Joe one week and asked if she could come home that weekend; she had something to tell him. Joe was definitely puzzled; but he readily agreed to pick her up at the airport on Friday.

After freshening up at their house, Joe took her to her favorite restaurant and they enjoyed a very nice meal. Over dessert and coffee, she explained to Joe what she had been doing at Hannah’s Sisters.

She told Joe that she was at peace with the fact that she would never be a mother. And she then asked Joe to forgive her for all the pain she had caused him over the years. With tears in his eyes, Joe forgave her and asked her to come back home to him.

Her heart was full as Joe paid the check and they walked to the car. For the first time in years, she was actually enjoying being with her husband; and her heart was doubly full that God had given her a faithful husband who had continued to love her in spite of the trouble she had given him.

Out of habit, Joe started down the hall to his room until Mary touched his arm and said, “Joe, will you sleep in our room tonight?”

It took a few weeks to ease out of her position at headquarters and for a spot to open back in the office where in their home town; but the company made it happen for her.

She used that time to talk with Margaret about making Hannah’s Sisters a formal, legal organization that could expand into a number of locations where its alumni were living. Almost without exception, the women who had learned to live without pain were eager to share the Three Life Principles with other women.

She heard the front door open and Gilbert and Sullivan scampered across the living room and kitchen to their beds in the mud room. She heard Joe start down the hall. Joe may be lucky tonight, but Mary dimmed the lights thinking about how lucky and truly blessed she was – she was free of pain after hurting for years and she was helping other women find their freedom, too.

The end.

This fictional story introduces a principle that has been around for thousands of years. In addition to the Bible, philosophers like Confucius, Marcus Aurelius, Shakespeare, and others have written or spoken about our wonderful capacity to train ourselves not to ruminate on negative thoughts and to minimize the effects of emotional or physical pain in our lives. The danger of ruminating on emotional pain is, in addition to more pain, stress, depression, anxiety, emotional issues, and worse.

Children as well as adults can easily understand the simple Three Life Principles. The principles work for many negative emotions that result from almost any negative thinking.

 This concept is explained fully in an online eCourse called Finding Personal Peacehttp://findingpersonalpeace.com. The course leads you through these life principles and also covers topics like making good decisions, and dealing with serious stuff like death, illness, abuse, and addiction.

The eCourse leads one through a process of turning the habits of negative emotions into the habits of peace and freedom. You can read other short stories on life issues by searching the category, Short Stories, at the right. You can start with the course today and begin to find more personal peace in your life immediately.

All the best.

Copyright 2014 findingpersonalpeace.com. Birmingham, Al USA. All rights reserved.

Roberta’s Story – Saving Children Ten at a Time

Roberta’s Story – Saving Children Ten at a TimeRuth Stratton looked up at a soft knock at her door. Ruth had been principal of Barnard Middle School for five years. She had about 400 students and her school was one of two feeder schools for Central High School in their Midwestern town.

Standing in the door was Lisa Perkins, her guidance counselor, with a short stack of file folders in her hands. This did not generally mean good news, so Ruth held up a finger asking for a minute; cleared the top of her desk; and then asked Lisa to take a seat.

Knowing that both women were busy, Lisa got straight to the point.

“Over the past few days, I’ve been reviewing some of the students I see on a regular basis and I’ve found something that is really unusual,” Lisa began.

“What’s wrong?” interrupted Ruth, expecting the worst.

“Oh, there’s nothing wrong! In fact, I think something is happening that’s very good and I wanted you to see what I’ve found.”

Lisa slid three student folders across the desk and asked Ruth to take a look at them. Ruth scanned them and commented that it looks like three students are doing very well.

“That’s true,” said Lisa, “but up until last year all three were regular visitors in my office. I like to look at old cases to follow up on the students and these three were just some of the ones that popped out. It’s just not typical to see students moving so quickly from bad behavior to much improved behavior.”

Ruth looked back at the folders and noted, “These children are all in CPS (Child Protective Services).”

“That’s right. We have a total of 17 students right now that are in CPS. These three are doing very well and the rest are performing pretty much as we expect from CPS students. That made me curious.”

“Take a look at the responsible party. They are all under the care of a Roberta Stern. That, in itself, is unusual with a single woman acting as the foster parent. But it gets more interesting.”

“And if you look at the history, you’ll see that most of the unacceptable behavior came when the students were in a prior foster home; and the desirable behavior began about the time that Ms. Stern became their guardian.

“I did a system-wide computer search for students at that address. I found three in the elementary school and four more in the high school. When I call the counselors at both schools, I found the same patterns: troubled behavior moving to good behavior coincident with the child being moved into Ms. Stern’s care.”

Ruth thought about this for a minute. “This has gotten my curiosity piqued. I’m thinking that we don’t spend enough time looking at students who are performing well both socially and academically. See if you can get us an appointment with Ms. Stern. I’d like to know what she’s doing to help these children.”

Meeting with Roberta Stern

When the receptionist announced her 3:30 appointment, Ruth Stratton looked up to see Lisa Perkins in the doorway with a plain, but neatly dressed, woman who appeared to be in her early to mid-forties, whom she introduced as Roberta Stern.

“Ms. Stern,” Ruth welcomed her, “it’s so nice to see you. Won’t you both come in and have a seat.”

“It’s Roberta, if you don’t mind. When I hear Ms. Stern, I want to look around to see if my mother-in-law has come in.”

“Then, I’m Ruth and this is Lisa, who I expect you’ve already met. We appreciate your coming by today. We want to talk with you about your children.”

“Oh, please don’t tell me that one of them is in trouble,” Roberta, her face flooded with concern.

“No, no – quite the opposite. All your children are doing very well, both socially and academically. That’s why we asked you to come by. Your children don’t fit what we usually see with CPS children and we understand that your other children in both the elementary and high schools are all performing much the same.”

“You’re obviously doing something right. We’re just curious about your secret. If all students behaved as well as yours, Lisa wouldn’t have nearly the workload she has today.”

Roberta’s Story

“Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and Mr. Stern?”

“It’s just me. My husband, Sergeant James Stern, was lost in 2004 in Afghanistan to an IED. We had been married 12 years and he was career Army. But we were never able to have children.”

“We’re so sorry,” Lisa interjected.

“Thank you, I am too. But I guess losing him is why I’m here today.”

“We always wanted a family, my husband and I. We both grew up in large families; but I guess those genes stopped with us. After he died, my pastor asked me if I would consider taking foster children into my home.”

“After praying and with the promise of support from the church, I took two kids, a brother and sister, aged 17and 14 into my home. It was pretty hard because they both had some issues. We struggled greatly, but with a lot of prayer, the boy is now in the Army and doing well and the girl is in community college studying nursing.”

“But like I told my pastor and the CPS caseworker, I couldn’t do that again without having a plan. So here’s what I did.”

Roberta’s Plan

“Both my husband and I had learned that there is power in numbers in a large family. It’s much easier for seven or eight to love and support each other than it is for one to love and support one or two.”

“I also knew that there had to be some way to help these children get rid of the baggage they bring with them. It’s unspeakable how some of them have been neglected or abused. And the older they are, the more weight they carry.”

“Children basically want to be loved and to be secure. When that is torn away from them, they can build some terrible walls to protect themselves. Lisa, that’s why I expect you see so many CPS kids here on social issues. Kids’ walls keep getting tangled up with other kids and trouble starts.”

“So I did two things. First, I went to my pastor and told him that I would not be a foster parent for just one or two kids. But I would consider foster parenting a group home with eight to ten kids if I had the support of the church and the community.”

“Then I went to my husband’s Auntie Frances who had herself raised ten children without a husband around. I wanted to know her secret.”

Auntie Frances’ Story

“Auntie Francis told me that all she had learned came from her Granny Sims, who was a child of freed slaves, who heaven knows could themselves have some powerful baggage to carry around. She told me Three Secrets to Success in Life. I teach these secrets to every one of my kids today.”

Three Secrets

Secret 1 – Whenever a thought enters your mind that will cause you pain or tempt you to get into trouble, you say to yourself out loud, “I will not think about that.” When the thought comes back, and it will, you say it again, “I will not think about that.”

Auntie Frances said she didn’t know how this worked until she talked to her preacher about it. He told her that the Apostle Paul said in the Bible, “…we take these thoughts captive,” and that’s what we do when we refuse to think about something negative or tempting.

Later on, one of her children studied some philosophy and told her that Confucius, William Shakespeare, Martin Luther, and others had said pretty much the same thing for over two thousand years.

Secret 2 – When you consistently practice Secret 1, negative thoughts or temptations will come less and less until you really don’t think about them at all.

She told me that one of her grandchildren, who also lived by the secrets, told her how this part worked. She says that we have a part of our mind, called the subconscious, which has the job of helping us be happy and content. If our subconscious thinks that we are happy thinking about negative things and getting all worked up all the time, it will keep feeding us those negative thoughts so we can be happy.

But if our subconscious hears us saying “I will not think about that,” consistently, it will learn over time that we don’t want to think about those things and it will stop sending those negative  thoughts or temptations to us. It’s like our subconscious blocks those negative thoughts and temptations automatically.

Auntie Frances said that this made a lot of sense to her and she has four generations in her family practicing the secrets to prove it. She says they have learned to break the habit of stress and create the habit of peace.

Secret 3 – Use your habit of peace to make the best decisions for you and your family.

When we’re not spending all our time thinking about negative things, we have peace. We can use this peaceful time to think about ways to get along better with others, to do the right things, and to better ourselves for the future.

Roberta’s story continues

Roberta’s Story – Saving Children Ten at a Time“I’ll be honest”, she said, “I had some hard times dealing with losing my husband. I began to use the Three Secrets in my own life and I found peace for the first time since he died. I still missed him, but I wasn’t grieving over it to the point that it held me back.”

“About this time, the pastor came to me and told me the church owned a house with six bedrooms and a big lot. It was old, but it was serviceable. He had talked to the Board and he had talked to the neighbors near the house, and all had agreed that if the church would sponsor it, and I would serve as the foster mother, they would petition CPS to open a group home for kids.”

“Long story short, I prayed and agreed; the church petitioned CPS and they agreed; and the next summer, the next four foster kids, who are now in high school, came to live with me.”

Roberta explained that it took some structure to make all this happen; and she detailed how it evolved to what’s working so well today.

Every child has what she calls “settling in” time. This is the time when she teaches them the Three Secrets. She learned early on that you can’t really affect behavior before the demons are removed; and these foster kids are carrying some really big baggage demons on their little shoulders. Secrets 1 and 2 help them get rid of the baggage.

The only chore each child has from day one is doing their own laundry. Roberta had a large storage closet filled with good clothes she gets from the Salvation Army or the church clothing closet. Each child can pick three sets of clothing that they like. She decided on three sets because they would have to do their laundry every three days and that would give her time alone with the child while they do their laundry. The laundry time is when she can spend personal time with each child.

This is where she explained Secrets 1 and 2. Of course, secret 2 is automatic if they do Secret 1 consistently.

She tells them that she doesn’t want to know about their past. There really not too much they could do about that anyway. She would explain Secret 1 and encourage them to start dismissing their negative thoughts.

She uses following laundry sessions to inquire how Secret 1 is working and to encourage the children. That usually takes about the time it takes for the tub to fill; so they spent the rest of their laundry time talking about anything that becomes handy to talk about.

After a month, the habit of peace is beginning to take hold and the child is becoming “settled in.” Roberta then begins talking about Secret 3 – thinking about family and future. It isn’t too hard because the child is usually getting comfortable in the home by this time and with the baggage dropping off their backs.

Her laundry sessions are important. She leads age-specific conversations on a wide range of subjects including respect, privacy, personal space, shared responsibility, sexuality, dating, life choices, and marriage. She talks about finances, budgeting, planning, and taking responsibility.

Roberta picks an older child to be a “special” big brother or sister for the new child. This helps ease them into the family routines which are crucial in a big family.

The older children all share the cooking and marketing with Roberta’s help. She teaches all the children how to clean their rooms and to share in cleaning the house. They all work together to keep up the lawn and shrubs.

If a child starts balking about something, often a big sister or brother will talk with the child about the Secrets and encourage them to think of the importance of being part of the family and the importance of thinking about the future.

Roberta uses laundry time as private time with child. Here she can also teach each child to mend their clothing if it gets torn or loses a button. After laundry time, if they have outgrown a garment or are just tired of it, they can take the clean, repaired and folded garment back to the clothes pantry and select a replacement.

After supper comes study time and often older students will help the younger ones with their homework. The children learn to share their reports with their brothers and sisters and encouragement is the rule. They learn to use computers to research projects. Several have learned to make PowerPoint presentations which they share with the family.

Meal time is used to share events of the day and things coming up. Sometimes kids will bring up issues from school and often one kid would say to another, “Think about the secrets.” But they always listen carefully before they respond. That’s part of the respect they are learning.

Meal time is followed by game time. They don’t have TV or smart phones. They carry a limited-minutes cell phone in their backpacks for emergencies. Their CPS stipend is used to pay for the cell phones.

Every child is responsible for signing out on a whiteboard so everybody always knew where everybody is all the time. With ten kids, it’s easy to lose one.

Roberta teaches the kids to keep a journal every day just as she keeps a journal on each child. She retrieved hers from her purse and held it up as an example. When Ruth asked if she could see it, Roberta declined, saying that all the journals were personal.

If kids start hanging with the wrong people or heading toward some other trouble, brothers or sisters would often try to deal with it kid-to-kid. If that doesn’t work, the concerned child would quietly tell Roberta and that became good laundry-time material.

Roberta isn’t too concerned about romances in the home because the kids really are more like brothers and sisters. They all learn how to dress, talk, and act modestly. Older kids are allowed to date, but the girls couldn’t go out with a boy until he had come over for a Sunday dinner. Roberta laughs at the thought of some of these dinner-table inspections. But the kids feel comfortable dating within the family policy.

She said her kids participate in sports and take music lessons. They attend each others games and recitals. They swap chores when one has a conflict. They have become a family in every sense of the word except genetics.

Over time, the family becomes a secure rock for each child. They know they are loved, respected, and accepted there; and they know that other people are pulling for them as well as depending on them.

They always have a big Sunday dinner. When the kids age-out of foster care at age eighteen, they are always welcome to come back for Sunday dinner. Roberta expects that before long, they’ll have to make this a pot-luck dinner because she could envision twenty or thirty people or more coming back to visit their family bringing their own families with them.

The church is planning to add a guest house on the property so kids coming back home to visit can have a place to stay.

Kids learn how to do minor repairs around the house, googling for instructions and borrowing tools from the church maintenance team. They learn how to plan the project and budget for materials.

They all, boys and girls alike, learn how to change the oil and rotate the tires on their car and van. They clean and wax the vehicles to keep them nice. They check the oil and keep a maintenance log.

Church and community members give the kids jobs. They learn how to set up accounts at the credit union and account for their money. They write resumes to apply for jobs.

Part of their CPS stipend goes into a vacation account and they all go to the beach or the mountains each summer. The kids plan the vacation.

Since Roberta doesn’t have to buy clothes so much, part of their stipend goes to them for spending money.

Roberta ended her story by saying, “It’s amazing what children can do for themselves and for each other once they get rid of the baggage they had been carrying around in their young minds.”

Ruth and Liz sat there totally amazed with what this woman was accomplishing with her Three Secrets; and the evidence was in the folders in their hands. They were almost speechless. Finally, Liz spoke up, “That is utterly amazing, what you’ve told us!”

Ruth agreed. “I would have said the same thing eight years ago. But I have seen the Three Secrets work in my ten kids; and I see them working in four generations of Auntie Frances’ family.”

She continued, “I’m convinced that any family or any individual can succeed in life if they can just unload the emotional baggage most people carry around. I’m just as convinced that people can only pretend to be happy if they can’t dump that baggage.”

“The Three Secrets are letting my kids be free to be everything they were meant to be and I’m just glad to be part of the experience.”

The end.

This fictional story introduces a principle that has been around for thousands of years. In addition to the Bible, philosophers like Confucius, Marcus Aurelius, Shakespeare, and others have written or spoken about our wonderful capacity to train ourselves not to ruminate on negative thoughts and to minimize the effects of emotional or physical pain in our lives. The danger of ruminating on emotional pain is, in addition to more pain, stress, depression, anxiety, emotional issues, and worse.

Your children can understand the simple principles of the Three Secrets. The Secrets work for many negative emotions that result from almost any negative thinking.

 This concept is explained fully in an online eCourse called Finding Personal Peace – http://findingpersonalpeace.com. The course leads one through these secrets and covers topics like making good decisions, and dealing with serious stuff like death, illness, abuse, and addiction.

The eCourse leads one through a process of turning a habit of sadness into a habit of peace. You can read other short stories on life issues by searching the category, Short Stories, at the right.

Copyright 2014 findingpersonalpeace.com. Birmingham, Al USA. All rights reserved.

Ruts

Are you caught in a rut? You don’t have to stay there.

Ruts

Grading the Ruts in Your Life

The phrase, in a rut, means, according to one source, “In a settled or established habit or course of action, especially a boring one. For example, We go to the seashore every summer we’re in a rut , or After ten years at the same job she says she’s in a rut . This expression alludes to having a wheel stuck in a groove in the road. [Early 1800s]”

I think we all use that expression sometimes – some of us more often than others.

I read about it this morning in the context of living on a farm in the northern states, and finding the ruts to walk to the barn to feed the livestock after a blizzard; and then driving in ruts to try to get around on the farm in a vehicle. It’s a lot easier to move around if someone has gone before you and stomped out some ruts.

I grew up in rural Alabama. We didn’t have much snow, but we had an abundance of dirt roads. Over time, with rain and traffic, ruts, often deep ruts, would be cut in the roadway. After a time, the ruts became quite rough on the vehicle and the occupants as they bounced along up and down and from side to side in the ruts. It was easier in some places to drive on the unrutted sections of the road.

And please don’t let us meet someone coming from the opposite direction in the same set of ruts; but that’s an aside.

The ruts remained until the county sent out the road crew with their grading equipment to re-grade the road surface. Then it was smooth – for a little while.

Life’s Ruts

Have you found yourself in a life rut? Sometimes it’s as simple as living a lifestyle with predictable patterns. I go to our neighborhood McDonald’s and sometime a crew member starts ringing up my order as soon I say “Hello.” I’m in that sort of rut.

The other, and more bothersome, rut is the emotional rut where we find ourselves trapped between sidewalls of painful thoughts and bad experiences and we just can’t seem to find our way out.

Or worse, we don’t want to find a way out. It may be painful there, but at least it’s predictable. What is it that people say? “Better the devil you know that the one you don’t.”

It becomes a matter of “relative” comfort.” It’s not very comfortable here in the rut – but it might be far less comfortable out there in the unknown.

The sad thing is that our ruts often get deeper with the wear-and-tear of living, and the remembering of painful experiences, and the beating ourselves up with rumination, causing the ruts to get deeper and deeper and deeper.

Excuses

Somebody said, “My therapist had me relive all that pain every week for months; It didn’t help.”

Somebody else said, “That’s the hand I’ve been dealt. I just have to live with it.”

And someone else joined in, “ I’ve read all the self-help stuff. My problems are way too complicated.”

Blame it on painful approach, fate, or complications; they are all excuses.

Do you need a repair crew to come out and level out your ruts?

Your Own Repair Crew

What if it were possible to deal with the memories of your painful experiences in the privacy of your computer, iPad or smart phone?

What if it were possible to avoid reliving the pain?

What if it were possible to deal with life’s cards without falling back on old excuses?

What if it were possible to handle any life situation, no matter how complicated, by simply managing your negative thoughts one by one?

If all that were possible, do you think you could get out of the emotional ruts in your life?

I’m suggesting that it is possible. I helped myself out of the rut of anger. My friend helped herself out of the rut of inferiority.

Finding Personal Peace can show you how to get out of your ruts.

I was reading this morning the story of Jesus walking up to the boat during the storm. You remember it. The sight scared the disciples in the boat half to death. Peter declared that he wanted to walk on the water; and Jesus said, “Come on.”

Peter was doing great until he remembered his circumstances and looked down at his feet instead of looking at Jesus.

The point I took is this. Peter could have kept his seat in the boat and never gotten his feet wet. But he wanted more. John Ortberg, a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, wrote a fascinating book entitled, “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat.” I recommend it to you.

But back to your rut.

  • If you want to get out of your rut, you may have to try something you don’t understand.
  • You may have to be willing to be uncomfortable until you realize that it’s working for you.
  • You may have to admit that you’re in a rut.
  • You may have to admit that you can’t get out of the rut by yourself.

But if you can deal with stepping out of your comfort zone and admitting that life as you know it is a rut, you can experience personal peace like you never dreamed possible. You can start today.

Here’s to getting out of your rut today!

Ruts

www.findingpersonalpeace.com

Thanks for reading our blog today. I invite you to respond in several ways: (1) Comment in the space below if you agree or disagree with what I’ve said. A dialogue could be interesting for all; (2) Share the post with your friends using the buttons below; and (3) sign up to get an email with each new post. There’s a place to do that on the right. Then you won’t have to remember to look for our subsequent posts. Thanks again!

Be a Butterfly!

It’s quite a journey from caterpillar to butterfly. Have you taken it?

Be a Butterfly!

Be a Butterfly!

Have you ever watched a pupa struggling to get out of its cocoon and take flight as a beautiful butterfly? Would you agree that the result is worth the effort insofar as enjoying a beautiful insect in our garden or around our flower beds?

Can you Identify with Life in a Cocoon?

Many people are in struggles with serious implications. We are caught up in a tough, unyielding cocoon of emotions and negative thinking. We resolve again and again to burst out of the prison we’re in; but again and again, we give up, usually before the struggle starts, and slowly slide back down in the darkness of our hopelessness. If we don’t get free, the emotions may eventually destroy us.

Take a moment and describe your personal cocoon – from the inside. What is it that defeats you again and again? Why is it that you can’t soar in the bright sunshine like everyone else? It really does seem that everyone is soaring except you, doesn’t it. Is what binds you actually happening again and again or is it just the emotional handcuffs of thinking about something painful in your past.

Or someone you love dearly is trapped in their own emotional cocoon.

Wouldn’t you like to help them escape?

Its hard watching someone we love hurting; watching them fight against the emotions that shackle them. It’s tempting to try to make the pain go away.

What would happen if we snipped the end off a literal cocoon so the butterfly could slip out and soar? The simple truth is that he wouldn’t soar – he would die. The butterfly needs the exertion of opening the cocoon to strengthen itself for life as a butterfly.

Who of us would not snap our fingers and release a friend from bondage if we could? It just won’t work. One needs the experience of beating the odds – of winning the battle – to make the habit of living the role as a freed person. Emotional prisons have to be opened from the inside.

Look at the cocoon

Have you examined an empty cocoon? Look at the frayed opening and you’ll see the thousands of tiny threads that have been cut from within by the baby butterfly. You could think of the threads as the negative emotional thinking that entraps you in your emotional cocoon.

Breaking free

Unless we deal with each of those emotional threads ourselves, we can’t escape the cocoon.

Somebody said, “My problems are too big.”

Dr. Richard Carlson (see the book list at the right) wrote a book entitled “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” with the subtitle, “It’s all small stuff.”

It’ can be overwhelming to consider everything as a whole – to always look at the big picture. It’s much more feasible when we realize that the emotional cocoon is made up of many tiny emotional thoughts; and if we deal with those thoughts one at a time as they recur, we will eventually have dealt with all of them.

And dealing with a single thought gives us a tiny bit of emotional peace. The thought may come back and we deal with it again. But it’s not long until the tiny moments of peace become connected and you have developed a habit of peace regarding that particular issue.

Our mind is an incredible thing; but it always works one thought at a time; if we slice things small enough. We can deal with some really big things by handling just one piece at a time.

I’ve just described the working premise of Finding Personal Peace in three paragraphs.

You don’t have to continue to be trapped in your own emotional cocoon. You can be free to soar in peace.

Go for it!

Be a Butterfly!

www.findingpersonal peace.com

Thanks for reading our blog today. I invite you to respond in several ways: (1) Comment in the space below if you agree or disagree with what I’ve said. A dialogue could be interesting for all; (2) Share the post with your friends. There are buttons below for Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites; and (3) sign up for an email with each new post. There’s a place to do that on the right. Then you won’t have to remember to look for our subsequent posts. Thanks again!

Childhood Memories

Childhood Memories

Memories – The Best and The Worst of Life

All of us have memories of childhood. I trust that many have pleasant memories of family, friends, and good times.

Unfortunately, far too many people have memories that are still causing us pain today.

The small amount of Googling I did failed to produce a percentage of families that are dysfunctional. It’s hard to define dysfunctional because it could be said that anything that is not normal is dysfunctional. Then what is normal? It becomes a logical circle.

Unhealthy childhood memories

Do you have memories of your childhood that include any of these characteristics?

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Ridicule
  • Conditional love
  • Disrespect; especially contempt
  • Emotional intolerance (family members not allowed to express the “wrong” emotions)
  • Social dysfunction or isolation (for example, parents unwilling to reach out to other families—especially those with children of the same gender and approximate age, or do nothing to help their “friendless” child)
  • Stifled speech (children not allowed to dissent or question authority)
  • Denial of an “inner life” (children are not allowed to develop their own value systems) maybe due to dogmatic or cult-like parenting.
  • Being under- or over-protective
  • Apathy “I don’t care!”
  • Sibling abuse
  • Abandonment
  • Belittling “You can’t do anything right!”
  • Shame “Shame on you!”
  • Bitterness (regardless of what is said, using a bitter tone of voice)
  • Hypocrisy “Do as I say, not as I do”
  • Unforgiving “Saying sorry doesn’t help anything!”
  • Judgmental statements or demonization “You are a liar!”
  • Either no helpful criticism or excessive criticism
  • Absentee parents (seldom available for their child due to work overload, alcohol/drug abuse, gambling or other addictions)
  • Giving to one child what rightly belongs to another
  • Gender prejudice (treats one gender of children fairly; the other unfairly)
  • Discussion and exposure to sexuality: either too much, too soon or too little, too late
  • Abuse (parents who use physical violence, or emotionally, or sexually abuse their children)
  • Appeasement – rewarding faulty behavior to maintain peace
  • Faulty discipline (i.e. punishment by “surprise”) based more on emotions or family politics than established rules
  • Expecting perfection (fixating on order, prestige, power, and/or perfect appearances, while preventing their child from failing at anything)
  • Overly protective – trying to prepare or protect a child in every contingency instead of letting the child learn how to deal with issues as they come along.
  • Having an unpredictable emotional state due to substance abuse, personality disorder(s), or stress
  • Parents always (or never) take their children’s side when others report acts of misbehavior, or teachers report problems at school
  • Scapegoating (knowingly or recklessly blaming one child for the misdeeds of another)
  • “Tunnel vision” diagnosis of children’s problems (for example, a parent may think their child is either lazy or has learning disabilities after he falls behind in school despite recent absence due to illness)
  • Older siblings given either no or excessive authority over younger siblings with respect to their age difference and level of maturity
  • Frequent withholding of consent (“blessing”) for culturally common, lawful, and age-appropriate activities a child wants to take part in
  • The “know-it-all” (has no need to obtain child’s side of the story when accusing, or listen to child’s opinions on matters which greatly impact them)
  • Nature vs. nurture (parents, often non-biological, blame common problems on child’s heredity, whereas faulty parenting may be the actual cause)

I’m not trying to ruin your day

I’m not trying to ruin your day by dredging up awful memories from your past. If I’ve done so, I apologize; and I want you to tell yourself, out loud, “I’m not going to think about that anymore,” Do it again and again if you have to until you have a moment of peace.

Clear thinking

I want you to think clearly for a moment. If you often dwell on painful or negative memories from your past, there’s a very good chance that you’re either passing along some of the same memories to your children; or that you’re overcompensating to protect them and thus creating other painful memories for them.

The best thing you can do for your family and your children is to learn how to break the control your childhood has over your thinking today. I’ve already told you how to do that.

You have the habit of negative thinking. You can break that habit. It’s all described in an online course called Finding Personal Peace.

Don’t put it off. Start creating good, positive, childhood memories for your children by losing the negative, painful, memories of your childhood. Do it today!

Childhood Memories

www.findingpersonalpeace.com

Thanks for reading our blog today. I invite you to respond in several ways: (1) Comment in the space below if you agree or disagree with what I’ve said. A dialogue could be interesting for all; (2) Share the post with your friends. There are buttons below for Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites; and (3) sign up for an email with each new post. There’s a place to do that on the right. Then you won’t have to remember to look for subsequent posts. Thanks again!

The Grass May Not Be Greener

The Grass May Not Be Greener

Is the Grass Really Greener? Bad Decisions Hurt Relationships

Dear Abby had several letters today responding to a woman who was who was asking Abby for permission to give up a 20-year marriage to a man the woman described as “wonderful” because she didn’t “love” him and never had.

We all have potentially conflicting thoughts from time to time. “What if I do” precedes speculation about a new situation. “What if I had” follows a decision we couldn’t make for whatever reason. Both ends of the thought spectrum can cause us pain and regret.

I’m not denying there are situations that ought to be changed. No one should have to live in danger or accept infidelity as a matter of routine. Poverty and lack of education are circumstances that can very often be changed by determination and hard work. There’s nothing wrong with changing bad reality.

But there are many situations where we allow ideas of a more exciting and more fulfilling life to create total disdain for the life we have.

The woman who wrote Abby had a husband who loved her, cherished her, and provided well for her and had been faithful for 20 years. But she had gotten to the point where she didn’t want to be married to him anymore because she didn’t “love” him. I wonder how many times over the 20 years she had ruminated over a Hollywood version of life as the movies describe it.

She rationalized that she never loved him. Do you think that might be just an excuse to justify her dissatisfaction with her marriage or her life?

It’s not just marriage

Thousands of times in this country, this day, people will make decisions based on negative thinking that spoils their current situation; decisions that can destroy their past and cast them into an uncertain future.

Negative thinking can ruin our perspective on just about any issue. We can take a perfectly good job and grow to hate it because we keep replaying thoughts of how someone mistreated us. We can take a wonderful child and turn him into a social outcast because he learns that we think he’s not as successful as his brother.

At the extreme, a friend committed suicide a number of years ago because his wife was not satisfied with the $500,000 house he provided. He went deeper into debt to provide a “better” house. Then, when the economy downturned and shut down his business, he couldn’t take it any more. I had occasion in those days to be around the wife and some of her friends and the most common conversation was about how nice it would be to live in a more affluent neighborhood in a bigger house. Her negative thinking and her husband’s desire to please her ultimately made life not worth living for him.

Do you have a situation where your own negative thinking makes you dissatisfied with yourself, your life style, your job, or your spouse?

Why don’t you consider taking that negative thinking under control and see how much your disposition improves? You can do that. It’s not hard to break the habit of negative thinking.

Here’s wishing you a happier 2013 without doing a thing except stopping the negative thinking that minimizes life for you.

The Grass May Not Be Greener

www.findingpersonalpeace.com

Thanks for reading our blog today. I invite you to respond in several ways: (1) Comment in the space below if you agree or disagree with what I’ve said. A dialogue could be interesting for all; (2) Share the post with your friends using the buttons below; and (3) sign up to get an email with each new post. There’s a place to do that on the right. Then you won’t have to remember to look for our subsequent posts. Thanks again!

Resolutions – Why We Can’t Keep Them

Resolutions

Make Your Resolutions Count This Year

Got this year’s list close at hand? Maybe you didn’t write them down; somehow they’re not as binding if they’re not on paper.

Almost everyone has things they want to change in their lives as the New Year unfolds. Last year really wasn’t as good as it could have been. If I can just do this or that, this year will be better.

I resolve to . . .

  • Lose some weight / Get in shape
  • Get along with somebody
  • Get organized
  • Quit / atart doing something
  • Drop / adopt a habit
  • Make more / save more / spend less money
  • … Whatever

We always resolve to do better than before. We have such a strong desire to make our lives different this year.

Then, baggage intervenes

We all have baggage from our past – we just handle it different ways. We envy the people who are able to stuff the baggage back out of sight and out of mind. It’s there. It’s part of our history. But that’s the point. It’s history – not prophecy. How fortunate are the people who can look at their baggage that way.

Most of us carry our baggage right up front.

We may wear it like a chip on our shoulder just waiting for someone to knock it off.

We may keep it on speed dial so we can play it back to anyone who gives us an opening to share how pitifully life has treated us.

We may keep our baggage on instant recall so we can pull it up frequently to ruminate on how much we’ve suffered.

Baggage vs. Resolutions

It’s the baggage that destroys our resolve to do anything good!

A review of our baggage always produces negative thinking that always creates excuses.

  • We failed before; we’ll fail again
  • Overweight is the new chic. We don’t want to be too thin.
  • Clutter is the result of keeping busy
  • Better the devil you know than the one your don’t (old habits vs. new habits)

Negative thinking will always win

I should say, it will always win unless we know how to deal with our negative thinking. Don’t you think your resolutions are worth getting rid of the negative thinking?

Negative thinking does not have to win. Learn more.

Resolutions

Thanks for reading our blog today. I invite you to respond in several ways: (1) Comment in the space below if you agree or disagree with what I’ve said. A dialogue could be interesting for all; (2) Share the post with your friends using the buttons below; and (3) sign up to get an email with each new post. There’s a place to do that on the right. Then you won’t have to remember to look for our subsequent posts. Thanks again!