If I Were a Single Mother

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Buc is out of town this week, which has given Sam and me extra bonding time. It has also made me wonder: What would this journey of motherhood look like without the support of a husband?

Pondering this question makes me sad. I have friends who are making this journey, some of them in silence. But I know there must be pain. Any time a baby comes into the world under questionable circumstances, there is the feeling of rejection, non-acceptance, loneliness, abandonment. I grew up in a home where a baby was born under such circumstances.

This event—or more accurately, the negative roots, or bad emotions and feelings (and the misguided marriage), that led up to my baby brother–led to my family members eventually turning against one another and the five of us living far apart, both emotionally and physically. Today we have reconciled to a great extent. Forgiveness, understanding, and grace have been extended, and we have made up for lost time by creating new happy memories. But not all can be restored.

When families come apart, there is un-restorable loss. I have my husband today, and I have Sam, and God has healed much of the childhood wound, but there is still a hole.

Anytime we lose a family member, or a family structure, we have holes. And while God can soothe them, and partially refill them, they will remain until we are restored to our heavenly image and the heavenly blueprint for families. Single parents, and kids with divorced parents, and kids who don’t know their parents, and kids who do not get to see their parents, was not God’s plan for the family. No matter how much family members may bother us at times, we are not complete without them. We miss them when they’re gone.

And yet, sometimes during the daily grind, I have thoughts about my husband like:

  • If he weren’t here, I could actually keep this house clean.
  • If I didn’t have to cook and clean for him, I could have more time to myself.
  • I would eat healthier without him around.

Terrible, right? But it gets worse. I’ve had similar thoughts about my baby. (Oh come on moms, you’ve had them, too.) Christian writer/speaker Lysa Terkuerst admitted to wishing her kids were older so she could finally get something done. A friend of mine has admitted that she often wants her husband out of the house so he will stop messing it up. These are just the kinds of thoughts we have, aren’t they? We are so quick to dismiss the blessings God has given us.

But as I look back at my childhood family, I don’t care about the little inconveniences we caused each other, such as my brother’s pranks on me, Dad’s boring cooking, Mom’s “too helpful” comments on my homework. I don’t much remember them, honestly. I just regret losing the support of a two-parent family, and family unity and harmony. I regret the hurtful words that flew between us and the barriers we erected.

If I were a single mother, I would have cleaner house, sure. I would have a better diet, I think. And I would have more free time to write and do my “own thing.” But these things are poor consolation prizes for what I would lose.

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I would lose the joy of seeing Buc make our baby belly laugh. I would lose a warm body to cuddle with at night. I would miss good conversation over dinner (when we are lucky enough to eat dinner together and in quiet). I would miss feeling loved and needed. I would miss relationship.

God created us to exist within relationships, and no matter how full our lives are in other ways, the lack of close, familial relationships leaves us feeling empty at the end of the day. I know. I’ve lived that way. And living that way left me not wanting to live.

I’m glad I’ve gotten these days away from my husband to remember how much I love and need him. This time alone has reminded me to keep the main thing the main thing. If my home is not in order, then it must get my priority attention. There is nothing else more important.

I’m also grateful to remember how Jesus cared so much for me that he addressed my holes…by taking them into his own body and soul. A year ago I was Christmas shopping and came across beautiful poem by Anne Peterson called “I Have These Holes,” framed as wall art. I cried right there in the store as I read it, because it rang so true for me. And I bought two copies. One I gave as a Christmas gift (which I think got forgotten by the owner), but the other hangs just to the left of my writing desk.

Here is the poem.

I have these holes

(Find more from the author at AnnePeterson.com)

This poem still makes me cry because it reminds me how Jesus brought me through the loss of a mother for some of my crucial growing-up years, the loss of a father for a couple more of those years, and the loss of a two-parent family. I can’t say the holes are gone, but they don’t ache like they used to. And they have largely been refilled. And one day they will be completely filled.

If I were a single mother, I would have different holes. But in that case, Jesus would offer different ways to fill me up, to ease the ache, to provide support.

Today, if you are a single mother or dealing with the loss of any family member, Jesus understands. And he has ways to fill you up of which you can’t even dream right now. Just hold on.

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My Ugly, Messy Rebirth Story, Part 2

Read Part 1

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Photo Credit: “Red and Green Apple” by Just4you

What does it mean to be a born-again Christian? To read the New Testament, you’d think it means getting a whole new perspective on life, a new heart, and new behaviors along with it. Galatians chapter 5 gives a nice, quick contrast between the life controlled by the flesh, and the life controlled by the Holy Spirit. The former produces bad fruit like sexual immorality, impure thoughts, idolatry, hostility, quarreling, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, and much more. But the latter produces those famous “fruits of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (see vss. 16-26). To make it more personal, living a Spirit-filled, or “born-again,” life would mean new thoughts for the depressive (formerly me) who keeps repeating, “I just want to die” (Eph. 4:21-24; Col. 3: 1-3).

If an entire household were born-again, I suppose that would mean no more yelling at one another—no more anger and bitterness and malice. Parents would love each other and kids would respect their parents. Sabbath mornings would be joyful, not hate-filled. My parents would have stayed together—and our family would not have ended in an affair, an illegitimate child (or my beloved younger brother), a divorce, and possibly not the two older children (my brother and me) moving far, far away from a home that we came to know as a battleground. In a family that called itself Christian, how could we have gone so wrong?I believe it was because my family was not living a Spirit-filled life: we were not truly “born again.” (To read how Jesus explained rebirth and the Spirit-filled life, see John chapter 3).

Becoming “Adventist”

I know my parents were taught doctrine (a set of biblical beliefs) before joining the Seventh-day Adventist church, but were they taught about how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Were they taught how important it is to “be renewed in their minds”—and not just by learning information, but by internalizing God’s love for them and Jesus’ suffering and death and resurrection? When they were baptized, were they really taught what it meant to be buried with Christ—to put on love—and to die to self (Rom. 6:3-4)?

While I am tempted to blame the church for not teaching my parents these things—because the fruit in their marriage and in our family points to a “non-born-again” existence—I don’t know the answer to these questions.

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Photo Credit: “Black Bible” by Tacluda

Before I go any further, I should note that my dad grew up Lutheran and my mom, Catholic, so if a church or denomination is to blame for missing the “born-again boat,” several are to blame. I don’t know much about my parents’ formative experiences with church, except that Dad’s didn’t leave any notable impression on him, and Mom’s left her wanting more and better answers. She finally started to read the Bible for herself in college, only to realize that the Catholic church strayed pretty far from its teachings sometimes. (One example would be their changing of the ten commandments—deleting the second one and splitting the tenth into two.)

I know my parents, when they were newly married, came into the Seventh-day Adventist church through a Revelation Seminar, or a series of meetings that teaches esoteric prophecies in Daniel and Revelation, along with other defining doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist church (the seventh-day Sabbath, the state of the dead, the truth about hell, the health message, etc.). I know my parents latched on to the logical presentation they saw; they couldn’t argue with the Adventists, because these people proved everything they taught straight from the Bible. I know these convincing proofs were enough to get my parents baptized.

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Photo Credit: gritintheoyster.wordpress.com

And then my parents started doing what the Adventists did. They took my brother and me to church on Saturday and restricted what we could do on the Sabbath: no TV, no sports, no shopping or eating out from Friday night sundown to Saturday night sundown. They stopped eating unclean meats, such as pork and seafood, per instructions in Leviticus. And as I grew up, these outward markers, to me, became what it was to be a Seventh-day Adventist Christian—only I didn’t think much about myself being a Christian, or a follower of Christ. I mostly thought of myself as an “Adventist,” because, it came to my attention, being “Adventist” separated me from my peers who were busy eating bacon, playing sports on Sabbath, and attending other fun events that I couldn’t. 

My Fallout from Church

When I was sixteen, after Mom left with my baby brother and Dad and my older brother were angry and I was depressed, I started blatantly breaking the fourth commandment (“Thou shalt keep the Sabbath holy”) by working on Saturdays. Suddenly I didn’t care about breaking the Sabbath, because, well, why should I? I had been attending church all my life, but church hadn’t helped me any. It hadn’t saved my family.

I can’t remember if anyone tried to tell me about what it really meant to be born again: in this case, being renewed in my now-suicidal mind—or finding peace amidst the storm. Perhaps some caring adult tried to tell me, and their words fell on deaf and hurting ears. All I know is I didn’t see the Spirit-filled life, or love and joy and peace, demonstrated at home. And this brings up another crucial point.

Fruit of the Non-Born-Again Family—Plus, the Christian Pretending Game

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Photo Credit: “Happy Family Leaving Church” by iamachild.wordpress.com –

I remember many kind church members who I think would have intervened had they known what was really going on in my home. But my parents were good at something many other Christians are: They hid our problems from the public eye. After they split up, my parents admitted that they’d always planned to divorce—but they were trying to wait until my brother and I graduated high school. When it hit the fan, not only our fellow church members, but also my brother and I, were flabbergasted that things were really that bad. Mom and Dad had played the game well.

Going back to the born-again discussion—because I think the true root of my family’s demise was that we were not born-again—my parents today admit that they entered marriage unprepared and unconverted in their hearts. I don’t ever remember Mom and Dad modeling for my brother and me daily prayer, except that we prayed before meals and sometimes before bedtime. Family devotions were non-existent. Our lifestyle, filled with sports and fiction and media and rock and country music, was very secular, except for one day a week when we put all that away to “keep the Sabbath.” So we were “Adventists.” But we were not really Christians (not really living like Christ). Which means we were really nothing but posers, because you can’t be a true Seventh-day Adventist without being a Christian, too.

Roots of a Blow-up

Learning doctrine is great, if it is biblical. I believe that Seventh-day Adventist doctrine is biblical. But if doctrine is all you have, in the end you really have nothing, as my family’s story shows. Along with doctrine, you need to have relationship—relationship with God and Jesus that transforms the way you think and live and relate to others every single day of the week. This is what I mean by being born-again.

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Photo Credit: Peacefulparenting.com

Before shouting matches occurred in my home, we should have been dropping to our knees as a family. Before my depressive thoughts took root, I should have been planting scripture in my mind.

“We do not wage war with mere human plans or methods. But we use God’s mighty weapons, not merely worldly weapons…with these, we take captive every thought to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5). What if my parents had learned, and I had learned, to take every thought captive to Christ?

Oh, what a much happier story I’d have to tell.

Instead, we went to church angry, put on plastic smiles, and then, when everything blew up, we kept those things out of sight, too. I learned to keep my depression out of sight. Then, when the façade became too farcical for me, I disappeared from church altogether.

The good news is that when your spiritual leaders fail you (possibly because they don’t know what you need, if they even know what they need), God can still get to your heart. He eventually got to mine. Sadly, it’s also true that the sins of the parents reach into the third and fourth generations—so sometimes even as we are coming back to God, it’s a murky, uphill battle. There are consequences to living opposed to God’s laws, and it can take a long time for life to smooth out again (hence my “ugly, messy” rebirth story).

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Photo Credit: “From Roots to Fruits” on faithstudentministries.com

Before I can tell you about the good fruit God eventually produced in me, in part three, I will expand on the lingering effects of growing up in a (church) culture where I thought it was “not okay” to ask for help—as well as the idea that there wasn’t anything inherently life-changing about Jesus, his Word, or prayer.

Read Part 1

Prozac Nation—Review by a Former Pill Popper

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia

In her memoir on depression, Prozac Nation, Elizabeth Wurtzel paints an annoying picture of herself as a depressive, which includes being desperate and clingy, prone to panic attacks, dependent on boyfriends for her identity, ungrateful for all the good in her life, and selfish.

Reading this book, even I, a sympathetic co-sufferer, became frustrated. When is she going turn a corner? Why is she telling me this? I wondered. And, How can she presume to be the authority on this when her past was not as heartbreaking as mine?

In her afterword, Wurtzel responds to impatient readers like me, saying, basically, “If you got angry at me, good. I wanted you to feel that way.”

The Book’s Bummers

As Wurtzel explains, she wanted to convey what it was actually like to be around a depressive and, more ambitiously, wanted to give the reader the feeling of being trapped in a mental prison similar those in which depressives finds themselves.

Indeed, most of her book grovels in the quagmire of her own circumstances—her parents’ divorce, her father’s abandonment, her failed relationships, her struggle to get adequate medical attention—and this is what gets so  annoying . But at key points she surfaces from her self-obsessed soliloquy to take stock of what her situation reveals about her whole generation—and this is what resonates with me.

The Book’s Brilliance

What Wurtzel does particularly brilliantly is characterize the displacement that she and her whole generation faced as a result of the cultural revolution in the sixties. Her parents divorce is, of course, no very remarkable thing these days, but her brilliance is zooming in on this seemingly “small” detail.

She expresses outrage on behalf of a whole generation whose parents have led them to dismiss marriage like so many other traditions that used to give people roots—she expresses anger at the fact that nothing is held sacred anymore—and that individual whim reigns supreme. She characterizes how such a world–where individuality and mobility, not family ties or roots, are seen as virtues—leaves its children feeling hopeless and depressed. She doesn’t go as far as diagnosing the cause of the explosive use of Prozac in the 90s, and the booming popularity of depressed-obsessed punk rock bands like Kurt Cobain’s, but the suggestion is heavily weighted toward the disintegration of the American family.

Where We Agree—The Family’s Demise Spells Depression

Like Wurtzel, I firmly believe that by our disregard for the family unit we have self-imposed many of our problems. In our quest for self-gratification, we have damned and doomed the next generations. I think this is what the Bible refers to when it speaks of parents’ sins becoming a curse to the third and fourth generations. It’s not that God unfairly punishes children for what their parents did. It’s that children can’t help but be cursed when parents choose to be self- rather than God-centered.

How My Take on Depression Differs

I’m glad Wurtzel wrote this book, because now I  don’t have to. Years ago, a book about my life would have closely resembled hers, as far as the inspiration meter. Low.

Of course, inspiring readers wasn’t the purpose of the book. It wasn’t to make the reader feel warm and fuzzy, but to portray what depression feels like.

Although I used to envision writing such a book, once I had my conversion I no longer felt comfortable writing such a book. But now, having read Wurtzel’s contribution, I see that such literature has its place, even on a Christian’s bookshelf. Jesus didn’t look away from human suffering, and we shouldn’t either. My problem before was I felt I was wallowing. But now I see that the wallowing effect came from my audience and purpose for writing. My audience? Anyone who would listen, preferably those who had failed me earlier in life. My purpose? To get the sympathy now that I never felt I got when at my lowest points.

In all seriousness, maybe I could write a depressing book like Wurtzel’s these days without wallowing, but that’s only because I would no longer be focused on getting sympathy for my past wounds, but offering empathy to fellow sufferers. Yes, these kinds of books have their place. But since by God’s amazing grace I’ve emerged from that black hole, I’m glad that I don’t have to fill that market niche. And now, I can focus on the upward swing, not the downward slope.

The Decade the Music Died

Your parents divorce. Your boyfriend reveals he’s gay. You show up to work one day to find the place has shut down.

Some losses are instant and sock it to you in a single blow. Others take more time to unravel, so much so that you don’t even realize you’ve lost something until, one day, you run smack dab into that old thing—that you suddenly realize you no longer have.

I was browsing the clearance racks of Half Price Books last week when I came upon some old CDs I remembered owning growing up. Mostly Christian tunes from the 90s. A dollar apiece? Sure, why not.

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When I put on the old Ashton, Becker, and Dente CD while doing dishes later that night, felt the music swell and my heart tingle, I realized something: I miss this.

I guess I first became vaguely aware of my loss of music when my bff, Samantha, and I were road-tripping one-thousand miles to Minnesota some years back (we’re both transplants to Texas) and she wanted to sing and I didn’t.

Sam and I had grown up singing together, even comprising two-thirds of a Christian trio in our teens. I remember being sixteen, when we’d just been liberated with driver’s licenses, cruising the Podunk town of W, Minnesota, singing at the top of our lungs just because we could.

But now, when we were twenty-six, cruising Interstate 35, and she suggested, “Hey, let’s sing some of our old songs, want to?” all I could do was shrug.

She looked at me quizzically. “You don’t really like to sing anymore, do you, Linds?”

I had never really thought about it. But it was true.

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For that matter, I’m not fond of playing the piano anymore, either.

Not so for the first half of my life.

I started playing piano at age eight, or during the only year my parents pulled me out of public school to try an experiment. During the 1992-93 school year, our church started a “school” that boasted a whopping enrollment of six. My brother and I made up one-third of all students. My mom was the teacher.

Though I was angry that year for being separated from my public school friends, I found at least one redeeming factor in this arrangement: all the pianos.

Maybe it was because I was in rebellion from doing schoolwork—or maybe it was because God had a plan. But for whatever reason, I found myself drawn to those piano keys all year long. When our school enrollment was slashed to 50 percent at Christmas (one family with three kids moved away), I was only too ready to head back to public school. But by then, I’d heard the music, and for the next decade I would play and sing frequently for church, adding in the trumpet during sixth grade, which I would play in various school bands until graduation.

Of our family of four, I was the only one who played any instruments; but with my dad’s love of classic rock, southern gospel, and his growing collection of Christian tunes, our house was, all told, very musical. And it is my dad’s constant playing of music (on stereos and other sound systems) that brings us back to Ashton, Becker, and Dente, or where this journey started.

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One year not long before the family split, Dad enrolled our family in a music club. You know the kind. Before everything went digital, they used to send out sheets of little CD stickers. You could “Choose 12 for the price of 1!” and you literally cut and pasted your selections onto the order form.

Before, Dad had always chosen the soundtrack of our house. But with this membership, we all had a hand in picking the twelve CDs. Some of the CDs we picked are the same ones I found at Half Price Books: Ashton, Becker, and Dente; Point of Grace; Phillips, Craig, and Dean; Geoff Moore and the Distance; Sierra; and more.

Through that music club I was later introduced to some of the Christian artists I still have in my collection today: Jaci Velasquez, Cheri Keaggy, and Steven Curtis Chapman. Others stayed with Dad after Mom left and Kyle went to college and I followed Mom (later to move to Texas, of course).

And until I stumbled upon these relics at the bookstore, I plumb forgot about them. What’s more, I forgot about the happiness those CDs had brought to our home, because we had all chosen them together—one of our last “family projects.”

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Why did I forget? Why is it that ten years have passed largely without the sound of music in my home?

For years it’s like I’ve just shut out this part of my makeup, flat-out denied it was there.

But rediscovering those CDs was like finding old friends. And more than pain, the memories attached to them brought pleasure. This is what healing must be. Writing. Listening. (Playing?) to my roots.

To face my past I can’t avoid the bad memories that, unfortunately, usually flash out at me first. But as I keep going, God is faithful—He takes me back to where I’m meant to be. And little by little, He restores what was lost.

At the end of a quiet decade, regaining my love of music has started with a few old CDs.

Maybe in my thirties I’ll relearn my love of piano, too.