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Archive for December, 2015

The adoption paradox

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 1 John 3:2 (NKJV)

 

The adoption paradox in America:  Adopted children have parents who are generally well-educated and affluent. They get more time and educational resources from their adoptive parents than the average child gets from their biological parents.  At the same time, they get into more conflicts with their classmates at school, show relative little interest and enthusiasm about learning tasks, and their academic performance is barely average.

The logical question posed by Nicholas Zill in a brief study for the Institute for Family Studies[i] is, why don’t adopted children do better?  He suggests that possible reasons why family resources do not always produce great outcomes may be found in attachment theory, traumatic stress theory, and behavior genetics.  Here’s a brief explanation of each.

Attachment theory holds that a warm, intimate, and continuous relationship with at least one adult, usually the mother, is essential for the mental health of infants and young children.

According to traumatic stress theory, the likelihood of long-term emotional scars depends on the intensity and duration of the stress.

Behavior genetics is relevant because adoptive parents usually cannot choose or control the genetic endowment of the children they adopt.

It is probable all three of these theoretical perspectives play a role in the adoption paradox.  But we must underscore that none of the findings presented here is meant to minimize the priceless contribution that adoptive parents make to the children they take in.  Many adopted children do reasonably well in school and enjoy lives that are far better than they would have experienced had they not been adopted.  What’s important is that parents be realistic about what adoption can and cannot accomplish.  Given the situation in which many women with unplanned pregnancies find themselves, adoption is still a better option.

 

Father, thank you for adopting us, and for being our loving Father.

[i] http://family-studies.org/the-paradox-of-adoption/?utm_source=IFS+Main+List&utm_campaign=66313a9b30-Newsletter_101&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c06b05f1ff-66313a9b30-104541745

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Rise in remarriage

If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights. Exodus 21:10 (NKJV)

 

According to report by the Pew Research Center[i], in forty percent of marriages begun in 2013, one or both partners had been married before, and close to one-quarter of all currently married adults have previously been married to someone else.  It is of interest to note that both figures have risen sharply since 1960, when just 13 percent of married adults were on their second (or later) marriage.

What is also interesting is that while a growing number of adults have never been married, and more of those who had been married are divorced or widowed, those who had been married are not less likely to remarry.   That is to say that those that have never been married see marriage as less desirable than those whose marriages have ended, regardless of the circumstances.

The report also shows that formerly married seniors have become more likely to remarry, whereas their 25- to 34-year-old counterparts have become less likely to do so. While men have become less likely and women more likely to remarry, men are more likely than women to actually marry again.

According to W. Bradford Wilcox, American Enterprise Institute visiting scholar and director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, research suggests that, on average, couples who remarry are more likely to divorce than those who marry for the first time.  One of the factors that determine whether the new marriage will last is the presence of children, but another important one is whether “the same orientations or vulnerabilities or vices that may have led to earlier divorce — whether depression or drinking too much or something else — can be carried over to the second marriage. For that reason, we see they are generally less stable than intact first marriages.”

While some people are very intentional about not making the same mistakes they made in a first marriage, it is “not always possible to realize those good intentions, given the challenges of new relationships.”

 

Father, help me work as hard as I can to make this marriage last.

[i] http://family-studies.org/the-rise-of-remarriage/?utm_source=IFS+Main+List&utm_campaign=9b4102a4cb-Newsletter_107&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c06b05f1ff-9b4102a4cb-104541745

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Teens and marriage

Both young men and maidens; Old men and children. 13Let them praise the name of the LORD, For His name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and heaven. Psalm 148:12-13 (NKJV)

 

Americans now seem to be leaning toward the idea that marriage is more of an option instead of a milestone on the path to adulthood.  It is interesting to note that although the mean age at first marriage has shown an overall increase, the timing of marriage still varies by sex, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background.

According to an article by Kelly Roberts, Daniel Hubler, and Kate Kirk[i], Oklahoma has one of the nation’s youngest ages of first marriage as well as one of the highest divorce rates.  Their research team set out to gain greater clarity about how cultural niches might impact adolescents’ attitudes about marriage.  Here’s what they learned:

How groups were similar.  When asked about their general attitudes about marriage, most students agreed that it “takes work” and that it is “for life.”   They were more specific about the types of daily life and relationship skills needed to have a healthy marriage and they listed such things as communication, “not fighting,” learning to cook, getting a job, “commitment,” etc.  Overall, each group seemed to have given a great deal of thought to the issue and considered the notion of marriage seriously.

How groups differed.  One of the focus groups used their grandparents as their reference group.  One of the students made the comment, “I think it’s just our parents’ generation that messed up. I’ve seen my grandparents, and they’ve stuck together.”  Students in other groups spoke about their parents’ marriage in positive terms.

Students in the alternative school group said the ideal age for marriage was 18-22, while students in the suburban group said 25-30 is best.  And finally, when asked whether or not they could successfully navigate a marriage the responses also varied.  One student in a high-income group observed, “Every friend in my group has parents who have been divorced at least once.”  A strong, intact, healthy marriage is still the best lesson for our kids.

 

Father, bless our marriage and may it be a positive lesson for my kids

[i] http://family-studies.org/teens-attitudes-toward-marriage-vary-widely-across-oklahoma/?utm_source=IFS+Main+List&utm_campaign=63a7bf26ba-Newsletter_108&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c06b05f1ff-63a7bf26ba-104541745

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Loneliness shortens life

And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Genesis 2:18 (NKJV)

 

According to Peter Russell[i], from WebMD, writes that “being lonely can trigger cellular changes in your body that increase your chances of getting ill and not living as long as you could have.”  Past research suggests that the risk applies to older people.  Since that is the case, we need to look at and treat loneliness as a major health problem.

In the new study, which was conducted by a combined team of researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of California, they found that loneliness can trigger the body’s fight-or-flight response, which can affect the production of white blood cells and eventually undermine the immune system.

In essence, explained the researchers, “lonely people have a weaker immune system and higher levels of inflammation than people who aren’t lonely. Their health is also more vulnerable because they feel threatened.”

Loneliness is not a normal part of getting older, contrary to what many people believe.  The truth is that it not only makes life miserable, but it can also have a serious impact on your physical and mental health.  It is sad that, “Research shows that more than a million older people say they haven’t spoken to a friend, neighbor or family member for over a month, and unless we act, our rapidly aging population we’ll see ever greater numbers of lonely older people.”

We don’t have to let older family, friends, or neighbors be lonely.  We all can do something as simple as checking up on them, especially during this festive season, but also year round.

Listen to these words,” Many are suffering from maladies of the soul far more than from diseases of the body, and they will find no relief until they come to Christ, the wellspring of life…Christ is the mighty Healer of the sin-sick soul…They need to be patiently and kindly yet earnestly taught how to throw open the windows of the soul and let the sunlight of God’s love come in. Complaints of weariness, loneliness, and dissatisfaction will then cease. Satisfying joys will give vigor to the mind and health and vital energy to the body.”[ii]

 

Father, remind me to care for those who are lonely.

[i] http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20151124/loneliness-death?ecd=wnl_men_120115&ctr=wnl-men-120115_nsl-promo-5_title&mb=K2VcbkxhrhREAZ5zC2UpheHnVev1imbCHYS8QQY8uqo%3d

[ii] White, E.G. Review & Herald, December 17, 1914 par. 17

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Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 1 Corinthians 9:26 (NKJV)

 

Gina Vivinetto[i] remind us to be kind to ourselves and suggests several ways you can be kind to yourself, and feel better:

  1. Change your passwords. Making occasional changes to our routine can be very helpful to get off the doldrums that may set it. As an interesting experience, if you want to build more gratitude into your day, make your password something for which you are thankful.
  2. Do a brain spill. If you tend to stress over unfinished tasks, try keeping a pad of paper next to your bed and to jot down a “brain spill.” As Davis-Laack explains, “Whatever you’re stewing about, put it on paper. This simple strategy relaxes your brain so it can focus on other tasks.”
  3. Treat yourself as well as you treat your BFF. Sometimes we are nicer to others than we are to ourselves. The next time you’re upset or hurting, stop and ask yourself, “What if I had a good friend who was going through a similar situation?” How would you would treat that friend? What emotional tone would you use with that person?  Once you answer, be as soft and gentle and caring with yourself as you would be with your friend.”
  4. Write a sweet letter to yourself. As Kristin Neff, author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself writes, “Research shows if you write a self-compassionate letter to yourself for seven days in a row you reduce your depression for three months and increase happiness for six months.” Save those letters and read them again whenever you are feeling down.
  5. Try a self-compassion break. Neff suggests you give yourself a warm, comfortable hug and repeat these three phrases to yourself: (1) This is a moment of suffering. (2) Suffering is a part of life and (3) May I be kind to myself. As she explains, “Gentle, non-judgmental acknowledgement of our own pain has a calming effect.”

Take care of and be kind to yourself so you can be kind to those around you.

 

Father God, plant your compassion in my heart so that it may sprout out to others and to myself.

[i] http://www.today.com/kindness/gratitude-you-too-11-simple-ways-be-kind-yourself-t52666

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And they spoke to him, saying, “If you are kind to these people, and please them, and speak good words to them, they will be your servants forever.” 2 Chronicles 10:7 (NKJV)

 

We have talked several times about teaching and showing kindness so that your children will imitate you and be kind themselves.  While being kind to others is important, Gina Vivinetto[i] remind us to be kind to ourselves.  As she reminds us, “After all, how well you love yourself sets the tone for how well you’re able to love others.”  She suggests several ways you can be kind to yourself, and feel better:

  1. Enjoy beautiful smells. You don’t need to spend any money, time, effort, or calories to enjoy a lovely scent. At home you can pick up a grapefruit, bury your head in a freshly laundered pile of towels, or smell a bottle of vanilla.  At a store, go to the makeup section and smell the free samples.
  2. Try fur therapy. If you have a furry pet at home, stop for a few minutes, put them on your lap or sit next to them, and run your hands on their fur. Both of you will enjoy the experience.
  3. Give up on moderation. Being kind to yourself also includes taking care of yourself. As you think of your health, are there some things you should do without, or at least should do less of?  While this may sound hard to do and not like a way to be kind to yourself, you will feel better knowing you have taken steps to lower your weight or blood pressure, or simply to feel better.
  4. Set a bedtime alarm. Some of us need to set an alarm to get up in the morning. But if you have trouble turning out the light at night, which makes you drag the next morning, try setting a bedtime alarm.  Set it to a few minutes before you need to or want to be in bed so you have time to unwind and get ready for sleep.  Once the alarm is set, and it goes off, you should turn all electronic devices off.
  5. Start a portfolio of good stuff. Collect any thank you notes, testimonials, e-mails, and any other positive expressions from others. On those days when you may need a little boost, take them out and bask in the joy of being loved and appreciated by others.

 

Father God, I want to be able to love others as I love myself.  Help me to take care of myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

[i] http://www.today.com/kindness/gratitude-you-too-11-simple-ways-be-kind-yourself-t52666

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But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:20 (NKJV)

 

Trisha Porter[i], talks about the fears she had as she contemplated being a foster parent and how she also found a way to resolve those fears in their life:

I feared it would hurt too much to give them back, especially if I knew the situation they were going back to was far from perfect. As she found out, the truth is it does hurt.  And yet, she concluded that “if I can provide God’s love, food, shelter, stability and safety for even just a few months, that’s a God-given opportunity.”  While the foster care system is not perfect, as Christians “we have an opportunity to shine a light in this hurting space. Our mentality has to be that of redemption and restoration. You and I may be the individuals God uses to put a family back together. What a privilege!”

Finally, I feared it was going to be really hard and uncomfortable.  She found out she was right…it is really hard.  In her case, though, it had a lot to do with her personality.  As she explains, “I realized I’m a control freak, I don’t like unknowns, and I’m selfish. I really don’t like dying to self (Matt. 16:24)” Today’s world has conditioned us to strive for and enjoy success and comfort.  We don’t particularly like the idea of pain and suffering, or denying ourselves.  Denying self is painful.  And yet, only as we do so are we able to become more like Jesus.

What does denying ourselves to help others mean?  “God has made provision that ignorance need not exist. Those who have means are to take up their God-given responsibility. The poor are the purchase of the blood of the Son of God, and with God there is no respect of persons. The Lord says, “Sell that ye have, and give alms.” Instead of hanging a necklace of gold and jewels about your neck, instead of adorning and decorating your mortal bodies, you are to deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Jesus. You are to impart to others, and care for the destitute and the ignorant.”[ii]

 

Father, help me to deny myself that I may help those in greater need.

[i] https://vitalmagazine.com/Home/Article/Fears-of-Fostering/

[ii] White, E.G. Review and Herald, March 17, 1896 par. 8

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Fostering fears – 1

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. Matthew 1:18-19 (NKJV)

 

According to Trisha Porter[i], there are 153 million orphans around the world, according to staggering numbers from UNICEF. The United States Department of Health and Human Services tells us there are 415,129 children in the U.S. foster care system. Of those, 107,918 are ready to be adopted today.  She had some fears, probably the same that others interested in being a foster parent may have, but she also found a way to resolve those fears in their life:

I feared that bringing in a foster child would negatively affect my own biological children.  This concern is valid and in some cases very real.  Some children in the foster system have been traumatized and abused, often repeatedly, and can be very challenging.  But, as she writes, “Too often we try to create such a safe environment for our children that we risk robbing them of opportunities to show the love of Christ. Bringing a foster child into our home taught my children how to serve, share, be grateful and love like Jesus.”  If God called you, He will equip you.

I feared I wouldn’t be able to connect with a foster or adopted child.   With her first foster child, everything was a battle, and she had a hard time connecting with him.  As she explains, “But Jesus stepped in. He helped me to see that little guy through His eyes. He reminded me that this child didn’t sign up to be in foster care – but we did sign up to help him.”

At the same time, she had an unrealistic expectation that she would just “fall in love” with this child at first sight.  Many adoptive parents told her that it’s very common for connection to take several months, maybe even a year or two.   As she says, “God knits our hearts together over time, and He can definitely do that for an adoptive or foster family.”

 

Father God, if you call me to be a foster parent to a child in need of love, give me the wisdom, patience, and kindness he/she needs.

[i] https://vitalmagazine.com/Home/Article/Fears-of-Fostering/

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A complete single

But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; 1 Corinthians 7:8 (NKJV)

 

Christopher, a young, divorced man told David Lapp[i], “You have to be a secure person, a full person.”  Christopher loved to drink and party, but vowed that he would be a functioning alcoholic.  His wife, Cammi, always said that she would change him, but when it came to alcohol and partying, nobody was about to change him…alcoholism tore his marriage apart.

When Lapp interviewed Christopher, he had been divorced from Cammi for about a year, but after attending Alcoholic Anonymous he “found God.”  As he reflected on his past, he thinks that both he and Cammi entered marriage with deep insecurities. He also thinks that they moved too fast in their relationship: they had sex soon after meeting each other, which, “fueled our relationship to continue.”

As he reflects on his marriage and divorce, he believes that you need to be emotionally “complete” as a person before you enter marriage.  As he says, “You have to be a secure person, a full person. I think really you have to have God in your life and you have to live that life.”

We know that marriage brings a number of benefits in its train – better health, sex, and finances, among others.  The question is, what are the limits of those benefits, particularly for people with traumatic childhood experiences?  According to the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study of over 17,000 people, almost two-thirds of participants reported at least one “adverse childhood experience,” like physical abuse, a household member’s mental illness, or parental separation or divorce (the study identifies ten). More than one in five people reported at least three adverse experiences.

If we are the result of our upbringing, you need to pay attention to such things like your and your future spouse’s physical and mental health, your faith, character and personality, your finances, and so much more.  In other words, be sure you are a healthy and complete person.

 

Father God, help me be a complete person instead of looking to be complete in marriage, by somebody else.

[i] http://family-studies.org/for-marriage-to-work-you-have-to-be-a-secure-person/?utm_source=IFS+Main+List&utm_campaign=32b7a47f24-Newsletter_103&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c06b05f1ff-32b7a47f24-104541745

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Media Marriage

Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 1 Corinthians 7:3 (NKJV)

 

Jeffrey Dew[i] is an Associate Professor at Utah State University says that the more husbands use social media, the worse both they and their wives feel about their marriage.  The changes in electronic mass media over the past 25 years have been truly amazing.  And because media has become much more interactive and personalized it increases the potential to connect individuals and families more easily and rapidly than ever before.

Drew and his colleague Sarah Tulane conducted a study of more than 1300 married couples that investigated how spouses’ use of television, video games, and social networking websites were associated with their reports of marital quality.  They found that the more husbands used social media websites, the worse both they and their wives felt about their marriage.  To be more specific, women whose husbands spent more time on social media reported lower levels of marital happiness.  At the same time, the more husbands used social networking websites, the more conflict and the higher the level of perceived divorce likelihood reported by both wives and husbands.

One of the questions the researchers had to ask is why husbands’ use of social networking websites is related to their reports of marital quality, but wives’ use is not?  Dew and Tulane believe that it has to do with gendered social norms.  Since research suggests that women use communication to build their relationships more than men do, social media might simply be another way women communicate and connect with others.  Playing video games was only a problem when spouses differed in the amount of time they spent on it.

Finally, when it came to watching television, wives reported being less happy in their marriage the more husbands reported watching television.  This may be a reason why excessive sports watching creates so much conflict in some marriage.

One thing is for sure, as technology continues to evolve, its relationship to couples’ relationship quality will, too.

 

Father, may we not allow anything, technology or people, interfere with our relationship in a negative way.

[i] http://family-studies.org/does-media-use-matter-for-marital-quality/?utm_source=IFS+Main+List&utm_campaign=32b7a47f24-Newsletter_103&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c06b05f1ff-32b7a47f24-104541745

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