The Beauty of “This is Us”

I don’t watch T.V.  very much.  We don’t have cable, satellite or any other expanded t.v. options so our selections at home are very limited.  We might turn on reruns of M.A.S.H. or Andy Griffith in the evening but to sit down night after night and flip channels is something we haven’t done for decades.   Somehow we’ve found favorite shows however;  Superman: The New Adventures of Louis and Clark, Family Matters and Full House was our unwind time each weekend when we were first married.  Monk and Psych in later years on DVD because we found them well after they were on t.v.  There were some others along the way.  Home Improvement, Everybody Loves Raymond, Diagnosis Murder (yes there’s a theme here) and every so often an evening of flipping channels.

That’s how I found “This is Us.”   Of course by now I might have found it because the nation seems to be buzzing over the drama of the simple life of Jack and Rebecca.   I didn’t even know what it was when I ran across the first episode I watched, and I certainly didn’t understand the flash back scenes,  but as I watched that first night, I was hooked.  Here was a t.v. show that didn’t seem to have an agenda.  They didn’t portray the men as bumbling idiots who could barely tie their shoes without help.  It was a story of a normal family facing life every day.

This is Us is very different from a lot of programming.  It is one of the few shows where the men are not portrayed as bumbling idiots. Jack and Randall are painted as the leader of their homes and as men who make mistakes.   Toby, even though unmarried to Kate, has stepped up to be the man in her life.  He’s smart, thoughtful and supportive.  Kevin?  We’re all still waiting to see where he’s gonna land aren’t we?  Still he’s not portrayed as stupid; he’s portrayed as a man with a past that haunts him.  Those are two very different things.   I appreciate that very much.

Why does it work?

I believe “This is Us” works because of the common, real life scenarios the writers give us each week.  The  drama that comes could be our very own drama.  Every day “normal” type drama that happens in a family.  Marital ups and downs, a daughter that struggles with being confident, a son that breaks a leg playing football, even the way Jack died, I won’t give spoilers, but it is something that could happen to any of us.   There isn’t anything superheroish in either of them, it’s what parents do.  It seems superheroish because this isn’t our culture anymore.  Our culture is more self serving than other serving, in marriage in parenting, in the workplace.  But those of us that live like the Pearson’s know it’s just what you do when you’re a committed married couple in love with each other, raising kids and doing the best you can to teach them to be respectful, responsible and honorable as they grow up.  You face life as it comes, sometimes laughing until you cry, sometimes pushing through the pain for the better of the family, other times dealing with outside influences,  having late night talks with the teenagers, or “discussions” with the spouse.

This is life.

Jack and Rebecca are normal people living their life every day.  They are committed to each other and face their problems head on, together.  Even at the end of the last season when Jack leaves, you knew it wasn’t over.  You knew they’d work it out because that’s what the Pearson’s do.  They don’t bail when things get tough.  In fact, they seem to thrive in the difficult times.   That’s why Jack’s death couldn’t be climatic.  It could only be normal because that’s what the show is; normal, everyday life of a family facing life as it comes to them.   I wonder if the commitment comes because Jack didn’t have that commitment in his own home growing up?  He was strong and resilient.  He learned from his parents mistakes and decided that he would not live that way.

And then there’s Miguel. Jack’s best friend.  They had been through a lot together.  We got a little glimpse into how him and Rebecca reconnected, but we’re missing a lot there.  I for one would like to know more.  It almost seems as he’s gotten Jack’s seconds but he’s secure enough in his own skin to understand that love like Jack and Rebecca is a very rare and beautiful thing.  What he and Rebecca have definitely works for them.  He is her man.  Her support and her protector, even from her own son when necessary.  Miguel and Jack; very different but very similar at the same time.  I’m hoping the writers develop this story line a little more than they have done so far because in it’s own way the love he shares with Rebecca is also very rare and beautiful.

What it Lacks

The one aspect the program lacks is the spiritual. You never see the Pearson’s experiencing the Sunday morning  rush.  The truth is, in reality, very few families stay as committed as the Pearson’s do without a connection to God.  Without a foundation, without a moral base families generally have no reason to stay together when times get hard. It often seems easier to bail, blame the other person and find someone new than it is to stick together and fight for what is already there.

Of course I don’t know what the writers intended but here’s what I see.  Jack went through AA and has some sort of connection with a “higher power.” Does he (and the family) attend church?  Do any of them have a relationship with Jesus?  I don’t know but I do believe the “higher power” influences the Pearson home…it had to.  But we know it didn’t influence the family for a permanent heart change .  Kate and Toby are great together, but as wonderful as they are, they’re making babies and playing house instead of committing to each other. I realize this is very 21st century and I’m actually kind of glad they writers have done this. It shows the current cultural climate and I believe that’s very important.  Kevin’s life also portrays a disconnect from the spiritual realm.   “JackandRebecca”  seem to have an uncommon love.  Kevin and Sophie seem to  have that same kind of connection but they can’t seem to make it work.  They lack the commitment.  They can’t be together and they can’t be apart.  Even now I have a feeling that it’s not over…and I wonder if they’ll ever make it?  Maybe after Kevin works through some of his stuff they’ll come back together and be stronger. Randall and Beth seem to have the most stable home life of the three, which I think is interesting on many levels.  And I wonder if it’s because his personality is more determined and focused and if part of it might be because he’s faced more hardships than the olders.

The Crock Pot

I can’t not mention the crock pot.  (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you might want to jump over this section).  The writers gave Rival a bad wrap.  I’m not an electrician, but I know enough about electricity to know that Crock pots don’t go up in flames and burn down houses; even crock pots with faulty switches.  It might flip a breaker or blow a fuse but to flame up?  No way.  We know the smoke detector needed batteries, we know fuses blew in that old Pearson home, but again, I think it’s very ordinary.  Many families do what the Pearson’s did.  It’s not uncommon to forget to buy the batteries, or to even have  the batteries without taking the time to put them in the smoke detector.  The fact of the matter is with or without working smoke detectors everyone got out of the house alive.  But I’d like to think fewer homes are without smoke detectors or batteries this week than were two weeks ago.  Complications from the fire might have killed Jack but even now we really don’t know do we?  It seems Jacks heart might have already been weak.  If it hadn’t been smoke inhalation would it have been something else?

Wrap Up

I know I’m doing a lot of speculating for a t.v. show that’s not real.  But I’ve also watched t.v. shows and movies for years to see what can be gleaned from them, be it good or bad.  We were the parents that would stop a movie to discuss a character’s choice with our children when they were younger.  I believe our kids are the better for it.  I know I’m better for it!  Why pass up an opportunity, whether real or fake to learn from it?

I believe “This is Us” resonates with so many because either you’re living the ordinary life with a family you adore or because you wish you were living the ordinary life with a family you adore.  For me, we’re living the life.  We face most outside adversity on the same page, and we’ve certainly faced our share of it.  We strive to raise our kids to be respectful and responsible.  Each of them have made a profession of faith, been baptized or will be soon (Shane has the privilege of baptizing Tabitha this coming Sunday).   Each of our children strive to serve others before themselves.  They’ve seen their Momma and Daddy struggle with their faith and stay committed.  They’ve seen their Momma and Daddy struggle with their marriage, because ALL marriage have their moments, and stay committed  They’ve seen their Momma and Daddy stand firm and come out stronger when they’ve been attacked by those outside the walls of their home.  Shane and I have done our best to model Christ’s love to each other, to our children and to those outside our walls. Our goal in life is to glorify the One, True God.

For those that don’t have this kind of family, I pray that God can use this t.v. show to give hope that it is attainable.  I pray that it will move people to search for what is missing and turn hearts to Jesus.  I pray that God will use this show to bring people to Gospel preaching, Bible teaching churches where marriage and family is valued.   Yes!  God can even use a fictitious t.v. program with writer’s and actors that have no Christian faith to bring people to himself.   (disclaimer: The truth is I don’t know if any of them have a faith in Jesus, I haven’t seen anything to indicate it).

To God be the Glory!

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This Parenting Think is too Important! We Can’t Flounder!

It’s time to gather with the gang at Five Minute Friday.  My timer is set.  Today’s word is intentional.  I’m ready: go!

We can’t leave our kids to themselves to figure out life.  Parenting godly kids doesn’t just happen it takes time and effort.  You might say, “they’re so young, they don’t understand.”  “They can’t memorize scripture at age 2”

I say, Oh yes they do and yes they can.

These little boogers are sinful beings, their life is affected by sin before they are even born whether it’s seen or not.  The child whose mother smoked, or took drugs or “nature” caused a deformity that causes a little one to be born imperfect.  Their imperfect is just more visible than the :perfect” little babies imperfect.

When we allow our children free reign because training is too hard, they grow up with no boundaries.  They’ll live for themselves not to please anyone else.  (Ask me how I know).

When we over shelter our children or make arbitrary rules in our home without meaning or explanation we set our children up to rebel.  You don’t like the word dude?  Oh well.  Get over yourself because it’s not wrong, evil or bad.  In fact, I happen to think it’s almost the perfect word.  Inflection is everything, but that’s another story.

You say they must be exposed to the world to understand it? They must experience it firsthand?  I say no.  Seeing the world without being in the world is possible.  I recently read an article where the author tells his readers that in order to teach respect of authority and the drug and alcohol culture, the author and his wife exposed their children to the T.V. show “COPS”.

This is an excellent way to be intentional in parenting.   As parents, we can’t flounder.  We can’t lay down the law.  We can’t make arbitrary rules in our homes without reason.  Our kids our too smart for that.  We must teach them and train them.  We must be like the Israelite’s when we train our children and make it a lifestyle, not a list of regulations or worse even, we must not leave our little ones without any guidance as they maneuver this sin sick world.

I realize we no longer live under the old law, but it is extremely valuable in understanding the new law.  Look at verse 5 below:  “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul mind and strength.”  Sound familiar?  Of course it does.  When we do this.  When we love the Lord in this way we will be compelled to love others as ourselves.  We will be compelled to treat others with kindness, we will be compelled to teach and train our children to love, honor and serve Christ alone and as a response to serve others first.   This entire passage is replete with God’s way to raise our children intentionally and not only that, but it also teaches us how each of us should live as we maneuver this sin sick world around us.

Love the Lord Your God

Deuteronomy 6

These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

10 When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

13 Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. 14 Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; 15 for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. 16 Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah. 17 Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. 18 Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors, 19 thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said.

20 In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” 21 tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. 24 The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.

Surrender: A Look Back

This time last year was tough.  Probably the toughest we’ve faced as a family.  Thankfully, some of the circumstances are better but, sadly some have gotten worse.   I am reminded of Joseph.  His brothers meant to harm him but they could not know God’s sovereign plan.   When the brothers are reunited Joseph tells them,  “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people[a] should be kept alive, as they are today.”  No, I don’t believe the circumstances we find ourselves in are or were an intentional act to harm us.  Harming us (and others) has only been a natural consequence of sinful actions and unrepentant sin.

I actually know very little of what has happened at our former church in the recent months and unless there is true repentance, that’s the way I want it.  I have no desire to know and I have no desire for them to know about what’s going on in my life.   I saw the man they call pastor’s country estate for sale and a contract pending on realtor.com a few months ago.  It’s no longer there so I assume  it has been sold.   I have been told that several have left that place of worship.  Praise God!  I pray that each of them will find, or have found a Gospel centered family.    I continue to pray for those that are still there.

This past year has brought a lot of surrender but it’s also brought blessings and healing.  This doesn’t mean it doesn’t still hurt.  Sometimes it does.  Especially when I think about the relationships that will never be restored, the blog I wrote for so many years, the mean ugly ways we’ve been treated.  But out of the pain has come gold.  God has brought good out of the ugly.  While others  flounder, we have been forced to run to Jesus.  We have been forced to hold tight to what we have; each other.  I believe our family overall is stronger in spite of (and because of) everything we’ve been through.

We have been greatly blessed in the middle of the pain!  I can’t count the ways.  Most of all, we are blessed that God led us almost immediately to a church family that doesn’t do fake.  A pastor that preaches the Gospel and leaders that shepherd the flock.  Shane is teaching a class on Advent this month and working with the youth.  What a JOY that is because I wasn’t sure I’d ever see him teach again!  We are blessed with a church and a Pastor that wants to be held accountable.  We are making new friends and developing new relationships with people that saw us at our worst and loved us in spite of the trepidation, panic and pain they saw in our eyes a year ago. We are blessed with friends and family near and far that love us.  Our children are thriving!  They are growing and learning and God is blessing them greatly!  Mostly, we are blessed because we have a gracious, loving savior that carried us when we didn’t have the energy or desire to walk through the desert.

This doesn’t mean the struggle is over.  Struggle is a part of the Christian life. Just last week Shane was harshly reprimanded for a decision he made.   Somehow the one that reprimanded thinks their ugly and hateful words are going to make us obey them instead of Jesus Christ.  The truth is, I lost a night of sleep dwelling on things I shouldn’t have.  Thankfully God reminded me rather quickly that this is all a part of his plan even though I don’t understand it.  Once again, God reminded me that my job is to keep my eyes on Jesus and trust him completely; not to be angry at how myself and/or my family is treated.

This past year I have come to realize my brokenness and my need for the Savior even more than ever.  I am nothing without him. I can’t make myself a little god and demand my own way. I can’t wave a magic wand and fix all the wrongs.  Sadly, barring a miracle, it’s all beyond sitting down and having a civil conversation together.   There’s no room for agreeing to disagree and loving in spite of the differences.  But I can trust that God has his perfect, sovereign plan.  Do I understand it?  No way!  But I can trust Him.  I can trust the Sovereign of the Universe.

I’ve surrendered much but this past year but I’ve also gained much. Our family (innocent bystanders) was forced to surrender much also. But praise be to my Heavenly Father! He has been so good to us in the middle of the storm.

I think of the chorus to Laura Story’s song Blessings

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

The blessings this year have come in unexpected ways.  Would I want to do it again?  No way!  Would I do it again if God asked?  You better believe it!  Obeying God rather than man is always the best way, even when it hurts.

Below is a Facebook post I made a year ago today.

Freedom in Christ doesn’t mean we live as we desire; for without the power of the Holy Spirit in us we will live as the world lives. But when we live for Christ, in his grace, his mercy and his love, we are free from the troubles of this world.

 

And this is the battle, for what we desire to do we cannot do as we press on toward the prize that is absolutely unattainable until heaven.

 

When our desire is to live for the Lord instead of for our selfish gain, our conscience will be pricked our souls will be pierced when we sin. We will desire repentance. We will desire to be changed. When we chose a sinful lifestyle, we become blind to the sin. We no longer desire repentance and restoration. And we become our own god.

 

There are many situations around me where the desire seems to be selfish gain. Hearts appear hard, the flesh appears to be winning! But as heart breaking as these situations are, they belong to you Lord Jesus. I may be devastated over some of them, but YOU Lord have your perfect plan. Your ways are so much higher than mine and I can trust you!

 

We are sojourners, pilgrims in a land that is not our home. Oh Lord I long for home. And yet I fear this world will get much uglier before that day comes. Lord give those that are yours the strength to rest in you until that glorious day!

Our Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving is different at our home every year.  Some years we’ve had a house full of folks, other years we’ve had +1.  One thing we know though is God always brings just the right people to our home for the holiday.

For reasons that are way to complicated to explain, we haven’t had extended family at our Thanksgiving table for many years, but some years God has brought complete families to our home.  We are so thankful for our Christian family that has comforted the empty places more often than I can count when they’ve gathered around the table.

One year a young man that had been adopted but the state decided wrongly to remove him and his siblings from their home.  He was an 18 year old boy in an apartment by himself in a nearby community and circumstances beyond anyone’s control brought that young man to our table that year.  Today, we don’t know where that young man is.  We can only pray that he is doing well and trust our Heavenly Father to take care of him.

This year, a young lady that left home at 18 came to our table.   She’s not really speaking with her parents.  She has a boyfriend, but he’s out of the country working for now.  Yes, she’s got problems.  She’s living an immoral lifestyle.  She’s living without Jesus.  But she had no where to go for Thanksgiving.  Yes, we invited her to share our table.  That’s what we do.  Our table has always been open to those who have no where else to go. This young woman needs to know that she’s loved.  Not that her behavior is accepted, but that her behavior won’t separate her from those that love her.  We shared Jesus with her.  We didn’t pretend that everything was okay but we didn’t treat her as an outcast either.  Isn’t this what Jesus does with us?

This year brought a new friend.  A Christian brother whom we hadn’t met until a few days before Thanksgiving day.  We have friends that knew him so he wasn’t a complete stranger. He has no family here and would have been alone all day.  Through the course of the day we found out that he’s living in his van.  He wasn’t complaining and wouldn’t have even told us, except he declined taking home leftovers.  This man has faced many hardships but he was content with his life. He was an absolute joy to our day!  I could learn a lot from him.

Shane’s Aunt lost her precious husband about 2 years ago.  They had no children and spent a lot of time doing ministry together.  No, he wasn’t a pastor but they were always busy encouraging others.  For many years they volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and traveled many places in their RV to help others build their homes.  We certainly didn’t want her to be alone on Thanksgiving.

As we were driving home Friday after being out, we realized how blessed our table was this year. I’m often amazed.  I shouldn’t be, but I am.  We reach out to bless and we’re the ones that receive the greater blessing.

And that’s the way of Jesus isn’t it?

 

This Parenting Thing

The longer I’m a parent the more I realize the less I know.

My second oldest turned 18 about two months ago.  I thought I was okay, but last night I realized I’m freaking out a bit.  You see I can’t control their choices any longer.  But the truth is I never could, nor would I want to do that.  I don’t want them to have my faith.  I want them to have their own faith. They are good kids as far as good goes.  Their desires to serve and submit are strong but they are still Adam’s children with a bend toward rebellion and doing things their own way.

[bctt tweet=”the truth is, I want my kids to have their own faith; not my faith” username=”lifeplayground6″]

It’s scary.  Some of the things they say make me cringe inside.  Hopefully not too much on the outside though because I don’t want them to know that their thoughts make me nervous.  I know a lot of it is brainstorming or thinking out loud and for that I am grateful. I am grateful that they feel comfortable enough to toss out things as they are considering them.  I am grateful that they listen to us and consider our counsel.

[bctt tweet=”I want to protect my young adults from the ugly of life. But I know God can do it better! I can trust him.” username=”lifeplayground6″]

From every indication they know Jesus and desire to serve him.  But I know life can be hard.  The hurt can run deep.  I know it can be tough to make the right decisions even when we desire to please the Lord.  And I know that wrong decisions can bring consequences that last a very long time.  I know they must forge their own way and I am confident that the work God has begun in them will be completed.  I’m a human momma with the same Adamic bend.

Several kids around us have have made poor choices.  It’s weighing heavy on me.  Those that were raised in homes where God was honored and the name of Jesus was praised.  Some of those kids have strayed from what they were taught.  I struggle with wondering if my kids will take the same path.  If they know my fear and only choose to please us because they don’t want to cause us pain.  Or if they really trust Jesus as their Savior.  Every indication is that they do and yet…

This world is different even than what it was a few years ago.  There aren’t very many similarities to when I was growing up.  There is nothing new under the sun but I fear the worst of humanity is cycling back around.  The more “tolerant” we are the less Jesus is tolerated.  Society has lost it’s moral compass.  People aren’t nice.  Drivers are less considerate.  Bad things happen.  We live in the country.  It takes several two lane highways and a four lane highway to get both of the olders to work.  55 to 70 miles an hour means an error could be devastating.

Here’s what I know:

God loves them, and he loves me.

God can watch over them better than I ever could.

The struggles of life will build perseverance and strengthen their faith.

I don’t have to trust the training that Shane and I gave them.  I can trust the one who created them.

They will be okay.  I can leave them in God’s fully capable hands and trust Him to complete the work.

I can do this.  Letting go of my “little ones” is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  But millions of parents have done it since the beginning of time, so I can do it too.

Could we have done more?  Yes.  But we could have.  But we did the best with what we had.  And I can leave them in God’s very capable hands.  I can trust him.  Even when they make poor choices.  I can trust that He will work it out for their good and His glory.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6

 

One Day There Will be Silence

It’s amazingly quiet as I sit.  The sun streams through the window nearby… nevermind.  The olders just bounced through the door after a day of work and there is no longer silence.  They tell us about their day and move on.  Isaac strums a child size guitar even though he’s no longer child size while Tabby sings along.

Shane reminds me often that the days of chaos will one day be over and things will be quiet again.  There will be no more bantering, jokes, singing, piano, guitar or general craziness in our home.

Sometimes I think the silence will be golden.  But then I snap out of it and realize that means the house will be empty of my children.  Already their feet no longer pitter-patter on the floors. Now it’s more stomp, stomp. Or stomp, stomp crash, stomp.

Maybe someday there will be pitter-patter feet down the halls again…little grands heading toward the bed to jump and wrestle and snuggle on a Saturday morning as their parent and siblings used to do when they were little.

For now I’ll remind myself to enjoy the the noise for one day soon the silence will be deafening.

I was a bad FMF participant last week.  But I KNEW that if I began visiting friends I would lose my focus.  I needed focus.  I needed to let go of the baggage I had been carrying around.  The rest of the weekend was as profitable for healing as that first evening.    I am refocused and renewed.   Today’s word is SILENCE.