Murder, the new and present stranger

I have experienced the loss of life due to natural circumstances and even suicide but *murder, now this type of death is a new and present stranger to me.

*mur·der
/ˈmərdər/
Noun
The unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.
Verb
Kill (someone) unlawfully and with premeditation.
Synonyms
noun. homicide – assassination – killing – manslaughter
verb. kill – slay – assassinate – slaughter – butcher

There is pounding on the front door I can hear it in the distance as a man who resembles my ex son in law sits on the edge of my bed while tightly gripping my shoulders he shakes me, “Ma, Ma!” I awaken startled by the intensity in his eyes blue, to green to black and my mind is reeling with word “No, no, NO”! and it dawns on me, she is dead.
Alert, sitting straight up in bed, I realize this is a nightmare, only a nightmare. And I begin to pray.

Seven and half hours later my son notifies me of her disappearance. The nightmare, it was about her and there was no one I could share it with besides, no one is going to believe she reached out to me in this way. Many days ensued filled with tension and suspense as the search was on. Sleepless nights filled with nightmares and bumps in the night causing me to shoot straight up in the bed, my heart pounding away within my chest.

And though the standard coping mechanisms were tried they failed to ease the darkness which had begun to fill my belly. You know that darkness, deep within and pounding away the very words, we dread to hear. Whisperings of worst case scenarios flitting through my vivid imagination and hours of prayer to banish the very thoughts. I was on a vicious cycle destined for collision with reality whence it finally comes and could do nothing about it and so I prayed.

For weeks following her death I see his eyes looming above mine but it wasn’t my son in laws eyes I saw, it was his. And it wasn’t my screams I heard, it was hers.

I spent four days reviewing our phone chats, the photos we sent to and from and lastly the emails. The dreaded emails. I knew those last few were coming up, the ones before the make up. The ones she took such great offense to, the ones I couldn’t seem to get right. I simply let the matter rest and the dust settle thinking, “we can resolve it later”.

I reached out to her the day before she disappeared and she flooded my email with photos of my grand daughter’s first birthday party. I took joy in the photos and we broke ground on new conversation revolving around the children and the birthday party. I had no idea this would be the last time she and I would communicate…

Friends, do your best to keep a clean slate with your loved ones. We are not guaranteed tomorrow, not even this minute. So resolve to love, live and let live and if there is a tomorrow resolve to do it again. Time is of the essence and is never promised.

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My father’s daughter…

stand·ard
/ˈstandərd/
Noun
A level of quality or attainment: “their restaurant offers a high standard of service”.
Adjective
Used or accepted as normal or average: “the standard rate of income tax”.
Synonyms
noun. norm – flag – banner – criterion
adjective. normal – regular

There is a standard of living which we are all exposed to from the start of life typically based on religion, culture, environment, race, gender, finances and not necessarily in this order but that standard is there.

In the community my father, an unsung hero, looked just like everyone else mowed his lawn, trimmed the hedges and planted his small vegetable garden; his front lawn sprinkled with flower beds and bird feeders hanging from tree limbs. On traditional holidays such as Independence day, Memorial day and Veteran’s day one would find my father at the grill flipping hamburgers, hot-dogs and a list of various other delectables. And in the kitchen lay in wait bowls of pasta salad, potato salad, cole slaw and a pot of baked beans in the oven.

He loved the idea of family gathering at Thanksgiving and Christmas, a time he never took for granted.
The sacrifice he made in serving America its freedom to celebrate these family holidays expressing gratitude for loved ones was a simple task for my dad because he understood the cost. As an American Veteran my father was followed each day with memories of fallen comrades in arms and gave a moment of silence for those broken families sitting around the dinner table with at least one empty dining chair.

My father set the example in as much as his love for our country, he celebrated the freedom afforded Americans like no ones business because again he understood the cost and took great pleasure in the sacrifice. There was nothing too small to take care of, his mentality was simple “if we take care of the small things” everything else will take care of itself.

But what happens when the standard slips, when people lose vision? What happens when the average persons heart has grown cold? What happens when even the pat on the back and the attaboy become a way of he past? I see a standard of living far below that of my father’s day and far below that which he reared me in.

A standard of immediate gratification has eased in on American communities, a mentality of having to have it now consumes in such a way that the average fast food restaurant serves up our orders in 10 minutes or less, pizza deliveries in under 30 minutes and oil changes in less than 15 minutes or free the next time. The level of working, waiting and appreciating what we have so diligently worked for is gone from us. Nearly everything available today is disposable and not necessarily recyclable. The more society moves forward the more it regresses.

In my experience I have not been fatally wounded by waiting, saving and storing up for my future. For me it is the wait which makes the reward far greater in the end. As a young girl I was given a guitar for Christmas and though I enjoyed the instrument I did not have an appreciation for it until it was gone from me, pawned by a spurned lover. I spent weeks tracking down my guitar and when I finally located it jumped through all sorts of hoops to have it returned to me. After months of hard work and negotiation my guitar arrived to my doorstep undamaged. Due to my effort the tone of my instrument was far sweeter the day it was returned to me than it was the day it was given to me. Hard work, dedication and consistency pays off!

My parents dedicated their lives to a higher standard, although we were impoverished our mentality was not. Work ethics were the rage when I was coming up as well as education. My mother an avid reader taught from her very example that knowledge is power. Together my parents example of hard work pays off was enough for me and for my siblings and our children the benefactors of such an old fashioned way reap the rewards as do their children. Friends start a new tradition in passing on a blessing and not a curse. Teach your child work ethics, saving toward a future goal and the appreciation of having saved for what they desire.

Through the years I have been exposed to military persons and I have seen the standard fall drastically. I met a young man who could not earn enough points on his GED (General Education Diploma) to be accepted into a branch of the United States military. This young man approached me stating, “My recruiter is adjusting my score so I can get into the military. I’m not sure what I should do. What if he gets me in and I fail my studies as an infantryman? I don’t want to be the reason one of my platoon members comes back in a body bag.” After much thought and consideration this young man refused the help of the recruiter and went on to earn his GED, attend a local community college and is now a responsible family man providing for his family.

People, if we continue to move forward in our lives accepting short cuts and acting on the need to gratify ourselves immediately then we lose the very reason we live. Life isn’t about skating by, taking the easy road and living on the bottom with the below average person. It is an opportunity to rise above the bottom feeders, to raise the bar on humanity and give in such a way that good things come of it.

It is past time we stop enabling our young ones to fail.
Why teach a child to walk if you intend to carry them all the days of their life?!

Think about it…

There is no condemnation…

1 Corinthians 13:4-7
New International Version (NIV)
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

If you were to ask, “What is your definition of Love?” you will probably receive the same responses I have, “Love is when I get what I want, wearing new clothes, jewelry, diamonds, a new car or even a house full of designer everything, a pot of stew or chicken noodle soup. And what about these: Love is that warm feeling deep in your stomach when the one you want comes in the room, a hug, a kiss.” Friends, Love is not a thing you can wear, heat on the stove, purchase or wrap your arms around.

A young woman I am counseling came to me with great concerns over marital problems. Deeply troubled she could not explain just why her spouses very confession of Love for her caused such deep seeded anger in her. In due time it became apparent why his confession of Love angered her in such a huge way. He was a squanderer of their finances to the point that often her needs were not met and their tithes were not paid regularly. Because her husband was not honest about the finances she could not trust him and because he did not pay the bills accordingly they lost what was so diligently earned. He did not protect her from destitution but opened the door to it. Love is honest it rejoices in the truth. Because he consistently frivolously misspent the finances she could not forgive her spouse and move on. The list of offences soon became an indelible mark not only in her mind but in her heart and so she began to keep a list of offenses which she reminded him of each and every time they argued.

A young man and his spouse were having ongoing problems. She had a background of going to and fro her divorced parents and out of this coming and going came much disorganization and lack of training. This young woman came to me concerned about how she continually let her husband down because of her inability to consistently keep up her home. Piles of dirty dishes, laundry and filthy floors followed them in nearly every room to the point of a pest control problem and harsh words to follow. As much as they Love one another and desire to spend their lives together the young husband was fed up, frustrated and resentful. Love is not self seeking and until this young woman realized this she would always put everyone and everything aside to fulfill that which she desired. Self absorption is a modern day problem and often is not addressed and as a very real problem it can be the number one reason relationships fail. Without hope and perseverance to do better this young couple will fall prey to statistics.

A young mother I have counseled has sought after the same type of man to fulfill her image of a real man. He is aggressive, assertive, bold, outspoken and often handsome. Each and every attempt she made to connect with a man of these qualities left her wanting for more. A constant excercise in futility as she left one failed relationship after another. While working on marriage number two it dawned on her, though she moved in the very principles of Love her groom does not. We can be Christians moving in Love and be unequally bonded to another Christian and in this case this young woman had bound herself to a man who Loves with a worldly concept and not with the foundational Love of Christ. Know the difference, compare this definition of Love to that of the relationship you share with a potential spouse often before you go to the next level.

There is much confusion about what Love is and isn’t but in this I can assure you, if one applies the passages of:
I Corinthians 13: 4-7 daily one will surely see Love in action.
People I challenge you lets stop the world, step off the planet and try something new for just a week, keeping a journal while exercising the definition of Love and see what your actions produce.

This exercise in Love as an action word allows one to see the true image one reflects. The very principal of Love as an action word allows the individual to clearly see just where loved ones are at in their life and how the expression of Love as an action word positively affects reciprocal action to said expression.

Simply telling a body you Love them is not enough without action, Love fails.

DEFINITIONS:

patient
/ˈpāSHənt/
Adjective
Able to wait without becoming annoyed or anxious.
Noun
A person receiving or registered to receive medical treatment.
Synonyms
adjective. uncomplaining – long-suffering – enduring – tolerant
noun. case – invalid

kind
/kīnd/
Noun
A group of people or things having similar characteristics: “all kinds of music”.
Adjective
Having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature: “a kind woman”.
Synonyms
noun. sort – type – species – nature – genus – class – variety
adjective. kindly – nice – good – gentle – amiable – benign

boast
/bōst/
Verb
Talk with excessive pride and self-satisfaction about one’s achievements, possessions, or abilities.
Noun
An act of talking with excessive pride and self-satisfaction.
Synonyms
verb. brag – vaunt – swagger – talk big
noun. brag – vaunt – pride – ostentation – bragging – swank

proud
/proud/
Adjective
Feeling or showing pride: “a proud grandma of three boys”.
(of an event, achievement, etc.) Causing someone to feel this way: “a proud history of innovation”.
Synonyms
haughty – arrogant – lofty – supercilious – conceited

dis·hon·or
/disˈänər/
Noun
A state of shame or disgrace.
Verb
Bring shame or disgrace on.
Synonyms
noun. dishonour – disgrace – shame – ignominy – infamy
verb. dishonour – disgrace – shame

self seeking
opportunism: taking advantage of opportunities without regard for the consequences for others.

an·ger
/ˈaNGgər/
Noun
A strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.
Verb
Fill (someone) with such a feeling; provoke anger in.
Synonyms
noun. wrath – ire – rage – dander – fury – irritation
verb. irritate – vex – exasperate – incense – provoke – rile

To Love with the Love of Christ–there is no list of wrong doings, no more “remember when you did” constructive heated conversation is based on the here and now, no more dredging up of the past

e·vil
/ˈēvəl/
Adjective
Profoundly immoral and malevolent.
Noun
Profound immorality, wickedness, and depravity, esp. when regarded as a supernatural force.
Synonyms
adjective. wicked – bad – ill – vicious – malign – sinister
noun. harm – ill – mischief – wrong – disaster – wickedness

truth
/tro͞oTH/
Noun
The quality or state of being true: “the truth of her accusation”.
That which is true or in accordance with fact or reality: “tell me the truth”.
Synonyms
sooth – verity – reality – fact – veracity – fidelity

pro·tect
/prəˈtekt/
Verb
Keep safe from harm or injury: “he protected her from the attack”; “certain vitamins may protect against heart disease”.
Aim to preserve (a threatened plant or animal species) by legislating against collecting or hunting.
Synonyms
defend – guard – safeguard – shelter – shield – preserve

trust
/trəst/
Noun
Firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
Verb
Believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of.
Synonyms
noun. confidence – faith – credit – reliance – belief
verb. believe – confide – rely – credit – hope – entrust

hope
/hōp/
Noun
A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
Verb
Want something to happen or be the case: “he’s hoping for compensation”; “I hope that the kids are OK”.
Synonyms
noun. expectation – expectancy – expectance – trust – promise
verb. trust – expect – anticipate

per·se·vere
/ˌpərsəˈvi(ə)r/
Verb
Continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no indication of success.
Synonyms
persist

Master of your domain…

It is your life, your homelife and what you allow is on you and only you. It is you who either opens a door or closes it.

In recent years I have had opportunity to open my home to individuals who need a fresh start. In order to do this I have established a few ground rules some of which are negotiable but for the most part there is no budging. In some instances I have had to implement a written contract which is negotiable for those with short term memory issues.

Curfew, most adults will buck at having a curfew in place. I have heard all the arguments from “If I work and my friends work I won’t have time to hang out.” to “My friends schedules don’t jive with curfew!” and “I can’t have a girlfriend/boyfriend if I have a curfew at my age!” If a new start is what you seek then living by a curfew for a few short weeks is no great sacrifice. So don’t sign the contract but know you cannot live under my roof without it.

Employment, finding a job and keeping it are top priority. If you do not intend to diligently pursue employment and keep a job then again don’t sign the contract.

Self help, there are many ways a person can improve their circumstances by attending Church or a 12 step program or even receive counseling and therapy. If hanging out with your friends (the same ones that stood by and watched you screw your life up in the first place) IS your self help then by all means stick by them, don’t sign the contract.

If what you are doing hasn’t worked for you in as many years then time for changing things up is at hand and quite likely if you are at this place in your life it is most likely past time to change things up.

Why wait for a crisis to snap your head around and make you do a double take on your life? Must a tragedy befall before those necessary changes occur? In my many years of experience I continue to ask myself the same questions over and over again about why some individuals insist on doing things their way, a way which has only allowed one failed situation after another. Personally I would get tired of picking the dirt out of my teeth every time my choices got me knocked down. Don’t be afraid to make a change. Don’t be concerned about what others are going to think be concerned about the wonderful changes which you allow by doing something different.

Tough love, it isn’t easy but it works. So here I am telling you if you don’t like the rules, don’t sign the contract keep doing just what you have been doing and rest assured you will continue to reap the same thing over and over again.

The Plan

Parents: You can lead your child to the best possible choices and even reveal the consequences of their poor choices but none of us can predict the future and our children are quick to remind us of that.

Worn out from a late night with his homies and feeling guilty he blows his mother’s phone up with one apologetic text after another.
“You don’t know the meaning of feeling bad until you sit in the middle of my heart.” As a mother I can attest to a mother’s love which is unending it has no boundaries; overflowing with forgiveness and temperance. Mothers know your wait is not in vain, your child will come back to that first love they experienced with you when they were a trusting toddler.

Offering to pick her son up from where ever it is he landed himself the night before he declines. It seems the driver last night was pulled over for not having any break lights. He has volunteered himself to replace the bulbs. If I had a dime for every time I cautioned one of my children for jumping feet first into a situation I would be a wealthy woman. Years ago I took driver’s education and one of the first things taught is to know your vehicle is in sound working order. Every now and then do a walk around, check the lugs on your tires, have someone stand behind the vehicle while you tap the breaks and use the turn signal to make sure you have lights. No break lights?!

It is a sign, a forewarning that once again he is moving through his life on the feel good method without breaks, without caution and without following through on his promise to do things different this time.

Parents: It is difficult for our kids to see us as young once even pouring through a photo album does not give the full picture of those days when we once desired the very same things in our youth as our kids do in theirs. To know what it is like to feel alive, to celebrate; to really feel that high but also know without keeping that desire in check it could ruin one’s life and those who depend on one’s stability. According to scripture there is a season for all things and a time for all things. And so once again, it is on deaf ears this mother’s pleas fall.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: Ecclesiastes 3:1

We do not have to experience it ALL now, some things are best experienced in its time. Like biting into our favorite fruit at just the right time or peeling back the skin of a ripened orange and its sweet citrus spray misting our hands and face just before we pop a piece in our mouth. What a well anticipated pleasure.

Parents: Though our children are not a piece of fruit obviously with so much more substance than something so easily consumed as a piece of fruit they too mature, in time. I look forward to the fruit my children bear. To the morsels of goodness their maturing brings. Take it from a parent who knows, children mature at different rates, some at the beginning of the season, others in the middle and then there are the late bloomers who we harvest in at the end of the season.

Be patient, nurture, prune and nurture and prune again. They will shape up and come into their own.

7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. James 5:7-8

Unsubstantiated, Unsupported and Misinformed

For reasons I will not disclose, I became a single parent in 1992 after divorcing my husband thus leaving me with the full time care of three children. It was the greatest challenge of my life to single handedly rear these children in the best possible home life I could muster while impoverished and barely making scratch. I was the underdog and had no champion, no one willing to go to bat for me and my small brood; who were completely dependent on me to provide for them, entertain, educate and protect them.

As a young attractive single mother I had all sorts of opportunities to step out, date and party it up but I chose a route far far away from the ID me and placed my children in highest regard. I set boundaries for myself and my children in as much as we attended church several times a week, there was no fornicating, drugs, drinking and overnight stays of any sort away from home or in the homeplace. My leash was far shorter than any 20 something gal I knew at the time and I was okay with it.

Some have said I went to the extremes and quite honestly to me it didn’t seem to be enough. I was so caught up with the weight of my responsibility for my children that I often did not sleep. Without a man in the house to protect us I was up with every little sound. I didn’t just wear the woman hat but that of mother, father, provider, protector. I simply would not let my guard down and open my home to assault.

My children for the most part went along with the house rules but by the time my eldest was in the third and fourth grade they wanted more, demanded more and here the negotiating came into place. Sheltering my children for the most part over the financial struggle was no easy task when the other kids wore the current fashion, shoe wear and played with the most hip toys. How does one tell their child you can’t have a sleepover tonight because I don’t have enough food for your friend for dinner tonight and breakfast in the morning? And there were nights when I simply did not eat so that those overnight guests could come eat and be merry.
I relented on the no television in the home and finally bought a used console at a yard sale right about the time the sleepovers began.

I put myself through college while working fulltime during the same hours my children attended school. I did not trust to leave my children in daycare or private care after a few unfortunate incidences in both settings. In my mind and in my opinion no one would provide the same care and attention I do for my children and to expect someone to do so is merely disappointment waiting to happen.

Eventually, I completed my studies and the work field I chose lent some financial relief to my situation allowing for the many luxuries I and my children had done without for so long. There were violin, flute and saxophone lessons as well as little league and ballet slippers not to mention vacations up and down the east coast from Georgia to Massachusetts and most states in between. But for my eldest nothing seemed to keep their interest, floating from one thing to the next never satisfied. My second child seemed the most level headed and could see the bigger picture while maturing often the mediator in the house between me, the eldest and youngest child.

By the time my children hit puberty they each had decided their own course. My eldest ran away from home just before their 17th birthday. My rules were too much for them and they moved in with a childhood friend where they were allowed to experiment in ways that I would not allow. To date my eldest has not finished high school but is an amazing parent. My second child continued studies and graduated first in their class a few months after their 17th birthday. Now an entrepreneur and business owner. My youngest child a gifted artist made some really bad choices as a teen now with a criminal record which continues to haunt into their mid twenties.

In my opinion I do not believe there can be too much structure in a young person’s life. I do not regret the manner in which I reared my children. I provided for them in ways their own fathers chose not to. I have taken it on the chin each and every time my eldest and my youngest have blamed me and attacked me for their failings. I have no regrets. I have heard their version of the childhood they lived and I have been attacked by their spouses/significant others for falling short as a parent.

I do not call my children liars, they have every right to their opinion and to express however they recall their childhood. To presume that their version of the childhood they experienced is absolutely true with no room for error is ignorant on the part of their friends, spouses/significant others and even more ignorant on their part to call my parenting into question.

As a single parent my utilities were never shut off, my children never went without food, clothes and basic necessities. I was never investigated by family services for any abuses nor do I have a criminal police record. I love my children and provided for their needs above and beyond what the law requires. What they chose to do with their lives after I fulfilled teaching them right from wrong, living a becoming life and abiding within the realm of socially acceptable behavior…that is on them.

I have no regrets over the life I live, the example I set and continue to set. My children left my home with the ability to manage a household, to provide for their own needs and provide the same structure for their children which I initially instructed them in. Each with an awesome sense of humor and the ability to forgive a trespass.

Parents: If your kids are in their mid twenties and older and still blame you for the crappy life they currently live…the problem is not with you but with them and their inability to accept responsibility for their choices. Parents, be kind to yourself and stop the blame game. Make them accountable, do not accept blame or allow them to deflect responsibility for their choices. Do not accept a plate of guilt and regret when your adult child serves it your way…slide the plate in their direction, hold a mirror in front of them and remind them they are past the age of majority and the time for blaming others left the moment they moved out.

I did lend my children a structured environment, with rules, boundaries and consequences. I have no regrets and no one has the right to point a finger at me and assess my parenting skills based on unsubstantiated accusations, unsupported claims and misinformation from an individual who threw their life away on bad choices.

I dedicate this on behalf of my son in law who has demanded that I “write about it, own it and accept it”, it is done…

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
~Matthew 5:16