Don’t Give Up

I’m feeling led to share this today.  Someone out there needs to read this.  If it is you, know that there is hope.  If you know someone who needs to read this share it.  I wrote it after coming out the other side of a thirty year battle with Anorexia:

A Child’s Cry
by Tina Barton

In the midst of the forest
A child cries
I cannot see her face
I hear her voice, I feel her pain
The past I can’t erase

I go in search of what I hear
But not of what I know.
Her anguish draws me nearer still
How much farther must I go?

To hold the child who calls for me
And has for all these years
I want to hold her, touch her face
And wipe away her tears

In the past I heard her cries
And turned away my ear
I did not turn in apathy
I turned away in fear

But now I go to soothe her
Go to hold her tenderly
And whisper to her, “You are safe”
The Lord has set you free.

Any addiction routed in childhood abuse of any kind forms a web that seems impossible to break free of but I am here as a testimony that it is possible with God’s help.  Jeremiah 29:11 reads,  “For I know the plans I have for you declare the Lord.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  We live in a fallen world.  Stuff happens.  What we do with it can make or break us.  You can choose to live in the pain of the past and miss the blessings of the present and future or work through it and use your experience to help someone else.  I choose the latter.

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Can You Hear Me Now?

The commercial is funny because so many of us can relate to it. We immediately see ourselves walking around a room searching for a cell signal. “Can you hear me now?” So many times the signal would drop just as you desperately needed to hear or communicate a message, thought or feeling of/to the person on the other end of the line. The experience most often evokes feelings of frustration and/or anger.

Can you hear me now?

These experiences annoy us but they seldom make or break us. We know eventually the broken communication will be restored. We have hope. All of us have had times in our lives we’ve felt unheard. If those situations continued repeatedly for a period of time, frustration would set in and lead to anger. What if that period of time were to span years? A feeling of rejection may then give way to a sense of hopelessness.

Can you hear me now?

Working with students every Wednesday night at our church, I am all too familiar with the faces of the unheard. Mixed among the laughter and smiles of the crowd, I see them. Their heads are down, brows furrowed and their hands shoved deep into their pockets. In other faces I see an obvious sadness or simply a blank stare. But the faces that concern me the most are the ones that wear a mask. If you could see words written on the mask they might read, “I’m doing great. I’ve got everything under control. No problems here.” But underneath they are silently screaming just the opposite.

Can you hear me now?

Mask wearers are hard to reach. They have been unheard for so long they feel the only way to be heard is to pretend they are someone else. I know because I was one of them. On the outside I had it all together. On the inside my world was falling apart. It was only after I no longer had the strength to hold up the mask that people saw the real me.

Can you hear me now?

According to an article from the Centers of Disease Control, approximately 4,600 youth between the ages of 10 and 24 take their lives each year. These young people can be reached and you don’t need a PhD to do it. For me it was a dear friend who cared enough to see behind the mask and acted on what she found there as well as the love of a compassionate God that helped drag me out of the pit.

Can you hear me now?

Here are 10 ways anyone can help the unheard:

1. Simply acknowledge them: A smile, wave, or hello goes a long way. You don’t even have to know them to do that.

2. Use the technology of today: If your children or grandchildren carry phones, send them a simple text letting them know you are thinking of them.

3. Pray: Praying for them is great. Praying with them over a particular situation is even better.

4. Listen to them: I mean really listen. Whether they are 11 and talk endlessly about Lego’s, a 16 year old who feels their lives are coming to an end because a boy/girl at school doesn’t like them or someone at their school tried/committed suicide. Practice active listening. Make responses that let them know you hear them and aren’t just nodding your head. They can tell if you are blowing them off. Ask questions even if what they are talking about doesn’t fall into your normal scope of conversation.

5. Be involved in their lives: Teenagers and young adults today are dealing with situations we never dreamed of when we were their age. If you are involved, you will notice changes that can signal trouble.

6. Be present: Sometimes it’s not your words they need but your proximity. We often feel uncomfortable in silence but if are constantly talking we don’t leave gaps for them say anything even if they wanted to. Often they feel better because we take the time to be with them.

7. Step out of your comfort zone: Approach them instead of waiting for them to come to you. Whether it’s your child, grandchild, niece, nephew or the kid down the block. We can’t help them if we don’t know them. What are their likes and dislikes?

8. Dig a little deeper: Once you have some level of rapport, ask how things are at home and at school. Sometime those that feel unheard will open up right away because they have been just waiting for someone to ask. Be prepared to listen. Ask if they would like some advice. Be ready for “fine” but pay attention to tone of voice, eye contact and body language. Acknowledge that you see they might be struggling with something and let them know you are available if they want to talk.

9. Follow up: If you have had a conversation, check back and see how they are doing.

10. Get help: If what they are dealing with is beyond your ability to help them, tell them. Let them know that someone else needs to know. If it is your child, get them involved in some kind of counseling.

Can you hear me now?

This generation is screaming this through their silence. Please answer emphatically, “Yes. I can hear you!”


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Ash Wednesday and Lent

Have you ever had times in your life when you did something just because everyone else was doing it? No, I’m not talking about those “If your friends jumped off a bridge” moments your mom scolded you about. The times I am referring to are the ones where you felt like you’d stand out like a sore thumb if you didn’t follow the crowd.

When I was a kid, that was my experience in church. I spent the whole time looking at those around me. Sit? Stand? Kneel? Grab a hymnal? What’s next? The same was true for Ash Wednesday and Lent. No one ever explained it to me so they had no meaning. This excerpt from an article I read expressed what I have come to know since I gave my life to Christ:

Ash Wednesday, like the season of Lent, is never mentioned in Scripture and is not commanded by God. Christians are free to either observe or not observe it. It also should be obvious that the imposition of ashes, like similar external practices, are meaningless, even hypocritical, unless there is a corresponding inner repentance and change of behavior. This is made clear in Isaiah 58:5-7 when God says,
‘Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? 6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter– when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?’

Observing Ash Wednesday and Lent cannot save you any more than not observing it cause you to lose you salvation. It is our heart that God is looking for. How we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus can vary greatly from person to person and church to church.The question is, is this just something you do 40 days out of the year or is it an outward expression of an inward reality that can be seen in your life the remaining 325 days of the year.

Food for thought.

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Who Is My Neighbor?

Recently I had the opportunity to meet a wonderful family that had been blessed with an angel. She was a beautiful baby girl just two months old. I would have missed getting to know her and her family had I not chosen to step out of my comfort zone. I would have missed getting to hold her. You see, she went home to be with the Lord shortly after I met her.

Were they my neighbors? Not the way most of us use the term but in God’s eyes, yes they were. In the Bible a man also wanted to know the answer to that question. In Luke chapter 10, Jesus told him the story of a Samaritan who helped an injured traveler. In God’s eyes our neighbors are those who need our help not just the people who live on either side of us.

I was at a local Christian radio station helping with their fund-raiser when I got a phone call for a pledge. At that particular time the phone lines were not very busy so I asked if she needed prayer. She said yes and went on to tell me the story about her little granddaughter who had very serious medical complications related to Down syndrome. I told her my son also had Down syndrome and I began to pray with her. She gave me her email and asked me to keep in touch.

That night, as I tried to sleep, I could not get the conversation out of my head. I began to wonder if she lived nearby. The next morning I sent her an email asking her where she was. When I found out they were only 10 minutes from my home, I had no doubt about what I wanted to do. I asked if I could come over and meet with them and they agreed. I went to their home and prayed with them. As it turned out the baby was far too sick and God saw fit to take her home. In a matter of four short weeks I went from cradling her in my arms to celebrating her life at her funeral.

My life and theirs were changed the day a phone rang at a radio station and I answered it. We all have opportunities to reach out to a stranger and invest into their lives. But, the question is, will we? Will we take time out of our busy lives to help a neighbor? If we don’t we will never know the blessings we have missed.

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Happy Valentine’s Day?

I walked into the grocery store and it hit me. In front of me was a sea of red, white and pink.  It had been growing slowly since Christmas.  Up until recently it had been barely noticeable.  Now there was no denying what was just around the corner.  Valentine’s Day, or as my children lovingly call it, “Singles Awareness Day” (S.A.D. for short) was upon us.  As funny as that acronym is, it is reality for many on this day that is supposed to represent love.  Even from an early age I could see that it was more about the “haves” and “have-nots” more than anything else.  In elementary school we worked hard decorating the bags that would become the resting place for the cards and lollipops we would receive that day.  Back then there was no rule about having 1 for every kid in the class.  We gave them only to those we liked.  Inevitably, the time of reckoning would come when we would dump our bags onto our desks and count how many we had.  Those who were liked had many.  Those who were not had few.  I can see why the rule was changed.  I can’t imagine anything more humiliating to a 6 or 7 year old than for his or her entire class to see that they were “unloved”.

Now let’s fast forward to the present.  Even as adults we struggle with the day.  If you are a “have” there is the giving and receiving of roses, cards and candy in heart-shaped boxes.  For the “have-nots” it is the fear of someone noticing that they have given or received none.  Even between couples there is the big question: “So what are you doing for Valentine’s day?”  In that moment many of us can return quickly to those days in elementary school.  We think, ‘what if what we are doing doesn’t measure up?  Will we be looked down upon because we are not going to some overpriced restaurant for dinner and dancing?

 So who is this Saint Valentine who has us all in an uproar?  I had no idea so off I went to surf the web.  Come to find out there was more than one.  It appears the one the holiday was named for was a Roman priest who was put to death on February 14th for secretly marrying Christian couples after the marriages were banned by the Roman emperor Claudius II.  So if history is correct, he stood for what he believed in and was martyred for it.  That is love.  So how did it become about cards, roses, candy and “one-up-man-ship”?  The question is rhetorical.

 Let’s get back to basics.  When things were financially difficult for Steve and me, he would tell me to close my eyes and imagine a beautiful bouquet of red roses.  When I said I could see them, he would tell me that those were from him.  With creative ideas like that and the development of free e-cards,  we have the ability to let those we love know just how much they mean to us and not break the bank.   Honestly the imaginary roses he used to send are dearer to me than all the real ones (not to minimize them) he has sent since.  My imaginary roses never die.  Think of a creative way you can let someone know you care for them tomorrow.  The key here is not to spend anything for this particular gift.  It will make them feel good and you even better.

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Back- adv.: 2. In, to or toward a former place or condition.  Into time past.

Basic-adj.:  1. Pertaining to, forming, or like a base or basis; essential; fundamental.

(Funk and Wagnalls Standard Desk Dictionary.  Copyright: 1964, 1966, 1969, 1977, 1980)

If I put those two definitions together it will give you a clear picture of what this blog will be about.  In a nut shell, my goal is to guide you back to a time past and former condition in order to experience something fundamental and, in my eyes, essential.  Since you are reading this I would gather that you are at least remotely interested in the idea.  Most likely you are very interested.  Whether you in the process of getting married, have been married for ten minutes or ten plus years, this blog is for you.  If you are considering having children, have one or more children, there will be things written here you can glean from.  With that, let’s move forward.

My name is Tina.  I have been married for over 23 years and have known my husband for almost 25.  We have 6 beautiful children between the ages of 22 and 12.  Our youngest son has Down syndrome.  It is often when I announce those 3 facts that the eyes of the person I am speaking to get wide. Most often they respond with, “God bless you!”  To which I reply, “He already has!”  To say that our journey as a family has been difficult would be an understatement.  My husband, Steve, has been laid off so many times I have literally lost track.  I can tell you that if all of the time he was unemployed were put together it would be roughly 10 years.  Despite this fact, our journey together has been and continues to be quite rewarding.

All of us born to this world have had, are having or will have a journey to take.  The bumps and jagged peaks along the way can make or break us depending on how we choose to face them.  Through our family’s experience, I hope to help you in whatever struggle you are facing.  Our family has not only survived but thrived by getting “back to basics”.  For us those basics are faith, marriage, child rearing, health and finances.  I am here to encourage you not to quit.  Like a runner aspiring to run a marathon, this will not happen overnight.   But with patience, practice and endurance you will run that race and finish well.

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