Tag Archives for " Faith "

Dec 23

Christmas: The Birth of a Step-Family

By Rebecca Townsend | Connection , Encouragement , Faith , Family , New , Step-Family

© Sing Lok Che

Because Joseph, her husband, was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1: 19-20 (NIV)

The last couple of years, I’ve allowed myself time on Christmas Eve to sit quietly and reflect on the story of Mary. It is difficult to imagine the social scorn she and Joseph must have endured during the pregnancy of Jesus. When I really start to think about the depth of their faith…their conviction and belief in God…it truly takes my breath away.  

I am sure they were rejected and ridiculed by people they believed to be their allies and confidants. They must have had felt as deserted as Tom Hanks in Castaway – even though they were together.

While Mary was likely mocked and taunted by her peers, Joseph must have had several of his friends trying to talk some sense into him.

“Joseph – you need to get away from her…she’s going to drag you down. It’s not even your kid. Run, man – fast! You have no obligation to her – she’s broken the relationship. You’re crazy if you marry her.”

What deep love and loyalty Joseph must have had for Mary. Otherwise, how could he have had confidence in Mary’s story of an angel coming to tell her that she’ll be impregnated with God’s only Son?

Joseph did not listen to the naysayers. He stayed true to his heart, his faith and his love for Mary and the unborn child she was carrying. God confirmed Joseph’s heart and sent an angel to him to reassure him of the Immaculate Conception. And Joseph became a step-father to Jesus.

Joseph, Mary and Jesus were a step-family.

For those of us who are a step-family, it always gives me strength to realize their were probably times when there was tension at the dinner table or discord amongst Mary and Joseph about what consequences Jesus should have for separating from the group to hang out in the temple.

As a step-mom, I’d be lying if I said that when I look across the dinner table at my step-sons chewing with their mouths open and their elbows on the table that I saw young Jesuses. In those moments of trying to instill life-long skills for the 900th time in the last six years, I feel like Cruella de Vil rather than the patient and loving step-parent I envision Joseph to have been.

Surely, step-parenting for Joseph had to be easier than it is now. I mean they didn’t really have to co-parent with other people…well, unless you count the Almighty God. But shouldn’t that be whom we are all co-parenting with?

They didn’t have to split time with another set of parents…

Well, actually, they did. When Jesus was 12, he disappeared from the large group his family was traveling with on their return trip to Nazareth from the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem.

Mary and Joseph had been frantically searching for Jesus for three days. If I lost one of my step-sons for three days…oh my goodness, I cannot even imagine the panic, the guilt, and the shame…not to mention the anger from my husband and the boys’ mom – and rightfully so.

But, it was in that story when Jesus made it clear that there was a change in custody. That is when co-parenting, shared custody, moving between houses became the reality of this step-family.

When Mary and Joseph finally found Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem, Mary confronts Jesus.

I find it interesting that Mary is the one to confront Jesus. In a step-family, it is often a function of biological parents to discipline their children before a step-parent does. But in nuclear, biological families of origin, the father is typically the one to confront and implement the discipline for large infractions.

Perhaps this tells us that Joseph was functioning as many of us step-parents do – back-up coverage, the quiet position, or the support role.

Exasperated, and I’m sure a bit perturbed, Mary says something along the lines of, “What were you thinking? Why would you do this to us? We have been worried sick looking for you!” Apparently, all parents take the behaviors and choices of their children personally.

Jesus responded, apparently surprised they didn’t know where he was, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

Jesus’ time in His Father’s house, doing the work His Father sent Him to do would mean less time with Joseph, who had raised Jesus as his own.

Biblical scholars have noted that following the incident of Jesus in the temple, Joseph is not mentioned any further in the Bible. It is not clear when Joseph died.

I wonder if he died with a broken heart. After raising Jesus with the love, passion and integrity, as he would have his own biological children, it must have been painful for him to accept the new co-parenting arrangement with God.

Sometimes, step-parents will suffer silently. We are reminded often, through media, legal red tape, and unfortunately by some biological parents that as a step-parent we are merely an accouterment, an accessory, in the lives of our step-children.

Maybe step-families should view the story of Joseph, Mary and Jesus with hope and optimism. Rather than accepting the status as a faux family, step-families may wish to view Christmas as a reminder that faith, love and hope can create miracles in any situation…even those that may have a social stigma attached.

Believe. Hope. Love.

© Rebecca G. Townsend, LLC 2015

This blog first appeared on Rebecca's site in December 2014.

 

Feb 18

Burning Palms

By Rebecca Townsend | Faith

Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel. You are dust and to dust you shall return

~ Ash Wednesday Blessing

 

This post is from Ash Wednesday 2014. I've been absent from writing for the last couple of months...knowing the ashes are chasing me. I'm trying to slow down, stand still and allow them to wash over me. Rgt
The memory flooded me this morning. I hadn’t given the experience attention in at least 20 years. It was the Monday before Ash Wednesday - 1990. Google tells me that would have been February 26th.

I was a freshman at a Catholic college, working for the Campus Minister, a nun.
In my persistent character flaw of “running a few minutes late,” I rushed into her office, reporting for duty. I may or may not have felt a little ill from a weekend of socializing.
She had an industrial sized blue Maxwell House coffee can on the side of her desk with a mammoth amount of palms flowing out.

Interesting, I thought. Not what I would necessarily use to decorate...but, I had realized many years ago that nuns were a unique - and talented - breed.

Since my childhood of attending a Catholic school, with occasional field trips to the convent, I always found nuns to be... resourceful...decorating with things in the late 70‘s and 80‘s which are now the rage on Pintrest.

So, I didn’t say anything, pretending I didn’t see her attempt to channel her inner Martha (Stewart, that is).

But, Sister immediately picked up the ‘arrangement’ and thrust it into my arms. She reached into the top drawer of her desk and handed me a book of matches.
I was confused. And then, she began to speak.

“Take this out to the Quad and burn these palms in the can...they are for Ash Wednesday service.”

What?! Maybe I’m more hungover than I thought...there is no way I heard her correctly...
I thought the ashes for Ash Wednesday came from some place sacred...like, some monastery with monks surrounded by a haze of incense, praying as they lit each blessed palm.

I’d been duped - for almost 2 decades.

Come on...were times at this small college so tough they couldn’t afford the real ashes from some holy spot in Jerusalem?

Wait...why weren’t all the nuns doing this over the weekend? They probably know how this really works...and they would be saying prayers of repentance through the ‘ceremony.’
But, I heard her right...because she said it again since she saw my eyes glaze over in pure confusion.

“Go out to the Quad and burn these blessed palms for ashes. This is for Ash Wednesday service.”

Now, I’m just mortified.

I’m a freshman. The Quad is the center of our small campus. The gathering spot. Even though it was a Catholic college, it was still college.

I walked, slowly...cradling the abstract arrangement into my chest to cover my face...I saw a spot I assessed as the most remote part of a very open space.

I wasn’t clear on how to do this. I’m not an outdoorsy person and I really don’t have the depth of common sense expected of me.

So, in my rush to just be done, I threw a lighted match into the blue can.
The wind was fierce on that February morning...but there was no rage of flames...there was no great bonfire...

No, what happened was so symbolic it has taken me another two decades to see...
The wind began to pick up the fine particles of palm ashes...they blew on me and I moved...

As I moved, the wind changed course and the ashes followed me, covering me...
I scurried away...but not far, just far enough to not be hit by the black specks. I could still see the fire and there were a few pieces finding me as if I were a magnet.

He was chasing me then...just as He chases me today...

Who better to burn blessed palms from Palm Sunday than a broken, confused, lost and searching heart?

Those ashes running after me illustrate God’s continual pursuit of my heart...reminding me things of this earth will never satisfy my soul...only repentance and renewal in Him will convert my heart...

So, I will stand still today. I will strive to stand quietly and humbly every day to receive those ashes...knowing, I cannot run from Love.

Believe. Create. Live.

© 2015 Rebecca G. Townsend

Dec 25

Christmas: The Birth of a Step-Family

By Rebecca Townsend | Family , Step-Family

Because Joseph, her husband, was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, and angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit." ~ Matthew 1: 19-20 (NIV)

The last couple of years, I’ve allowed myself time on Christmas Eve to sit quietly and reflect on the story of Mary. It is difficult to imagine the social scorn she and Joseph must have endured during the pregnancy of Jesus. When I really start to think about the depth of their faith…their conviction and belief in God…it truly takes my breath away.

I am sure they were rejected and ridiculed by people they believed to be their allies and confidants. They must have had felt as deserted as Tom Hanks in Castaway – even though they were together.

While Mary was likely mocked and taunted by her peers, Joseph must have had several of his friends trying to talk some sense into him.

“Joseph – you need to get away from her…she’s going to drag you down. It’s not even your kid. Run, man – fast! You have no obligation to her – she’s broken the relationship. You’re crazy if you marry her.”

What deep love and loyalty Joseph must have had for Mary. Otherwise, how could he have had confidence in Mary’s story of an angel coming to tell her that she’ll be impregnated with God’s only Son?

Joseph did not listen to the naysayers. He stayed true to his heart, his faith and his love for Mary and the unborn child she was carrying. God confirmed Joseph’s heart and sent an angel to him to reassure him of the Immaculate Conception. And Joseph became a step-father to Jesus.

Joseph, Mary and Jesus were a step-family.

For those of us who are a step-family, it always gives me strength to realize there were probably times when they experienced tension at the dinner table or discord amongst Mary and Joseph about what consequences Jesus should have for separating from the group to hang out in the temple.

As a step-mom, I’d be lying if I said that when I look across the dinner table at my step-sons chewing with their mouths open and their elbows on the table that I saw young Jesuses. In those moments of trying to instill life-long skills for the 900th time in the last five years, I feel like Cruella de Vil rather than the patient and loving step-parent as I envision Joseph to have been.

Surely, step-parenting for Joseph had to be easier than it is now. I mean they didn’t really have to co-parent with other people…well, unless you count the Almighty God. But shouldn’t that be whom we are all co-parenting with?

They didn’t have to split time with another set of parents…Well, actually, they did. When Jesus was 12, he disappeared from the large group his family was traveling with on their return trip to Nazareth from the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem.

Mary and Joseph had been frantically searching for Jesus for three days. If I lost one of my step-sons for three days…oh my goodness, I cannot even imagine the panic, the guilt, and the shame…not to mention the anger from my husband and the boys’ mom – and rightfully so.

But, it was in that story when Jesus made it clear that there was a change in custody. That is when co-parenting, shared custody, moving between houses became the reality of this step-family.

When Mary and Joseph finally found Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem, Mary confronts Jesus.

I find it interesting that Mary is the one to confront Jesus. In a step-family, it is often a function of biological parents to discipline their children before a step-parent does. But in nuclear, biological families of origin, the father is typically the one to confront and implement the discipline for large infractions.

Perhaps this tells us that Joseph was functioning as many of us step-parents do – back-up coverage, the quiet position, or the support role.

Exasperated, and I’m sure a bit perturbed, Mary says something along the lines of, “What were you thinking? Why would you do this to us? We have been worried sick looking for you!” Apparently, all parents take the behaviors and choices of their children personally.

Jesus responded, apparently surprised they didn’t know where he was, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

Jesus’ time in His Father’s house, doing the work His Father sent Him to do would mean less time with Joseph, who had raised Jesus as his own.

Biblical scholars have noted that following the incident of Jesus in the temple, Joseph is not mentioned any further in the Bible. It is not clear when Joseph died.

I wonder if he died with a broken heart. After raising Jesus with the love, passion and integrity, as he would have his own biological children, it must have been painful for him to accept the new co-parenting arrangement with God.

Sometimes, step-parents will suffer silently. We are reminded often, through media, legal red tape, and unfortunately by some biological parents that as a step-parent we are merely an accouterment, an accessory, in the lives of our step-children.

Christmas Step-FamilyMaybe step-families should view the story of Joseph, Mary and Jesus with hope and optimism. Rather than accepting the status as a faux family, step-families may wish to view Christmas as a reminder that faith, love and hope can create miracles in any situation…even those that may have a social stigma attached.

Believe. Hope. Love.
© 2014 Rebecca G. Townsend

Nov 05

The Fire of Loneliness

By Rebecca Townsend | Communication , Connection , Encouragement

The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved

~ Mother Teresa

There is an aching loneliness, nagging and mocking my spirit. The feelings of isolation are familiar, yet uncomfortably raw.

But I know this solitude is a farce.

I believe, I know, and I honor the sameness in each fellow journeyer. My heartache is the heartache in your core. My laughter is the energy of yours. My Divinity is your Divinity.

This faith in Oneness is the truth that holds me in my emotional nakedness. The times when the silent mockery is deafening…The moments of alienation when you can no longer deny the truth searing your soul…The occasions you determine the bitterness of withdrawal is triumphant to the spurious popularity of the moment.

The belief, the knowing, the hope is not always successful at warming the cold and desolate moments in a timely manner. Yet, previous experience reminds me these lonely sufferings strengthen and purify my soul.

The parts of my being that are rough, unprocessed and coarse are being met with fires that will strengthen and prepare me for the heat necessary to purify me further.

It’s just like raw iron to steel. Raw iron isn’t even iron in the beginning – it is iron oxide. The beginning of our being. Heat transforms it into pig iron, still holding impurities, causing it to be hard and brittle. Much like the life experiences - kids teasing, being frightened, and feeling scared.

When the pig iron is remelted with scrap iron thrown into the fires, cast iron is created – much stronger and more solid than pig iron. This reminds me of the strength in our souls – trusting the Divine in our Core more and more with the experiences of living.

But we know cast iron can simply be reprocessed and created into a stronger iron – wrought iron. And there is even more potential for strength, if we push the wrought iron through more fires, adding carbon, to become steel.

When we push through the periods of loneliness, fear, and pain we are forging strength. Strength which may someday be needed to encourage a fellow journeyer on a familiar path.

We are never alone. Allow the Divine in you to connect with the Divine in another.

We can no longer afford to be poor in our love for one another.

Believe. Create. LOVE.

© 2014 Rebecca G. Townsend