Tag Archives for " Holiday "

Christmas: The Birth of a 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.

 

Burning Palms

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

Another One Bites the Dust

And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been – Rainer Maria Rilke

There are always flowers for those who want to see them ~ Henri Matisse

Given that I grew up in the ‘70’s and was a teenager of the ‘80’s, Queen’s hit song “Another One Bites the Dust” has been the “Auld Lang Syne” of my New Year’s Eves for some time.

I realize Queen’s song is about murder on the streets, yet, somehow I feel like I’ve often destroyed the 365 days of the departing year.

It’s difficult for me to not emotionally self-flagellate over failed goals. These fanciful goals have included maintaining a gluten-free, organic, unprocessed diet…sustaining the perfect fitness plan for my specific physical brokenness…preserving the organization of work spaces as they were when there was no work happening.

I could go on about all the failed New Year’s resolutions – but that’s not fruitful and only perseverates the flogging.

Instead, I’ll share what I have done well.  Something I didn’t set as a New Year’s goal but something I have been intentionally working on for several years – gratitude.

What’s is amazing in the here and now?  What do I have to be grateful for today?  Instead of picking apart what I’m not doing well and nit-picking myself into a deep blue funk, why don’t I pause and recognize what I am conquering and the successes I have had?

Many days a victory for me is merely not letting my tongue split in half and jet evil venom on my family if the door is locked as I try to come in with arms full of bags from work, the grocery, the dry cleaners.

That’s a little thing, but trust me, I’ve hissed and squealed over that door and I've appeared as the disrespectful adolescent heading to the principal’s office.  I’m fairly quick to observe my own behavior nowadays.  So, after a couple of ‘door incidents,’ I knew I had to approach entering our home differently.

I went back to gratitude.  What am I grateful for as I approach our home? I’m grateful to actually have a home.

I’m grateful that when The Engineer and I got married, we both owned homes.

I’m grateful we have a solid brick home with such strong materials that they aren’t even available anymore.

I’m grateful only one family before us – the family, who built the home in 1947, loved our home.

I am grateful the doors lock.

I am grateful not only for all the furnishings inside our home, but for the hearts and minds awaiting me…not to mention a wagging tail and jumping short furry legs.

When I begin to break down my initial gratitude for our home, it helps me see how blessed and fortunate I truly am.  And the ugly words and negative attitude that were quick to appear, disintegrate in the presence of gratitude.

How can you begin this journey of gratitude?  You could reflect on the previous year by recalling the times and/or things which brought you and loved ones smiles and laughter.

Or do a calendar review and pick one awesome thing from each month. Even in a really bad month, there was surely a delicious meal or a surprise find.  If you can’t recall what happened in your life in February 2014, perhaps that’s something you should be intentional with in 2015…writing down amazing days on your calendar that may note small victories, large celebrations and perhaps even daily gratitudes.

When we focus on what is going well – what we love and appreciate about our lives – the little inconveniences, well, they will remain small.

I’m curious what shift we would see and feel in our world if even half of us focused on gratitude and goodness.

Would you like to join me with the intention of giving, granting and gathering gratitude and goodness in your own life and the lives of your loved ones?  That intention could make 2015 an amazing year for everyone in your life.

Happy New Year!

Believe. Create. Live.

© 2014 Rebecca G. Townsend

Christmas: The Birth of a 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