Empty Nest

I knew that one day all my children would grow up, get married, and start a family of their own. Our youngest child married his beautiful bride about a week ago.

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This is the first time in 33 years that we have no children living at home— we have an “empty nest.”  Raising a family was not an easy task; our job was to teach by example, to show what a marriage ought to look like, and to demonstrate what parents should do for their children.

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Some of you might be struggling with crying babies, with toddlers in their “terrible twos,” or with high-maintenance tweens or teens. Keep in mind that this is all temporary. Your baby will stop teething and sleep through the night, your toddler will learn how to share and be kind, your tweens and teens will learn responsibility and care for others so enjoy the “now.” “Consider it nothing but joy…” (James 1:2, AMP).

When I look back at all those years that we invested in our children and then to see them with their family today, I know that we have done our job— “…with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26, NIV).

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Copyright © 2018 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

Read, pray, and listen

I have read the story of Balaam a few times over the years and I often wondered why God was upset with him when he went with Balak’s men, especially after God told him to go with them:

20 That night God came to Balaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. 22 But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him…” (Numbers 22, NIV).

For some reason, I glossed over the part where it said, “That night… Since these men have come… go with them, but do only what I tell you” (Num 22:20).  Balaam got up in the morning to go with the men. He should have gotten up as soon as God said for him to go with them (that night). Balaam did not do what God told him to do.

There was another instance earlier in the Bible where God’s exact words were not followed:

The Lord said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock…11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out…” (Num 20, NIV).

God told Moses to “speak to the rock” but Moses “struck the rock twice with his staff” instead (Num 20:8, 10). So God did the following:

“12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them” (Num 20:12, NIV).

After Balaam’s numerous encounters with the angel of God, he was told, “35 “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials” (Numbers 22, NIV).  In other words, God was telling Balaam to do exactly what He wants him to do (and say).

So what does all this mean? I think this shows the importance of doing what God wants us to do when He tells us to do it. Don’t dismiss God and do your own thing; don’t hold off doing something He wants you to do when it is more convenient for you. More importantly, follow His instructions carefully.

There are so many things we can do that can glorify God, but how do we know exactly what He wants us to do? We have to listen to Him, and ask Him for clarity– we do that through prayer and reading through His Word. So read, pray, and listen carefully!

Copyright © 2018 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

Steps

This morning I woke up thinking about divorce. My parents were divorced when I was a child. They say that children are resilient and can adjust/overcome their circumstances. I believe that to a certain point. If the parent remarries and the stepparent actually steps in and assumes the role of a loving parent, accepting the child as his/her “own,” then the child can adjust.

If the stepparent is opposite of a supportive and nurturing parent, then the child will mourn the loss of the family unit and the effects can last a lifetime. That child would be forever thinking about “what if” or “what could have been” – if the parents had just put more effort into working things out then things would have been different, they would have been “one big happy family.” Dwelling on the past is not healthy.

What’s the point? Divorce happens, and it happens frequently. If you are going to marry someone with children/grandchildren, then love the children/grandchildren as your “own”—as if you had given birth to them or that you willingly adopted them. Be the kind of parent/grandparent to them that you always wanted to have, or if you had great parents/grandparents growing up then emulate that for them.

God gave us this example: “Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure” (Eph 1:4-5, NLT).

We are called to love others as ourselves (Mark 12:31), and that definitely includes loving one’s stepchildren/step-grandchildren. Find the joy in being a stepparent/step-grandparent, just as God had “great pleasure” in adopting us into His own family. I think we would have less maladjusted children and adults if every stepparent/step-grandparent did this.

Copyright © 2018 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

Respond or Not?

As a Christian, we are reminded that our goal is to become more like Jesus with our words and actions but there are certain things that make it difficult to do that.

I believe that Satan knows our “buttons” so he creates a situation where we are more likely to react “in the flesh.” That situation, though, is also a “test” to see how we will react. I have failed the test many times, and afterwards I ask God to forgive me and to help me in not reacting in a negative way in the future.

I’ve come to realize that there is a “right way” and a “wrong way” to react. On one hand, we are told: “Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are” (Proverbs 26:4, NLT); but on the other hand, the advice is: “Answer a fool according to his foolishness or he’ll become wise in his own eyes” (Proverbs 26:5, CSB). So how are we supposed to respond?

If we pray to God for guidance, then He will give it to us. If it is to respond, then He will give us the right words to say and we will have peace within. If our desire is to “get back at them,” then don’t respond.

Copyright © 2018 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

Big Ship

On a recent cruise that my husband and I took, we visited San Juan, Puerto Rico. We didn’t stay very long, we docked at about 6:30 am or so, but we had to be back at the ship by 1:30pm. We returned to the ship at 1pm just to be safe.  Our ship was scheduled to leave the port at 2:00 pm.

Right at 2:00 pm, I heard the ship’s horn. Slowly (so slow that we couldn’t even tell that we were moving) we backed away from the pier, then we stopped. It must have felt like an eternity because I heard the woman in the other stateroom ask her husband, “Is there something wrong with the ship? We’re not moving!” It took nearly 15 minutes to turn the ship in the right direction but we finally were on our way, going ever so slowly out of the bay.  About 25 minutes later, we were out to sea and on our way to the next port.

The incident reminded me of our lives. Sometimes our progress seems so slow that it doesn’t even look like we are making any progress, or our progress just stops. Other times we go backwards when we should be going forward; and when we try to readjust and correct our situation then our progress seems so slow and we get frustrated.

The thing is, positive change takes time. If we’ve been doing something for most of our lives, we can’t expect to change “overnight.”  If we “backslide” then we need to make a correction and continue going forward. Don’t give up and don’t get frustrated.  Be patient with yourself.

If it takes a “long time” to turn a big ship in the right direction, then it will take a long time for us to turn our lives in the right direction.  Just remember that all things are possible with God!

Copyright © 2018 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

 

Conflict

I have seen how others handled conflict– sometimes they walk away to “clear their heads,” intending to discuss it later but they never do; while others ignore that the conflict exists.

Conflict can be difficult to handle and sometimes it might be better to not do anything about it, but if the conflict never goes away or if it gets bigger then it must be addressed and resolved. This is so true in marriages.

I think there are more opportunities for conflict in a marriage because it is a closer relationship. We also tend to see our spouses when we are tired, like after working all day, etc.

Going to the Bible and praying first is a great way to start the process of resolving the conflict. We must ask for God’s discernment to know what to say, how to say it, and when to say it.

Unresolved conflict can cause a barrier that gets wider over time. Conflict doesn’t have to be resolved “overnight,” but it should be resolved– it cannot linger. Then there must be reconciliation– where the two can move forward together.

Colossians 3:13-15 says, “…as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love… Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace…” (NIV).

To truly resolve a conflict there must be forgiveness from both parties– to forgive and to forget. Forget it as if it never happened– that’s hard, but remember that all things are possible with God!

Copyright © 2018 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering “stinks,” and it’s hard to understand why these things happen. Sadly, in our world we will see or go through pain, suffering, and hardships. I think this is why we have the Book of Job– we can see from Job’s example that no matter what happens in our life that we are to continue to praise God. Yes, it is hard to praise God when things feel like they are falling apart but when there is nothing or no one else, God is still there, and there is also the body of Christ.

The Bible tells us to “…pray for each other...” (James 5:16, NIV), and to “Carry each other’s burdens…” (Gal 6:2, NIV). As Christians, we are all the body of Christ, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it…” (1 Cor 12:26, NIV).

I think there are some people who are afraid that they will not know what to say to someone who is suffering, or maybe they are uncomfortable seeing someone’s pain and hardship. I have found that most of the time, people who are suffering just need a hug– no words, just a hug.

If you are experiencing hardships, pain, and/or suffering, then I hope that you have found someone to walk with you in your suffering; and if you have suffered in the past, then I hope that you will walk with someone who is in pain (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

Copyright © 2018 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

Talk to God

I have encountered some people who feel that a Christian ought to project a “perfect” life. I’m not sure how they came to that conclusion, but because they felt this way they didn’t appear “real” to others. Sometimes people are afraid to admit their faults because others might ridicule or shame them. If we are not honest with one another, then how can we help each other? I think about these two Scripture verses: James 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other…” (NIV), and Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (NIV). We should be honest with one another, but most especially we must be honest with God– even though He already knows what we are thinking and feeling, there is something in speaking about our feelings/thoughts with Him that helps to change our perspective.

We often set boundaries, being careful in knowing when, and with whom, to divulge. Sometimes we can’t divulge everything, even when we trust the person we usually confide in; but we have God. I think about Matthew 6:6, “… when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen…” (NIV). The Scripture verse is about people who pray in public just to appear righteous, but I think the fact that we should go into a room and pray to God on our own shows that He is the only One we can truly express our most inner thoughts and feelings. Sometimes people are so distraught that they can’t even verbally express what they feel, but God understands us, “…We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (NIV).

So, the take-away is, we need to be “real” with others—none of us are perfect, which means we all make mistakes. We should share our faults and heartache with one another, but sometimes we can’t so we must turn to God. Even though you might not know what or how to pray, go someplace to be alone and just talk to God.

Copyright © 2018 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

Unexpected Change

This morning I woke up thinking about how we often get frustrated when things do not happen the way we had planned.  Many years ago I was in Army basic training at Fort Jackson. Our “class” (battalion) consisted of five groups (companies). Four of the five groups were ready to graduate on time, but one of the groups (Charlie company) was behind and had to catch up. The rest of us did nothing for a week as we waited.

This delay caused me to miss my other class (advanced individual training) at Fort Sam Houston, so I had to wait for nearly a month for the next class to form. I was upset and annoyed by this but there was nothing I could do to get into the class I missed.  The three of us from basic training that arrived early were given the job of checking in new people and assigning them to rooms. There were three shifts. I chose the “midnight shift” because I didn’t have to wear a uniform and I could sleep on the couch in the office.  

One night I decided to go to work early because I had nothing else to do. About 20 minutes later, this guy walks in. He complained about how one of his buttons had fallen off and he seemed tired and a little grouchy.  He was the cutest guy I had ever seen and his eyes were a beautiful shade of olive green. 

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Long story short, that guy became my husband. I would never have met him if I was not delayed and my plans were changed unexpectedly.  Sometimes things don’t turn out the way we expect and we feel angry or disappointed at the time, but if we believe that God is in control of everything then He is allowing these changes to take place for a reason. I am just reminding you to wait and see why it changed—you might be very pleased that it did.  

Copyright © 2018 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

The Three Biggest Things I’ve Learned from Being Married for 33 Years

Yesterday my husband and I celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary. We’ve come so far considering we could have been a “statistic” based on the factors we had: only teenagers when we married, we only had a high school education, we had our first child within the first year of our marriage, my parents were divorced, we only knew each other for a few months before getting married, we had a long distance relationship (me in California, and he in Florida), and we had terrible conflict and communication skills.

We had our “ups” and “downs” over the years, and I was even on the verge of getting a divorce earlier in our marriage. Yes, we saw a counselor and took marriage enrichment classes/seminars, but the turning point of our marriage was when we turned everything over to God. I’ve learned so much these past 33 years, and these are the three biggest things that I learned:

  1. I learned that I had to stop trying to be “right,” and to realize that no one is perfect so I had to be more forgiving.

It seemed that I was in a competition with my husband all the time. I wanted to always prove that I was right to a point where I would get angry about it. I spent more time arguing my case that I never really listened. When my husband did something wrong, I would use it against him and bring it up when we had arguments.

No one is perfect (especially me). If I don’t want people to expect perfection from me, then I shouldn’t expect it from other people, most especially my husband. Since I make mistakes all the time, I know that my husband will make mistakes too so I have to forgive him, just as I would want him to forgive me. I’m not always right; I had to listen more and talk less, and I had to realize that just because he did things differently that it doesn’t mean that my way is “right.”

  1. I learned to “pick my battles,” to let the “little things” go, and to choose my words carefully when there is a real issue.

I remember arguing about how the toilet paper should be placed on the holder, and how that argument would expand into other issues from the past. Does it really matter how the toilet paper is put into the holder? No! I realized that there are more serious issues. When these issues arise then that’s when I have to say something, but I had to choose my words (and tone of voice) carefully so that my words can be received.

  1. I learned to truly love my husband, to appreciate him, and to build him up as often as I can.

It used to make me so jealous that my husband had a photographic memory. He breezed through the doctoral program and graduated with a large dissertation after four years, while I struggled and nearly dropped out. The two years that followed his graduation were extremely difficult for me, but he encouraged me when I felt like giving up, he proof read my work several times, and he picked up the slack at home. I graduated after six years of being in the program, and I could not have done it without him.

I’ve come to appreciate how much smarter he is compared to me; and even though he is smarter, he never rubs it in my face. He brings out the best in me, so I try to bring out the best in him. I encourage him by pointing out the positive things about him, or about the positive things he has done or is doing. I am there if he is having a bad day and he needs someone to listen to him. When he gets a migraine, I massage his head until it goes away. I also tell him that I love him every day (they say action speaks louder than words, but words are still important).

Thirty-three years seems like such a long time, but I still have a lot to learn. I don’t think we ever get to that point in our marriage where we can stop trying to love, to support, and to serve our spouse.

Most of all, I continually thank God for His intervention in my marriage, and thank Him for the wonderful man He has given to me to be my husband.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights… Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger… No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need… serve one another through love… And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ” (James 1:17, 19, Eph 4:28, Gal 5:16, Eph 4:32, CSB).

Copyright © 2017 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti