Thursday, December 29, 2016


 Ask any parent what matters most in life. Chances are they won't boast about the hours they spend at the office, or the square footage of their home. They will speak about their children.

But sometimes our children turn away, or they are torn away. In my case, my two sons died way too young. 

Others long for children, and aren't blessed with any.

But we can birth spiritual children.

In the rooms of recovery the most precious relationships are those between a sponsor and a sponsee. Shaken and sick, the newcomer asks for help, and someone farther along in their journey grabs them by the hand and they walk together.

"Alice" grew up in a turbulent, drug and alcohol-fueled household. She became selfish and distrustful in order to survive. At age 25, single ,pregnant, and addicted herself, she had no parenting skills. 

Then she gingerly stepped onto the road to recovery. Suddenly, she had a new family. Her sponsor, " Carol" mentored her through the steps. Carol taught her how to show up, grow up, and receive love. Now Alice is a sober, patient, and caring mother.

"Karen" was sexually abused as a child. Her young adulthood was spent drinking her way through abusive relationships. Karen kept her dirty secret for years. When Karen was embraced by her sponsor she learned for the first time that she was a child of God, and worthy of love.

Both of these women broke free from the bondage of their past because of spiritual mentorship!

Ahh those poor 'normies' who don't have our meetings and our fellowship you may wonder. But the same magic occurs every day outside the rooms of recovery! It has been going on since Jesus first walked the earth and mentored his disciples.

Beth Moore, in her bible study book "Breaking Free" talks about our potential for bearing spiritual offspring by impacting the lives of others. Beth cites the example of her friend Johnnie who never had a daughter of her own, but she led a women's ministry for many years at a large church. Her influence blessed countless families!

Those of us who are teachers can do the same. It doesn't matter if you are in the classroom, a recovery clubhouse, or a church basement.

Isaiah 54: 2-3:
 "Enlarge the place of your tent,
 stretch your tent curtains wide,
 do not hold back;
 lengthen your cords.
 strengthen your stakes.
 For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
 your descendants will dispossess nations
 and settle in their desolate cities."

It is my prayer for myself that I have peace with the fact that my boys are gone from this earth for the time being, and that I am able to take the hand of another sufferer and walk with her through the desolation of this fallen world.

One final thought. Before we become spiritual parents, we must first be willing to become spiritual children ourselves. The women who came before me, battling addiction, suffering tragic losses, remaining unwavering in their faith—they are still teaching me today.

Please contact me and tell me about your experience either as a spiritual child or a spiritual parent. I would love to share your story.

Thursday, December 22, 2016


My teenage son, Chris, had terminal cancer, and we were reminiscing. "What is your favorite memory?" I had asked.

In his thirteen years of life he had enjoyed many privileges such as trips to theme parks, ski adventures, and Caribbean vacations. So his answer surprised me.

"When I was five, Mom, we sat under the Christmas tree and practiced my ABC's."

A tender moment in time—a mother and child enjoying the beauty of Christmas, and sharing a bit of learning.

It makes me think about Christ and his disciples. They walked many miles from town to town as Jesus preached to the crowds. But Jesus would eventually grow weary and gently gather his closest friends. Away from the crowds and excitement they enjoyed a rare and beautiful intimacy.

John 18:1: "When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it."

This is what my Chris had treasured most, our quiet time together. 

And there we were, a mother and child, exploring the very basics of the written word in Englishthe alphabet. Laughing under the tree lights, pursing our lips, making exaggerated letter sounds, unknowingly we had created a cherished memory.

Wise beyond his years, our Chris had known what was important. He was drawn to the quiet moments of love.

This is also what our pastor says every Sunday when he speaks of developing our relationship with the Lord. "Spend quiet time each day in the word."

Dear readers, please don't forget that lesson during this busy holiday season. Find time to put away the electronics and turn off the TV for a while. Listen to the stories of your parents and grandparents. Laugh with your children and grandchildren. Give them each some individual time. And spend some quiet time with the Lord. Unwrap that blessed gift together.

Perhaps you have a loved one who is declining, and you may be enjoying your last Christmas together. Ask them about their favorite memories. Don't miss the chance to make one more.

What is your favorite Christmas memory?

Sunday, December 11, 2016


This time of year Facebook is bursting with cheery images and everyone is wishing each other a "Merry Christmas". But behind closed doors, some of us are suffering. We have lost a loved one, and Christmas will never be the same.

We don't want to dampen your spirits or deny your joy, so we often keep to ourselves, declining invitations, avoiding situations that may become painful.

And that is perfectly okay. For many of us our grief seems magnified over the holidays. We need to give ourselves permission to mourn.

For those of us who have lost children the holidays can be especially sad. I recommend finding creative ways to express our grief. For me it is writing.

CHRISTMAS NEEDLES by Maribeth Ditmars

Those Christmas tree needles poke at my heart,
No child beneath the tree.
Echoes of crinkling paper scrape across my mind,
Nothing to shop for.
Unbaked cookies dry my mouth,
Where tears run by.
A holiday hole no one can fill,
Save the One who cares for him now.
Would that I could sit with you under your celestial tree of life,
Where the angel on the tree is real!
Where hope is my unwrapped gift,
Of a promised place where holidays pale
Beneath the light of eternity.

Whether it is planting a tree, making a quilt, composing a song, running a marathon, creating a work of art, or countless other possibilities I believe that those of us who mourn, if we spend time creating, we will be less likely to be destroyed.

For those of us who grieve, the holidays can also be a poignant reminder that our loved ones are enjoying heaven's riches. This is the whole reason for the season! We have that blessed unwrapped gift to look forward to. We know that we will be reunited with our dear ones in heaven.

Romans 8:18-19 ESV 

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

Matthew 5:4: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

 We can share our faith with other bereaved folks. Can you imagine burying your loved one and believing that's all there is? I don't think I'd be able to get out of bed in the morning. Do you know someone like that? Be an ambassador for the broken. This will help us remember that Jesus defeated death.

Not up to it yet? That's okay too. Maybe you know someone further along in their grief journey. Reach out and let them help you.

Either way, don't burden yourself with expectations. If your old holiday traditions don't work any more, make new ones.

If you know someone who is suffering a loss, the greatest Christmas gift you can give them is the act of listening. Don't compare your losses to their's. Just listen. Let them cry. Let them be grumpy. Let them not show up for your party. Just listen.

There is a wonderful ministry for bereaved parents called Emmaus Ministries. (Click here for info.) They offer retreats. Unlike many other bereavement programs Emmaus caters to your spiritual needs. It's run by the Catholic Franciscans, but it is open to all faiths, and no one will try to convert you. They will gently and lovingly console you. The ministry is named after the story in Luke 24 when Jesus first appears to his followers after his resurrection. They were on their way to the village of Emmaus.

As I trudge my own road to Emmaus, I wish you peace dear readers. We are not always merry, but we have the hope of eternity.

I would love to hear your stories! Post a comment on how you are coping with the holidays.