Category Archives: Is It Okay To ____?

Am I An Alcoholic? Guest Post from Wendy P. Miller

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One of the biggest blessings in being involved in the writing community is that I have had the opportunity to meet and become friends with several amazing, amazing people. These people aren’t just writing buddies– they are supporters and readers and critiquers and developers and plotters and generally wonderful friends.  And most of all, they are incredible writers, using the gift of words to create stories that entertain and teach and challenge.

I’m honored today that my friend, Wendy Paine Miller, is stopping by the blog to share with you some of her thoughts about what is behind her newest release, The Delicate Nature of Love. Wendy’s writing is word-art, and I am so excited that she’s here with us today. Read below and let her words challenge you about a topic that touches so many.

From Wendy:

Am I An Alcoholic?

This is the question my main character in my latest novel, THE DELICATE NATURE OF LOVE, grapples with. I have an opinion about whether or not Emma Gates is an alcoholic. And I’m willing to bet many book club members will be sharing their opinions while sipping cabernet and sampling goat cheese.

Emma is a grieving widow. Wine has become her go-to when it comes to numbing her feelings. I don’t want to give away my thoughts about whether I feel Emma is addicted, but I will share a bit about why I gravitated toward this topic.

Addiction runs in my family. And I like wine. I like fruity mixed drinks. And with a hot pizza or a delicious chili recipe, I like to swig 312 Goose Island beer. Occasionally I ask myself the hard question: Do I like this too much? Because when I say addiction runs in my family I’m not talking six degrees of separation, I’m talking more like .14 degrees (about the same blood alcohol level several of my family members would hit at any given moment).

I remember suffering through a tragic season in my life when the idea of checking out—sanding down all of my depressed feelings to the point of numbness—sounded ideal. So I drank. A lot. And it did feel great. For a night. Then those feelings resurged and I was met with the weight of what I was going through twofold. And thankfully, I didn’t make a habit of tossing back the bottle. But this is exactly why I work hard not to judge those with addictions. I get the pull. The only difference is that I’m able to stop. I’m able to make a different choice. They aren’t. That doesn’t make me better. It just means the gene didn’t sneak into me.

Forget our country running on Dunkin’ as the slogan suggests. I’m convinced most of us have grown accustomed to running on whatever the five o’clock hour has to offer. In the first scene of DELICATE, my main character, Emma, finds herself facing a similar predicament Pink sings about in one of her songs. She’s looking for herself sober. She’s lost sight of who she is without her trusty wine bottle.

Because addiction is something I’ve grown to recognize, I care about others recognizing it in themselves and confronting it.

I think it starts with…

Accountability—asking the hard question, not just of yourself but asking loved ones who know you well to tell you what they think.

Awareness. Paying attention to when you say when. How many is too many for you? How generous of a pourer are you?

Finally, this might be the hardest one yet.

Honesty. It’ll always come back to this.

Does the topic of addiction hit close to home for you?

Wendy Paine MillerWendy Paine Miller is a native New Englander who feels most alive when she’s laughing, reading, writing, or taking risks. She’s authored eleven novels, including The Delicate Nature of Love, The Flower Girls and The Disappearing Key. Her books have prompted thought-provoking conversations at book clubs all across the country. Wendy lives with her husband and their three girls in a home bursting with imagination and hilarity. Connect with Wendy on her website.

 

 

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The Hallow of Halloween– Should Christians Be Involved?

The Hallow of Halloween

Of all the holidays, Halloween definitely provides the most instigation for controversy among the Christian community.

In some circles, it’s the “no-no” holiday.

Should it be celebrated by Christians?
Should Christians even hand out candy?
Should churches condone the idea of children dressing in costume? What’s more, should churches host Halloween or Fall events?
Are Christians going to hell for celebrating on “the devil’s day”?

Here’s my view–

The day of Halloween holds no power of evil for me, for I am filled by the One who overcomes all evil.

The devil doesn’t have any more power on Halloween than he does any other day of the year. The evil and sin that plague the world are just as bad on October 30 and November 1. But here’s the good news– we know what happens at the end of The Book. Evil is destroyed and Goodness wins.

So what should Christians do on October 31? What we should be doing every other day of the year– being a bold, blazing bright light for Jesus Christ in a dark, dark world. Whether that means we let our kids dress up and collect candy door-to-door or simply smile at a stranger we pass on the street, our mission is the same on Halloween as it is every day.

I read a post the other day from a Christian Mommy-blogger that said that because Halloween was evil, she and her family locked themselves behind closed doors every year and avoided people at all cost.

The post made me sad. An opportunity missed for the message of Christ to be spread on Halloween, even if by handing out invitations to church or a simple “God loves you” to go along with a piece of candy.

Now I’m going to go all history nerd on you.

When speaking to Believers who do not celebrate Halloween, the number one reason given is: “Christian’s shouldn’t celebrate Halloween because it’s pagan.”

Not so much. As a historian and born again believer, I’m ready to de-bunk the myths of the “pagan” Americanized Halloween.

Many of the American Halloween traditions are relatively new. In the grand scheme of history, dressing in costume and going door-to-door asking for candy have only become popular in the last century.

Before that, Halloween was an unorganized compilation of various religious beliefs and traditions from many European cultures. 

And many of these religious beliefs and traditions were started by the Church. (Big “C” church refers to the Roman Catholic Church–the earliest form of organized Christianity.)

Back in the day, the Celtic people of Europe (the UK and northern France) had beliefs tied to this time of year. They celebrated a holiday called Samhain (sow-in) that recognized the changes in the seasons–from light to dark, warm to cold, and from life to death. October 31 began the new year, and they believed that at Samhain, the land of the living and the land of the dead could overlap.

From these ancient traditions, the Catholic church attempted to reach converts. To take the emphasis off of the paganism of Samhain, the Catholic church made November 1 All Saints Day, or the day to remember and honor the saints. They then added November 2 as All Souls Day, or the day to remember and honor all of the dead who had gone on before.

These two “holy days” fell into the Catholic church’s method of conversion for pagans in the early church days--Keep doing what you’re doing, just do it in the name of Jesus. Remember that in those days, it wasn’t about converting hearts as much as it was about numbers.  So the idea of the living and dead overlapping fell under these days–Church sanctioned days of commemoration for the dead.

The night before All Saints Day became known as All Hallow’s Eve, and then was shortened to Hallowe’en.

One of the traditions during All Souls Day was for children or youngsters to go house to house asking for small cakes. In return, they would offer prayers for the family members who had died. Some believe that our tradition of trick-or-treating might have come from this early practice.

The idea of wearing costumes has no real “pagan” tie. In general, it can be traced back to the idea that many who instigated “trickery” or pranks during this time of year really wanted to mask their identities.

In the early 20th century, communities looked for a way to stop the pranks and keep kids safe on Halloween. They decided to organize community wide parties and parades for kids to show off their costumes, and later on the idea of subduing “tricksters” by offering them sweets turned into modern day trick-or-treating.

The Jack-O-lantern might be the most “evil” of all Halloween traditions. According to old Irish folklore, a man named Jack O’Lantern was so bad that he was kicked out of hell with only a burning ember to light his way. He wanders the earth at night with his ember in a hollowed out turnip. When the legend came to America, children began hollowing out pumpkins to create their own “Jack O’Lanterns.”

Okay, so there’s the history of our Americanized traditions.

We know what the Bible says about evil. We know what it says about what happens to a soul at death and where it goes. There’s no need to argue whether or not some people emphasize the negatives of the holiday–they do. It’s the non-Christians who’ve darkened the holiday; for well over a thousand years, Christendom has attempted to refocus it.

And if one still wants to cling to the pagan argument, then we must also point out all of the pagan influences in other parts of Christianity. Celebrating Christmas on December 25th, for example. That was not Jesus’ actual birthday. No, no. It was a Roman pagan holiday that the Church usurped, once again taking emphasis off the pagan rituals and putting them on Christianity. So can we ignore one holiday for “paganism” but not another?

If you and your family choose not to celebrate Halloween, there is nothing wrong with that. I respect your decision completely.

No matter your views on Halloween, it is important to remember that evil has no power over us when we are indwelled with the Holy Spirit.

Emphasize the positive: happy costumes, candy, and communities coming together. Remember The Great Commission– we are to make disciples on all days, and not avoid any opportunity to shine His great light.

Everyday is hallowed when we walk in the light of the Lord. Nothing can change that. Glorify the Lord in all you do, even on Halloween.

For more info, check out this video from The History Channel.

Share with me: What are your family traditions on Halloween?

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Is It Okay To Make Your Child Face Their Fears?

Today I’m adding to the “Is It Okay to ___?” series and focusing on a parenting issue.

My oldest son had a fear of the vacuum.

I say had because he’s no longer scared of it.

He’s no longer scared of it because I made him vacuum.

But it wasn’t a pretty sight. He was screaming. He was crying. He was trying to push the vacuum and cover his ears from the noise at the same time.

(Okay, I realize that at this point some of you are probably freaking out, picking up your phones to call the authorities and report my parenting. But hang with me.)

My son had an irrational fear of the vacuum that developed only recently.

He used to love vacuum cleaners. Like, lo-ove them. In fact, when he was 2, we took him to see Santa. That year Santa was located in a shopping center that housed an Oreck vacuum store. Immediately after seeing Santa, my son requested that we take him to the vacuum store. We did. He was thrilled. So thrilled that he said it was better than Santa. He sat next to the stand-up cardboard cut out of the Oreck vacuum guy and we took his picture. He liked that better than having his picture made with Santa, he said.

Fast forward nearly four years. Suddenly the sound of the vacuum bothers his ears and causes him to act as if the machine has turned into a live crocodile.

“That’s too bad,” I say. “Because you’ve made a mess with your paper and scissors. Looks like a confetti machine exploded in here. You need to clean it up.”

“It’s too much to clean up with my fingers.”

“Fine,” I said. “You can vacuum.”

Commence with the waterworks and the mini-freak out.

I plugged the vacuum in. I said, “Son, I’m going to turn the vacuum on now and you are going to push it and vacuum up the mess you made.”

I switched the vacuum on. He screamed. Screamed.

I turned the vacuum off. I took my son by the shoulders and told him under no uncertain terms, “You are not allowed to be afraid of the vacuum. It can’t hurt you and you made a mess. You must now clean it up.”

I let him go, switched the vacuum on and put the handle in his hand. He shot me a look that I could read clearly, but I let it go because he was screaming, trying to cover his ears, and pushing the vacuum all at the same time.

And I’m sorry, but the scene in my house was hysterical. I tried to stifle a smile & my laughter because I didn’t want to upset him further. He was livid. Red with rage, screaming, crying, and probably the most upset I’ve ever seen him. But the emotions fueled him which made him push the vacuum faster, which made him realize that the vacuum was doing what it is made to do– suck up the mess, not eat small children.

He cleaned up the mess.

When he was finished he calmed down immediately. He admitted that using the vacuum wasn’t so bad.

And then he asked me if he could please vacuum the rest of the house for a dollar.

I call that success.

And I’m willing to part with a dollar if it means my son has conquered an irrational fear and my floors are clean.

I don’t know that telling him he’s “not allowed” be afraid of something was the best move, but that’s what I said in the moment, and praise God, that worked.

I don’t make light of my children’s fears. I never have. But in this case, I knew that an irrational fear would do him more harm than facing it and realizing that he’s more powerful than his fear.

I know that there are all different kinds of parents and all different styles of parenting, and this was my call with this particular situation in the moment. In a different situation, facing a different fear, I might not have pushed him. I certainly wouldn’t have thrown him into the deep end of a pool if he were afraid of water, for example. (Thankfully, he’s not. Swims like a fish.)

But I’d like to hear from you. What do you think about children and fear, rational or irrational?

(Jeannie Campbell, I’m waiting for your comment, LMFT.)

Share with me: Have you ever had to make your child face a fear? What was your outcome? What techniques do you think are effective?

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