It always makes me happy to write to you at the end of each month! Hope you look forward to receiving these “just between us” letters.
This month’s letter includes a story about what God is teaching me, a few photos from July, a fun announcement to share, and a question for you to respond to.
The last four or more years of our lives have been extra challenging. Dennis and I have experienced several difficult relationships in our extended family … we’ve worked through a to-be-expected loss of identity as we retired from FamilyLife leadership … I’ve continued to experience health and sleep difficulties … my mom died … and we are still in a new season of struggle that began last spring. All of these trials, as James the brother of Jesus calls them, have collectively created stress in our marriage too. And that has surprised us, though it shouldn’t have.
Through all of this, what has become clear to me is the unmistakable divisiveness of the enemy of my soul.
I’m reading again, after 20 years, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. One scene midway into the book takes place in a throne room, grand and once glorious but now shrouded in darkness and the dust of time. King Theoden, slumped and bent on his throne, speaks little and bitterly as one ravaged by time. Seated below and in front of him on the dais is his advisor and spokesman. Wormtongue is his name.
As I read this name my attention was instantly heightened. C.S. Lewis wrote in his book, The Screwtape Letters, about an apprentice demon named Wormwood. Could there be a connection?
Wormtongue spoke with all proper respect, even with words that rang true, but there was something sly and suspect lying beneath his replies and advice to the king. Two pages later I underlined Tolkien’s words: “After that Wormtongue played dangerously, always seeking to delay you, to prevent your full strength being gathered. He was crafty, dulling men’s wariness or working on their fears as served the occasion.” Over time his advice had turned King Theoden into a feeble and helpless man.
I recognized Wormtongue’s tactics. I knew my enemy was dulling my wariness and working on my fears, too, in our season of aging and difficulty. Tolkien’s words also sounded much like the advice given in The Screwtape Letters to Wormwood by his teacher when he said:
When two humans have lived together for many years it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurably irritating to the other. Work on that. Bring fully into the consciousness of your patient that particular lift of his mother’s eyebrows which he learned to dislike in the nursery, and let him think how much he dislikes it. And, of course, never let him suspect that he has tones and looks which similarly annoy her. As he cannot see or hear himself, this is easily managed.
We expected our trials of the last few years and we weren’t totally surprised.
What has been surprising is the seemingly unending duration and the snippiness that has slipped into our marriage very unexpectedly.
Wormtongue was a man who had surrendered to a powerful evil one who was wreaking havoc in his quest to rule all. Wormwood was a young demon learning to entice humans to surrender to the evil one, Satan. Both represent the two realms of spiritual battle—one in the heavenly places between angels and demons and the other on earth between Satan and God as each works to recruit followers.
It has never been clearer to me that there are only two choices in life. In every decision, in every relationship, in every difficulty, in every season of life, the question is always: Who will I follow? Who will I listen to and obey? Will we choose the evil way or the good and righteous way?
In the spirit of these books by such creative imaginative writers, I’ve decided that in the name of Jesus and for His glory I will resist the attacks of the enemy and refuse to focus on the little things that so easily distract from following Christ alone! If I were a character in the book I’d create a banner to wave or a flag to display that declared my allegiance to Jesus alone. Instead, I’ve had our neighbor build me a cross out of two old 4x4s which we plan to stand in the middle of a flower bed, defiantly declaring where our loyalty lies. Here is my cross ready for a weekend to plant it in its new home.
I believe today we need reminders of who our enemy is and what his favorite tactics are. Another book I’ve read this summer is on this topic by a brilliant theologian, Dwight Pentecost, and the title is, Your Adversary the Devil. Three words associated with this being tell us a lot about his character: deceiver, destroyer, and divider. Jesus called him the father of lies and that he was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).
I highly recommend this book to you. And it’s a very easy read too.
Changing subjects, I’m particularly pleased to announce I’ve enrolled in Dallas Theological Seminary and am registered for six hours of classes this fall! During the height of some difficult days in late May and early June I decided one way I could push back against the enemy of my soul was to fill out my application. Waiting for more time in my life, waiting for a less stressful time, waiting for any reason other than a pause given by God was giving the enemy an advantage. In defiance of the strife he was stirring I got busy taking steps toward this goal.
I’m hoping to write snippets of what I’m learning to share with you this fall. I think it will be fun and, I hope, challenging to you to keep learning and growing. And I hope what I learn will encourage your faith as I know it will mine.
Now my question for you is this: What topics would you like me to write on in the blog?
What questions would like answered?
Do you have questions about your faith, about marriage or parenting?
Do you wonder about your teens, relating to adult kids, or do you have questions about in-laws; both the kids your children marry and their parents?
Because we don’t have products to focus on anymore I want to be more consistent in posting and answering Dear Barbara questions. And because we don’t have products for sale we are more than ever dependent on generous donors to keep Ever Thine Home going. It’s truly a new beginning for me and Ever Thine Home in many ways.
The easiest way to reply with your question would be to use the comment button below. I hope to hear how I can help meet your needs in the near future.
My desire is and always has been to encourage, help, and mentor the next generation, and even some of you in my generation, to surrender over and over to Jesus. To follow Him no matter what, and to be as faithful as Habakkuk who wrote, “Yet will I rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:18).
Welcome August and the next step toward fall.
With love for all of you,
6 thoughts on “Friends & Family July 2021”
I am so grateful for my inability to spell. I found your blog when looking up how to spell Fridays as that became a prompt for my journal entry. Friends and Family Fridays. I found your most recent blog to be exactly what I needed. I am inspired by your words and taking steps toward your goal. I have many questions and I instantly felt comfortable with bringing my questions to you. Now I will take some time to formulate them and share with you and this community. Thank you for God’s perfect timing.
Dear Barbara. My husband and I have been struggling, off and on, with my Mom living with us for the past 5 years. Back story: She adopted my nephew (parents were addicts) and was taking care of my Grandma, and couldn’t handle it after my Dad died. My hubby felt like God was telling us to help the “widows and orphans” so We bought a big house and moved all of them in to help. My grandma died 2 years ago and my brother is now saved, off of drugs, and has taken my 13 year old nephew with him full time. We have a 10 year old daughter and my husband longs to have his little family back, but my Mom is too content living with us and afraid to be alone. I have suggested she try to find other ladies to live with in a senior community and she gives me a guilt trip that she is not wanted and we just want her to leave. I asked my brother to take her in but they can’t get along and my nephew wants time with his daddy alone since he was in prison the previous 4 years for his addictions and us now a new man, and good father. Praise the Lord !!! So…my question is this: with my husband being biblically my priority, am I supposed to force the issue with her moving out to honor him? She makes only SSI and says she can’t afford her own place. She sold her house that was mortgage free when my dad died and has already spent the money, and she pays us only $400 (mainly because she insists on contributing something to not be a burden). So where should my loyalty be? She is 70 years old and now feels she has lost her identity of caring for my nephew and grandma, so doesn’t have a purpose. How can I encourage to live out the rest of her life independent and not make her feel unwanted? She desires to remarry (which would solve the problem) but God has not provided her a husband. I feel stuck in the middle and sometimes it’s just too much too handle. We want to honor God as a family and only do what is in His Will but this is really hard (my hubby is also an assistant pastor of our church and we have led marriage ministry several years).
Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you and God Bless
Thank you for your honesty, as always. I appreciate vulnerability and find it very helpful to know what others are truly going through. As far as what to write about, I would love to hear any gems you pick up on how to interpret scripture and apply it to our lives. I’m not afraid of deep topics and would love to hear about anything you’re learning, particularly about end times theology, or just anything you learn at seminary that you find to be particularly insightful. There are some deeper matters of how to understand Scripture that I am currently grappling with, and I always appreciate good insights and more accurate interpretations of Scriptures I’ve heard all my life.
And I always appreciate your marriage and family advice. Keep being vulnerable and raw. We need it! Life is not picture perfect and I need to know I’m not alone.
Thank you so much for Ever Thine Home! The blog posts are such an encouragement!!!
I’d love to hear any advice you would have for young women early in their walk with God. Also, any practicals for keeping one’s gaze on Christ would be awesome! :)
Thank you for your encouragement and honesty. Since you asked for questions we have for you: I have a 12 week old and 20 month old and am returning to work full time this week. My husband is finishing his Phd so I currently do not have the option to stay home, which is what he and I both hope for in the future. During this season I want to raise my children to love and know Jesus, and I want to love my husband and grow in oneness with him, manage our home to God’s glory, love our neighbors, and work faithfully at my job. Yet, I do not know how to balance all of this well. I would love to hear how you did this with kids (we also hope to have a large family)…faithfully serving the Lord and obediently engaging with the tasks and relationships he set before you.
Barbara, Thank you for sharing your heart with us. I am so sorry that you and Dennis have been through such trying times lately. Satan is very skilled at poking at us. I am glad you shared your struggles because now we all have a wonderful opportunity to pray for you! I am excited about your new plans for your blog. What a great idea to take classes at DTS! Woo hoo!! I am looking forward to hearing about all the things you are learning. I love everything you write and it always helps me grow closer to God, and it helps me become who God is calling me to be. THANK YOU!