Friday, December 30, 2016

Ignorance Is Not a (Good) Excuse

I recently had a wonderful talk with a girl I have loved since she came into my life when I was the ripe old age of thirteen.  We had stumbled into a bit of an impasse in our communication with one another.  I had sent her yet another written message (my preferred mode of contact) and she followed up hours later with a phone call (her preferred mode of contact.)   I (childishly) looked at my phone screen and saw it was her; I didn't want to debate; I didn't want to be lectured; I just wanted to bury myself in the oblivion of the television and eat my dinner in peace.   But at the root of my being, this woman child is someone I love and value beyond my own comfort.   I answered.   

Our talk lasted ninety minutes. At times, we tried talking over one another which is largely impossible when using cell phones. Mostly, we both tried hard to listen to one another and find what we agreed on and not worry TOO much about the things we disagree on. I think we both came to realize that we agree about more than we disagree.  We realized that we both have a passion for the subject we were discussing; we just have different focus points in dealing with the issues which tripped us up.   I think that, in the end, we agreed that what is the natural and best way to approach one another is with the deep-seated love which has always been the foundation of our relationship.  It had been years since we had spoken for so long and we were both pleasantly surprised I think that we had so much to discuss and to share.  

Before we ended our time together, she gave me an affirmation that is priceless; that is one of her gifts. She remembered with me the twenty-something year old me living in the "penthouse" apartment in what had once been a beautiful old home on East Watauga Avenue in Johnson City, my hometown.  The "penthouse" was the attic which had been converted into a very small one bedroom apartment, with a "bonus room" which served as the nursery for my first two babies. The roof gables were our walls and ceiling.  The entire house, home to a real estate business and a total of four apartments was roach infested.  We lived sometimes with and many times without my first husband.  I had an army of angels on earth who helped me get by, taking me to doctor's appointments, to the grocery store, and to church.  But even with that, I had little money, sometimes none.  I was often dependent on government assistance programs, and I was so ashamed of what my life had come to.  This was not the dream that the twenty-one year old bride had imagined! My middle class life had derailed in a major way.  

But this younger woman in my life talked about how I had allowed those early years of my adulthood to develop in me a compassion for and desire to help other single or pseudo-single moms.  (I just made up pseudo-single!  It's when you have a mate/partner who is present but not really providing support in any of its forms- financial, emotional, spiritual.) And now thirty years later, here I am living out my passion making new friends and planning to live among some of the poorest citizens of my city, ministering to them in tangible ways with transportation, friendship, shared meals, spiritual guidance and teaching, entertaining, tutoring and loving their children as well as them, the adults.    

That young mom grew up into the woman I now am and my younger friend gave me a verbal blessing by praising me for letting my hard times inspire me to "give back."

Doesn't that feel so good?!!

But you know what?   None of it is to my credit.   My angels on earth got me through those years and they did it because they serve/served an amazing God Who has gifted us with redemption from the Garden on down through history.  And you know what else?   I didn't choose the hard times and I don't deserve the good times.  I am blessed. And that means I have a responsibility to "pay it forward."   You see, I was blessed to be born to middle class, white parents who nurtured, loved, supported me financially, emotionally, and spiritually.    I never faced ongoing and repeated abuse from either of them.  We always had nourishing food in the house.  We always had clean beds to sleep in and clean clothes to wear.   We had help and encouragement to do our homework and the expectation that we would do it to the best of our ability. My siblings and I didn't have parents who were slaves to addiction. Our parents were respected by the community of their peers and they lived upright lives. My dad was in a very hated profession, he was a tax collector.   And yet, through my young life and well into my middle age years, I have had people share with me how much they loved him and admired his integrity and work ethic. That is an amazing gift! I always believed, in my darkest hours, that my life and circumstances would be better someday.  I knew that I didn't have to stay in poverty.  I knew another life and I had the tools and the support to achieve escaping the poverty I found myself in.

I have friends whom I love who have had none of the advantages from which I benefit.  They were born into poverty, with darker skin than mine.  They had parents who were abusive, addicted, not there or combinations of those states.  Some of my friends have known only poverty all their lives, poverty in their financial, emotional, and spiritual circumstances. And that was not their choice any more than my middle class birth was my choice.  

I didn't "pull myself up by my bootstraps."  I had tons of support and encouragement, and I had the know how, the college degree, not because I was so smart and able to realize that someday, it would enable me to escape poverty.  My parents were the ones who ensured that all three of their children moved on to higher education!  What if they hadn't cared if my homework was done.  What if they hadn't been able to function beyond an elementary school level in their reading and writing?  What if they hadn't worked hard and saved, and had a pension which paid for college (even after my father's early death?)  What if our household had been full of chaos with mama's boyfriends over trying to "mess" with us?  What if mama or daddy had spent their hours ignoring us pursuing their phone screen wanting more "likes" on social media or in their day, out in the bars looking for the next high or fix?  What if mama or daddy or both had been in and out of prison throughout my childhood and I was passed from friend to family and back again and could never totally trust where I would be staying on any given night? What if they had spent the evening hours yelling at and cursing and beating us? How different would my life be?

And see, none of my blessings were my choice nor my design.  I don't know why I was chosen to be born into and live in the family I have.   I don't know why I have all the blessings and others have few or none. Some people want to say there is not a good God or it wouldn't be this way. I don't agree.  If we read the word and believe it, we see that God created a perfect place for man and woman to live and work.  He gave them all good and continues to provide goodness to all of mankind.  Mankind has chosen all through time to believe the lies of the enemy of God and stray into choices that are not from God. I was blessed to come from parents who chose to serve God and make choices which followed His word and commands.  

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.   1 Timothy 6:17-18 (NIV)

The other thing I know is that God did not bless me so that I could live a rich, comfortable life.   He expects me to do what His son, God with us, Jesus, did.   My "wealth" is not for me; whatever my gifts are are to be poured out and shared.   God is about redemption and love.  That is what I am to be about in order to be about my Father's business.   For God says to each of us, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."  Luke 12:48


Saturday, October 1, 2016

When Daddy (or Mommy) is Gone

Last Sunday morning as we gathered for Bible study, the teacher asked if any of us had prayer requests; one friend in class held up her hand and related that one of her daughter's friend's mother had passed away that past week suddenly and unexpectedly.  The daughter's friend is a fourteen year old high school freshman.  I remember that vulnerable time of life.  

Later as the worship service began, our minister shared his own prayer request.  He had a call that morning that a beloved friend back home in Michigan had passed away leaving his wife and young children.  Again my heart hurt for those suddenly fatherless children and that motherless young girl. 

Tomorrow would have been my daddy's 90th earthly birthday; instead, he has been in heaven for forty-five years as of this past July.  He died suddenly at home, with his wife and children present, in the wee hours of July 16, 1971.    He left behind three children, ages 19, 16, and 9.  Our lives have never been the same.

I was the baby, spoiled, two weeks shy of her tenth birthday, (exactly two weeks- that's always been an important, defining point for me.   I don't know why.)  Daddy died, in my parents' bed, at 3:16 am, at least that is when his watch stopped.  My oldest sibling tried to perform CPR; the doctor told my mother later that even if Daddy had been in the hospital, they could not have saved him.  His faulty heart valve, severely damaged by childhood rheumatic fever, had been expected to take his life in his twenties.  He had told Mama that he knew those extra years were a gift from God.  He lived a full life, being kind, teaching others about God, and leaving a legacy of love and provision for his family in those forty-five years.

My memories of that night are weird and disjointed to me; I woke to the sound of my mother crying, screaming I thought.   Both siblings, in recent years, said she did not scream.  I remember seeing the oldest sib doing CPR but I do not remember seeing Daddy's turning every color in the rainbow as my mother described later.   The next thing I remember is the county ambulance crew taking Daddy's body out of our home, completely covered by a white sheet on their gurney.   I also remember my mother sobbing in her best friend's arms while that gurney was passing by them in our living room.  I don't remember the next few hours.  Those were the days before there was an ambulance or firemen on every corner waiting to respond to emergencies; therefore, the best girlfriend made it to our home before the ambulance.

The next couple of days were busy.  Mama and Daddy each had four siblings spread across the southeast.  Each had a brother who was in Alaska at the time of Daddy's death.   They neither one made it back to Tennessee for the service for my daddy. 

All of the others converged for the visitation that Saturday night and the funeral that Sunday.  I had cousins that I rarely saw to hang out with.   Mind now, I was nine.   Some time, must have been Saturday, my cousins and I went to our basement family room and I put music on the stereo and played it very loudly and we had a pillow (or maybe it was stuffed animals) fight.  We were having great fun.  

Years later, while taking a Thanatology (the study of death and dying) class at the local university, I wrote a paper about children and the death of a parent.   I met with my student advisor, who was also the professor teaching that class; I related to him, "I am/was normal!  I never knew!"  He smiled at me not understanding at first what I meant.  I thanked him for allowing me to do that paper and research.   For the first time in over a decade, I forgave myself for my childhood behavior; I understood that my reaction to Daddy's death was well within "normal" guidelines.  Children do not react to death the same ways as adults.  And they should not be expected to act like little adults.  

I think as adults, we need to realize that children have an inner life just as we do.  I can remember intricate fantasies I conjured in which my parents had secretly divorced and couldn't face the shame so Daddy had left town and his death was faked. (It was the early 1970's and we were church people)  I can also remember lying in bed on several occasions during my teenage years trying to "will" my father's ghost to visit  me.  I missed him so much.  Teenage girls need their daddies (and their mamas.)   So do teenage boys, and babies, and little children.  There is no easy age, time, or way to lose a parent.  

It felt for years that my Daddy had been the glue that held our family of five together; in hindsight, I think there is deep truth in that statement.  But I also think his death happened at such a transitional time of life that it over emphasized what came shortly later.  From my nearly ten year old perspective, Daddy's death changed everything at once.  The reality is that Daddy died in the summer of 1971.   In August, 1972, my brother went away to college on the other side of the state and never came home to live permanently again.   He was home for breaks, but never lived full time at home.  My oldest sibling married in December, 1972 and became a parent during the summer of 1973 and then again in 1974.  Though living in our hometown, my oldest sibling's life was no longer shared full time.   

So in just under a year and one-half, we transitioned from a family of five, father, mother, young adult, teenager, and one spoiled, little girl to a single, widowed mom with one child at home.  My world was crushed in many ways.    But again, it took years to work through all that and even understand how it all affected me.   Seeking counseling was not something my mother would do in the seventies.  Mental illness and depression carried such stigma in those days.    I know both my siblings probably could have used a little help also working through the grief and the family dynamics changes.  We all suffered in ways that have never been discussed.  

Most of my mom's friends and family said that "she was never the same after your Dad's death."  That is true from my perspective also.   She entered a battle with early onset Alzheimer's Disease just  thirteen to fourteen years after Daddy's death.  I have often wondered if Daddy's devastating death was the trigger for changes in her brain.   I have no idea if the science supports that or not.  

My behavior had always bothered me until my research and writing released me from that guilt.  But I found out several years ago that at least one aunt had also not understood my reaction to my Dad's death.   During a visit with her, she began talking negatively about one of my siblings, relating to me about the "wild party" in the basement "when your Daddy was a corpse."   I set her straight on who it was that was having that party.  My "inappropriate" behavior had bothered me for more than a decade until I learned it was not inappropriate, it was childish.  I forgave myself.  And I shared with that aunt that my behavior had been perfectly normal.

I am writing this as therapy for myself but also for others to share.   When we lose our loved ones, it changes us, all of us.  We all cope and react differently; but please understand, that children are not little adults.  They may react in ways that are strange or seem inappropriate to the adults around them.   But most likely, their reactions are spot on normal.   

If you are close to a grieving child, let that little (or bigger) person talk all they want or be as quiet as they want about their loss, their deceased parent, or how life has changed.   Hold that child in prayer often.  Be there whenever possible to support the grieving family and be sensitive to the changed dynamics and the possible need for a "big brother or sister" or an "adopted" parent for the child(ren) left behind.   Your prayers and presence could make all the difference to a hurting child.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
         James 1: 27

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

If Anyone Takes

Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.
Luke 6: 30
I know a man who had to be at work at 7 am on a Monday morning. But selflessly, at 10:30 Sunday night, he crawled out of his bed, put back on his clothes, and he drove across town to turn the water back on and he also flipped the breaker which controlled the outside electrical sockets restoring that power on the house on the "wrong side of the tracks."  When his wife asked him why, he replied, "Those kids didn't ask to be in that situation." 
Earlier that day, the man and his wife had taken friends by the property to see it. When he entered the kitchen he heard water running.  He panicked thinking there was a serious leak.  He told his wife later that he wasn't sure what made him open the back door and step out onto the small deck overlooking the backyard.  
The wife arrived in the kitchen just after he had stepped outside. The friends were standing alone  looking towards the laundry room/small bathroom. The wife mumbled and went out to see why her husband was looking off the side of the deck.  Her husband was standing quietly looking down into the yard at a woman washing the bottom of a small child and washing out his underwear. The wife's anger kicked in. The woman in the yard suddenly felt eyes on her and turned and said, "Oh hello."  The wife asked, "So how long have you been taking our water also?" Somewhat defiantly, (or was it embarrassment) the woman answered that this was the first time.  She explained that the child had soiled himself and she had to clean him up.  And yet, the couple knew that she had also stolen water from the neighbor on the other side of her rented home.  
Days before, the neighbor woman had admitted that she had plugged into the outside socket in order to start up her generator; she explained that their utilities had been cut off due to nonpayment.  It was their landlord's fault because he had not done a necessary repair and they had spent utility money to fix the fallen ceiling in the childrens' bedroom.  But then she mentioned he was suing them for paying rent late also.  And this is the same household where numerous adults and children are in and out and some of those adults and children have been observed by others stealing garden tools and lawnmowers around the neighborhood.   
The man and wife spent several hours with their friends after an afternoon church service discussing the neighborhood and ministry.  The man had cut off the electric and water to the outside before leaving the property that afternoon. He had questioned that decision over and over. 
The friends said he had absolutely done the right thing;. They said that we are not called to support others who will not work and help themselves. It appears that one adult in the household holds a job (possibly.)   He claims to work anyway.   

But the children, the face of that little boy when he saw that strangers were watching his naked bottom being washed with garden hose cold water, that is what kept coming back into the man's mind the rest of the evening.  His wife felt torn about the situation but wasn't sure how to help. She had been responsible for the family budget being smaller by "helping" others before only to have those helped right back in the same situation months later. His own children told him they thought he was wrong to "enable" the neighbors in their thievery. There is the valid question "when are we helping and when are we enabling irresponsible behavior?" And then there is the cynicism that can begin in one's mind when hearing yet another reason for someone asking for help.  This writer has to fight the tendency to hearing Charlie Brown's teacher's utterances, "Blah, blah, blah, blah."  

But back to the man I know; he just kept asking, "What would Jesus do?"  And then he rose from bed, traveled 25 minutes (one way) to the "bad" neighborhood, and let the water flow and made the power available to provide for the needs of his neighbors. And somehow, the wife felt that the man was, without a sermon, sharing the living water and the Power from above.    

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Thoughts on God

In less than twelve hours, I have experienced three different individuals telling or asking me about God, asking or mentioning the "hard" things.  Only two of these encounters were conversations; the other was someone railing against God for all His wrongdoing (in that person's opinion.)  These conversations left me feeling as though I should share my thoughts.   

The first conversation was last evening.  I was asked why God allows bad things to happen.  Why are children born with handicaps?  Why are children abused?  Why did Adam and Eve have to be so stupid and sinful?   That one made me smile and ask back, "Because you have never disobeyed God, right?"   The way I read it, God spent days (2 Peter 3: 8) making a beautiful world, full of numerous varieties of plants, animals, insects, birds, wild beasts, trees, flowers, climates; He made the sun, moon, and stars to give us light and to set our time and seasons.  And then He wanted to pour His love into persons made in His (Our) image.  "Our" suggests plurality.  God, the Father, Jesus, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were all present.  Their desire was relationship with Adam and Eve and all their offspring such as they had together--unity, peace, and love.  And they wanted people to have unity with one another.  

But They did not want relationship with robots.  If your spouse or child loved you because they had no choice, how would that be rewarding?  The reward of love is when it is given by free choice.  God desired our love and trust, freely given.   So "stupid" old Adam and Eve had a choice to make.  They could look around and see all that God had done for them:  the beauty of the created, the sun for light and warmth, the plants for eating, the shade for cool rest.   We are told that the work was not difficult in the beginning.  The animals were amazing and varied so I imagine life was not dull.   

God provided man and woman with love, daily relationship with one another and with their Creator, and every need met in paradise.   They had a choice, just as we still do -- obedience and trust or sin, AKA disobedience.  We have the audacity to blame God for our wrong choices, their wrong choices.   He made paradise; we made the mess.  And yes, I maintain that all the mess of this world, hate, violence, mental illness, birth defects, and on and on I could go, it all originated with sin, not God. 

He knew we would make the mess; He knows our hearts.   He saw our need for redemption in the beginning.   And He provided.

The second conversation began with a friend saying that she does not believe that people should say God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  (Hebrews 13: 8)   She cited that God was totally different in the old Testament writings than Jesus (God with us) was in the new Testament.  She brought up the extreme violence of the OT.    

I shared that I understand where she is coming from but I think of it a little differently than she does.  The violence of the Old Testament had to do with the heart of man, not the will of God.   Men chose from the beginning of time to go their own way, live by their own standards, laws, tenets.   We often think of God's law as obtrusive, mean, heavy.   I believe God's laws were for man's protection and well-being.   God knew man's needs; He created, He understood.   He also wanted His people, the Israelites, to survive and worship and thank Him for deliverance.   Again, sin (disobedience of God) was rampant, in God's people as well as all others.  Wars happen.   I know this is over simplified, so go ahead and call me whatever you want.   But I do believe that God allows men to make their choices; He knew that the Israelites would not be "given" the land by those already living there; they would not be accepted as new settlers; so He allowed war and killings.  Again, it was a function of man's heart and God's provision for those choosing to follow Him.   

The third non-conversation left me sad.   The person attacking walked away from God and Christian faith years ago and feels superior for having done so.   That person was railing about God and His (perceived) injustice in the mistreatment of women.  Names were named and stories of abuse of women were mentioned that have nothing at all to do with one another; but I get the gist of the complaint. Also mentioned was Jezebel who is mentioned as a strong woman (by the accuser) and therefore is deemed by God to be wicked.  Well, no that is misaligning the facts of the story; Jezebel was a strong evil woman who chose wrongdoing and that is why God found her displeasing. Again, the stories have to do with the heart of men, not God's heart.   God's heart for man has always demonstrated love, faithfulness, peace, and a desire for unity and relationship with Him. 

We see through the example of Jesus that women are to be respected, cherished, and protected.  And in Jesus we see what God's intent for us was all along, love, peace, and unity.   We are the ones who choose to make a mess of life.  

Friday, July 22, 2016

Battling Through This Life

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 6: 12

In talking with one of my mentors recently about wrapping up my son's junior year of high school, she reminded me of the Bible verse above.   She reminded me that our "battles" in this world are not against one another, not against our spouse, our children, our friends, relatives, or our neighbors.  The battle is against the ENEMY- God's enemy.   And ultimately, we must submit to God and let Him fight the battle against the enemy for us.  He has already won the battle, we just need to follow our leader, Jesus.  

Just need to follow our leader Jesus...  Wow!  It sounds so simple, doesn't it?  But it's not.  It takes a daily relationship with the Creator and His Son. Thankfully, through relationship with Him I am daily washed in the blood;  I am a sinner, a redeemed sinner, but a sinner nonetheless.  God has provided a daily washing through walking in the light, living like and in Jesus.   Thank you Father God for your provision.

But the battle is ours to fight in our own minds and actions.  We must submit to God's plan.  Submit is a dirty word in our culture; we don't want to be demeaned or disrespected.  And yet, the peace that passes all understanding comes only through submission.   HIS plan works (if we live it.)   

So when my husband is disrespectful to me by "calling me out" in front of our children, do I fire right back at him?   I've been doing that for 22 plus years.   It has not made our marriage strong or peaceful.   The movie War Room began my understanding that my battle has been with the wrong person in my marriage.   My husband is not my enemy; the one who enjoys and creates the strife and unrest between us is the enemy. 

When my children don't comply with my wishes, whether just "not hearing me" or deliberately just not doing what I say to do (is that the same thing?), they are not my enemies.

When my friend or my friend's friend (on facebook) or in real life says something that feels like an  insult or put down, that person is not my enemy.  
When one group of people in society feels abused and neglected....  I guess that's another day's writing.  But, people are not the enemy.

We have one enemy and our battle is with him through the Lord.  Our battle with him is really in our minds, resisting his lies and the chaos and hate that he thrives on us buying into.   

I have been fighting for a long time and I am tired.   I hate when my husband and I have no peace between us.  I hate when my friends feel put down or misunderstood by one another or by me.  I hate when I make stupid comments and lead people to feel like I am not a true friend.   I hate when I mess up!   And that happens often.  This life is hard - balancing work, home, play, school, hobbies, friends, family, church.  It seems it just gets harder when we lose sight of whom the battle is really against.  

I just want to rest from it all for a while.   I want to get quiet and dwell in the peace that passes all understanding. (Philippians 4: 7)  

Friday, July 1, 2016

What Does It REALLY Mean to Help Those Living in Poverty?

The last 36 hours have brought some interesting revelations our way. Nothing earth shattering or tragic exactly, just disheartening. The saying, "No good deed goes unpunished," comes to mind but is overly dramatic. Trying to help people is largely a thankless endeavor at times. I told a friend and mentor today that throwing money at people's problems just seems to exacerbate their problems. It seems that the best (only) way to really make an impact on the lives of others is to love them, teach them about Jesus, help them however you can to seek Him and His way of life. That's it. 

Problems are more complex when others are hungry, homeless, unclothed, etc. Basic needs must be met before a person can seek deeper relationship and spiritual matters. But throwing money at problems just seems to delay the inevitable.  I once paid a lot of money to keep someone's utilities on and six months later, the individual was right back to having the utilities cut off and "no one to help them."   I politely shared that I could not pay again.   

The same seems to be true whether paying utilities, rent, daycare, or buying food.  The crisis is avoided for a month, or two, or six, but ultimately, the story unfolds with disaster striking the previously "helped" individual.  

It feels like the equivalent of beating one's head against a brick wall in order to rid oneself of a headache.  It just seems to cause more problems in the long run.  It feels like I have only enabled others to be irresponsible.   It feels bad to think that I really believed I was helping a person through a hard situation and that it was a turning point for them and then later find out it is apparently a way of life; that is, living from from crisis to crisis is a way of life.   It seems to be the norm for those living in poverty in the U.S.  

There are studies about this sort of social phenomenon; there are programs to help the middle class and the upper class to understand why our friends in poverty live this way.  There are programs to help those living in poverty to find their way to different thinking in order to achieve different outcomes.   

It just seems that the changes come slowly once a person takes the class.  It's a one step forward and three steps back process.   I can relate in some ways, for instance, in my quest to lose weight.  

And I don't mean to imply I am above some of the same issues.  I have debt I should not have.   I have the desire to just not pay the bills and just have fun some months.   But I can see the outcome of making a decision like that; and I don't desire to be without food, utilities, a place to live, gas for my car, or having creditors hound me for hours on end.   I have lived in poverty as a young 20-something wife and mother/ single mom.  I praise God for putting me in the "family of origin" that I was born into.   My parents taught me to create a stable home for my kids, pay my bills,  that fun comes after responsibilities are met.   The funny thing is, I don't remember ever having a discussion about these things.   I can remember my mother laughing at me when as a very young child, she told me one day she didn't have the money to buy me the toy I requested.  My response was, "Just write a check for it Mama."   She laughed and related, "That's not how it works."   But by modeling the art of living within their means, my parents raised me to pay my bills and at times to do without. 

During my single mom days, my priorities were simple on paydays:  rent, daycare, utilities, gas/oil, groceries, doctors, repeat....   It was a never-ending cycle which made me weary.   Occasionally we had money for new clothes and shoes.   Sometimes, the doctor had to wait a bit longer for full payment.   But we survived.  My kids felt loved and I don't think they realized they did without until they were older.  We had fun together; we walked a few blocks to the playground down the street.  Very occasionally, we got to go to McDonald's or Burger King for supper.   They had clothes, toys, a house to live in that was warm in winter and cool in summer.  And they had bedtime stories and goodnight kisses.  They had a mom who checked their homework and signed their folders, and reviewed sight words with them.   We managed life.   It wasn't easy but it was necessary.  They deserved the stability; I deserved the stability.   

I know children who don't live with that stability and it's heartbreaking.   I wish there were simple answers.