QUESTION: First of all, I have to say my wife and I have had a great marriage for 42 years. We raised two incredible children, each of whom are very successful. I built the house we have lived in for 35 years and, needless to say, I’m quite fond of our “family farm.” Now with our kids out of the house, my wife wants to downsize to a smaller house. She says we don’t need the extra space and the house is too much work to clean and maintain. My prayer is that eventually one of our children may want to take over the property and raise their family where they grew up. This way we could keep the house in the family for several generations. I really don’t want to move from the house. Any suggestions?
– Retired Family Man
Dear Retired Family Man,
I can understand how important this “intimate and loved space” must be having been created by your own hands and lived in by your family for so many years. I also understand how you are willing, albeit reluctant, to give it up out of consideration for your wife who finds it difficult to maintain. I appreciate your hope from the comforting thought that maybe one of your children might choose to live and raise their family there and thus provide meaning, continuity, and a continuing living link to a place that means so much to you and which you clearly do not wish to leave. So what’s the solution?
The Bible tells us in Matthew 21:22 that we must ask in order to receive. Asking can take place on two different levels. One worldly, one spiritual and both important. Sometimes asking on whatever level takes great courage, especially when we might think our asking may seem selfish to others. But the Bible is telling us it is perfectly okay to ask.
On a worldly level, the Argentine Poet Georg Luis Borges once said that all real learning comes out of dialog. In other words, all real learning comes out of communication, out of talking. So it is perfectly okay and important for you to share with your wife and family how much this place means to you; how hard it would be for you to leave; and how you hoped one of the children might live there so the property can be passed on and kept in the family. You need to share that with them. They need to know. You are asking for their help in something that is important to you.
Now, that is not to say you might not encounter initial resistance. We do anytime we offer something contrary to another’s expectations and wishes. But your feelings and needs have a right to be shared, heard and respected. It is only through the give and take of dialog that solutions can be found that would consider and fairly address both you and your wife’s needs.
On a spiritual level, God always hears and answers our prayers. Matthew goes on to tell us that the key to answered prayer is belief. Belief that God will bless us with goodness and grant our heart’s desire, in spite of any fear or doubt. Indeed, it is only fear and doubt that can keep God’s gifts away from us. Why? God cannot give when we have turned our back to receiving out of fear, doubt and disbelief that the gift will even be given. Belief is an inner knowing that in spite of all appearances to contrary, the perfect solution exists and is on its way to you. It is already yours.
Here’s a little prayer to help it manifest. You can say this even in the midst of fear and doubt and it will dispel and erase them. “I know that the power and goodness of God is always with me, and God’s perfect solution regarding my house, that respects the rights and needs of all involved, is now at hand.” End it by saying “Thank you, Father, for this wondrous miracle” and it will come. Because God has already told us to receive, we need only ask, and to believe that the good solution we desire is already ours, and it is perfect.
Anthony Kelson, RScP
Center for Spiritual Living – La Crescenta
Dear Retired Family Man,
First of all, congratulations on your 42 years of a great marriage and two well raised, successful children.
There seems to be some missing factors that may be pushing your spouse to say she wants to downsize. Does she really want to downsize because of so much to maintain or is she looking for a change? Are there other issues that may be driving your wife to suggest a move? If it is that she has too much cleaning and upkeep, help the economy and hire a lady to come help her once a week or so to lighten her burden. See if there is something she especially would like to have that she does not have now. Does she need to decorate to her liking or modernize the kitchen?
Try to find out what she really wants and thinks she will get by moving. Perhaps you might be able to satisfy her needs and keep your “family farm.”
Rabbi Janet Bieber
Jewish Community & Learning Center of the Foothills
QUESTION: Our teenage daughter tells her father and me that she is constantly being asked by schoolmates to do drugs. We began educating our three children about the pitfalls of drug usage from the time they were 5 years old and we’ve had many conversations about the consequences. They seemed to have received and understood the message we tried so hard to convey because they have told us “No way” would they use drugs and ruin their lives – that is, until my husband caught our son growing marijuana in his closet.
We were both devastated because obviously he is using. We know for certain his sisters are not.
This is truly a family crisis and we are asking for spiritual guidance on how to deal with this and help our son understand the real pitfalls of drug usage.
– Devastated Parents
Dear Devastated Parents,
As a parent, a former high school teacher, and a local minister, I share your pain in discovering that your son has not heeded your warnings about the dangers of drug use. Unfortunately, the burden on teens today to experiment with drugs is very great, as your daughters have told you. Although I am sure that you have done a good job of educating your children about avoiding the use of drugs, it is often difficult for teens to push back against the pressures from peers. So please do not blame yourselves and do let your son know that you love him unconditionally, even though he has disappointed you.
Faced with the current issue, I urge you to get outside help – a caring adult or counselor whom your son can respect. Unfortunately, as concerned as we are as parents, our teenaged children often cannot hear us as clearly as they can hear others. As harsh as that may seem to you, I encourage you to take my advice seriously and to even consider counseling for yourselves to help you through this crisis. You don’t mention whether you are a part of a religious community or not. But you are asking for spiritual guidance, so someone from your congregation could be a real support to you and your family. The religious leader or youth advisor in that congregation might be able to share insights that your son could understand and accept.
Rev. Dr. Betty Stapleford, Minister
Unitarian Universalist Church of the Verdugo Hills La Crescenta
Don’t be. Just realize that some of this may be chalked up to the exploration of youth. If you’ve never tried anything forbidden, you may not comprehend how your son can plant a weed garden, but the fact that the plant grows out of a pot rather than being artificially manufactured in some shady drug-lab should give you at least nominal comfort.
I have to admit my own dabbling in the same when I was younger, yet I grew up and earned graduate degrees, pastured churches, and wouldn’t know how to acquire the stuff today. My own son now asks my experience with this ubiquitous recreational herb and I wrestle with what to share. I remember specifically telling my grandmother that I would never try drugs, but when I was mature enough to have my own mind, curiosity got me, even without peer pressure. It actually answered something spiritually for me.
Nonetheless, convey your concern with facts: 1. Cultivation is criminal. Overkill as it seems to make it a federal offense, it is one. 2. Unknown consequences. Nobody’s certain what impact even mild psychoactive substances have on developing brains. Grant that when he’s fully matured he can make whatever decision he wishes. 3. Respect. It’s your house, your rules, and no getting high or it’s the highway.
Perhaps you can temporarily abate his current interest; perhaps not. Just remain aware, refrain from overly fretting, and relate your ongoing concern. Above all, pray: “For the LORD gives wisdom” (Proverbs 2:6).