Spiritually Speaking

QUESTION: Last year, I sent gifts to three family members. I received no response. Although a thank you would have been nice, I was more concerned if the gifts were received. I didn’t feel comfortable calling and asking. These are close relatives and there are no issues between us, at least I don’t think so, although I don’t see them very often.
Would you please address the communication issue? When I receive a gift, I always sit down and immediately write a thank-you note.
~ To Give or Not to Give

Dear To Give or Not to Give,
The first thought that comes to mind is these people are just plain rude; however, following that thought is, do you have any issues with these people? Perhaps if you do, not responding to gifts is their way of letting you know the issue remains unresolved, which means there is forgiveness work to be done among all of you. If I were in your shoes, I would continue sending greeting cards for birthdays and holidays and skip the gifts. And it’s not out of line to ask if they received them. I sent my niece a subscription to a magazine that was supposed to have a gift card with the first issue, and the card wasn’t enclosed. She didn’t know I had sent the subscription until I asked her.

I also suggest that at some point, be direct, asking the question, “Have I offended you in some way?” Open dialogue can lead to healing. As important as all these family dynamics seem, it’s just as important to let situations like this go and pray about them. One of our most precious gifts from God is peace of mind, when we’re willing to give our problems to Him and leave them with Him.
Beverly Craig Photo
Rev. Beverly Craig

Center for Spiritual Living –
La Crescenta


Dear To Give or Not to Give,
Whenever I send gifts, I always call or email to be sure they arrived. (BTW one of my brothers, who lives in another state, did have gifts taken from his front porch this past Christmas. So it really isn’t an excuse to call to see if what you sent arrived. There are thieves out there!) I realize that you are uncomfortable with calling, but what if your relatives never got what you sent because of thievery or some other reason? Maybe they think you are cheap because you didn’t send them anything this year! Now … doesn’t that possibility make you want to call?

If your relatives and you have email, why don’t you email them and ask? And you can always use the excuse that, “I hear there have been a lot of gifts taken from front porches. I can’t believe the chutzpah (that’s Yiddish for gall) of some people!”

If they got them, they’ll probably say thanks and apologize for why they haven’t thanked you yadayadayada. And if they didn’t get them, well, at least now you’ll know … and by the way I agree with you: they should sit down and write a thank you note to you. Ah! These Philistines are everywhere among us! And we’re even related to some of them!

The Rev. Skip Lindeman La Cañada Congregational Church lindemanskip@yahoo.com

The Rev. Skip Lindeman,
La Cañada
Congregational Church

QUESTION: I met my fiancé when we were in graduate school. I want to go on and get my doctorate, and she wants to get married. I have friends who had the intention of finishing graduate degrees but, because life got in the way after they married, they haven’t, which is why I want to get the degree before we get married.

This has become a serious issue between us. I believe we love each other, but I wish she would be more practical. Is there a way to resolve this issue without a break-up?
~ Future Planner

Dear Future Planner,
I’m sure you would agree that every couple that gets married wants to live happily ever after. No one wants to get married and be miserable the rest of their life. Unfortunately many couples erroneously believe that the love they have for each other is sufficient to overcome any and all differences they will face in their relationship. And this is never truer than as it relates to the direction of their lives.

Mutual trust and agreement is an important part of the commitment that a couple makes with one another when they say their vows. And, of course, shared values and goals for their future together are not only important, but they are two of the tracks on which the relationship will move forward. The Old Testament prophet Amos asks an important question: “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?”

Because the two of you met in graduate school, you both must value education and the role it plays in your future. Each of you has goals and visions of what your future looks like together and mutually supporting each other will bring fulfillment and happiness in your relationship. Marriage involves give and take from each spouse and, in many cases, sacrifices have to be made in order to continue to grow and become the best that each of you can be in the relationship.

Whether you delay your marriage in order to achieve a higher goal or postpone completing your education until a later date, the key is that you agree and make the decision in harmony together. And your ability to work through this important decision at this stage in your relationship will help you with other major decisions you will need to make later in life.

The key to moving in the same direction is communication, so I encourage you to spend more time talking about your future together. Talk about your goals, what you value in life and what you want to accomplish individually and as a couple. Determine together the role that your education plays in the fulfillment of your goals and values. Establish how important it is to finish your doctorate now, versus waiting until a later time. If you are determined to finish your education, you will, even after you get married, regardless of what others you know may have done. Don’t let this disagreement drive a wedge between you – allow it to draw you closer as you talk and prepare for a lifetime together.
RANDY FOSTER headshot for SS WEB
Pastor Randy Foster
Christian Life Church,
La Crescenta

Dear Future Planner,
I can certainly understand your concerns that getting married could get in the way of your plans for getting your doctorate. But I am not sure that the examples of some of your friends provide a large enough sample for a decision such as this one. In fact, my own personal experience is exactly the opposite. The fact that I got married provided me with the opportunity to go to seminary for both my Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from the Claremont School of Theology. Without my husband’s psychological and financial support, I would not have been able to do that.

However, I realize that each of us is different. So I would recommend that you go with your fiancé for some counseling around this issue to a professional therapist or clergyperson, if you are a part of a religious community. Often the insights of a neutral third person can help each party to see things more clearly. As a member of the clergy with advanced training in pastoral care and counseling, I have had the opportunity to work with couples who have challenges in their relationships. With those experiences in mind, I am concerned that you qualify your statement about yourself and your fiancé by saying that you “believe you love each other” and that you are considering the possibility of a break-up over this issue because she won’t be “more practical.” It sounds to me as though you may have other issues relating to communication that you need to resolve before considering marriage, either before or after getting your doctorate. My hope is that you can resolve this issue in a way that honors both your feelings and hers. For that is what it will take to preserve your relationship.

If not, the chance of your having a positive future together will be severely damaged, whatever decision you make about marriage.
Rev. Dr. Betty Stapleford
Rev. Dr. Betty Stapleford, Minister
Unitarian Universalist
Church of the Verdugo Hills

La Crescenta