Spiritually Speaking

QUESTION: My husband and I are beside ourselves because of our daughter’s indecision. She’s two quarters short in obtaining a bachelor’s degree in nursing. This is a vocation she chose herself; she was not pressured at all. Now she’s not certain this is what she wants to do but she really doesn’t know what she wants to do instead of nursing.

We’ve paid her way through all of her education, not expecting her to work because we want her to focus on her studies. Her grades are exemplary, so that’s not the problem. If she continues in the nursing program, she’ll go back to school in September, but she tells us she wants to take time off to decide what to do with the rest of her life.

We welcome suggestions that will help us help her to make a decision she can live with.
~ Supportive Parents
Dear Supportive Parents,
This is really hard. To me it is very clear what your daughter should do. Though you have not said it, you also have a definite idea of what your daughter should do. Our lives progress when we finish what we’ve started. Growing people move from one completed task to another, from accomplishment to accomplishment. Perhaps this is the risk involved in paying for our children’s schooling. I would not second-guess your decision to do that. It seems like a gracious and helpful thing to do. Nevertheless, here we are, at the brink of her grand finale from nursing school and she is sputtering just before the finish line.

Can I gently probe one thing? You’ve said: “We welcome suggestions that will help us help her to make a decision she can live with.” Are you after a decision that she can live with or a decision that you can live with? She says she wants to take time off to decide what to do with the rest of her life. This sounds like a decision she can live with. Can you live with this? Perhaps she’s re-evaluating her desire to be a nurse. Perhaps there are fears connected with being a nurse she hadn’t anticipated. And let me ask you this. If you and your husband had paid zero money for her classes, would you feel the same as you do now? Or are you insisting on a return from your investment? Was that tuition paid with strings attached or no strings attached?

In all honesty, were it my daughter, she would have heard clearly and maybe even loudly something like: “Sweetie, you finish this thing. Go find yourself or decide about your life quest after you’ve finished nursing school.” That’s usually how parents feel. But you’ve said you’re interested in how she feels. We’ll, she’s told you. It’s vague. It’s indeterminate. It’s disconcerting. It may even be foolish. She may never complete her studies. Or she may take a semester off and then hit the books again with renewed vigor. It sounds like it’s her decision. God help mom and dad. It’s not always easy being supportive parents.
Jon Karn WEB 72
Pastor Jon Karn


Dear Supportive Parents,
As a parent myself I relate to wanting the best for our children and to help them make good decisions for their lives. The fact that you’ve paid for your daughter’s schooling speaks to your values in education. Since you say that she wasn’t pressured, I’ll assume she chose to go to school.

There are a few factors here. While there was no expectation that she’d work, was there an expectation that she’d get her nursing degree or any degree? Is the concern about wasted time or resources?

Another factor is her indecision about what to do. Time off to sort things out doesn’t necessarily mean she won’t go back to school. Having more clarity and a renewed passion for her decision may be just what she needs.

There are many ways she can explore other options.

But the heart of the issue is a spiritual one – not a financial one or even a vocational one. Everyone is on a different path. We are all where we’re supposed to be at the exact right time. Religious Science teaches that our lives are unfolding perfectly, so this is the Divine right time for your daughter to question her vocational choice. You can help her by providing unconditional love and support – no matter what decision she makes.

Also, having a spiritual practice can help – meditation, attending services, journaling, drawing, praying, or any number of things that allows us to tap into our divine nature. Some people call that intuition, inner-knowing, or even your God-self. The answer your daughter is seeking already exists within her.

Trust she will arrive at the right decision that is for the highest good of all concerned.

With blessings and love,
Rev. Dr. Ellen Contente web
Rev. Dr. Ellen Contente

QUESTION: Our parents, who are in their 80s, are hoarders. Interestingly enough, while we were growing up our house was always neat and clean. Now, even though they have a bi-weekly housekeeper, the clutter is unreal. We wonder how the housekeeper navigates the piles of everything from clothes to soft drink cans to even clean the place. We’ve offered to help organize their home, but they won’t hear of it.
The garage is as bad as the house. Dad likes to tinker in his garage and tosses tools aside as he is working. Their car can’t be parked in the garage because so much is strewn all over the floor. We love our parents and we’re asking for a gentle way to get them to accept our help.
~ Two Neat Sisters

Dear Two Neat Sisters,
I hear your concern for your parents in your question and your desire to help as well. There are a number of resources on the web to use as a resource in helping with diagnosing and treatment of hoarding. The Mayo Clinic is one such source and has a definition that may help: A key distinction between a hoarder and a collector – or someone who is just messy and disorganized – is when the haphazard accumulation of stuff begins to interfere with social life and the ability to do necessary work. At its extreme, hoarding results in cramped often unsanitary living conditions with only narrow passageways winding through stacks of clutter. Health risks increase as piles accumulate. Risks include the increased likelihood of falls and fires, social isolation, difficulty with finances, and even eviction.


So I would wonder if your parents see their collecting as a health risk or safety concern. I would have a conversation with them and express your concerns with them about their safety. Especially since we live in earthquake country, a stack of stuff that could fall and block exits from the home are a big concern. Hoarding sometimes is a symptom of something that is going on with them, again a quote from the Mayo Clinic: About 75% of the time, hoarding occurs in conjunction with other mental issues such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, alcohol dependence, dementia or anxiety. For some, hoarding is a distinct syndrome. In this case, people may not experience much, or any, embarrassment, worry or stress about hoarding. (Ibid)

So, it is important to treat this seriously and be aware of all that is going on with your parents. Having the initial conversation is important, and you can perhaps get some sense of what the issues might be. Lastly, what do you do when you feel like you need help? I don’t know how strong your connection is with your parents, and this intervention might not work with just the two of you. You may need to recruit others, their pastor, their doctor, and a counselor who is a cognitive behavior specialist. Who do they trust in other words? Who would they listen to? Lastly, be sure to have a support system for you both as you go through this process. There is hope, but potentially it will take a while and may tax your energy. The home may never be as tidy as you would like it to be, but progress can be made as you work with them and a team of support.

God has given us life to live with joy and grace. I pray that you and your parents experience that joy, giving to each other an abundance of grace and love all the way through this journey.

Pastor Steve Marshall WEB
Pastor Steve Marshall


Dear Two Neat Sisters,
I need so much more information. How did your parents evolve from having a house that “was always neat and clean” to “the clutter is unreal?”

Hoarding is the result of many things going wrong inside the hoarder. If your parents are not only attached to old knick knacks but old cans and cardboard, they are feeling like they are losing and must hold on to every piece of floating debris out there, as if life was an ocean they are drowning in it.

Have they lost something big in their lives that they could not replace satisfactorily? What are they seeking in all this garbage? They must have reasons for keeping worthless junk. Find out what they are and see if there are incremental ways to begin to unwrap this enigma (mystery.)

The hoarding in the house is a reflection of the emotional clutter inside their souls. If you cannot penetrate the wall of mystery, then it is time for professional help.

Thank God they let in the housekeeper.  At least they aren’t hoarding filth!
Rabbi Janet Bieber WEB
Rabbi Janet Bieber