Now, He Has Only One Leg

One decision can kill you.

Please forgive me, but, because this is a true story, and all parties are still alive, I will use pronouns rather than changing the names.

It seems to have been just one decision that landed him in the place of becoming an amputee.

He was handsome, articulate, academically astute, and a fresh college student. It was near the beginning of his college matriculation that he made the decision. During one of his visits home from college, he, perhaps, partied with the wrong crowd. I’m not sure, but what I do know is that sex occurred, and the young lady got pregnant. After the discovery of the pregnancy, he was encouraged to marry the girl, which was typical in those days. This was quite traumatic for this young man who was expected to graduate college and pursue a worthwhile profession. College graduation never happened. He and the young lady did marry. She had the baby, but there were lingering questions that may never be answered. The young man and his wife remained married, and more children were born to the union.

This young man, who had a promising life ahead of him, came from a family with a devote church history but also one with a history of alcoholism. His father and some of his uncles and other relatives were functioning alcoholics.   I don’t know when or how this man started the downward spiral of alcoholism, but it happened. Was it to ease the trauma of his past and present life? I don’t know. What I do know is that for more than twenty years he has been dealing with stints of arrests and jail time. However, for over the last five or so years, he has been either in the hospital or at home because of his declining health.

One of my sisters called me recently and asked if I had been in touch with him because one of our brothers had alerted her of this man’s condition. “He’s so pitiful,” she said. “You should call him.”

“It breaks my heart. I can’t.”

“I know, but you need to call him, Sharon. Do you have his number?”

I sat silently for a few moments. “Yes. I have his number. I’ll call him.”

I don’t know when I’ll make the call. It’s too heartbreaking for me. When I saw him in 2012, it was at one of our family reunions. He was inebriated, disheveled, and missing teeth.  Seeing him in that state compared to what how I remember him as a younger healthier man brought me to tears.

The next time I saw him was when my husband and I visited him in the hospital, on August 21, 2014, following the amputation of his leg, brought on by diabetes and the excessive use of alcohol. As he lay in that bed, he was trying to remain upbeat, as was his usual nature, but the sadness and strain of life was obviously weighing heavily on his face. I can’t help to think that he was also reminded of his deceased father who was a functioning alcoholic and an amputee as well. I managed to smile during the visit, but it was truly sad.

During one of our vacations to visit family, the young man and I had a conversation. He said to me, “Sharon, anyone who has never experienced alcoholism does not understand.” I had to agree because, although I am in his family line, only by the grace of God, I have never even tasted alcohol. I saw what it did to some of my relatives. It seems that somewhere in our bloodline there is a propensity to addiction, so I know that it is best for me to steer clear of the spirits of drugs and alcohol or anything else that traps the mind, the spirit, and the soul.

Now, this young man, who is in his mid-sixties, has become even more debilitated with worsening health problems. I can’t get him off my mind, but I must because just the thought of him and his state is depressing, weighing heavily on my heart.

I need to muster up the strength to call him. I have to figure out what to say. What do you say to someone in his state? I need to make the call.

Who knows?  Maybe my “One Decision” might add some days of life to his life.

My Husband’s Many Wives, Then There’s “Me”

Recently, during one of my morning devotional sessions, as I was praying for my friend, I began reminiscing about the man that Randall Benjamin has become since I met him in 1983. As I was thinking about Randall Benjamin, my mind shifted quickly to some of his wives over the past 30 years. Although Randall is an elder in the church, you probably didn’t know that he has had a number of wives. I want to introduce some of them to you, but, you have to promise that you won’t judge him for taking on so many women.
Randall’s first wife was from a legalistic pentecostal “charismatic” church organization where “everyone,” except those of this group’s persuasion, were doomed for hell. This wife was sure that she usually had the correct answer for every question, especially since Randall’s church association had been with a religion where people still participated in “things of the world.” The women in Randall’s religion wore pants and lipstick and wore flattering dresses that made them look more attractive. This wife was sure that she was more sanctimonious because those were generally not her practices. Randall eventually got rid of that wife.
Another one of Randall’s wives was not as immersed in legalistic religious practices as his first wife, but, she still had some issues. This wife, no offense to Randall, was quite strong willed. It had to be her way. She was not so amenable to allowing Randall to operate as the head of the household, going about making some decisions on her own, sometimes at the cost of the bank accounts. Imagine the uproar these situations caused.
One other wife of Randall’s was determined to make sure her point was taken and that it was the last word heard. This wife, although she spoke only one language, was skilled at synthesizing words, making her dissertation crystal clear, presenting it in such a manner that hardly anyone could dispute the discourse, not even Randall. What could he say? After all, she had all but pounded the gavel. He did what any “good” husband would do. He took on another wife.
You just met some of “My Husband’s Many Wives, Then There’s Me.” I am Randall’s last wife, but, I am also his other wives. As I was praying for Randall during my devotional and considering how God has molded him into an outstanding husband and father, God did a u-turn in my thinking so that I would do an inventory of myself. When Randall married me more than 30 years ago, I doubt that he expected to marry so many wives in one. And, I only learned to look at my character after I got married. Actually, I should say, “I didn’t begin to deal with the real me until I agreed to join in covenant with my husband, Randall Benjamin.” It was at this time that I had to face me if I wanted to contribute to a successful marriage. I had to make the conscious effort to stand in front of the mirror of God’s word and allow Him to show me what I needed to wear to become more appealing in His sight.
Even though I have loved and walked with the Lord for a long time, it was still a challenge for me to let go of me and give God the total rein of my life. You see, I had been paying my way long before I met Randall; such as college tuition, a new car, an apartment, shopping and buying when and where I desired. And, joining in Holy Matrimony with someone who was changing my way of operating was not so easily done. However, after reluctantly relinquishing my will to God’s will, the rewards were, and still are, immeasurable.
It’s interesting to step back and observe how Randall patiently dealt with each of his wives. One might wonder why, as an elder in the church, he kept taking on one wife after the other. This speaks volumes about his character.
Randall is a man after God’s heart. He kept fasting. He kept praying. He continued to live his life, saying to the Lord, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”
I thank God for Randall’s obedience to the Lord which has helped me to grow and to pray, “Make me over Lord. Help me to operate as the wife in this marriage who will be a true help meet for Randall. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Gold Star Parenting

Gold Star Parenting

In the mid-1980’s when my husband, Randall, and I discussed having children, I asked myself the question, “Do I really want to bring children into this world?” Fast-forward to the future.  With all three of our sons having graduated from college, I think back on the question that the Lord posed to me,
“Is it me you don’t trust, or do you not trust yourself?”
Raising children today is certainly not your “parents’ parenting” in terms of the Information Age, global communication, world affairs, and competition for the top position in schools.  However, what yours and my parents needed is what Randall and I used.

We used the

L. O. R. D.
Following are some of the practices we instituted in our home.
L.
LOVE is the key ingredient to parenting.  It establishes a foundation upon which all other aspects of parenting can rest.
• Teach your children the meaning of love by showing them love. Say “I love you” to them regularly.
• Teach your children the importance of loving the Lord.  Have daily prayer and Bible reading with them.
• Spend time holding and nurturing your babies. Hug and kiss your children. Compliment them when they accomplish a task or meet a goal.
• Display their awards, plaques, and winnings.  Keep a file for each child.
• Put together a resume for your children as early as middle school.
• Apologize to your children when you are wrong.
• Forgive your children when they make mistakes, and do not rehearse their errors as punishment.

O.
Prescribe ORDER in their lives to help them to succeed. “God is not the author of confusion, but of  peace” (I Corinthians 14:33).
• Institute routine times for meals, naps, and play.
• Avoid embarrassing moments when you go out to dinner by teaching table manners at home.
• Help your children learn to sit in church or other public places by participating in activities at home where they have to sit for certain periods of time.
• Teach them how to keep their drawers and closets organized.
•  Establish a time and place for them to complete their homework.

R.
Give them RESPONSIBILITIES comparable to their ages and abilities.  As they grow older, they will understand the necessity of work for the good of society and themselves. Help them develop a strong work ethic. II Thessalonians 3:10 says: “”If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”
Show them how to:
• Clean up after themselves – their toys, rooms, and bathrooms.
• Take out the garbage.  Clean the kitchen.
• Get a job that will not jeopardize their walk with the Lord or academics.
• Open a bank savings account.
• Recognize family members’ birthdays, parents’ anniversaries, and other special occasions.
• Keep their promises to practice their instruments and sports so they perform at their best in the band or on sports teams.

D.
DISCIPLINE means to teach through modeling and guidance, calling attention to action that             parallels with the word of God.  “For whom the LORD loves he corrects (disciplines); even as a father the son in whom he delights” Proverbs 3:12).
• Set up guidelines with your spouse before your children are born.
• Be extremely clear about what is, and is not, allowed in your house.
• Keep your disciplinary promises.  Do not make promises you cannot keep.
• Set indisputable limits and hold to them.
• Children are not cognitively adept to discuss disciplinary terms with their parents.  Do not allow this to happen.

The Love of a Lifetime: “Til Death Do We Part”

The Love of a Lifetime: “Til Death Do We Part”

I wrote this article, which was published in February 1992, three years before my father, Lenzie Marshall, passed and ten years before the passing of my mother, Hattie Lee Marshall, in 2002.

My parents grew up surrounded and influenced by farm-life in the South. Daddy only completed third grade, and my mother finished eight grade. They got married in November 1943, following the Great Depression and during the time when the United States was embroiled in World War II. Eleven months after my parents’ wedding, their first child was born. The second child was born the following year, and the third child was born twenty-one months later. Hence was the relatively typical pattern for the birth of the first six of thirteen children.
There were difficult and trying days. We lived in a “four room” house for many years with no indoor plumbing, and our heating and cooking were done on wood burning heaters and stoves. Those four rooms were often cold enough for us to wear our coats while inside, but the frigid discomfort was compensated by the warmth that we felt in just knowing that our parents were together with us.
We grew some of our food, but, even with my mother being careful to freeze and can as much as possible, the food was usually consumed before the next season of planting and harvesting, but we made it. Although our next meal might not have been our choice of food or had already been on the menu for the last few days, at least we knew that our parents were there for us and were being responsible to us. We were family. We had all things in common. Things that mattered the most – our parents and a stable family environment.
Daddy is a very strong and proud man. He would often take jobs that required an hour-or-so commute, and that was a lot considering the fact of him having barely enough money for gas and a vehicle that was less than desirable. For such jobs, he would get up before daylight. However, he was not the only one who got up so early. Daddy enjoyed perked coffee, and as my mother was preparing a wholesome breakfast with homemade biscuits, I would often be given the responsibility of making the coffee.
We experienced many mountains and valleys. During one valley experience, my mother suggested to daddy that he sign up for public assistance. No matter how my mother insisted, my father refused. He knew that it was his responsibility to see that our basic needs were met, and he was not about to ask anyone to do this for him. I grew to appreciate the stubborn determination that Daddy exhibited. Somehow, he always came through.
Our anxiety heightened as Christmas approached. We would locate an evergreen tree in the woods, bring it home, and decorate it with homemade ornaments. Twas the night before Christmas when we could hardly sleep. We looked forward to getting up the next morning and grabbing the brown lunch bag that our parents had prepared for us. This was the one time during the year that we could almost be assured of receiving at least one fresh apple, an orange, a tangerine, some candy, and a small ration of mixed nuts. My siblings and I sat around eating from our bags as long as the goodies lasted. Those were the days.
Through the good times and the bad times, my parents stuck together. Looking back over my life, I have since understood just how wonderful a childhood I experienced. I had parents who taught me how to stand the test of time and to meet life head on without crashing. I had parents who respected each other and their children enough to maintain a wholesome atmosphere in which we flourished and matured.
Even as a child, I knew there were many difficulties, but not until I became an adult did I fully understand some of the hardships that my parents endured. Through it all, my parents remained committed to each other and to us. There was no psychologist in the picture to explain to them how their staying together, sticking it out, and holding on would have a positive effect on their future generations. Perhaps, it was the influence of my grandparents, who also followed the “till death do we part” philosophy.
Daddy and Mother recently celebrated 48 years of marriage, of growing together, of becoming one, of sometimes having just enough food for the children and none for themselves, of little or no money on innumerable occasions, of pampering sick children when they themselves were sick, of forgiving and being forgiven, of exemplifying the meaning of “TIL DEATH DO WE PART.”