Let's Talk

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My Family's Falling Apart!

My dad lost his job last winter. Since then, my family life has been a mess. My dad spends most of his time in the basement away from the rest of us. He's become very controlling and he's started lying a lot. My mom has considered leaving him. All I want is for us to have a healthy, happy family again.

Do you have any advice?

—As I read your letter, I came up with and wrote you three different answers. My first response was to encourage you to be honest with your dad. Hold a family meeting and confront him with his lies, controlling behavior, and withdrawal. Express your love for him, but tell him that if he isn't willing to get some help, there is the possibility that the rest of you will leave.

In my second answer, I responded with much more compassion. Your father is probably very depressed. For some people, self-worth is wrapped up in a job. Perhaps your dad is paralyzed by depression, and fearful of not being able to find another job, and that's why he acts the way he acts.

In my last response, I focused on you. I decided to tell you that you may have to lower your expectations. You may have to realize your home will never be picture-perfect with a mom and dad who smile all the time. Do what you can to serve the family, but realize you aren't responsible for their unhappiness. Support your mom and dad when you can, but don't try to fix all their problems.

To be honest, all three answers are probably a little bit right and a little bit wrong. I would guess your dad is depressed AND he needs to be told his actions are having an effect on the family AND you may have to lower your expectations.

Dealing with this problem won't be easy for any of you. But you seem willing to give it a try. As you decide what to do, talk with your mother. Together, seek the advice of a Christian counselor, perhaps your pastor or youth pastor, and continue to give this issue to God.

Is It OK to Be Different?

I'm a girl, but I don't really act like one. I don't like shopping or makeup. I don't depend on other people like most girls I know. I was taught God created men and women with certain roles, but I don't feel like I fit into that mold. Is it against God's will for me to be different?

—It's been my experience that God created each of us as special individuals. None of us fits a certain mold.

I want to tell you about three of my heroes. My grandma was my first hero. We called her "Nene" because my older brother couldn't pronounce the word "Grandma." Nene was short and plump. Until she retired, she worked in the Navy Shipyard near Los Angeles. Nene didn't like to shop and she wasn't much on makeup, but she was one of the most loving and inspirational people I've ever met. She was totally committed to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She wasn't a very good cook and her house was never all that clean, but we always felt like we were honored guests at her home.

Hero number two was my mom. She loved to shop and she loved clothes. We were never rich, but she always looked like a million bucks. She could cook some of the best meals in the world. She managed to take care of me, my three brothers and my dad while she worked in our family restaurant business. Mom loved to be with friends and she was always the center of attention. She was so different from my grandma, but a great lady nevertheless.

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