Thursday, October 27, 2005

Breaking Free

“In that wonderful day when the Lord gives his people rest from sorrow and fear, from slavery and chains . . . You will say, ‘The mighty man has been destroyed. Yes, your insolence is ended.  For the Lord has crushed your wicked power and broken your evil rule. You persecuted the people with unceasing blows of rage and held the nations in your angry grip. Your tyranny was unrestrained.’ But at last the land is at rest and is quiet. Finally it can sing again!  Even the trees of the forest . . . sing out this joyous song: Your power is broken! No one will come to cut us down now!” ~ Isaiah 14:3-8 (NLT)

     Last week I shared a letter I had written to a friend of mine who was struggling with her decision to file for divorce after her husband had an adulterous affair.  This is a copy of her response to my letter:

Dear Friend,

You have been a faithful woman of God and a faithful friend to me, Eileen.  Your letter, I know was penned from the heart of God.  He’s taking me to a new place of freedom and has helped me to release any hope of [my former husband] returning.  I’m grateful – only He could have done it.  The book was a wonderful, encouraging blessing.  It was good to hear the heart of someone else caught in similar experiences.  It brought comfort and reassurance to me, and it came at exactly the appointed time. I left the next day for a nine-day vacation and read it then.

You know how God helps us take steps by sending just the right words thru people & books & letters.  He’s done that again, and I think He bound me to your heart because He wanted to use you to walk me all the way thru this to the final freedom.

Writing this to you is the first time I’ve expressed that it’s finally over and I feel free.

Thank you, faithful friend.


I know it isn’t easy to break free – especially when there are children involved.  One person I know put it this way: “You just don’t want to be a statistic.”  But your peace of mind is worth it. Your physical safety is worth it. Your emotional well being is worth it.  And your health is worth it.  Stress is known to be a major contributor to physical ailments, and living with someone who abuses you day in and day out will eventually take a toll on your health.  Not only that, but it is detrimental to your children to be raised in a war zone full of constant yelling and strife.

"A home, a family should be a place of support, should be a peaceful place – not a place of cruelty and brutality.”  ~ President George W. Bush

Patricia Evans has written two excellent books that I’d like to recommend: “The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond,” and “Verbal Abuse Survivors Speak Out on Relationship and Recovery. In her second book, Patricia shares some quotes from women who have been verbally abused by their husbands:
“I thought it was one of his ‘moods.’  Now I’ve put the pieces together and understand his ‘moods’ were verbal abuse.”
     “I thought that I was a terrible wife for saying the wrong things or voicing my opinions.  Now I realize I don’t deserve to be pushed out of the way so he can walk through.”
     “I thought that if he really knew I loved him he would love me enough to hear me.  Now I know he will never change.”

I remember the saddest thing I ever heard my sister say was that she had given up on the hope that her husband would ever truly love her. “I thought if he couldn’t love me,” she explained, “then maybe he could at least learn to tolerate me.”  This is a woman who spent her life trying to please her husband. For example, one day she cleaned the house from top to bottom to make him happy (since he was a neat freak), and when he got home all he said was, “Hmmmm. You’ve been cleaning.”  Then he promptly walked over to the air conditioning vent in the hallway and gave it the white glove test.  Of course he immediately voiced his disapproval and assured my sister that she had sadly come up short once again, despite her best efforts to win his approval.  I don’t know how she put up with him for all those years.  Looking back, she wonders herself.

Unfortunately, husbands like this are not a rarity.  I heard about one guy who yelled at his wife for throwing a tissue in the waste basket that he had just emptied.  Another husband on the Dr. Phil Show criticized how his wife loaded the dishwasher, the way she organized her cupboards and how she dressed.  Even though his wife was a busy stay-at-home mom with three small children, he wanted her to wear tight shirts and spandex pants around the house all day.  In fact, he said his fantasy was to have his wife greet him at the door in a French maid outfit.  Dr. Phil responded by saying, “Buddy, you couldn’t dig a bigger hole for yourself if I brought you a backhoe!”

Dr. Phil told one woman that what she had was not a marriage – it was an abusive situation. He stated, “I would rather be healthy alone being my own best friend, than sick and living in a controlling situation with someone else.”  The woman said that her husband “thinks he’s justified because it’s his house and his life and he should be able to do it his way. Period.”  Dr. Phil replied, “Well, he certainly can.  But by the grace and strength of God, he would do it without me, if I were you.”

I’d like to close with the following excerpts from a sermon delivered by T.D. Jakes:

There are people who can walk away from you. And hear me when I tell you this. When people can walk away from you: let them walk. I don't want you to try to talk another person into staying with you, loving you, calling you, caring about you, coming to see you, staying attached to you. I mean – hang up the phone. When people can walk away from you, let them walk. Your destiny is never tied to anybody that left. The Bible said: “For had they been of us, no doubt they would have continued with us.” [1 John 2:19] People leave you because they are not joined to you. And if they are not joined to you, you can't make them stay. Let them go. And it doesn't mean that they are a bad person.  It just means that their part in the story is over. You've got to know when people's part in your story is over so that you don't keep trying to raise the dead. You've got to know when it's dead. You've got to know when it's over. Let me tell you something. I've got the gift of good-bye. I believe in good-bye. It's not that I'm hateful …. I know whatever God means for me to have He'll give it to me. And if it takes too much sweat, then I don't need it. Stop begging people to stay. Let them go!If you are holding on to something that doesn't belong to you and was never intended for your life, then LET IT GO!If you are holding on to past hurts and pains ….LET IT GO!If someone can't treat you right, love you back, and see your worth ….LET THEM GO! If you are involved in a wrong relationship or addiction ... LET IT GO!If you are holding on to a job that no longer meets your needs or talents ...LET IT GO! If you're stuck in the past and God is trying to take you to a new level …. LET IT GO!If you are struggling with the healing of a broken relationship ....LET IT GO! If you keep trying to help someone who won't even try to help themselves ...LET IT GO!If there is a particular situation that you are so used to handling yourself and God is saying "take your hands off of it," then ... LET IT GO!Let the past be the past. Forget the former things. GOD is doing a new thing for you! So LET IT GO!

“Do not [earnestly] remember the former things, neither consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it, and will you not give heed to it?  I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”   ~  Isaiah 43:18,19

Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort ~ Nathrop, Colorado

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Taking Control

      “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted ox and hatred with it.”  ~ Proverbs 15:17

As most of you know, I have a passion for abused women.  I desperately want them to know that they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. With October being National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I’d like to take the opportunity to address this topic once again.

After witnessing the devastating effects of abuse on my sister throughout her twenty-five year marriage, I decided to form a non-profit organization called “Sisters Are We, Inc.”  The idea was born out of a desire to help Mary and others like her who needed emotional and financial support during the divorce process.  Statistically, the primary obstacle to women desiring to leave an abusive relationship is their concern about finances and how they will make ends meet.  When my sister went through her divorce, I took a temporary office job for three months to earn the money to help her out.  Our son, Keen II, my sister, Peggy, and our friends, Greg and Karen Barron, also made contributions to “Sisters Are We.”  Unfortunately, I haven’t done much with the organization since then, but one day I hope to develop a clearinghouse for abused women.  I’d like to be able to match them up with a volunteer “sister” who could provide a shoulder to cry on, an ear for listening, and a little help with the daily stresses of life. In the meantime, if there is anyone who needs encouragement in this area, please feel free to email me at

“…you shall receive your sisters, both your elder and your younger….”  ~ Ezekiel 16:61

Abuse comes in many forms – verbal, physical, emotional and mental – and each one leaves lifelong scars on the victim.  According to a report from the Department of Justice, there were almost 700,000 incidents of domestic violence in 2001, and nearly 1,200 women were murdered by their current or former spouse or partner during that same year.

"I understand that marriage is a life commitment. I understand that people think it’s a covenant with God. [But] there are deal-breakers in my opinion, and physical abuse is one of those deal-breakers."   ~ Dr. Phil McGraw

Although the Bible does say that God hates divorce, I don’t believe He wants or expects women to stay with men who abuse them or their children.  In her book titled: Keeping the Faith: Guidance for Christian Women Facing Abuse, Marie Fortune points out that bringing violence into a marriage is another form of unfaithfulness. Like adultery, violence destroys trust. Marie goes on to explain that when God says He hates divorce, He is “acknowledging the pain that we all feel when a situation reaches the point where a divorce is necessary, when the brokenness is so great that it cannot be repaired between two people.  God does not say, ‘Thou shalt not divorce.’  But God grieves that unfaithfulness of any kind results in divorce.”

The operative word in any abusive relationship is CONTROL. The abuser generally attempts to exert control over your money, your time, your friends, and even your thoughts. A recent guest on the Dr. Phil Show was so controlling that he told his wife when it was “her day” to take a shower.  

If you are in an abusive, controlling relationship, I urge you to reach out for help.  Life is short, and ignoring the problem will not make it go away. (A good book on that subject is: I Closed My Eyes: Revelations of a Battered Woman by Michele Weldon.) You can’t keep it all in and expect your relationship to magically improve. You have to confront the issue and take control. Now I realize that’s a whole lot easier said than done, but if you've already wasted precious years in a dead-end marriage with a spouse who shows no signs of being willing to change, then maybe you need to see the situation for what it really is, and not for what you want it to be. If it's sick, take it to the doctor; if it's dead – bury it.

In closing, I would like to share a letter I wrote several years ago to a friend of mine who divorced her husband after learning that he had an affair and his mistress was pregnant. Even after the divorce, she steadfastly held on to the hope that they would be reunited.

Dear Friend,

You are always in my heart and never far from my thoughts – but especially lately.  The other day I was watching the 700 Club and there was a woman by the name of Bonnie Keen on the show talking about her book: Blessed are the Desperate, for they will find Hope. Bonnie was a Christian singer with two small children when she found out that her husband was having an affair.  When they got divorced, she felt like it invalidated everything she’d ever done.  She also felt like she had a scarlet D on her forehead.

I have one other thing that is on my heart to say. Since we haven’t talked in a long time, I’m not exactly sure where you stand with your feelings about the divorce.  But the last time we visited you expressed deep regrets. You also said that you were praying for your marriage to be restored one day. All I want to say is this:  You didn’t divorce him – he divorced you the moment he violated your marriage vows with another woman. All you did was accept the reality of his choices. Yes, God hates divorce, but he also hates it when men mistreat the wife of their youth.

“And this you do with double guilt; you cover the alter of the Lord with tears [shed by your unoffending wives, divorced by you that you might take heathen wives]…. Therefore take heed to yourselves, and let no one deal treacherously and be faithless to the wife of his youth.”  ~ Malachi 2:13, 15b

I remember when Keen used to stop by to talk to [your former husband] whenever he brought the trash truck to the landfill.  He would always say, “Man, Keen. This is such wisdom. Where are you getting this stuff?”  After weeks of talking without any change in behavior, Keen concluded that he was like a man who took food offered to him and said, “Mmmmm.  This is really good!”  Although he pretended to chew it, he never actually digested it.  And the minute Keen walked away, he just spit it out.

I also remember how he tried to justify his adultery. One time he asked Keen: “Where is the judgment of God for my sin? I don’t see it.”  It’s like Malachi 3:17 that says:

“You have wearied the Lord with your words.  Yet you say, In what way have we wearied Him? You do it when by your actions you say, Every one who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them. Or by asking, Where is the God of justice?”

This next verse comes from I Corinthians 7:15, the Living Bible translation:

“But if the husband or wife who isn’t a Christian is eager to leave, it is permitted.  In such cases the Christian husband or wife should not insist that the other stay, for God wants His children to live in peace and harmony.  For, after all, there is no assurance to you wives that your husbands will be converted if they stay; and the same may be said to your husbands concerning your wives.”

There is one thing that neither God nor man can control – that is, the free will of another person.  A marriage is between two people.  It involves their commitment to each other and to God. When one party chooses to break the bond of love and seek the affections of someone outside of their union, then the other person has to face that sad reality and move on. And that’s what you did.  He made the decision to leave you for another woman.  That was his choice, not yours.  But once he made it, your only option was to accept the facts and trust God to lead your life in a new direction.

“See, this is the man who made not God his strength – his stronghold and high tower; but trusted and confidently relied on the abundance of his riches, seeking refuge and security for himself through his wickedness.

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust and confidently rely on the loving kindness and the mercy of God for ever and ever. I will thank You and confide in You forever, because You have done it [delivered me and kept me safe].  I will wait, hope and expect in Your Name, for it is good….”  ~ Psalm 52:7-9  

You are that green olive tree, my friend.  You have walked with God and revered His laws.  Therefore, you will be richly blessed.  Godliness is profitable (I Timothy 4:8). You are blessed with the peace that comes from obeying God and listening to His voice.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”  ~ Psalm 1:1-3

Thursday, October 13, 2005

How Do You Spell Success?

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” ~ Mark 8:37 (KJV)

Success is measured by the height of your aspirations,
The breadth of your vision, the depth of your convictions.
Success lies not in how well-known you are, but how well-respected –
Not in your power to take, but your willingness to give.
Success is the small voice you hear within
When you know you have done your best.

~ Hallmark card Keen received

Back in my younger days as a cheerleader, we used to shout out the following cheer: S-U-C-C-E-S-S – that’s the way we spell Success!” This week I’d like to address the question: How do you spell success?

In a recent edition of his column, “On the Run,” my friend Larry Welch eulogized his late father’s full – and successful – life. Larry summed up several lessons he had learned from his father. Lesson number nine struck me the most: “Love unconditionally.” Larry wrote, “I can't think of a nicer lifetime reputation for a person to have than that they loved unconditionally.”

Neither can I, Larry. We are very blessed who have experienced unconditional love from God, our parents, siblings, spouses and/or friends.


Author Unknown

You can use most any measure
When you're speaking of success
You can measure it in fancy homes
Expensive cars or dress
But the measure of your real success
Is the one you cannot spend
It's the way your kids describe you
When they're talking to a friend.

In the same column, Larry shared the following quote from anthropologist and author, Margaret Mead, Ph.D.

"I must admit that I personally measure success in terms of the contributions an individual makes to her or his fellow human beings.”

Remember This

Author Unknown

God won't ask what kind of car you drove, but He'll ask how many people you drove who didn't have transportation.

God won't ask the square footage of your house, but He'll ask how many people you welcomed into your home.

God won't ask about the clothes you had in your closet, but He'll ask how many you helped to clothe.

God won't ask what your salary was, but He'll ask if you compromised your character to obtain it.

God won't ask what your job title was, but He'll ask if you performed your job to the best of our ability.

God won't ask how many friends you had, but He'll ask how many people to whom you were a friend.

God won't ask what neighborhood you lived in, but He'll ask how you treated your neighbors.

God won't ask about the color of your skin, but He'll ask about the content of your character.

“The Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." ~ I Samuel 16:7b (RSV)

The following poem was left on the windshield of Keen’s car when it was parked at Washburn Law School during the final week of classes:

Has My Life Made A Difference?

Author Unknown

Has my life made a difference?
After I’m gone will anyone say?
I’m really glad I met him
He often brightened my day.

Has my life made a difference?
Was I willing to take a stand?
Did I do the best I could,
To help my fellow man?

Has my life made a difference?
God only knows for sure
I don’t understand it all just yet
But I know God’s Word is pure.

Has my life made a difference?
Perhaps you should ask yourself the same
You see, nothing really matters
If love’s not our greatest aim.

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those who are perishing. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” ~ Proverbs 31:8,9 (NLT)

Many people characterize success by the number of degrees you hold, and/or by the prestige of the institution where you obtained your degree.

Naomi Patterson, a local columnist, poet and retired clinical psychologist, wrote a very insightful article in a recent edition of The Topeka Capital-Journal. Naomi pointed out a little known fact about ABC news anchor Peter Jennings, who passed away from lung cancer. It seems Peter Jennings never attended college. As a matter of fact, he dropped out of high school. “Instead of pursuing a formal education,” she wrote, “Jennings had pursued his passion, surely having no idea himself of the success he would achieve against all odds.”

Naomi went on to say that many individuals who don’t fit the formal education mold have the “intelligence, heart, creativity and passion to make a meaningful mark in the world . . . without college algebra or knowing the capital of Afghanistan.”
Being one of those individuals who have never attended a day of college, I was especially appreciative of Naomi’s comments. By pursing my passion for writing, I hope to be able to touch lives and “make my mark in the world.”

In my husband’s case, on the other hand, he had to obtain a degree in order to pursue his passion for the law. In the final analysis, it’s up to each of us individually to identify our true passion and to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that we are fully utilizing our God-given talents.

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which, he simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he’s always doing both.” ~ James A. Michener (1907-97), Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Tales of the South Pacific" and other bestselling books

“ . . . and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of [our] faith . . . .” ~ Hebrews 12:1b,2a (KJV)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Keepin' It Real

“Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.” ~ James 1:2-4 (NLT)

Ups and Downs
By Eileen Umbehr

All of life
Is ups and downs
Happy, sad
Smiles, frowns

Fridays, Mondays
Births and deaths
No one escapes
Life’s trials and tests

Victories, defeats
Contentment and sorrow
The joys of today
The heartaches of tomorrow

But come what may
I will not complain
My hope is in God
Both in sunshine and rain.

(Taken after a recent blow-out)

My number one goal in writing my column is to keep it real. By that I mean that I never want to be guilty of only sharing the “up” times in our lives, because that’s just not a true picture of the way things really are. Yes, we have been richly blessed with a happy marriage and family, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have to work very hard at maintaining that status and it doesn’t mean that we don’t face the same struggles that everyone else faces in their lives.

Basically, I am a positive person (although that hasn’t always been the case), so naturally I tend to be positive in my writing. But I would be doing a great disservice to my readers if I gave the impression that our life is always peaches and cream, because it isn’t. We each have our own individual flaws, and we are constantly working on improving ourselves, with God’s help.

I once told my sister Joanne that when I share one of our family pictures with others, I don’t want them to see the image of a “picture-perfect family,” but rather, I want them to see an image of a “picture-perfect example of God’s grace.” In other words, even though we have had our share of ups and downs, the fact remains that God’s grace has seen us through every trial and has helped us overcome every obstacle along the way. That’s what I want people to see when they look at our family picture.

Don’t get me wrong, the majority of the time Keen and I enjoy marital bliss, with only occasional interruptions from an argument where we – okay, I – could be heard by anyone within a three-mile radius. But I must admit that the past couple of months have been some of the most difficult for us, second only to the period of time when we were involved in the lawsuit and awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court.

Even before Hurricane Katrina destroyed Jared and Erin’s apartment, Keen and I were going through one of the most intense periods of this entire academic journey. The amount of preparation he had to devote to the bar exam prevented us from enjoying the quality time we would normally have spent together. So our life was no longer in balance, resulting in numerous misunderstandings and arguments. I tried my best to be understanding, but eventually I started feeling neglected, which always brings out the worst in me. But Keen was under such tremendous stress leading up to the exam that his emotional reserves were on empty, too. That’s when tensions reached a fever pitch at our house.

I’ve often thought it would be so much easier if I was self-sufficient and didn’t have any emotional needs, but that is simply not the case. We all have needs and it is only when our individual needs are met that we are fully equipped to go out into the world and fulfill our God-given destiny.

“Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.”
~ I Corinthians 11:11,12 (NKJV)

In Gary Chapman’s book, Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, he talks about how we all have different ways that communicate love to us. Some people feel loved when they receive gifts. That’s not me, which is probably a good thing, since Keen isn’t much of a gift-giver. However, I quickly identified my “love language” – quality time. There is nothing I enjoy more than spending time with Keen – my high school sweetheart, the love of my life and my best friend. I love walking and talking with him, or just sitting on the couch with a cup of tea. That’s when I feel the most loved. For me, spending time with Keen is like putting gas in my tank; without it, my emotional engine light comes on and eventually I shut down all together.

Even after the bar exam was over, Keen and I seemed to suffer from post-traumatic “test stress.” Then the hurricane hit. In the midst of trying to be supportive to Jared, Erin and the boys, we were busy setting up Keen’s law office in Topeka. This involved buying fax machines and printers and phones (AND filling out those “oh-so-fun” rebate forms), as well as setting up new checking accounts and learning a new system of billing. In addition, Keen has had his hands full with several new clients.

Meanwhile, Jared and Erin’s lives were in a constant state of flux. It’s been painful for us to witness because we’ve been completely helpless to do anything about it. Although Erin had a place to stay in Manhattan and she enrolled Asher in kindergarten, their ultimate goal was to reunite as a family once again. However, when Jared checked into the few apartment complexes’ that were still in operation, he learned that there were 150 people on the waiting list. Then Erin checked into hotel accommodations in the area, but they were booked for the next eighteen months as well. It just seemed like every road they went down led to another dead end.

Then there was a light at the end of the tunnel when the Navy announced that they would be opening up some housing units on base at Pensacola, Florida. Although this would be about two hours away from where Jared worked, the Navy had plans to provide shuttle transportation every weekend. To make a long story short, for reasons beyond anyone’s control, the Pensacola plan fell through at the last minute. Erin said she felt like someone was pushing the buttons of her life like a tape recorder: Stop – Play – Pause. Understandably, the uncertainty and confusion became almost unbearable.

"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’” ~ Isaiah 30:21

Finally, in the 11th hour, after they had almost resigned themselves to living apart again, some base housing became available back in Gulfport. Jared’s Chief went to bat for him since Jared has three dependents, and they assigned them a four-bedroom housing unit on base. Now Jared can be home with his family every night and Erin can return to her nursing job at Gulfport Memorial if she wants to. As an added bonus, the babysitter Erin had previously lined up lives right there in Gulfport, too. Although the surrounding area is still in bad shape after Katrina, they can always drive to outlying areas for shopping and recreation. The important thing is that they will finally be together – thank God!

In the midst of all this turmoil, my friend Maggie (from my days at Hudson Junior High), and her husband, Randy, sent some sunshine Jared and Erin’s way by surprising them with a check for five hundred dollars! Randy and Maggie live in Wisconsin and have three sons of their own, but they generously decided to donate money to some hurricane victims that they knew personally. When I called Maggie to thank her, she said, “Just tell them that God guided us to do it and it just felt right.” Thank you, Randy and Maggie, for having such big hearts and for helping our kids get through one of the darkest times of their married life.

“That you may give him the power to hold himself calm in the days of adversity . . . For the Lord will not cast off nor spurn His people, neither will He abandon His heritage. When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ Your mercy and loving-kindness, O Lord, held me up. In the multitude of my (anxious) thoughts within me, Your comforts cheer and delight my soul!” ~ Psalms 94:13a,14; 18,19 (Amp)

May God bless everyone for their love, support, encouragement and prayers!

“And I will bless those who bless you . . . .” ~ Genesis 12:3a (NKJV)

A not-so-perfect picture of the Umbehr family from Christmas, 2000