Mentorship: Finding Purpose in Helping Others and Knowing When To Invest in Being Mentored

If you ask Google about mentorship, you will get all kinds of results. It will define the term, explain its purpose, tell you there are different types, and even advise about romance between mentors and mentees.

There is nothing wrong with Googling how to do what you want to do, but at some point you need guidance specific to you. That’s where mentorship comes in. Mentorship is available everywhere at every level from close friends who can give you free advice to paid memberships and hired professionals.

Mentorship is a Biblical concept. It is the idea that one generation (often older) has something to teach or give to another (often younger). It is about generations working together to glean wisdom that only time and experience can give you.

Mentoring is to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximize their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be.

Types of Mentoring

Traditional One-on-one Mentoring

A mentee and mentor are matched, either through a program or on their own.

Distance Mentoring

A mentoring relationship in which the two parties (or group) are in different locations.

Group Mentoring

A single mentor is matched with a cohort of mentees.

Every major decision of your life ought to be confirmed (through prayer and fasting, going to the Bible, talking to your spouse, getting counsel from your pastor, and talking with close Christian friends).

It should not just be you alone. You don’t just walk through any opened door.

Jantzen Franklin, The Legacy Study Bible

How To Know When You Need A Mentor

I believe it is important to seek out mentorship for any major decisions or life changes in your life. It is an act of wisdom to seek the wisdom of people with more experience and success in the areas that you are stepping into.

But how do you tell the difference between needing mentorship for a moment, a season, or a lifetime?

Mentorship length is determined by the need. If what you are needing council on is just a few decisions, you may only need to consult someone in a few sessions. If you are experiencing a roadblock or needing to gain knowledge in a certain area you are stretching to, you probably need a mentor for a season. If you are experiencing continuous transitions like business startups, growth, and expansion, you probably need a mentor that can help guide you through all those changes over a lifetime.

How do you pick a mentor?

When you are looking for a mentor, look at two things: what you need them for and who you know that has done that work successfully. If you don’t know someone successful in that area, do research and find someone. A lot of times friends and mentors who have helped you in the past can suggest good resources for your next level of need. Remember to be mindful to consider mentors that reflect like-minded faith.

Mentorship is a partnership that is often long-term, so you want mentors that you can get along with personally as well as admire professionally. If they are where you want to be or past it, that is a good sign. Of equal or greater importance, however, is that they share your faith.

Where do you find a mentor?

Once you determine who you know that has had success in your area of need, you have a list of contacts to approach for mentorship. Start by asking the successful people you know if they would be willing to mentor you. If you don’t know anyone successful in your area of need, research people who are and message them about mentorship.

Be reasonable in your expectations and vet the people you research. You can’t expect Jeff Bezos to personally teach you how to be the next big online marketplace, but you can find people online who will teach you how to sell well in an online market. To prove they are worth your investment, check out their work and Google their customer reviews. What other people say about working with them can be very telling. Don’t invest time or money unless you see proven results of what you want to achieve.

Why is a person’s faith important when determining who you should get for mentorship?

Scripture teaches us that we become what we believe, and we become like those we spend our time around. While it may be possible to takeaway universal truths from people outside your faith (like when you read a book from a secular artist), it is more likely that the outside faith will influence your belief system if you build a relationship with them where you are seeking their guidance.

The Christian faith is one that grows based on individual study of the Bible and partnership with Godly Christian mentors. Our faith waters down and steps away from Christianity completely if we step away from the Bible and follow guidance not based on it. So it is very important who you choose to be your mentor.

Should you pay for a mentor?

This is one I struggled with, but the answer is that sometimes paying for a mentor is necessary. There is an old saying that says “you get what you pay for”. In mentorship, if your only advice is free advice, you are not always given priority. When you pay for mentoring services, you are investing in yourself and your business as if you were pursuing a college degree in the area you are needing help with. Don’t be ashamed of needing to pay for someone to help you, and don’t be too cheap to think everything you pursue should be free. The best counselors charge for their time, and those rates vary often by how successful they are. Even if the rates are high, find a counselor that will work with you on a payment plan. It is worth it.

Final Thoughts

I have had both free and paid mentorship. When I first started my business, I relied a lot on close friends to help me with their free advice from their experience in the business. I also did a lot of research and signed up for all sorts of free resources like the amazing wealth of knowledge about remote jobs at Home Working Club and marketing insight from HubSpot.

Later, I realized I needed to grow in knowledge beyond our areas, so I invested in subscription-based mentorship with Matt Tommey Mentoring and Hope Writers.

The problem with subscription-based mentoring for me was there was little to no accountability. I had paid a lot of money to get into the system, but I was barely using it, so it made little impact on my business. Later, I made friends with other users in the subscriptions, and that helped me use them more for learning.

I got to a place where I was roadblocked personally and professionally. I didn’t know how to move forward, and it was effecting my mental health. I started to not care about life. I discovered I was actually afraid of being successful. That’s when I realized I needed to hire a recruiter and relationship coach.

Making that decision was hard for me because it was a big financial investment, but the return on my investment was immediate. I had daily texts, insight, and assignments. I had a whole path to follow to get out of my roadblocks, and I had people with proven success guiding me.

No matter where you are in your level of need, I hope you realize that your life and time is valuable. Don’t waste time trying to figure out everything on your own. Seek a mentor.

The Unfiltered Advice I Wish I Could Tell The Younger Me

Advice about boys

That guy you are so focused on, the one you think hung the moon and stars, he didn’t. In fact, he will pull you away from the actual one who hung the moon and stars if you are not careful.

You are not a trashy person. Stop dressing like one. And stop giving the boys whatever they ask for. If you are not worth waiting for, they are not worth having as king of your castle. Don’t expect a Prince Charming out of an ugly toad no matter how much you kiss him.

Advice about dreams

So you want to be something that seems impossible, good! You are in good company with a lot of giants who changed the world. Know it isn’t easy to do that kind of work. Find someone who is doing what you want to do and doing it successfully–they aren’t broke or spending frivolously or being dishonest–and get them to mentor you.

Hold on and don’t give up! You have a God-sized dream which means it is one you can’t do without Him. Get serious about Jesus and get committed in your time spent building that relationship.

Advice about friends

Good friends are a lifeblood; bad friends corrupt even the little good you have. Friendship is an investment of time and resources. You don’t get to the good, life-long relationships without taking those sacrifices along the way. Unless you want to spend the rest of your life alone, get choosey about who you spend time with.

Don’t be afraid to say “no” to people. In fact, start now before you have a chronic habit of over committing yourself. If they are really your friends, they will understand. If they get mad, they probably weren’t your friends to begin with. Hold all those types of people loosely because they aren’t supposed to stay in your life forever.

The ones who are good life-long friends are the ones who support and encourage your dreams and aren’t afraid to challenge you when you get off the path in your goals or character. Make whatever sacrifices you need to make in your time and schedule to keep those people in your life. When you are old, your house will never lack for love or laughter because you made the effort to build relationships where they mattered.

Two Are Better Than One: How Partnerships Make The Dream Work

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

As a small business, I hear a lot about partnerships between organizations. This business partners with that one to facilitate this service and now both entites had a point of impact in the community. In fact, greater impact is accomplished because of their partnership than could have been even imagined if they stuck to doing it all alone.

The principles of partnership are as ancient as the Garden of Eden. When God created Adam and looked down on him, he didn’t say, “good job, son, you are killin’ it on your own!” No, on the contrary, he said it is not good for man to be alone, let me make him a helper. Why? Because God designed us to live and work as teams–not individuals.

Business

If you look at the needs of your organization–your specific business plan–you should see a target demographic that you want to reach. To truly accomplish that goal, you can’t do it by yourself, you need to bring in other people who can agree with your vision and have the passion for it that you do.

No organization grows from idea to thriving business with just one person. If you want to be successful, you have to have vision for the future and a plan to mentor others into your seat on the company because eventually you will retire or pass away and you don’t want to build something that just ceases to exist in 10-20 years.

Entrepreneur

It might sound silly to list this separate than business, but the truth is that they are not the same. Though every small business needs to have vision and growth, many are franchisees of bigger businesses. An entrepreneur is someone who is a one-off business: they came up with an idea and pursued it based on their own creativity, vision, and willpower.

Entrepreneurs are the invisible demographic in a community. They are the people like Amy Brogden who look at a town, see a vacancy, and believe they can do something to meet that need. God bless them! We need more people like that everywhere. Small towns are dying without them.

Entrepreneurs work hard to make their vision prosper. They live with the daily reality that the economy can change in a minute and they can be out of a job, so they are always on pivot to stay relevant. The bigger they grow, the more people they carry under them, and the more burden they feel to be successful; no one wants to work as hard as we do to build a business that dies in a couple years.

Relationships

Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.

Proverbs 18:22 KJV

From the beginning, God set us up to work together in partnership. He took a rib out of Adam to make Eve because he wanted her to be something standing beside him and working with him not ruling over him or trampled by him.

Women of God, you have such an amazing Creator! He saw your worth and recognized you long before Susan B. Anthony or any of those other folks even existed. Get to know Him and praise Him because our Lord Jesus really is a good God to serve.

–Rebecca J. Whitman

It is tempting to live life single–especially if you have faced any heartache in relationships–but I really don’t think that was God’s design for the majority of us. There are far more verses in the Bible about love and marriage and filling the Earth with children than there are about the blessings of singleness. We all must be single for a season, but we are also responsible for being able to see when that season has ended.

Mixing Love and Business

If you are an entrepreneur, it can be really hard to be in a relationship. Sometimes the demands of work make it hard to have room to share your life with anyone else. It is easier to say a relationship will hinder your productivity than it is to say it will help it.

Still, I have seen too many married couples thriving in business to say that single mindedness is really the truth we should hold to—and I am not the only one. According to this article from Entrepreneur.com, research shows that growth in business is tied to a strong and thriving marriage.

Truth Hits Home

When my maternal grandparents came home from their honeymoon, they came home to a box full of baby chicks, and my grandma cried. We were never told why she cried, but I have always believed it was because she knew how much work was ahead of them and the weight of it was frightening. Entrepreneurship is an often scary adventure.

From then on, the adventure was non-stop for them. From chicken farming to dairy farming to firewood to restaurants and everything in between, my grandparents were successful entrepreneurs in Colorado. They were married over 50 years and now rest buried together.

I never saw that entrepreneural life buy them a fancy house or lots of things, but we lacked for nothing at grandma’s house. Their faith and love poured into everyone they knew: friends, family, and strangers. It was a level of kindness and generosity so great, in fact, that it took multiple funerals to celebrate them when they died—and we still talk about them years later today. That kind of legacy doesn’t happen when you live life alone.

This godly heritage reminds me every day that true love and business success are possible. The wedding rings that honored that marriage wait to honor my own now. I like to think my grandparents would be tickled pink to know I will wear grandma’s rings someday. I like to think they would be proud to see me in business now much like them—living day to day on my faith in Jesus.

There is nothing easy about being in business for yourself. Some days you want to curl up and cry or just go back to working for someone else so you can sleep at night.

But all those fears are just growing pains. In time, the business you are building will establish itself if you don’t give up and if you make strategic partnerships that will propel you forward.

Don’t be afraid to risk failure for love. When you find someone worth giving your heart to, be bold enough to speak your truth even if that means writing it down in a letter. Pray for them. Invest in them. Make them a priority and trust me in this: the ROI will be worth the effort.

Why You Should Block Your Ex

Poem read by author, Rebecca Whitman

You told me every word on your mind, no filters–

And nothing that I needed to hear

You filled silence with your incessant need for attention–

And nothing that asked about my life

You made countless promises, filled my heart with hopes and dreams–

And nothing that took action in five years of waiting

You called and claimed you changed, threw a bone at my wants and interests–

And nothing that reflected them as your own in your voice or character

You left me second guessing my best decisions–

And nothing but a wound so close I’m left…

bleeding out…


I phone a friend and find life–

He binds my wounds and gives me hope again

but his heart

is closed to mine.


I think of all the love I shared with you, and I realize it wasn’t nothing–

but it ended in nothing.

I’m tempted to pick up the phone and try again–

then I read about the eight years we tried and failed and know…

there is not enough life left to repeat it.

For all the love we shared that was real, I wish you well–

May you find a heart that gives you rest and welcome; May her love for you be warm and ready

May you give her the best of you–healed and whole because that’s all a new love deserves

not the ghost of regrets with mine.

What to Do When Loss and Loneliness Cloud The Holidays

I have to say that Christmas is my all time favorite holiday of the year. We get inundated with romance, mystery, presents, family time, and good food. We get more time off and, if we are lucky, snow to play in. We drink eggnog or hot cocoa and nibble on baked goods while we overdose on Hallmark movies, Christmas music, and light displays. There is an overwhelming sense of magic and belief in happy endings. Nothing is impossible at Christmas.

But what do you do when the thing you want most really can’t happen?

If you have suffered the loss of a loved one, you know that the thing you want more than any present under the tree is more time with that loved one alive again. If you just came out of a breakup or you’ve been single for a long time, the last thing you want is to be reminded of how alone you are romantically. Holiday gatherings get harder when people are missing from them–and that’s true whether it is a lost loved one or a missing partner that you haven’t even met yet.

My paternal grandfather loved family gatherings, and he made an especially big deal of Christmas. Before Christmas Eve, he took my cousins and I out for dinner and a movie at the theater. Then he took us to the local mall, gave us each twenty dollars, and let us shop. He was genuinely happy to see all the things we bought with his money that brought us joy. Then, on Christmas Eve, he would cook a steak dinner for the whole family. After dinner, we would gather in the living room, sing carols, read the Christmas story in Luke, and open presents. Presents were always extravagant toys or collectibles for the kids and nice kitchen goods for the adults. I remember one year when we all got Nintendo 64! My sister and I went home, set it up, and played Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt till our eyes nearly fell out of our heads. After presents at granddaddy’s house, there was still more. Gallon bags filled with candy, fruit, and nuts were passed out along with money envelopes to everyone present.

I never thought about money back when I was growing up, but I do now. I know my grandparents weren’t as rich as they seemed; they saved all year to be able to splurge like that on their family for Christmas. My paternal grandparents had come from less and worked hard to have more. Spending money on their family now made them feel joy and fulfillment. Nevertheless, the first Christmas after granddaddy passed away, it wasn’t the presents we missed from the room. There was a sadness and silence we could only address in prayer as we blessed the meal: we missed him. All we wanted, as we gathered together that Christmas, was more time with him.

Christmas is not Christmas anymore when grief over loss enters the room. Substitute whatever holiday in there that is important to you, and the same is still true: holidays suck when the people you love are missing.

Whether you are in the fresh wake of grief or you are a seasoned veteran to it, it can be hard to be cheerful at the holidays. It is okay to acknowledge your feelings while they are raw, but don’t let yourself be trapped by them. Grief is a process that has no timeliness, but emotions will control you if you don’t take control over them.

What I ultimately found helpful in my own seasons of loss and loneliness at the holidays was this: focus on the good you have not what you are missing and be thankful for the memories.

Sometimes forcing yourself to be cheerful for holidays’ sake brings the good memories to the surface. You begin to remember good times you had with your missed loved ones. Smile-worthy memories surface in the flood of sadness, and you find yourself thankful and happy again.

It may be hard to remember why you celebrate or to even celebrate at all, but do it anyway. Eventually it gets easier as you honor those who are passed as well as those who are still around to enjoy the holidays with you.

Celebrate the ones you love and the One who gave up His Son, Jesus Christ, as a gift of love for you.

Know that the pain you feel now will dissipate in time. Just don’t give up.

Green Acorn: A Prayer

We certainly associate Spring with growth, but Autumn is the start. We have to shed our leaves and let things die for them to grow anew.

Millie, editor of Sylvia magazine
Reading by author, Rebecca Whitman

What will you start in me today, Lord?

What gentle bud will cocoon its life and wait for Spring? What leaves will shed and rot to feed the root of this dream? What branches will You prune from me because they bare no fruit? Will it be a wandering branch of thought or a whole arm out of touch with the mission?

I wait and listen…but I’m a little scared too.

It’s been a fear unsettled since I returned here, yet I want You to unearth it. Uproot it like the weed it is and water me with the Miracle-Gro of Your presence. I feel like I can’t hide away enough in You. Isn’t that part of the evidence here of transformation?

I give you…everything.

I surrender everything I have because I know it is a gift from You–a resource given to use not hoard. I know you will take care of me and get resources to me if you know you can get them through me.

I work through my waiting.

I pursue greater trust in You. I write down my dreams, and I’m not afraid to dream big with You! I make plain the steps to fulfill what I can, but, ultimately, it all falls apart without Your hand.

I have looked up at the sky through a world full of acorns.

I have seen the light through the leaves and let them fall on me. I have let brown acorns root and take residence where they should not have been, while the good green ones fell away from me. Why was my soil not good enough for their seed? Why did some other woman grab them with her earth, become their lover–their mother of children?

My ground, though aged and weak, has rested. The once stripped soil is fertile ground once more. I wait–with thanksgiving and expectation–for tomorrow’s planting and harvest. I thank You, Lord, for the green acorn You have chosen and are preparing for me today.

A Microwave Is Not A Slow Cooker: How to Get Along With Difficult People

Story softens us. Even when your stories differ, they still matter because you can learn from them. Threads of someone else’s story can inform your own.

Ashlee Eiland, Formation and Preaching Pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church and author of Human(kind)

There is something powerful about sharing stories–especially personal ones. It’s why we gravitate to memoirs, biographies, and historical fiction. It’s why we watch and rewatch movies about the underdog finally getting his chance and winning. It’s why we gather in small groups and open our hearts with people that used to be strangers. There is something in all of us that wants to be heard, known, and accepted by others.

But what do you do when you are face to face with someone that is polar opposite to you? How do you interact peacefully with microwave personalities if you are a slow cooker?

Microwave vs. Slow Cooker Personalities

It’s hard to imagine the modern world without a microwave but, believe it or not, I still remember a time in my childhood when we didn’t have one. If you wanted to pop popcorn, you had to cook it slowly on the stove or over a fire. If you wanted a baked potato, you had to prep it and but it in the oven for over an hour. It took time to get to the value we wanted, but it was worth it. Some would argue it even tasted better because of it.

People are like that too. Some people are like microwaves; they have no filter and tell the story of their life to anyone who will listen in person or at a distance through their social media. Others are like slow cookers; they are extremely selective about what they tell and how they tell it and only a select trusted few know the full truth of what is going on with them. Though neither approach is right or wrong, it causes great strife and comparison in relationships.

Personalities Collide

I love family dinners at grandmama Whitman’s house. She pulls out all the stops. Sometimes my uncle puts some meat on the grill or smoker on the porch. Most times, it’s grandmama putting all her tools to use and pacing herself through days to get the work done. Pressure cookers, slow cookers, air fryers, refridgerators, the oven, and the microwave team up to cook country food at its finest, and the counters fill with the fruit of their efforts. Yellow squash and onions. Tomato roast with home canned tomatoes. Pork chops and gravy. Vegetable beef stew. Crispy fried chicken wings. Fresh and hot loaded potato wedges. Warm rolls. Fresh pecan pie with double the pecans. Blueberry or peach cobbler with crispy buttery crusts. Butterscotch pudding with a pecan cookie crust and layers of cream cheese goodness. Rice and tomatoes with more home canned tomatoes. Stewed potatoes and kale. Butter beans. Field peas.. All with a little bacon grease for flavoring.

What would those family dinners look like if the pressure cookers suddenly decided they refused to work with the air fryers? What would we miss if our appliances decided to cop an attitude and refuse to sit in the same room much less partner together with someone who cares for food differently than them? I doubt a single dish would make it to the counter; there would be too much infighting.

People are like that too. We let the differences in our personalities and values dictate how we interact with each other. We dismiss people entirely if we disagree with their lifestyle, but we rarely pause to ask about their story. We rarely listen to the experiences that led them to be who and where they are today. How different would the world be if we listened more with curiosity and kindness than fear and judgment?

Making Peace With The Enemy

We have to get to the place where we can sit around the table with people that are hard to love and realize: I am worthy and so are you and that cannot be disputed.

Ashlee Eiland, Formation and Preaching Pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church and author of Human(kind)

If you are stuck looking at the world through your own values, it is easy to dismiss people as your enemies who don’t measure up to them. You can even feel justified and holy doing so, but that isn’t Christianity. In Christianity, we are taught to be more like Christ because we are the image of him left on the Earth. We emulate Christ by studying how he lived his life, learning from those studies, and practicing faith and generosity in our daily lives. When I study the life of Christ, I don’t see him spending all his time with people that agreed with him. Yes, he shared his closest thoughts with friends he trusted who believed in him, but the majority of his time was spent with people who doubted him, lived ungodly lifestyles, and followed other gods. He came to heal the sick and broken and mentor leaders for them not isolate with the ones already healed and believing.

How does that translate into relationships today? How does this have anything to do with getting along with difficult people at work or around the table with you this holiday? It has everything to do with it.

The first step to dealing with difficult people is realizing you don’t know everything and that someone else’s story has value too.

You can’t put yourself on a pedestal and dismiss others. Jesus didn’t. Stop justifying the ways you are better than someone else and own the fact that you have been hurtful too.

  • Apologize with true heartfelt words if that is possible and necessary; don’t let discord become a root of bitterness in your home or family.
  • Recognize the value of stories and invite the “enemy” into thoughtful discussion, but put a pin in it before the talks turn heated.
  • Cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance and generosity within boundaries. You don’t have to agree with someone’s lifestyle to show them love, nor do you have to empty your bank account to be Jesus to others. Set limits for how much you do for free and how much disagreeable behavior you put up with, and don’t let yourself be pressured to give past those limits.

Different is Just Different, Don’t Make It Worse

Just like all the different kitchen appliances serve their purpose and work together to prepare feasts at grandmama’s house, so do people work together in the family of God to bring to life the Kingdom of God on this Earth.

We are all broken vessels and imperfect people, but God loves to work through brokenness and imperfection because (as the Apostle Paul said) “his power is made perfect in our weakness”.

It is tempting to see ourselves as better than others when our values don’t align. But if you are both serving the same God to the best of your ability, how can competition with each other make you more beneficial to the Kingdom? It doesn’t. In fact, infighting amongst Christians actually has been documented as one of the chief causes of pushing people away from God and the church. Outsiders use that struggle as evidence that God either doesn’t exist or isn’t worth it because he clearly isn’t helping you have a better attitude or be a better person.

Don’t be the one giving an unbeliever reasons to turn further from God. Be the bigger person. Forgive and forget offenses and strive for peaceful interactions within boundaries.

Joseph Tallent: A Man Worth Waiting For, Lost Too Young

A few years ago, my father was transitioning to rehab after an infection led to a foot amputation. My sister came home to see him and brought a friend with her. He brought his guitar and asked her for a song dad would be able to recognize upon hearing it. She chose an Allison Krauss song. He threw his acoustic over his shoulder, began to play, and walked slowly, confidently, down the halls of the facility to dad’s room. The instrument was understated and scared by cigarette butts of past owners, but in his hands it sang. The melody reverberated through the rooms and made many heads turn. That is how our family met Joseph Tallent, my sister’s second husband.

Joey playing and walking with Ariel in Florida

They had a whirlwind courtship. Within months of meeting online, they were getting married. I was skeptical. My sister’s school girl giggles when they were together confirmed how taken she was with him, but he was stoic. Joey barely spoke. He was reserved with his smiles and laughter. Still he exuded peace and confidence with his silence.

Engagement Photo of Melissa and Joey by Rebecca Whitman

Joey was a petite man with wild Elvis hair and a voice that squeaked into high registers, but there was nothing small or quiet about his personality. I was soon to learn that.

This is one of my favorite pictures because it was rare to catch Joey so vulnerable and happy in pictures. Melissa took this during their dating period.

I went on a trip to see my sister and her two girls from a previous marriage. We took the girls and Joey and went to St. Augustine, Florida. I stood back and watched how he interacted with my nieces and sister. He was protective: he walked beside the girls with his head on swivel for traffic. He was curious: he explored the buildings with us and suggested places to go. He was daring: he threatened to walk the riverfront in his boxers just to show me he didn’t care what people thought of him.

In the car later, my sister was upset about something that he knew about. The whole ride home, he held her hand and fed her spirit with a playlist of songs. I watched her weep and fall into peace with the melodies. Joey had become a steward of my sister’s heart. Like a gardener protects, tends, and waters his garden, Joey protected my sister and her girls, tended to her needs for organization and cleanliness in her home, and watered her heart with their shared love language of music. Seeing the depth of his intentionality and care is what made me love Joey too.

Quote graphic by Rebecca Whitman

Lately I have been reading Jackie Kendall’s A Man Worth Waiting For. It is a study of the Biblical story of Ruth and Boaz that examines the qualities of a godly man and how to recognize him. Being a steward of the heart of the woman he loves was one of the characteristics. Joey was exhibiting the heart of a man worth waiting for (MWWF) long before I learned what that meant.

Joey was not a perfect man by any stretch of the circumstances, but even his imperfections made him perfect for our family. My neices loved and trusted him. My sister rested her heart with him. Later, his son blossomed with him. He was the Winnie-the-Pooh to my sister’s red balloon.

Joey and son, Alex, at Alex’s 1st Birthday

They had a lot of plans to travel the country together. Joey wanted to introduce his son to the Yankees, but he never made it to his first game. After a non-Covid related respiratory incident, Joey passed away suddenly this summer at the age of 34.

Joey on the waterfront in Florida.

There’s not enough white space to show the gap he left in our hearts. Joey was the kind of man who was kind to everyone but close to few, and those few were people he invested in intentionally. I was one of the few, but I didn’t realize it till he was gone.

What I do know is that he changed me. Joey made me laugh at life again, and he challenged me to take myself more seriously. He encouraged my dreams, but he wasn’t afraid to speak the hard truth when I needed it. That honesty saved me from years of further heartache in relationships with men not right for me.

Joey was more than a brother-in-law to me; he was my friend. I could be myself with him and know I was always welcome, safe, and loved. Even when my sister and I fought and he had every reason to side with her and hate me, Joey was kind to me. Joey was family by marriage, but he felt more like the blood brother I always wished I had.

In the moments following his death, I found myself wondering what my last words were to him. Did I tell him I loved him? Did he know that either way? We didn’t talk often, nor did we see each other much. My sister and her family lived several states away. Was that last moment a hurried goodbye as they left my house or a hug in his living room with the baby in his arms? I don’t know.

It’s hard to know how to deal with the death of a young person. Joey had a lot of life ahead of him and a son not yet two years old to raise. How were we to move on and show his son what an amazing father he had? How could we possibly teach him all his dad would have taught him? Thank God his mother is alive and can be the voice of this knowledge to her grandson.

It’s normal to feel angry when you lose a loved one. All your emotions become raw hamburger in the wake of such a loss. Part of you wants to draw the curtains and hide inside the shell of your life and cry. But the business of death won’t let you have that freedom.

The business of death is the part no one talks about and fewer still prepare for. It’s all the decisions about funeral services, your final resting place, the bills from your life that must be settled, the lack of income your family has to adjust to, your possessions they have to store or disperse, and the memories you left them with. Joey had no idea he was going to die the way he did, but he lived with an eternal mindset knowing his days on Earth were always numbered. He proved this to me in his death by the fact that he prepaid as many of the bills as possible, and he structured the finances of his household to be dependent on my sister’s income alone.

My sister was used to trusting Joey with the finances, but she had to navigate through these muddy waters while also melting into tears whenever she looked at what Joey left behind. We developed a GoFundMe to help her through unplanned expenses, and several caring friends contributed. Nevertheless, she still had to find a way to handle life alone and without the income to do all the extras she could afford with Joey. In a moment, the red balloon of my free-spirited sister was grounded and all the joy was sucked out of her.

Everyone says that grief gets easier with time, but the truth is that it is different for everyone. One person loves intensely, grieves intensely, and moves on. Another holds on to memories and slowly opens the onion layers of their pain over time. Many more find their way through pain in a variation of something between both extremes.

When you are hurting and trying to find your new normal after loss, find someone who knows you and what you truly value and share your thoughts with them. You will need the accountability in the months and years ahead because your emotions will play tricks on you. One more thing: think twice before you throw your family under the bus in your anger. It is easy to lash out at the people closest to you and even feel justified doing it, but those words are hard to hear and even harder to step back. Even if you feel like you are the only person qualified to speak about loss and pain, you don’t have the right to silence another person’s pain.

I was never as close to Joey as my sister and her kids were, but I still grieved him more than I expected too. I still struggled for months to put my pain into words. At the time of writing this, it has been four months since Joey stepped out of this world and into the next. He is gone but still ever present with us through the smile of his son and a thousand other things he left behind.

If you have gone through the loss of a loved one or a young person, I share this very personal story to hopefully help you avoid making some of the common mistakes that have been made in times of grief and heightened emotions.

  • Let your pain draw you closer not push you away from your loved ones.
  • Learn to practice patience and transparency with people you can trust who were in your life long before the tragedy happened.
  • Be cautious about making big sweeping changes to your life. Even when you are happy, you are still in a stressed-out-emotional-survival-mode-crisis stage of life. Expect decisions right now to be based on emotions more than sound judgment.
  • Guard your tongue; think twice before you unleash all your hurt on those around you lest you scorch the earth you stand on too and end up causing yourself more trouble.
  • Let the grief have time to settle before you move on to someone new. It’s not fair for either of you to walk with the ghost of a past love standing between you.

A Life Interrupted

When you lose a loved one, it is hard to find the words to express what they meant to you in that moment. It is especially hard when they are young. Such was the case with my brother, Joseph Tallent.

You will hear more about Joey later this week, but today we want to share the poem written for his memorial. This terza rima is a celebration of his life.

by Rebecca J. Whitman

From the moment you entered the world,

you struggled for breath and light.

Life came to you unfurled

after four years of perpetual fight.

You looked around in awe and wonder.

The world–your oyster–now a beautiful sight.

You found joy in little things: sitting under

Yankees Stadium, traveling to see games, 

commiserating when they were torn asunder.

A second love took its claims

when you found the melody of strings.

You went to concerts, met famous names,

felt the inspiration and life that artistry brings,

and chose to perfect that skill as your own.

Playing music was a freedom that gave your heart wings.

Around NASCAR you had grown

faithful to the 3, 24, and 88

numbers your favorite driver had flown.

Managing numbers was your gifted trait.

You made financing dreams easy

by taking away the worry and weight.

You weren’t afraid to be cheesy.

You were fearless in frivolity–

carefree and breezy–

yet still a man of depth and quality

with deep convictions about faith and politics.

You invested time with shrewd equality

in relationships of trust not tricks.

You found happiness and love,

peace and rest from conflict.

You built a home and family to be proud of

but your dreams were cut short.

You’ve moved on to life in Heaven above

and we wait to reunite in that Heavenly court.

How To Navigate Singleness

“We are afraid to care too much, for fear that the other person does not care at all.”

— Eleanor Roosevelt

When I was growing up, I was a cute little blonde with blue eyes and curly hair and dimples. I had a cheery personality and everyone liked me–I had no problem making friends–but I was invisible to the boys. As I got older and into my dating years, I felt really self-conscious when I didn’t have a date. What was wrong with me? Why didn’t anyone ask me out? 

Being invisible became a real problem for my self-esteem. I compared myself to other girls and automatically assumed everyone else was better than me. I hated myself because I wasn’t the girl every guy wanted to get with. I hated other women because they were the girls every guy wanted to get with. In judging others, I perpetuated a lie that I was not good enough to be loved exactly as I am for who I am without any changes. The more I believed the lie, the more I trapped myself in hatred of myself and other women. The more trapped I was, the farther I fell from ever really seeing the truth. I WAS worthy of love…a truly awe-inspiring love story.

A Truly Awe-Inspiring Love Story

I’ve had a rough journey when it comes to love. I’ve been putting my heart out there and trying to trust guys for years, but every relationship or attempt at one leaves me burned.

I told myself that when I got to a certain goal or deadline, I would get back out there and try again. That moment came and went, though, and I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t sure I would ever trust again. Maybe I’ll just stay single, I thought. I started thinking about building a family through adoption, and I started making plans for a house of my own. Maybe a truly awe-inspiring love story is just not in the cards for me.

Take Time To Love Yourself

Being single can be the most miserable place to be–especially if you are relationship-oriented like me. The challenge, in this time is to keep telling myself it’s all going to be okay even when I don’t really know it is.

I try to fill my time with things for myself that I hadn’t been able to pursue before. For example, I was able to focus and finish my Master’s degree after a breakup. I have also spent the alone time to focus on ignored health needs and learn new skills.

It’s important to do healthy things that make your heart feel better too. Now is the time to read a mystery instead of a romance, watch The Crown on Netflix, finish a project, go somewhere new, and spend more time with quality friends.

“Personal development is the belief that you are worth the effort, time and energy needed to develop yourself.”

―Denis Waitley

Final Thoughts

I am not an expert on relationships. I am still figuring this out for myself too. But I know this much: you don’t have to be a perfect person to be loved, and just because your love life is a mess now, doesn’t mean it will be that way forever.

Give yourself some room to focus on you and get healthy.

Love will come when it is right and when your heart is healed and ready for it. When it does, be smarter from your past mistakes; don’t hold on to bad fish for years hoping they will get their lives together and stop stinking.

Dare to believe you are worth a love that will go the distance for you, and you just might be one of the lucky ones that finds it.

Plenty of Fish (POF) is Full of Nothing but Catfish and Sharks!

Updated January 7, 2022

POF is not a Christian Dating App

The longest relationship I have ever had started online through the dating app, Plenty of Fish (POF). Back then, the app was still new and lots of people I knew were meeting on it. The fact that the app referenced a fish (a known symbol of Christianity) made many of us think it was a Christian app. That Christian connection made you feel safe–even when it was the farthest thing from the truth.

Simple and Free Isn’t

POF started as a free app, and you could communicate with matches without payment. When this review was updated in 2022, many users claimed that you could not move forward with communication without paying for a membership.

Questionable Matches

My profile got a lot of attention. At first, it was intoxicating and self-affirming because I was no longer invisible and guys were messaging me from all over. What started as one nice digital complement, however, turned ugly. A few nude pictures and inappropriate invitations down the road, I was ready to leave the app. The same was true for the man that would become my boyfriend, but even he had enough problems that we couldn’t last long term.

Trying Again on POF

Five years down the road from my first experience with the app, I went back in for a new connection and had a totally different experience. Within 24 hours of going back to POF, I had over 50 guys messaging me, and the caliber of these matches was significantly upgraded. Most were men with good character, strong jobs, and handsome, athletic bodies.

There were still plenty of matches just looking for hookups, but they were outnumbered by the good fish claiming to want women with good hearts (not gym rats).

Setting Filters

I was overwhelmed with options, so I decided to establish filters for the matches I talked to. First, I asked all the tough questions about core values in the app itself. It was easy to say goodbye quickly and safely if we wanted different things; there would be no hard feelings. Next, I listened to what the matches chose to talk about. What a person treasures is revealed through how they talk. This filtering process helped me narrow down from 50+ matches to three.

Money Requests Change Connections

One day, one of the guys I had narrowed downed to asked me if I had a credit card. I freaked out, thought he wanted money, and told one of the other guys about it. That guy–who was overseas at the time–went out of his way to find a way to video chat with me from overseas.

I needed to video chat with my matches to see they were who they said they were. The fact that this one match was willing to do so while also on the front lines of military service made him quickly rise to the head of my pack. With more conversation, I was ignoring everyone else but him. I didn’t expect everything about him was a lie.

Reporting Liars is Not Supported

When Chris was a lie, I went back to POF to report him, but he was already gone. I tried to report the guy who asked for a credit card, and he was gone as well.

Angry about being lied to, I decided to stay on the app and see who would reach out again. I felt like bait tangling in a shark tank, but if I could snag a few bad fish and report them, I thought it would be worth it.

One day, I got a nibble. The next, a juicy bite. In a few short questions, I was identifying 5-7 catfishers and liars per day.

What Is A Catfisher?

Catfishers are people who take pictures of real people (often from their social media accounts) and pretend to be someone they are not online in order to create emotional bonds they can exploit for money. Sometimes they even promise to not ask for money, but that is a tactic used to build trust and make you offer it later.

Catfishers will say whatever you want to hear and be whomever you want them to be, but their conversations poke holes in their stories. First, they write in broken English. Then, the details don’t add up. One minute they are a saxophone player, the next a guitarist. They claim to be from a particular area but can’t accurately report the time and weather there.

Every word from a catfisher is a lie—sometimes plagiarized word for word from online—so do your research! Google what they tell you to see if it makes sense. If they claim to be military, make friends with some real military folks and ask questions.

Catfishers often claim to be victims of multiple tragedies. One guy told me his wife cheated on him with his best friend and got pregnant with him then she took his kid and left. He also claimed he lost his only brother and father in (military) service. That’s a lot of tragedy for one man to endure. True or not, tragedy inspires sympathy, and sympathy opens wallets. Be wary.

There are different levels of proficiency in the art of scamming. In my experience, novice scammers show their cards early; experienced ones are in it for the long game. They do their research and back up their lies with believable truths. They get you so convinced that you still have feelings for them long after you know they were a lie. This is how so many women across the world are hurt today thinking a service member wronged them (stolen valor).

What is a Shark?

Sharks are people that lie to you for non-monetary reasons. Most of the time these are the ones that send sleazy pictures and pick up lines late at night to try to get a quick booty call. Other times, these are the fish that lie about their relationship status or even their gender. They get a thrill out of baiting people. In the mildest of cases, it is someone pretending to be single when they are not. In the worst, it can be an entirely false persona.

One guy told me he was single when he was actually engaged. I contacted the woman supposed to be his ex and showed her screenshots of what he said. It’s up to her to decide what she will do with him, but I hope she values herself enough to not marry him. He was definitely a shark.

Another scenario I read about was even scarier. A guy was a big fan of a serial killer series, and he posed as a woman online to meet guys. When the guys went to where they were supposed to meet “her” in real life, the poser attacked and tried to kill them.

Resources to Help You Fact-Check

Use third-party websites to verify pictures, phone numbers, addresses, and more. I used at least three different websites to help identify catfishers and scammers and a fourth to report them. Some services are free, but most require payment. If you don’t want to invest in a service like this, at least Google search the name and personal information you are given.

https://socialcatfish.com/

https://www.truthfinder.com/

https://www.beenverified.com/

https://romancescamsnow.com

You should become layered in your online presence and vigilant about protecting your identity. To learn more about that and why it is important, read my article about how to protect yourself from catfishers on social media.

Leaving the Fish Tank For Good

When I went to POF the second time around, I had high hopes of finding love. Several catfish and shark later, I felt jaded. I couldn’t trust anyone. It got to a point that I didn’t even trust my eyes were looking at pictures of the same person I was talking to. My trust in people in general was bruised too.

I left POF for good. I haven’t looked back–not even to update this article.

As I was leaving, I was asked to complete an exit survey. The results of that said I was too “narrow-minded” especially in my “religious” desire to not have sex until I was married. If I had any doubts, that confirmed it: POF is not a Christian site. They went on to suggest that I needed to lower my standards if I wanted to find a match.

I went on other dating sites after POF, and they all have problems. That is a story for another day….

Stay safe out there!

The Dream of My Son

You would love my son.
When he was young, his black hair curled around his ears and bounced when he ran outside to play. He had long eyelashes that feathered his light skin like angel wings when he slept.
It was hard for my son to sit still–he was like his father in that. He was always on a mission to build the next fort, fight the next enemy raid, save the next princess, or build the next rocket to Mars. When his imaginary world wasn’t fully booking his time, he was in the garden or kitchen or studio helping me. He was always bringing me flowers or little drawings to make me smile. He was not the kind of son that troubles his parents; he was the one that lived to make them proud. My son’s imaginative and compassionate heart surpassed my wildest dreams for him.
You would have loved my son…if he were here yet.
Sometimes we dream about the future and what is yet to be. That’s the way my son came to me. I knew his name and his character long before I met the man that would be my husband. Though I have never held my son in my arms, I feel the joy and pain of his memory as if it had really happened.
I am not a mother.
Yet the dream of my son rests heavy on my heart denying the truth of that statement.
I am not a mother…yet.
This world is full of injustices:
One woman has an unwanted pregnancy while another tries for years to have one. One woman longs for a godly husband while another cheats on the good one she has. One child wants for nothing while another struggles to find a safe, happy home. One parent sacrifices everything to care for her child while another ignores hers to pursue her own selfish desires. Children are forced to act like adults in a godless world devoid of a moral compass.
All this angers me. All this grieves the heart of God too.
I am not old and yet, at my age, most of my peers are married with children having children now. If I think about it too much, I am easily angered by the fact that I am not there yet.
Why, oh God, do you give me the vision of a happy life, married, and my son…why my son!…when every year my body ages towards infertility or worse!
You may have said something similar to God yourself. God likes to remind me of Sarah every time I do.
Um, you know I made a dream like this come true for a woman in her 80s, right?
Oh Lord, please don’t wait that long!
But that’s the point: WAIT!
When the vision hasn’t happened, prepare your heart and life as if it were. That’s what it means to wait. Get ready in every way possible. If you can save money towards your vision, save. If you can get healthier, get healthy. Some complications and health risks in pregnancy can be avoided by losing weight and getting healthier before you are even trying to get pregnant. You’ll be thankful you put in the effort too when you try to chase around a toddler in your 80s…I hope that isn’t literal for any of us. 😉
During this time in our lives when we don’t really understand what God is doing or why we don’t have the hopes and dreams we planned to at this time, it is easy to start comparing ourselves to others and despairing at our lack. I like what a local friend and pastor said about this:
When you compare yourself to others, you rob yourself of what God is trying to do in your life. –Ryan Barbato
It is very easy to get caught up in comparisons and judgments of others, but we cannot change the world, we can only change ourselves. Furthermore, judging others fills us with resentment and anger about people and situations we don’t know all the facts about. God is writing their stories in the same way that he is writing ours, and he can make lemonade out of our lemons better than we can.
Maybe we need to start asking God to help us judge others from His perspective through eyes of forgiveness and love instead of holding on to our sour lemons.

Why Good People Die and How We Should Look At It

When I was growing up, my summers consisted of road trips across the country from North Carolina to Colorado. Through the Carolinas you could see rolling hills covered in evergreens and blue-purple mountains frosted in a thin layer of fog. The road west spiraled around steel arches in St. Louis and over paddleboats in the Mississippi river. The river ran wide and crossing it opened a whole new prairie landscape. Gone were the trees. Gone were the hills. Now we were driving through endless flat fields of grass and grain and corn. We were in the land of the cowboys and the setting of many western films that I saw as a kid. Before too long, we were in Colorado and pulling into my grandma’s yard.

Grandma’s house was the kind of house that always had room for everyone. Though it was just a three bedroom double-wide, beds sprung up from the floor and in the travel camper when family arrived. Some of the best memories of my childhood revolve around summers in that house with all my Kunau cousins gathered from Colorado and Texas.

The eldest cousin was also the only boy cousin, and we all looked up to him. We would run around the yard getting into grandpa’s garage full of junk, exploring the yard for Indian paint brushes, catching crickets, and digging up carrots in the garden. One year, there was a three wheeler to ride, and we all took turns letting Christopher drive us around the yard. It was excellent country-style fun.

My Aunt Glenda was the kind of woman who never left her room without her makeup on and her hair fixed. She was a true Southern lady. She was soft spoken in person, but she had a lot to say on paper. When we were apart, she wrote the most beautiful letters and cards to us. In these letters, she often encouraged me in my writing.

In 2007, she wrote, “make time in life for what gives you pleasure…writing is part of who God called you to be. Keep writing!”

This letter meant a lot to me. It inspired me as an artist, and I used it in one of my paintings.

I did not think it would be my last letter from her.

My Uncle Dennis was my mom’s eldest brother. He went off to Bible College where he met and married Glenda. The two of them spent many years in ministry together in Colorado, Carolina, and Texas. Most of this happened before my time. I remember Uncle Dennis more for his second career in security at the county jail.

My Uncle Dennis was a jokester. He loved the Three Stooges and often made similar facial expressions. He teased and joked more often than he was serious. When he was serious, there was profound depth to his wisdom and insight. He was also a gifted musician and played the steel guitar.

I remember Dennis and Glenda as two halves of the same whole. They worked well together and never seemed to have disagreements. Perhaps that is why we had to say goodbye to them together.

Saturday, October 6, 2018, Aunt Glenda went on to be with the Lord. She was only 69. Yesterday, October 13, 2018, Uncle Dennis joined her. He was only 66.

Though both of them had health troubles, it is hard to imagine losing either of them at such a young age. My cousins, Christopher and Charity, are shocked by the loss.

How can anyone find meaning in loss especially when it is the loss of both of your parents? What hope, what reason, could God have in taking them away?


The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.

Isaiah 57: 1-2

The legacy of righteousness is that there is no sadness left for us in dying. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, the God who made us. For those that follow Christ, death is only the beginning to eternal life in Heaven. Today, my aunt and uncle are having church in Heaven. They have joined the angels in singing praises to God. They are shouting hallelujah to the twang of a steel guitar.

Though they will be missed here on Earth, there will be a day when we will be reunited with them. This is the hope we have in Christ.

May we all live a life worthy of the righteous legacy, and may we be happily satisfied at the end of this journey.

True North: The Importance of a Father

Guest Post By Shelton D. Whitman

I still remember what it was like playing baseball when I was a kid. I’d walk out onto the diamond, step into the batter’s box, tap my number four Louisville slugger bat on the home plate, and look out toward the pitcher and the fields behind him. At that moment, I knew where I was and what I needed to do. There was no question. I was there to swing the bat and hit that ball and run through the bases. There wasn’t any time to question why I was there or what I was going to do. In a couple of seconds, a hard baseball was going to come my way traveling upwards of 90 mph.  

About five year ago, I had a stroke that ended up setting me back in a huge way in my health. My mobility was shot. My talking was severely challenged. I was a pastor and an accomplished singer, but all that was lost. Diabetes ravaged my body and continues to today despite my best efforts to control it. It produces sores on my legs that have sent me to the hospital many times. It has taken my sight and almost my life.

I’m wearing the highest level of reading glasses as I write this, and I still can’t really see what I am writing. I have cried out to God repeatedly, and I am sure he has heard my cry. Nevertheless, I don’t understand how I spent so many years doing all these great works for Jesus, and sometimes feel so disoriented that I can’t find my True North anymore.     

Life moves on quickly. Sometimes you are at the diamond knowing exactly what to do; other times you are in the hospital bed crying out to God for understanding. Changes happen every day. The things that are familiar and comfortable become the fond memories that get us through the tough times. Hold on to those memories. Hold on to all you know is true. THAT is your True North when the rest of the world is confusing. This life we live is an incredibly short trip; it is up to us to make the most of our journey and chart our course towards Heaven.


Shelton Whitman served as an ordained minister for over thirty years in Colorado and North Carolina. He was well known and loved for his smooth, Elvis-like singing voice and his fiery sermons. He retired early due to health issues, and now lives with his wife, Wanda, in rural North Carolina on the farm his father and grandfather started.

 

How Memories Help Overcome Loss

A Guest Post By Shelton D. Whitman
Desperation began with a strong urge to cry uncontrollably. It moved to a choking feeling, and I was suddenly overwhelmed. Emptiness echoed inside; I was lost in a tunnel crying out, “anybody here?” and hearing nothing back. Sometimes the sound of silence is the loudest sound of all.
As the seven strong young Army men of the honor guard from Fort Bragg went through their program to honor my dad, I struggled to keep my composure. They escorted his casket to the grave, played Taps on the trumpet perfectly, folded the American flag that had draped his coffin, and presented it to the family. They fired a 21 gun salute and picked up every shell. They carried my dad to the mausoleum he would rest in and sealed it closed.
At no time did I feel in control of myself. In fact, I was sure that I wasn’t even there. My mind just shut down. I guess it was trying to protect me. When the dam broke, a flood of emotions overtook me, and there was nothing I could do but yield. The tears flowed uncontrollably, and I made no effort to stop them.
My thoughts soon drifted to better days. I remembered happier times I had with my dad and two brothers out fishing in a cool, Colorado river or trolling down an eleven mile reservoir for Kokanee Salmon. I could hear the sizzle of the fresh catch as they fried on the pan over the open camp fire. The taste of their warm, salty meat hit my tongue as though I was there experiencing it all again.
I remembered walking for miles into the Meeker and Creede,Colorado to big game hunt elk and deer. We would start walking early in the morning when the air was so cold we prayed for sunrise to come ribbon across the mountain and thaw us. We would start the day with boiled potatoes in our pockets to keep our hands warm. Later, we would eat them for breakfast. I remembered the deep bellowing bugle of a bull elk and the way I stood in awe at his majestic silhouette. Our hunting trips were not always successful, but we had a tremendous time just being together and enjoying the adventure of the outdoors.
All of a sudden, I was back again–crash landed into the reality of what was happening now. This amazing man who had conquered wild game and worked hard to provide a good life for his family, this man who served multiple active duty tours in the US Army and was shot at and nearly died but survived, this man who seemed larger than life, this unending giant was being laid to rest. Ernest Shelton Whitman–my father–who had begun his life on this patch of soil in Duplin country, was being laid to rest in the same patch of ground he got started in.
Duplin county in North Carolina is largely a rural county. Chicken, turkey, and hog farms abound. The land is quilted in large patches of corn, cotton, tobacco, and watermelon. Trees form natural borders with neighbors and cluster around creeks and streams that snake jagged lines through the county. Modern day GPS devices often get lost finding the private roads and lanes that lead to peoples’ houses.
On September 27, 1938, a native son was born to Robert Steele and Ethel Whitman. Ernest Shelton was the third child born to them, and he was the second child to die following them. The death of Ernest Shelton Whitman reflected the life of Ernest Shelton Whitman. His wife, three sons, three daughters-in-law, six grand kids, and six great-grand kids looked on in shock and disbelief as wonderful words of honor, respect, and comfort were spoken to them. Pastors Jeff Dale and Doug Bartlett spoke very well. I am thankful for all those who stood strong with our family and helped us through such a difficult time.
I am the eldest son, and my recollections may be slightly different than the rest of the family. This day proved to be one of the worst days I would ever have to navigate. Much of the day just went by me; I just tried to remember to keep breathing. Over the next days, weeks, months, and years, the reality of all this would somehow be absorbed into the fabrics of our lives. We would learn to stand a little taller, hold on to each other a little longer, and fight a little harder to move on. I’m not sure how three years have already passed, but the calendar says it is true.
It still just doesn’t seem possible that he is gone. I still break down into an emotional mess at the mere remembrance of my father, a man larger than life itself to me. I don’t know why he is not there when I call his house fully expecting him to say, “hello, son.” I still vividly remember the last time I saw him alive. We were looking through his impressive collection of watches. He handed me watches, one at a time, his face beaming with pride and satisfaction as he told me about each one. Then he surprised me by presenting me with his much coveted Omega wrist watch. I was thankful and stumbling over my words; he was smiling and glad to have such a reaction. We parted each other’s company with familiar words: “love you, dad. See ya next time”. But there wouldn’t be a next time. I wouldn’t see him again until he lay dying in his hospital bed.
I don’t know how one goes on from something like this. I guess we have to just keep putting one step in front of the other, and try to remember to breathe. I can’t see the numbers on the watch dad gave me when I wear it, but I wear it anyway to remember him. My memories growing up with my dad have become more precious to me. Memories have great power to heal us. When I need to talk to my dad, I look back into those memories and think about the man he was and would be today if he could be here.


Shelton Whitman served as an ordained minister for over thirty years in Colorado and North Carolina. He was well known and loved for his smooth, Elvis-like singing voice and his fiery sermons. He retired early due to health issues, and now lives with his wife, Wanda, in rural North Carolina on the farm his father and grandfather started. He shares his thoughts on his blog at: https://sheltondwhitman.wordpress.com/

What Love Looks Like: A Biblical Perspective On Romantic Relationships

One day during my teaching career, a student came to visit during my office hours. This particular student had been struggling with more than her fair share of life issues, and it left her seriously questioning her identity and value. She had returned to self-harming as a result of the stresses in her life, and she was very angry at the people she said she loved. As she shared with me the depth of hurt and anger she is battling through, I felt God whisper in my heart: “How much love is enough love?”
I encouraged her to pour love, grace, and patience into the relationships challenging her–especially to the person she was most angry about. Then I felt the conviction myself.
In God’s eyes, there is no limit, no end, to love. Could I say I had been as forgiving, patient, or kind with my love? Probably not. I found myself looking at love in a whole new way.
The Dream and the Lie
Most of my youth was spent wishing for a handsome prince who would see me and pursue me like a precious prize to be won and treasured. I imagined him on a white horse in a suit of shining armor riding up to my front door. Then I imagined him in a long dark cloak blaring love songs from a boombox outside my window–total John Cusack 80’s style. When a man puts his heart on his sleeve and is brave enough to make his feelings known to a woman–when he risks public rejection and heartbreak to win her–it is a beautiful and powerful thing. I always dreamed of a love like this and never appreciated it when I had it.
Women today are more likely to cripple a man than to give him an opportunity to shine. We dumb down our standards and dress like dime store whores because we think that if we show more and ask for less, we will attract the Prince Charming of our dreams. We don’t just holler from street corners either; we go out seeking him. We chase men down and lure them in with deceptive double-talk and sensuality like we think a real man will want to be played more than he wants pure honesty.
Don’t Play Games
Real men don’t play games. Real men are honest and tender with hearts that crumble when they are lied to or cheated on. Real men have standards and attach like glue to a good woman when they find one. If their hearts are ever broken, they are twice as hard as a woman’s to rebuild because it is harder for them to trust again. Real men have a dream to be someone’s hero, but they doubt they will ever really meet the mark. They tell themselves they are losers more than any woman ever will. Real men have real physical needs; they might fall for a cheap whore for a moment, but the idea of marrying her and having kids with her repulses them. Real men need time with other real men. They juggle responsibilities to their jobs, their homes, and their hobbies, and they hope a woman will understand their need for downtime without being clingy or feeling ignored.
Treat a Woman as Treasure Divine
When a man gets the opportunity to love a woman the way she deserves to be loved and the woman reciprocates that love to him, the result is a love like what we see in Proverbs 31. The Proverbs 31 woman was greatly respected in the town. She was known for being wise, resourceful, and trust-worthy. The Bible says that her husband had full confidence in her–he trusted her–and he talked highly about her to everyone in town. When a woman gives a man the room to be a man, it unlocks a part of him he didn’t even know he had. Her encouragement inspires him to believe in himself and do more to provide for himself and for her. That’s what happened when Ruth gave herself to Boaz on the threshing floor. The love of a good woman gives a man wings to be the best version of himself. When he can rest in her love–when he can truly trust his love found a home with her–he will feel less like a loser and more like a hero in his own world.
Women Need to Nurture Superheroes
There is a reason why little boys dress like superheroes, cowboys, and sheriffs; they are hard-wired to fight for and defend something important. Little girls dress up as princesses not to be damsels-in-distress, but to be ladies encouraging princes to have something important to fight for and defend. Parents, let your little ones dream big dreams and pretend to be superheroes. Encourage their belief in themselves and in their importance in the world because they really ARE the key to saving the world. The very hope of the world–the message of salvation through Jesus Christ alone–rests on us. Boys and girls are meant to grow up and become real superheroes. We are Christ’s ambassadors, and God is making his appeal to all mankind through us Christians (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Furthermore, the love God has for each of us individually shows its fullest expression on Earth in the marriage of men to women.
Love Like Jesus
When I am closest to Christ through reading the Bible, prayer, and worship, I feel his presence wrap around me in tangible ways. He brings me flowers and chocolate and we sit and enjoy a sunset together. He brings me rain and cuddles up to sleep in with me. He pulls back my hair and whispers how beautiful I am in my ear. He helps me make the bed and encourages me that I can finish that quilt to make it up next time. He encourages me to try new things and challenge myself. He tells me a joke to hear me laugh. He shows me an array of colors to remind me that he is an artist too. He knows my deepest thoughts and longings. He holds me when I cry, and he’s brave enough to love me when all I have for him are shouts of “why?!” Christ loves me with a never-ending, patience. His love is a love that can’t get enough of me. He sees beyond me to what I will become, and he loves me despite all my failings. His love is the love I took for granted and never appreciated when I had it. The good news is that this love was ready and waiting for me when I turned back to it.
I believe that Christ loves me–and all who accept him as Lord–like this so I will have a tangible example of how to show his love to others. It was his idea that I made my apartment into a honeymoon suite for my sister and brother-in-law when they were first married and too poor to get away anywhere. It was his idea to leave special gifts in the mailboxes of my co-workers at Christmas. It was his idea to talk about love today because someone somewhere needed to hear these very words: God sees you, He knows you, and He loves you right where you are right now.
Dear single hearts, I challenge you to begin to celebrate the love of Christ in your life. Let him fill your heart with the wealth of his great love for you and teach you to be a whole person and happy in Him. My friend Bill Rose Jr. is writing about and teaching on this in his sermon series, “Vows”. I found it very helpful. You can check it out here.
Dear coupled hearts, I challenge you to begin to celebrate the love of Christ in your relationship. Let him fill your heart with the wealth of his great love for you and show you how to treat your mate like a treasure. Nurture goodness and virtue in your mate and see how that returns blessings to you as well.
Dear parenting and teaching hearts, I challenge you to begin to celebrate the love of Christ in your relationships with your children and/or students. Let him fill your heart with the wealth of his great love for you and show you ways to share that love with them. Let him show you ways to nurture greatness in them because your influence is far greater than you know or can see right now.
Dear lost hearts, if it’s been a while since you felt Christ in your life–or if you have never made that first step of commitment–I challenge you to begin your journey today. We live in a sinful world, but God chose to redeem those that believe in him through the death of his one and only son (John 3:16-17). We have all messed up and fallen short of the perfection and glory that is in God, but if you believe and confess that Jesus Christ is the one and only son of God, that he died to save you from your sins, and that he was raised to life again, then you will be saved (John 3:16-17; Romans 3:23; Romans 10:9). Let someone know about this new commitment! I encourage you to find a good Bible-teaching church where you can grow in your faith walk with Christ and find encouragement to leave your old ways in the past. If you need help finding a place to connect, or you want more information about Christianity, comment your concerns below.
Thanks for reading!

Breaking Up at Christmas

One Thanksgiving I was excitedly making plans for my boyfriend to come visit for the holidays. He was from out of state, and we didn’t see each other much. Coming together on a holiday was a BIG deal. It meant sharing families, sharing lives, and sacrificing traditions that were important to us. The deal was that he would come see me for Thanksgiving, and I would go to him for Christmas.

As excited as I was to have him come and share my home, though, I remember feeling pressured and embarrassed. My home was not fancy, nor was it as pristine and spacious as what my boyfriend was used to. I felt pressure to make everything perfect for his arrival, but there were some things I could not change. For example, I could not add on extra rooms to provide separate spaces for all the family coming home for the holidays. When my boyfriend stepped off the plane, he stepped into a whirlwind of holiday activities, cooking, and guests packed so tightly in that they were sleeping on couches and floors.

While he kept his polite composure through most of the holiday, he flew home, called me, and broke up with me thereafter. His reasoning went something along the lines of “we have too many different values” and “I don’t see this going anywhere”. I should have considered it a sign that I felt like I had to struggle to measure up for him. How can you really love someone when you are always looking through them to the person you want them to become? Still, I stayed and ignored all my own red flags until I had grown so acceptant that the breakup hit me like an unexpected car crash.

My head swirled from the accident, and I struggled for the right words to say back to him. I was convinced that only a coldhearted, miserly Scrooge would break up with someone at Christmas, and I poised and email to tell him just that. Before I hit send, I read it to my grandma. Grandma Irene was well known and admired for the fact that she never said an unkind word to anyone. She listened to my email, put down her needlepoint, smiled at me, and said that was not the way I should use my words. No matter how badly he hurt me, she said, I should not strike back. In the midst of my pain–and her own disappointment with the man that caused it, she encouraged me to check the motives of my heart and make godly choices.

Our lives are shaped by the choices we make, the opportunities we take, and the obstacles we shake.

Break ups are especially hard on holidays. Movies, stores, family, and friends all work overtime to find you someone to love and a box with a diamond ring in it for Christmas. But as much as we want to believe that only a Scrooge would break up with us at Christmas, that’s simply not true. There is no good time for a break up. When you know that a break up is inevitable, you just want to get it over with as soon as possible. In fact, it can seem even more cruel to hang onto a relationship through the holidays knowing all along that you want to break up with them. It can come off like you just held onto the person for more presents.

I love presents. Anyone that knows me knows I put a lot of thought into them. I search throughout the year for just the right gifts to buy at just the right deals, and I make handmade gifts too. I enjoy making gifts that surprise people and bring them joy. Most of my Christmases are ready before December ever arrives because I am on this perpetual elf duty. Some people say that holiday break ups happen to save money on gifts, but a break up at Christmas costs me time and money.

Knowing all of this, I still chose to break up a nearly five year relationship at Christmas. I loved the man with all my heart and planned to marry him. He was warm, romantic, and passionate and he loved me purely, the way a woman only dreams of. But for five years I listened to him promise me things and never follow through with them. For five years I watched him live his life in a circle; he was always fighting the same battles and never getting anywhere. I began to wonder if five more years with him wouldn’t just be five more years of circles.

When you love someone enough to plan a home and future with them, you don’t want to let them go. Nevertheless, when you have loved someone that seems to be a waste of your time, you are anxious to end it so you have the chance to find a working relationship elsewhere.

My Thanksgiving Scrooge wasted no time getting back on the market. He went online before the dust settled from our relationship and met another woman. He married and divorced her within a year of dropping me. He reached out to me, thereafter, asking for a second chance. Fresh from the break up, I would have said “yes!” in a minute. Years down the road, I had the insight to see that I didn’t want to be his wife number three. It’s funny how time has a way of bringing such clarity.

We talked for a while as casual friends after that. That was another thing we could not have done fresh out of the break up. When emotions are fresh and raw, talking to an ex just keeps the wound open and alive. You can’t heal and, nine times out of ten, you end up going back to him.

Loneliness creates a powerful hunger in a person. You will convince yourself things weren’t so bad and you’ll take back even the most abusive ex if you think it will save you from the dark abyss of loneliness.

I am old enough now to feel the tick of the biological clock and the fear of loneliness that comes with it. Most of my peers are married with children. Children are having children now before me. I feel dangerously close to spinsterhood in a house full of cats, yet I will not pick up the phone and text my ex or go see him again. As hard as it is to close the door to a man that passionately loved me, I have done it. Now what?

I have a lot of questions for God on this subject. Like much of my life, I felt God had a hand in my relationship. I was committed to working through our issues and getting married. I was committed to being patient with him to change. I was convinced this was what God wanted for me, and yet I couldn’t understand why God would saddle me with a man as disrespectful of my views as Hosea’s prostitute wife. I yelled and screamed at God for giving me a man that so repeatedly disrespected me.

Did you catch that? I loved a man so much that I stayed with him past all good Christian sense. I fought God about him and never once considered that all the warning signs were God’s voice telling me to leave not stay.

There is a thing in Biblical theology called the “revealed will” of God. It means there are things we already know are right and wrong because of the Bible, and we are expected to be obedient to those clear instructions. When we know the truth and don’t do it, we step in clear defiance of that instruction and build barriers around ourselves that block other opportunities from getting through. God’s specific will for our lives in relationships works in connection with the revealed will of His Word. More specifically, God is not going to ask me to stay in a dating relationship with someone that doesn’t honor the same values as I do, nor will he expect me to be patiently dating a man that is not actively pursuing God more than anything else in his life.

A break up is a horrible, heart wrenching thing, but it is also a learning opportunity. Every break up gives us the opportunity to evaluate ourselves, realize our strengths, learn from our weaknesses, and reset our priorities. With a truthful eye, you can evaluate your self and learn what kind of person you truly are. Analyzing the types of people you gravitate towards dating can also reveal your expectations and what you think you are.

I learned a lot about myself from breakups.

I learned I am a strong, beautiful woman with a big heart and patient endurance. I am an optimist, and I believe in what can be far more than what is. I have always doubted the transparency of my value, so I have settled for troubled men believing that they would rise to their potential…eventually. While it is true that people change with time, our love should be for who they are as they are whether or not they ever change. Unfortunately, I have not loved like that. I hope I get the chance to love better in the future.

In the meantime, I am determined to live as happy and fulfilled as I can as a single woman. I will surround myself with friends and family, and I will pursue my God-given purpose and leave it up to God to figure out the husband, house, white picket fence, and 2.5 kids. 😏

The Place Nobody Wants To Go

There is a little white folding chair in a little white room behind a little white wall that you do not want to sit in.

There are beautiful flowers you don’t want to see and kind words you don’t want to hear and tents and tissue boxes you don’t want to use.

There are mementos you never want to gather. There are military honors you plan for but hope to never see. There are bittersweet reunions and strangers and friends you’d rather not see.

Decisions happen quickly and permanently here. They are put down on paper, in a box, and sealed away.

You know the sun will rise again tomorrow, but you can’t feel it. You are numb…barely breathing.

Simple tasks stumble you, and simple tasks keep you going. There are still floors to clean, dishes to wash, and clothes to hang. Life goes on regardless of the pain you feel and sometimes that constancy is a propeller.

One moment you scream, the next you cry, the next you are happy and feeling guilty for it. It is a roller-coaster of emotions that make you feel crazy…but they are all normal.

You wait for the new normal now…the one post-loss, post-death, because nothing is the same as it should be or was.

There is a place you never want to go, a place you never want to see. It is the passing of someone you were close to and loved dearly.

You will never be ready for this.
There is no such thing as perfect timing for this, but it will happen to you.

I hope there is joy in your memories and hope in your future to see them again. In the end, that is all we have left.

May your faith in God grow strong and your home in Heaven brighter by those that goes before you through those Doors.