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Archive for the ‘FAMILY’ Category

Forty-nine years ago my parents spoke their vows, exchanged rings and sealed them with a kiss. This happened after a short engagement, in an old stone church, surrounded by family and friends.

Forty-nine years of for better … or worse, richer … or poorer, health … or sickness. Forty-nine years of love, and arguments, and silence, and disagreements, and children, and inlaws, and bills, and holidays and memories … so many memories.

They married, but their marriage did not begin as two, for my two-year old self was there to keep them from focusing too much attention on the other. Fifteen months later their son followed and twenty-six months another son.

There were numerous dogs and cats and even a few fish (but NEVER anything from the rodent family … NEVER).

In forty-nine years there were only two homes, one built by my dad’s father, the other a new home in a neighborhood with other young families. One phone number … just one.

They raised us kids, just like they were raised. Fed us what they had been fed. Spoke words, rules and wisdom that they had been given. Disciplined us as they had been disciplined.

In their house there was always yarn, cheese and the daily newspaper. Hockey ruled the TV most evenings and closed eyes were no indication that it was okay to change the channel.

The vegetables were peas, beans or corn (or all three at once). Most meals were made in quantities that would last much of the week and appeared in casserole dishes.

Physical ailments could be fixed with Vicks Vapo Rub, Absorbine Jr. or Polysporin. Home improvements could be fixed with a nail, tape (copious amounts of tape) or wallpaper.

Christmas morning always started before the sun even imagined rising and has always included a green tree. Birthdays were never without a cake, candles, ice cream and a call to serenade the birthday girl or boy (woman or man) with Happy Birthday singing. Spring was not spring without pussy willows. Hot summer days were for potato salad (with peas). Hot summer nights would hold the possibility of a drive to Sussex or the village for ice cream. Soap operas were enjoyed by both partners (though one wasn’t as quick to admit this truth).

One spent too much money when out, the other spent too much time away at the ball field (for better or worse … so the vows say and is the reality of marriage between humans).

In recent years summer evenings were spent on the swing, looking back, looking forward.

But there are other memories. Ones a daughter or son do not remember. Ones of just the two, in their wandering through married life together. They are the spectacular memories of words said and life lived that only one other person on the planet shares. These memories of joys and even heartbreaks bring wordless smiles and tears.

Memories of a long marriage are sure to awaken us all to the brevity of life.

It is in looking back that the preceding years seem to have gone in a flash. These memories of marriage are what we hold on to. They are the gift and the offering wrapped up together … the offering in their original experience and a gift when looking back at life and love shared.

The Bible says that marriage is a mystery. Maybe the memories of a long marriage are the unravelling of the mystery, slowly reminding us how fortunate we are to have these mental souvenirs of the past.

And, even though health may fail, though life here may have an end, the memories live on in our minds, in our hearts and even in the generations that are woven into the marriage story.

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I have hit that stage, as a woman, that hubby and I used to refer to as PMW … the post menopausal woman … children have grown to adulthood, no grandchildren, but there is a twinkle in her eye when she sees a little one.

Don’t worry … I am not quite at the yearning for grandkids stage, but I am more aware of the reality of the saying

the days are long
but the years are short.

Lately there seem to be littles at every turn. Friends with newborns, children who stop to chat when I am outside, the cutie who comes to our church food bank, whose smile melts my heart.

With each turn I hear the words, the voices of women my current age (the PMWs),

“time goes so fast”
“just savour every minute”
“don’t rush them to grow up”
“you’ll miss this stage when they grow up”

The thing is, I was never a baby-person. Oh, I loved my littles with my whole, entire momma heart, but I had babies so as to get teenagers. So, when they were (finally) teens, making me the happiest momma around, I just didn’t relate when the PMWs would say,

“don’t you wish they were still little?”

and I would smile and say, “nope.”

Yesterday I was emptying a cabinet and rediscovered the framed images from my kids childhood. My heart ached a bit as I looked at their little faces, remembering small hands in mine, busy and demanding days, sweet bedtime snuggles, stories and prayers.

But my ache, the source of the lump in my throat … it wasn’t because I long to go back in time to their childhood, but because I hoped that I had savoured the moments I was in, the moments of their years as littles.

Then, as if the young, exhausted, pulled-in-every-direction momma I was back then, was standing behind me, whispering in my ear, I heard her youthful wisdom say,

“time still goes so fast”
“savour every moment with them as adults”
“don’t rush them to the next stage of adulthood”
“you may, one day, miss this stage they are in now”

And so, I am going to take the wisdom of younger me … not long for the future, not yearn for the past, but just enjoy the gift of today. I may not see or speak to them daily, but I can take every opportunity to listen actively, to encourage them, to take every chance to speak words and actions of love to their hearts. I can pound on the doors of heaven for them each day.

For, these days too can be long, but the years are also short.

“Look carefully then how you walk,
not as unwise but as wise, 
making the best use of the time …”

Ephesians 5:15-16

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This morning, someone I love will begin to emerge from a valley of shadows.

Chemo and radiation treatments come to an end. It is a day that signals the faint but growing light at the end of this dark tunnel … this valley.

Just three months after our dad died unexpectedly, the oldest of my two younger brothers was told that he may have cancer. A month later that possibility was confirmed. Another month later, treatments began. Now, nearly two months later, he will walk out of radiology, hopefully for good.

In the midst of all of that, he had to have all of his teeth removed (due to the radiation treatments). Covid 19 introduced the world to social distancing, eliminating the support of his partner at medical appointments, counselling and making it more challenging to get transportation to medical appointments. It also restricted the freedom to travel (how I would have loved, would love to be there to help his family).

It was a solitary valley of dark and menacing shadows.

The side effects of the ‘cure’ were dreadful for him … for them, for his family were also subjected to the effects of such powerful treatments. They had to endure his physical exhaustion, the emotional rollercoaster and vile sores in his mouth and throat that made even drinking water an agonizing torture. They have watched his body mass decrease by over 15%.

It is as though, the completion of his treatments are the first signal in over seven months that our hearts can begin to emerge from the valley of shadows.

I have heard many whispers of Psalm 23:4 :

“Even though I walk
through the darkest valley …”

Some versions say, “yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” …

Death is what one thinks of when we hear the word Cancer. It doesn’t matter our age, our situation in life, the type of cancer … we all know of someone who had cancer, who died, So, when we hear it as a diagnosis our minds rush to that scenario … contemplating what we will miss, who we will miss.

I am certain that for our entire family, who were still wandering in the shadow of our father’s death, for whom death still had a presence, a personality … his diagnosis caused fear to raise it’s ugly head.

What a season it has been for him, his partner, his kids, mom and all the rest of us who cheered him on from the sidelines. It has not been easy. As he said to me just yesterday, “it was a good cancer, because it is so treatable.” Yet, a good cancer makes me think of the impossibility of being kind-of pregnant … it’s still cancer. And this ride has been so rough and in this time of pandemic, it has been made even more challenging.

Yet, here he is … walking through this valley, taking in the poison that is his medicine, enduring agony to eliminate the pain. Utilizing every bit of strength to get through each day, while this valley takes everything out of him.

Congratulations, brother! You made it to the end of this leg of the valley. You’re not at the very end yet, and there will still be a bit more stumbling in the dark, but the light is shining in.

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Psalm 23:4

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He hasn’t been ‘daddy’ since I was quite young, but I will still always be a daddy’s girl.

He chose me … not really knowing who I would become, the choices I would make, or even if I would chose to love him back … that is father love that parallels the love offered to us all, through Christ, in our God.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” 1 John 3:1

God, the father to all, the father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5) will love us when there is an earthly absence of a father … of a good father. God is a father who loves with an unconditional love. He can fill the void that some feel on this day of celebration of the love of a father … the void of who we were because of a father’s love.

A few months ago I wrote of the grief of loss as not only that they are gone, but so is the part of you that was loved uniquely by them. It is the loss of a person, a relationship, a part of who you have always been … with them, in them, through their eyes.

I have always been his daughter … cared and sacrificed for, taught about life and living, chosen and loved as his own. It is hard to explain how it feels to have always known that you are so loved, to have been confident that there is no one and nothing that could ever change that love … not driving the car in the ditch, not even moving to the other side of the country.

Today I will feel it … the absence of it all … his presence, his voice, his acceptance, his unconditional, chosen love. The void leaves me aching with memories and missed opportunities.

Most of all, today I will miss who I was in his eyes, in his presence.

I was his daughter …

Though I am loved beautifully by my husband and kids, my mom and others who I hold dearly, today I remember, with thanks, the man who loved me enough to call me his own …

Today …

I ache for who I was in the eyes and heart of my dad …

every part of my life changed because of his love …

and every part of me is lonely for him, for my identity in and through him.

I am still just a dad’s girl and I miss him so.

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So, here in Canada, May 6-13 is Mental Health Week, Sunday, May 10 is Mother’s Day and, to top it all off, this weekend marks eight weeks of self isolation due to Covid 19.

A trifecta is three events that make for a perfect result … I am not so sure that this weekend is so perfect. As a matter of fact, I have been noticing moms lately, pondering how this self isolation might be affecting the mental health of moms, at the various stages of the mom life.

I have been thinking of the moms of littles. They are frequently out for a walk, pushing littles in strollers, carrying them on their backs or at their fronts, holding tiny hands. Their days begin as the sun is lightening the horizon and though their littles might go to bed in the early evening, their nights are frequently interrupted with feedings, changes, soothing and rocking. What a time this is for those moms, with days so full of activity and questions and physical care … with no relief from grandparents, aunties or babysitters. Some have the benefit of a partner with whom they can share the load, but then there are also those who are trying to balance caring for their children while still working, in the same house.

Then there are the moms of school aged kids, who are trying to manage the full house of social distancing, potentially working from home and now, being the tutor that they never signed up for (at least, not knowingly) … all while trying to keep up with the social pressures to learn how to make sour dough bread and Dalgona (whipped coffee). These moms have patience that are being tested and tried every waking hour (their kids outlasting them at days end). The only hope for these mommas, for a break, is to set their alarm for an early hour, before their kids awaken, so that they can pull their tattered brain cells back together, for another day of endless cooking, technology-managing, homework-overseeing, sibling-peace-keeping.

At the far end of the spectrum are the grandmas and great grands, sitting alone in their homes, their care facilities, the hospital. They might be feeling a very real sense of fear for their lives. A fear of their own, their kids and society as a whole as they are perhaps the most at risk of this disease being a threat to their very life. They were lonely before Covid forced us to keep our distance from them. Their days are filled with quiet, little social or physical interaction, time. They long for a visit, a call, a touch.

Then there is the empty nest stage mothering (the one I am currently 2/3 of the way into). Our kids are mostly independent, living their own lives. Our days are largely our own, or occupied by work in some form. We might long to visit our own mothers and grandmothers, to encourage them, help to pass the time, give them a hug. We might ache to help our own kids as they manage life at home with their newborns, their busy children, their socially-starved teens. Maybe we just long for the freedom and safety to embrace our kids again.

For all of these stages of mothering, this is tough time to mother. It is exacerbated when anxiety, depression or other mental health challenges are part of everyday life (for the mom, a child, or spouse/father). Mental health struggles have no boundaries due to gender, age or stage of life. Mental health issues are much like a virus during a pandemic … there is no one immune to it’s touch.

The combination of a special day, social isolation and mental struggles can be just too much for some moms, who are weary, lonely and/or dealing with their own, or their loved one’s mental health struggles.

Maybe what we need this Mother’s Day is understanding that mothering is hard right now. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t joys and delights, that the chests of mom’s aren’t swollen with love for their children, just that, for many moms, it is hard right now.

So, let’s love on our mom’s this day.

Maybe the real trifecta is faith, hope and love. A verse more commonly pulled out at weddings than Mother’s Day. But right now, those are what all mothers, all of us need more of.

May we all look to mothers, to ourselves with those three words. May we all look to God as we struggle through this time, as mothers and as children of them.

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This week I was delighted to see a photo of my maternal grandmother in her ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) uniform from WW2. She had told me stories of being a cook during the war, but I don’t think I had ever seen her in uniform. Another image of my maternal great grandparents came with a note into their personalities, their relationship … it made them come alive.

“Photographs are a bridge to the past. Black and white reminders of the way things used to be. Links to those who are no longer with us. Priceless treasures.” – Jim Starlin, Batman: A Death in the Family

It was a delight to see this (and other) images posted by a relative in Scotland.

Then another friend was musing about her boxes of photos, what to do with them, as so few people want these photos from the past.

I understand what she is saying. As an avid thrift store shopper I have noticed that more and more, photo frames and albums for sale that still have images of their previous owners in them. The dated clothing and faded colors disposable to their previous owner.

“A good photograph never belongs to the past; every time you look at it, it is with you, it is alive and it is in the present moment!” – Mehmet Murat ildan

Yet …

The blood, the history that lead to me is important to me. Maybe it is partly because, with each birthday, I feel my own mortality and it causes me to wonder, will I be remembered by those who come after me? Will the life I have lived matter to those who follow, whose cells share my DNA?

One day, I will cross the big pond to meet these relatives who I have only heard of and I will ask them to introduce me to the heartbeats, the personalities and lifestyles of family I only know through a sparse collection of images.

“Look at the people in the very old photographs! They are gone forever but they still can give us messages with their eyes, they still can touch our hearts with their looks and they still can give us courage with their standing upright!” – Mehmet Murat ildan

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Well, baby girl, this is going to be a different birthday for you … one you will remember and tell your kids and grandkids.

I will deliver your gifts (at an appropriate distance) and probably a McCain Deep’n Delicious cake (because that’s your favorite). You will receive your annual birthday call of Grammie singing Happy Birthday, a birthday gift from Gramma and Grampa added to your bank account (hello Amazon), numerous calls, texts, messages and chats.

But I won’t be able to hold you in my arms, inhale the scent that is you and whisper ‘I love you’ so that just you and your heart hear mine.

As I thought about your twenty-third birthday, I kept coming back to thoughts of the months of expectation, the first days and years after your birth. So many minute and personal details that, perhaps, you don’t know.

It was 1996 when we discovered that we were expecting … again.

Though you are our second child, you were our seventh pregnancy. The losses between the birth of your sister and yourself each broke our hearts, adding layers of calluses that your arrival helped to fade.

We had just moved from Ottawa, Ontario to North Vancouver, BC.

We had gone from home ownership to renting, from established community to everything different, from big sky to tall mountains, from four season to two … summer sun and months of dark monsoons, from quiet suburbia to the nightly echoes of sirens off the nearby mountains, from only a days drive to visit family to a day of flights (and prohibitive costs), from established friendships to knowing only one family (and really it was only your dad who knew them). Everything about life was different!

It wasn’t long, after confirming your existence, that, once again, there were signs that we might never hold you in our arms. Every twinge in my abdomen, every trip to the bathroom could be a catastrophic sign of your demise. Each day was a threshold of celebration and fear.

All was not dark and fearful in those nine months of waiting for your arrival. On New Year’s Eve your dad and I got to hear the Three Tenors (Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, and Luciano Pavarotti). We explored the beauty of the North Shore Mountains, walked with new friends in the sun or the rain, tasted scones and Scottish shortbread that could bring tears to your eyes, learned bits of Afrikaans language, food and hospitality, learned to love living in a diverse and multicultural community and made friends.

You were born the year that Mother Teresa, Princess Diana and James Stewart all died … the year Kylie Jenner and Malala Yousafzai were born. 1997 was the year of the Titanic, George of the Jungle and Air Bud. The year when Caillou and Teletubbies premiered.

You were born blue and silent … silent for what seemed forever, before you discovered the breath of life, the power in your lungs.

It was the Saturday after Easter, on a sunny, warm day, with Magnolia trees fully in their glorious bloom.

We cried, we laughed. Held you close, ran our fingers across the fine copper hairs on your head, face and back. You were quiet and delicate, frail. You would stretch and wriggle as if needing to work the kinks out. We were in deep love and appreciation.

Your sister arrived soon after, with eyes of love and adoration (and intent on leading you all the days of your life).

You loved people from the very beginning. Young and old … all people. You wooed the elderly with your acceptance of them.

And then were the creatures … any creature would do and you wanted to touch them all.

And the painting and crafting and creating … always an endless supply of refrigerator door art at my disposal, from you!

You were born, in a hospital encircled by magnolias. Like them, you were delicate, soft, gentle to the eye … but what they and you are made of, on the inside, is strong structure that scaffolds your life. It is the fragility of who you were made to be that makes you strong, capable, fearless …

lose that scaffolding and you will lose your life’s greatest strength.

“Oh, we are not as strong
As we think we are
We are frail
We are fearfully
And wonderfully made”

Rich Mullins (We are not as Strong as We Think we Are)

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Ever had a virtual birthday party? Last weekend was a first for our family.

With hubby’s job being one with daily exposure to senior citizens, our concern for the well being of those at risk prompted me decide that a virtual connection might be best to celebrate my birthday.

So, with the combination of a video conference call from three locations and my mom ‘seeing’ us from a Messenger video call, I was serenaded by my loves to Happy Birthday. We ate our individually made mug cakes, laughed at our corporate technologically ineptness and experienced a new form of togetherness … in a time of Coronavirus.

We might have to get creative, but life can still be fully lived in this time of Coronavirus.

For me, I have now been home for a week (originally part of a two week Spring Break). It is interesting how quiet life has gotten. There are the morning walks with the Wonderdog, doing a jigsaw puzzle, canning red pepper jelly, watching a show, texting friends and family, ordering groceries online and having them loaded into my vehicle and chats with family.

In all of it, life is being fully lived.

I have heard of neighborhoods and communities who have left messages of hope with chalk on sidewalks, hearts and rainbows in windows, items left in windows for neighborhood scavenger hunts for those with children who need a diversion. I have heard of people doing errands for their neighbors and sharing resources.

Life is being fully lived.

Though the doors of most churches and places of worship may be closed, technology allows us to gather (even in our pj’s) around a screen and hear the word of God preached. We can still sing and pray, corporately. We might even have the privilege of meeting as a small group to pray, to study and to encourage each other.

Life is being fully lived.

As we are increasingly confined to our homes, during this time of Cornonavirus, may we continue to live our lives with the same purpose, drive and joy as before … and increase our commitment to creatively caring for and encouraging others.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full.”

John 10:10

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and guess what?

it never went anywhere

“The Lord bless you
and keep you
make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you his peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26

The blessing given by the Lord to Moses, saying: “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel” (v. 23). It is known as the Aaronic blessing and, although said to many people at one time, is believed to actually be received by each person as a personal blessing from God, himself (they are his words, after all).

This blessing has such meaning to our family.

It has been the blessing of dedication for each of our children (the one we, as parents whisper into the night), one that was a nightly lullaby when they were so very wee (above) and the benediction of blessing that hubby offered to congregations for so many years …

I cannot hear it, read it, without seeing him, in my mind’s eye, lifting hands and repeating this blessing to the “people of God” (POGs, as I would joke).

The thing is … it has become harder for me to hear, to receive, even to speak since that season of life came to an end.

Then I heard a new song (like only days old, kinda new … video below) that somehow helped me to hear and receive this blessing as, I believe, God wants us to hear it …

as a blessing, from God, spoken to Moses, for each of the children of Israel, but also for me … for you … right now, wherever we are.

There was something about this line:

the Lord turn his face toward you

The Lord turn his face toward you …

Remember, these are his words, so there is no mistaking them. He wants us to be blessed by his turning to us …

He, the God of creation, of this world and the one to come …

turns to us …

think about this …

think.

about.

this.

God is turning his face towards us.

Like a parent who looks into the face of their child to assure them that they are not alone, to remind them of how loved they are, to bond and attach to the one who is theirs …

This is part of the blessing.

Today our fab five family will reunite after almost six months apart … a fresh reuniting. And my momma heart will be receiving and sharing the blessing that has been here all along … just like a parent who ever turns their face to their child … the blessing … it never went anywhere.

“May His favor be upon you
and a thousand generations
and your family
and your children
and their children
and their children”

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I was recently asked if our son being away was as bad as I had thought it would be, while he’s off in New Zealand and Thailand with a Christian missions and outreach group. I replied that it was hard to let him go, I have had moments when his presence was missed and I cannot wait to see him.

but …

it’s been okey,

he is where he ought to be,

doing what he ought to be doing …

living his life,

always close to my heart,

but independent of me.

That is the stage we are at in life … it’s the season of cut and release.

I have to say, I like this stage of life … semi-empty nesting … kids into their twenties, no longer directed by us, dependent on us, except in their choice to be. I have no inner ache to go back in time, though I have warm memories of the seasons past. There are things I wish that I had done differently, but we live and learn, from our successes and failures.

Parenting is all about
more God, less me.

That is what this stage has been reminding me … that I am the hands and feet (and heart) of God in this parenting adventure … I do not, nor have I ever, possessed my children. They are and have been and will continue to be a gift to my life, but they are not my life and I am not theirs.

A friend recently said, “I thank God that he was ultimately in control and corrected my mistakes. My children survived and God is still not finished with us.”

” … and God is still not finished with us” … us, not them. For we are all are learning and experiencing life, as we live intermingled with our kids. Our kids are not at the end, nor are we … we are all God’s work in progress.

Our kids are, have been and will continue to be in the capable hands of the same God who allowed us to share in their adventure called life.

I am so thankful for where this adventure has taken us, so far … but I cannot wait to see what is around the next corner … for our kids, as well as for hubby and I, as we all continue to live under the care of God … acknowledging that parenting still has to be more God, less me.

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