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Archive for the ‘FAMILY’ Category

Hope … that is the word on this first Sunday of Advent.

As we enter this season of waiting, we begin with hope …

because hope is what helps us to take one step, after another.

As I awoke this morning, I felt the heaviness of the day … it took effort to convince myself of the hope that is promised. I left to head across the country. I left my mom to do the things, internally and externally, that follow death. My heart aches for her, for her heartbreak, for her loss of her life’s love and the things that need to be done after a life is all done, buried. I felt hope slip through my fingers and toes, as I tried to imagine her grief, exhaustion …

like wandering through the wilderness.

That is what today, what hope is for … to help us put one foot in front of the other, as we walk that pilgrim journey through the valley of dark shadows.

The hope of the world is Jesus, from the first hints in the Garden to the manger in a dusty, dirty stable in Bethlehem. We put our hope in what we cannot see, Jesus, the very Son of God, the rescuer and redeemer of our weak and weary world. 

Jesus … the rescuer of those who grieve, those who are heartbroken … like a cane for the lame, he steadies, supports as we place the weight of our world on him.

I know it’s all you’ve got to just be strong,
and it’s a fight just to keep it together
I know you think that you are too far gone,
but hope is never lost

hold on, don’t let go
Just take one step closer,
Put one foot in front of the other
you’ll get through this
Just follow the light in the darkness
You’re gonna be okay

I know your heart is heavy from those nights
but just remember that you are a fighter.
You never know just what tomorrow holds
And you’re stronger than you know

When the night is closing in
don’t give up and don’t give in.
This won’t last, it’s not the end
You’re gonna be okay

“Out of the depths I call to you, Lord!
Lord, listen to my voice;
let your ears be attentive
to my cry for help.

I wait for the Lord; I wait
and put my hope in his word. 
I wait for the Lord”

Psalm 130:1-2, 5-6

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She looked at me, really looked at me, as if wanting desperately to burn what she was communicating onto my mind, for the great and significant truth of her message …

… when the kids are grown (this is where her gaze was locked on me) … when it is just you and your husband again, it’s (she paused, staring off into the thoughts in her mind, her memory) … well it’s just fantastic.” Then she smiled and walked away, leaving me standing there, trying to absorb the deeper meaning, that I knew that must be there.

But, I didn’t stand there long, because this conversation happened about seventeen years ago. Our kids were ten, five and three. I had just returned to working outside of the home. Hubby had made a change from Youth ministry to lead pastor work. We had a house (mortgage included), boarders, family support on the other side of the continent … and we were not even in the busy years yet!

I had forgotten about that random moment, until recently … until I had slid, unannounced, into midlife, with a mostly empty nest, a different-than-planned lifestyle, inch-long hairs growing (overnight) on my chin and a body temperature gauge with a split personality.

Circumstances in life have been unpredictable … physical and emotional changes have been frustrating … relationships have been unpredictable.

Yet …

The circumstances, added to the emotional changes, the emptying nest and the experience of half a life of living, have forged a stronger, more confident and pleasant life together.

I think we reach this midlife stage and realize it’s time to poop or get off the pot! Crap or get off the can!

(Anyone else hearing that old song by the Clash? Should I Stay or Should I Go?)

Basically, we reach midlife and realize we are at a crossroads and we have to decide which of the two roads we will traverse.

Do we keep going, the same as always before?
– we may end up regretting a life of the same old thing

Do we take the other road, walking away from the path and the person on it?
– we may regret throwing those years away.

Or, do we recognize that we have someone beside us who we have been walking alongside of for so long, that we don’t know how much we don’t know about each other?
– this can be an opportunity for adventure.

To take that third option is to create a new path, a new road in the wilderness only to find out that … it’s fantastic.

Here’s the thing, taking a new path requires decision-making from both parties. One hauling the other along will not have the same effect as two individuals moving forward together. That said, whose to say that the unknown surprises along the path might birth excitement and anticipation in the one who gets hauled along by the other.

Though my memory for words when I am speaking forces me into an odd, verbal variation of charades … Though my partners in crime may forget what I just told him this morning … when the kids are grown … when it is just you and your husband again, it’s … well it’s just fantastic.

I we shall be telling this with a (contented) sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two three roads diverged in a wood, and I we —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

Robert Frost (and I 😉 )

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I snapped the picture (above) from a large room overlooking the beach, with the sun low, and the sky lit up in spectacular color. I smiled as I walked into that room, not just because it was beautiful from my vantage point (through the window) but because I have been there before and I know that if I just step out the door, my senses would be rewarded with a sensory cornucopia that is unequaled.

What had started as following a blog turned into many months worth of marriage wisdom. That, in turn, resulted in our attending a marriage retreat, that just so happened to be at our favorite beach.

As I looked at that picture, I realized that our marriage can be similar to it.

The image was simply lovely to see, but, that is all it is … an image, a visual. I could be satisfied to just sit inside and look out at the beauty and I would be quite pleased. I could say I have seen Cannon Beach.

But, to experience Cannon Beach, I need to open the door, walk the beach, gaze at Haystack Rock, visit Bruce’s Candy Shop and the Haystack Bakery, enjoy a cone of Tillamook’s Marionberry ice cream …

I need to participate in all that is available …. I need to taste and see that the Lord is Good! (Psalm 34:8)

We can be married, be committed and still live our own, individual lives … our marriage can end up being just an image, a legality.

Or, we can open the door and participate fully in the relationship we have with our spouse … fully loving, fully cherishing each other as the gift that they are to us.

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Every day that we awaken with inhaling the breath of life in a new day is worth celebrating. That breath (every breath) is a gift worthy of celebrating. Now when that breath comes on the day of one’s birth … it’s time for a party.

Today our family gets to celebrate our first born daughter, for today is her birthday.

As I think of who she was as a baby, a toddler, a child and who she is today, there are so many similarities. So, baby girl, let’s walk down memory lane …

As a very young child, you were always looking to see if we were looking at you, watching your actions and antics. You cared then and you care now how others see you. Perhaps this comes from that first born, people-pleasing personality. Perhaps it is an innate human need to hear someone say, “well done.”

From a very young age, you were a defender of the marginalized, from your preschool days of sticking up for a kid being excluded by others in a restaurant play area to working with street intrenched youth and women with addictions. You are one who cares for the “least of these.”

I remember the day I changed the curtains in your bedroom, when you were at preschool (you knew this story was coming). You were not happy, not comfortable with this change of decor. Appreciation of consistency, of ritual is part of who you have always been. This unique trait helps you in your work to train teen to be leaders … consistent leaders who do not change with the season, but who hold fast to foundational habits that grow integrity, trust and responsibility. You are like “a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.”

Here’s the thing, baby girl … don’t forget that your value isn’t in perfection, or what you do for others, or consistency …

your value is who you are,
because you are
a real, living soul …
dreamed and created
in and by the God of your soul.

There is nothing to do, no one to do for, and no expectation of following a prescribed method that will increase or improve your value. You are and always have been a child of God.

You are valuable because you exist. Not because of what you do, or what you have done, but simply because you are.” Max Lucado

Happy birthday, baby girl, we love you so very much and pray that this is the beginning of a great new year for you.

“For the Spirit of God has made me,
and the breath of the Almighty
gives me life.”

Job 33:4

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A mum cannot separate her adult son, travelling halfway across the world, from the little boy who stole her heart a million years ago (okay, so maybe more like twenty, but … you get my point).

Though I wrote this post days before his departure, I know that on Friday, as he walked through the departure gate, ticket boarding pass in hand, my heart was struggling to not leap from my chest. I know that, because, as I write, I am already feeling the lump form in my throat and the tears … they slide down my cheeks.

And today (Saturday) you will touch down … Down Under.

“I am so excited for you” (I am already missing you).

“How exciting that you get to go to New Zealand” (could you choose a location farther away?).

“This will be a life-changing trip” (you will come back changed).

“You will have so many great experiences” (you won’t be with us this Christmas).

“I am going to miss you” (I am going to miss you).

Through all of my selfish thoughts and feelings, though, I cannot look at my adult son and do anything but encourage him to go and have this experience. I prayed for opportunities like this one … opportunities to stretch him, to take him to far off places, opportunities …

to know God
and to make Him known.

That is what we hoped and prayed, for him, when he still was that little boy, manipulating my heart.

So, we stay here at home, while he does what we dreamed for that little boy … that he go his way. And in his going, he will come back again to share his discoveries and joys with us. Our role now, as parents to the adult son, is to support and encourage him.

Go with God, my boy-man son.

“So now go with the wind at your back
And the sun on your face
With a song in your heart
And the promise of grace
Go in peace and in truth
And let love lead your way
Go with God”

Carolyn Arends 1999

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If I think back, I can remember the moments. Answers to prayers prayed in the early hours are those memories of holding you on the sofa, by the pitch black night sky, listening to you drink your fill, smiling at your soft-skinned face, your infant head cupped in my hand. I remember saying to our Creator, begging of him, please burn this moment into my memory,

please do not let me forget this babe in my arms, when he grows up.

Scraped knees, after school snuggles, swims in the pool, football games, too many superhero movies to count, thousands of Lego pieces (all over the house), stinky teenage boy smells (yours and all your friends), shared love of chocolate and sushi, a week each summer together at camp, deep theological talks and here we are … twenty years since those feedings in the early morning hours.

Twenty says adult like no other birthday. It says it even more loudly when the birthday boy is making adult decisions … on his own. Owning up to those decisions … whether preparing for a big trip or paying a big bill.

And that is what you are, my baby boy … an adult. Gone are the days of cries for mom, gone are the days when I was the go-to for your every earthly concern … and that is just as it should be.

I am thrilled and proud of how you are adulting. I am particularly pleased that you are learning to make no promises of perfection, but you are owning up to the mistakes, the struggles, the challenges. Mister, if you could master this early in your adulting, the rest of your years will be so much richer.

I will cherish those memories with you as a babe, but I cherish even more who you are choosing to be, how you are choosing to live.

Other than I love you (I love you, I love you), there is no better message to leave you with, this birthday, than the one that haunted me throughout my entire pregnancy with you:

“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint
.”

Isaiah 40:28-31

Now, adult son, go run that race.

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It’s half over …

was my sorrowful thought one day this summer, as I lay in his arms, head on his chest … my place in our world.

Thirty years of marriage have now come and gone.

Thirty years, three provinces, seven homes, numerous work places, eight pregnancies, three children … adult children now, good days, bad ones, seasons of plenty and those of want, health and sickness … mutual love and disdain at time too.

But today, as we celebrate thirty years of living under the covenant of promises that were both kept and broken (’cause there is none who keeps such lofty vows perfectly) I keep thinking, as I did that day this summer …

it’s half over
and I feel the weight to make the best of each day that is left …

be it thirty years, or more, or much less.

To know that you are entering the second half, is to know the value of what you have spent the first half fighting for, because now dawns the realization that together is not forever.

I have started to awaken to realities, since that summer day in his arms. That dinner for two is less about the food, and more about the two. That rolling over in bed, in the middle of the night, is an opportunity to whisper I love you. That driving together in silence can make you smile, just for the pleasure of being together. That the sounds of football (baseball, hockey … ) are indicators of his presence. That touch still creates shivers. That thank-you can’t be said enough. That the season of dreaming together isn’t over until we return to dust. That it’s not too late for ________ (fill in the blank) … yet.

The gift of thirty years of marriage is that each remaining day is sweeter, more valuable … not a moment to be wasted by attitudes or actions that could only bring regrets. This is the season for adventures for just two, for shared laughter and private jokes, for kisses that linger and amen whispered each night.

The gift of thirty years of marriage is waking up, thankful for the day together.

“Grow old with me
Let us share what we see
And oh the best it could be
Just you and I
And our hands they might age
And our bodies will change
But we’ll still be the same
As we are”
Grow Old With Me – Tom Odell

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