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Archive for the ‘FAMILY’ Category

As our household moves toward empty nest, I find myself frequently assessing my parenting years (not that they have come to a close, but referring to those years of parenting children).

We have three fantastic, adult kids. They are all contributing members to society, who have deep empathy with and compassion for “the least of these”. Each one is fiercely independent, in their own way. They also all still connect with me, face to face, by phone, by text … a reality I view as a blessing to be thankful for every day.

As they move forward into their own lives, I find my self-assessment, as a parent, falling below the passing line.

There was a time when I (arrogantly) patted my parental back, praising myself and my efforts for the good job I was doing as a mom. I thought all the successes that they were achieving were because of the investment I was making in them. I never would have said so, out loud, but my inner arrogance was great.

Now, the season of reevaluation has come, and I see that much of what I took credit for, was not due to my efforts. I also see that there were things I missed and areas where I went wrong.

I look back at how my focus on self-reliance, has missed the mark on teaching them of the blessing of community.

In teaching them the importance working toward a goal, I missed teaching them to soak in what the journey holds.

I preached the message of working hard, but I missed teaching them the value of Sabbath (literally or metaphorically).

In my instruction to invest in a home and education, I missed showing them the delight and natural education of travel.

In thinking I was shielding them from time of my own time of weakness and sadness, I missed out on the opportunity of showing them that it’s okay to admit weakness, to ask for help.

In my refusal to see ‘the church’ as perfect (which it is not), I have given license to see more flaws than good in the bride of God.

It would be so easy to wallow in my failures as a mom. It would be so easy to say I am a complete failure.

But …

For myself, and any fellow moms (and dads), who might be giving ourselves a failing mark in parenting …

if we still have breath in our lungs,

it’s not too late

Though the empty nest is the symbol of the end of the most active parenting years of our lives,

it is not too late
to teach our kids
that failure
is an opportunity
to try again

And so, just as a failing mark on a test or report card is a wake up call, so is acknowledging our weakness an opportunity to try again, to refresh our attitudes and efforts, to try again.

“I love the Lord because he hears my voice
    and my prayer for mercy.
Because he bends down to listen,
    I will pray as long as I have breath!”

(Psalm 116:1-2)

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Hubby and I … well, it is probably best said that opposites attract.

We have differing points of view on everything from coffee shops, to music, to movies, to politics, to child rearing, to chocolate (he says milk and I say dark). These different perspectives can leave us frustrated, angry and even with hurt feelings. What they don’t do is ignite hate for each other.

What we share together is far greater than on what we differ. Oh, the differing can be immensely challenging and even hurtful, but we share a life-guiding principle …

we love one another

The concept of loving one another came from the mouth and heart of Jesus, himself. It was while sitting around a table with his eleven (Judas had already stepped away … in more ways than just physically stepping away), that Jesus commanded them to love one another.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

This loving each other was as foreign a concept then, as it is now. Like today, when people eliminate or unfriend people who think differently than us, society in the time of Jesus was also more about about assimilation than about community or love.

The Matthew Henry Commentary (MHC), on this love one another passage says,

“Laws of revenge and retaliation were so much in vogue, and self-love had so much the ascendant (superiority), that the law of brotherly love was forgotten as obsolete and out of date; so that as it came from Christ new, it was new to the people.”

So when Jesus delivered this command (not a suggestion, but a command) it was counter culture, odd and new. It could have been dismissed completely had he not given them a model to follow … himself.

Jesus told them to love each other “as I have loved you.”

Each one sitting there, listening to him speak would know, by their experience and intimate knowledge of life with him, how high the bar was that Jesus had set for them.

As the MHC says, of his example of what it is to love one another:

“He spoke kindly to them, concerned himself heartily for them, and for their welfare, instructed, counselled, and comforted them, prayed with them and for them, vindicated them when they were accused, took their part when they were run down, and publicly owned them to be dearer to him that his mother, or sister, or brother. He reproved them for what was amiss, and yet compassionately bore with their failings, excused them, made the best of them, and passed by many an oversight. Thus he had loved them, and just now washed their feet; and thus they must love one another, and love to the end. “

This is what we are called to, as well.

None of this would have been a surprise to the disciples, anymore than it should be a surprise to us, today.

Jesus did not give up on his disciples. He did not unfriend, nor did he cease to love each and every one (Judas included), right up to the end … his end on the cross. For he died for us all, even if we do not choose to accept his leadership in our lives.

To differ does not have to mean that we hate. If we declare that we follow the example of Jesus, there is not place for hate if we are committed to love one another.

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June has traditionally been the month of weddings. The weather is warmer, but not hot. The days are longer. Outdoor photographs are more beautiful with gardens at their peek of beauty.

We got to attend a wedding a few weeks ago and I found myself feeling rather broody.

Just days before hubby had received a letter informing him that he is no longer licensed in our home province to officiate weddings. Though that letter’s communication was the equivalent of water off a duck’s back, for hubby, it initiated an unexpected mourning for me.

I could unashamedly brag about the way he conducted weddings over the years.

He would take the position of intermediary, between the bride and groom and … anyone who could make the event stressful, in the most gracious yet firm manner.

The message that he would share would be one that was agonizingly prepared to represent the couple, from what he knew of them and what he had learned through the premarital sessions.

Then there was the ceremony, personalized as the couple chose, for he was committed that it would reflect them.

My personal favorite part of the weddings that he officiated were how he made the pronouncement … “by the power given me by the province of —-, but, more importantly, by God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I pronounce you husband and wife.” It just always made me smile.

So I sat at the wedding, just a few days ago, missing his ceremony, what he did so well, each part conscientiously planned and executed, always bringing the message back to the original installation of marriage.

As I got home from that wedding I got to thinking about how, in the Bible, marriage is used as a parable for Christ (the bridegroom) and the Church (the bride). As husband and wife become one, so too the Church and Christ become one … this is the “mystery” spoken of in Ephasians 5:32.

When a couple marry, their unifying is actually a re-unifying, since woman came from man’s body. Adam, meaning earth, and Eve, meaning life … woman literally puts life into the man, from whom she came. For woman to have life, she was taken from man, marriage is the redeeming of that physical separation at Creation, and the two, once again, become one.

The work of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, to the grave and resurrection is also a redeeming of relationship. From the very beginning God intended that we, his church, would be one with him … and then sin happened. Christ, through his sacrifice, brought the church back to him … and the two, once again, become one.

As I pondered this metaphor I realized that though I was feeling sorrowful for this end to hubby being such an amazingly talented part of the union of souls, this story goes on. In the hands of God himself, who officiates the most spectacular of marriages of souls, back to himself.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek,
there is neither slave nor free, 
there is no male and female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Galatians 3:28

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I am not a father. I do not know what it is like to be a father. That said, I think it must be tough to be a dad.

The biological part is, of course, the easiest.

The role of father has many expectations … spoken and presumed of, wordlessly.

Dads are expected to do everything a mom does, from earning a living, to changing diapers, to snuggles at bedtime, to helping with homework, to fixing the car, the meals and the owies. In all of that (and more), dads and moms are expected to do all that is needed to raise a little human into an independent and contributing member of society. This is good, as it is only right that both parties should invest equal effort to do such an important task as raising a real live human.

But, equality is not often reality. Sure there are some tasks (feeding, helping with homework, bandaging cuts and making a nut-free lactose-free gluten-free sandwich that either parent can manage, but not all parenting tasks are for both parents.

Our kids know that I am most definitely NOT the one to call if they have questions about phone plans, car insurance or their tire pressure. Sure I could Google it, but I just do not know, and do not care to know … because their dad has more interest, more knowledge and more experience in those areas of parenting.

They also know that their dad is the one who is most likely to order pizza, take them for Chinese or buy them a burger.

Both of us can offer a hug or sit and chat for hours, but I am more likely to initiate these … because that is how I am inclined to speak love to our kids. Whereas their dad is more likely to drop whatever he is doing to help them with whatever they request … because that is how he is inclined to speak love.

It is tough for dads, because, often, their love language is often not one of nurture (though it can be for some, as there are always exceptions). We, humanly, see love in a very narrow way … as affection … but love can be expressed in so many other ways, in so many other languages … we just need to tune our ears to the language that is being spoken.

In our world today there is so much negativity spoken about men, about the failures and weaknesses of men. Yet, there are also the good men, who have lived their lives as a service to others, to their kids.

The ones who take the place of one who only contributed biologically.

The ones who toss their kids in the air for the joyful giggles that follow.

The ones who race into the packed auditorium just to catch their child’s school performance.

The ones who tell dad jokes or the when I was a child stories.

The ones who take their kids to swimming, to football, to their friends houses, or pick them up late at night.

The ones who drop whatever they are doing to help their kids figure out their phone plan, their car insurance, to sell their vehicle, to figure out their bank account,

to order pizza …

To all those dads who do so much more for us than we often acknowledge … simply because we see love through a definition that does not include your unique expressions of love and commitment …

Thank-you … don’t give up!

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It is said that if you want to know what you value, look at how you spend your money. I think that is probably a good indicator, but I also think that what (if) we pray indicates what we value.

I was motivated recently to pray about something I had not prayed about before.

Before this motivation, I had thought it was a good idea, but somehow I had never gotten my act together to find a way to remind me, daily, to pray in this direction.

In the image, above, you will see two bowties and a necklace contained in a framed shadowbox. It is and onto a wall inside our bedroom door, as a reminder to pray … for the future spouses, future marriages or future as a single (because marriage isn’t for everyone) for each of our (adult) children.

Marriage, the representation of how God loves his church (his people), is not for the faint of heart. It can make or break a person, it can make us better, or bitter. It is as much about how we respond to what another does to us (good and bad) as what they do. It is an exercise in working to achieve 100:100 (50:50 is only just surviving).

It is the story of God (the bridegroom) loving his own, and of us (the bride) choosing to receive the love and redemption that he offers.

Within the image (above) you will see the words of Ruth (1:16):

where you go,
I will go

Interestingly enough those are not Ruth’s words to a lover, but to the mother of her deceased husband (Naomi). She was vowing that she would entrust her future alongside this mother in law. She chose to stay with this woman, despite how bleak a future it might be for two widows of that time.

The story enfolds that they find a kin, a relative who could be their redeemer, their saviour. He chooses to take Ruth as his wife. Then, as culture would expect, their first born is given to Naomi, to raise as her son, her redeemer.

Those words of Ruth, where you go I will go, were her chosen commitment to be Naomi’s redeemer … at whatever cost to her.

This is marriage, sans rose-colored glasses. We are to love that much, love that selflessly.

That is why choosing who to marry is of such importance. The choosing of who to marry is the threshing floor practise of separating the wheat (the edible, nutrient-rich part) from the chaff (the inedible hulls of the wheat). It is this choosing, left to our adult children, that I now vow to lift up to God, each day.

“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.
Your people will be my people and your God my God. 
Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.
Ruth 1:16-17

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I read a blog the other day about mothering in the middle, when one feels a bit like a taxi driver, fast food cook supply manager, academic assistant, nutritionist, administrative assistant and cheerleader. I found myself reminiscing through that non-stop stage.

It happened to be on a day I was utterly bored.

You see, I am at the mothering young adults stage, the hands-off mothering stage.

The movement from mom in the middle to mom of young adults is similar to a hairpin turn driving down a steep mountainside … you’re moving at speeds you didn’t know possible, then, all of a sudden, you make a sharp turn facing the opposite direction … and the sun is obscuring your view, making it hard to see where you are going.

Our kids are all finished with high school and in varying levels of study and work. Two of our three are still living at home, one in another community. To be honest, I vacillate between wanting them to all be out and independent and wanting them all under one roof (mine).

This is the stage of hands-off mothering … unless they need me … RIGHT NOW! I am talking drop everything and help them right now.

This is where, I guess, boundaries should be developing … but I so need to be needed, and really, no one needs me as much as I desire to be needed anymore. So, I am struggling to draw those boundaries … wanting to be available if someone might have need of me (the struggle is real).

Then there is the I am gonna sever my tongue, from biting it so frequently part of this hands-off mothering stage. They need to be making their own decisions about their faith, their schooling, their work, their income and relationships … I just SO want to offer my opinions … all of the time.

As I was writing this post, hubby let me know what time one of our kids got in last ‘night’ (aka this morning) … gotta say, I really didn’t want to know … that ostrich with it’s head in the sand? I am getting to know him (or is it her) quite well.

I am learning that they need to make mistakes … their own. Live with their own consequences. It was a freedom I was graciously offered by own parents and I believe that I need to regift this freedom to them.

Then there are the heartbreaks … they are so real, so lasting at this young adult stage (though many can come to them earlier). Their relationship struggles, loneliness, uncertainty in their abilities, in their future, their jobs. Life for a young adult is not what it was thirty years ago, when I was twenty. There is little in society today, for a twenty-something that is typical … other than nightlife. And if they are not heartbroken for what is (or is not) going on in their own lives, they live vicariously through the hurts of their friends.

These heartbreaks ripple into my own heart … stories that include suicide, health struggles, drug addiction, sexual assault, homelessness and single parenting get processed with mom on SOS … and I have no answers when I am invited into these conversations … but I pray … how I pray.

At this stage, their friends are not necessarily ones that I know, have met, have made cookies with and carpooled to various events. Their friends are often faceless names that remind me that their life is their own.

Then there is the attempt to get everyone together for one meal … Oh my lanta! I think world peace might be easier to attain!

But …

They are learning, they are seeking, they are even thriving. They do good work, love deeply, seek justice, care for each other …

and they ask me to pray.

When they or their friend is in a tough place, they still ask me to pray.

And if that is the common thread of their need of me, at this hands-off mothering stage … then I will pray.

There is a video that I would return to (over and over) in those mom in the middle years, called The Invisible Woman (below). I realized, the other day, that it still has something to offer me at this hands-off stage of mothering:

“At times my invisibility has felt like an infliction to me,
but it is not a disease that is erasing my life.
It is the cure for the disease of self-centeredness.
It is the antidote to my own pride.
It’s okay that they don’t see,
we don’t work for them,
we work for Him.
We sacrifice for Him.
They will never see,
not if we do it right,
if we do it well.
Lets pray that our work will stand as a monument to an even greater God.”
Nicole Johnson

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Prince Harry said it best, “how any woman does what they do is beyond comprehension” in his response, after witnessing the birth of his son.

Today, in North America, is Mother’s Day. A day when mothers (biological or adopted) and mother-figures are celebrated for … just being mum (mom, ma, mommy, mother, etc.).

It is a lovely day for so many, who have done so much.

For others it is not so lovely. If that is you, stop reading this and click on my post, written just for you, for I understand When Mums Day Hurts.

What Prince Harry didn’t know, when his wife pushed their son into their shared world, what he will not know for many years to come, is that his wife has just begun the hardest work of motherhood. As the umbilical cord was cut, the real work of motherhood begins … that of letting go.

Motherhood is the most awe-inspiring, heart-swelling, prayer motivating, faith-building, white knuckle determination, rip your heart out and squeeze every last drop of life from you experiences.

It is the indescribable experience of a lifetime, that lasts a lifetime. It is a constant push-pull, constant drawing in and letting go.

The job of a mother is, from the beginning of conception, to grow and build and prepare a child for independence … from herself.

Our intuitive desire to hold tight, over-written by our biological inclination to prepare our children for life apart from us.

As a child of a mother, I am keenly aware that in no way can I ever out-love my mother. Nor can I need her as she does me. And it is her fault (being blamed is also part of motherhood 😉 )! For it was my mother who taught me to grow up, that I can do it myself, that I can do anything.

As my own children have grown into adults, I have grown to understand that my letting go of my children continues as I step back and allow them to be independent of me … my advice, my plans, my choices (so much more easily said than done … do I hear an amen?). It is this independence of body and mind that can bring some of the sweetest reunions, when they bring their life back into closeness with mine, sharing what they have learned with me.

Letting go is hard for us moms. For we love our children so much more deeply than words can express. Yet, letting go is the mantra of mums. It is the daily cutting of the umbilical cord, the daily waving good bye, the daily whisper you can do it. And they move forward from where we are, watching them go.

When my days of life and living are done, when my kids sit around a table looking at photos, laughing at silliness, recounting memories that only they share, I don’t care if they think my giving birth was monumental, that my brownies were the best or that I transported them like a full time taxi driver when they were kids.

I hope they are able to say
I struggled to point them to Christ,
I loved deeply,
hugged tightly
and that I let them go.

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