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Archive for the ‘FAMILY’ Category

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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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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