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Archive for the ‘The Kids’ Category

Happy birthday to our West Coast girl! Born twenty-four years ago … about nine months after we arrived here, to this place we now call home.

But it has always been home for you. The addresses may have changed, the occupants too, but home for you is the west coast, it is where you belong.

I associate your birth with spring, blooming magnolia trees and Easter … these are parts that are always part of your life, your home.

Though you do not live at my home anymore my mother heart will always think that my home is yours too.

I will eagerly make a place at the table, have a blanket ready to cover you as you snooze on my couch or bed, invite you to help trim the tree … all because your moving out on your own does not make you less a part of my home.

When you come to visit, I send you back to your place with food or flowers or goods … because I want to share a little of my home with you.

I plan and plot when I know that you are coming, hoping that you feel at home when you are here.

Honestly, it is never long enough and my selfishness bristles when you’re running late, or have to leave early. But, that is my problem, my expectations and I remind myself that to have you for a little while in my home is blessing. And I am thankful that you’ve come.

You see, when we parents have a home that we have built for our loves we want them to love being here as much as we do. I guess we parents have to learn from nature, from the birds that encourage and even push their birds from the nest they’ve made … because that is the way.

Just days before your birth we celebrated Easter and your presence inside of me brought me different and intimate understanding of the Spirit within us. Though we are the residence or home of the Spirit, it is the risen Jesus who gives us home feels like none other. I remember reading (just days before your birth) “when everything is ready, then I will come and get you, so that you can always be with me where I am” … this is the home without me needing to do any of the preparing, the cooking, the cleaning … I just have to show up, and I will be home.

The magnolia trees outside our home are beginning to prepare to bloom in the warming spring sun. They whisper to me your name, remind me of your pink skin … they remind me of when we brought you home.

May today be the budding of spring in your life. May you know the security, the warmth, the nourishment and the love of home. May you know this, your original home, with your dad and I, always has a door open, a place at the table, a room to rest your head, a warm hug …

love lives here for you.

Happy birthday my west coast girl.

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We sat there, enjoying our meal together, when the conversation moved into an area of gold.

“So, who has inspired you and why?”

What followed was great revelation, great insight into those who have been the influencers in the life of my, now adult, son.

The people named were not surprising to me, though I did find it interesting the order of who was mentioned. Then there was the why question … why did this person, or that, stick in your mind as inspiring?

Youth leaders, teachers, camp leaders … those were the areas of leadership that they all originated from. Mostly men (as this was my son), but women as well. Descriptors such as authentic, available, consistent, interested, solid, challenged to work harder, be better flowed from his lips.

I found myself to be so encouraged.

As a mom, a parent, it is always good to know that your child received encouragement towards growth from someone else. It is good to see that our children are not just impacted by us, as parents, but by others around them. That they take into adulthood the whispers of encouragement from others.

“If your actions inspire others to
dream more, learn more, do more and become more,
you are a leader.”
John Quincy Adams

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Over the past weeks, my son has had me on a steady weekly diet of Star Wars films and animated series (Clone Wars and Rebels) to prepare me for season two of The Mandalorian. He felt I needed more background knowledge of the Mandalorians as well as a better understanding of how things fit together in the Star Wars narrative.

I just want to watch Season 2 of The Mandalorian!!

He, though, sees the bigger picture. He wants me to not just see season 2 as a show, but as a part of a bigger picture …

where did he learn this bigger picture emphasis?

Okay, so … maybe from his mother.

Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery, hmm… but weakness, folly, failure also. Yes: failure, most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.

Those words, spoken from Yoda to Luke, in the Last Jedi, could fit as appropriately when speaking of the parent/child relationship.

As my own three apprentices are now adults, I feel much of the teaching, the passing on, is done. Now I am watching them reach out into the world with their training done, making their own choices of which lessons to keep and which to abandon (temporarily or permanent? who is to say?).

In my parental passing on of what I have learned, I have equally passes on strengths and weaknesses, wisdom and folly. In my human imperfection, I have also failed them at times … and that failure is also part of the package that I hand over to them.

This is how the human race has a tendency to repeat past mistakes, for history’s teachers impart both the good and the bad, the blessings and the curses from within themselves.

As their parent (master 🙂 ) I have handed down to them many things, but my legacy is not just what I have modelled, taught or insisted upon … my legacy is also what they do with the treasures (and trash) I have shared with them.

Just like a teacher to a student in a classroom, there is no formula for guaranteed success.

If we look beyond human parents and Jedi masters, even in the mastery of Jesus himself, to his disciples, there was not perfection in the following of his teachings. Yet, two thousand years later, his word and his way (“this is the way”) are still being taught, still being modelled … imperfectly.

Though the burden, or struggle of all masters, all teachers, all parents is that our legacy is not in what we impart, but in how our apprentices, our students, our children use what we have given them.

And this is the greatest burden, but also the greatest learning of all parents.

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Twenty one years ago I was only nine years older than you are now, when I pushed, you emerged, took your first breath and wailed.

Where did those twenty-one years go?

All parents ask the question, but the reality is, we know where they went.

They went through all hours of the night for the first weeks. The most precious middle of the night wake ups are when a woman knows it’s the last.

The years were used up living in the imaginary world of Thomas the Tank Engine as well as collecting, building, tearing apart and building with Lego.

They were spent in the pool wearing your ‘pissers’, kicking the can with the neighbor kids, trying to catch the dog as she raced through the field behind our house.

They were passed quickly on the football field, the stage and playing video games late into the night with your fellow gamers, at youth group events and at friend’s houses.

Days, no weeks were spent travelling all the way to Florida … and back, ingesting a daily diet of hot dogs.

Sweet times of ‘snugs ‘n nugs’ with the girls. Giants games or Subway (“eat flesh”) with your dad. Sushi dates with me.

So many shared movies from Marvel to DC to Harry Potter, Star Wars and The Rings.

Drives to camp and back … so many drives down that highway.

Travels to Cannon Beach, Mexico, ALL of the south states, the East Coast, Ontario, New Zealand, Thailand.

Where did those twenty-one years go?

Time flies, my son. In a blink you grew from a newborn to starting kindergarten, to high school graduation, to flying off down under, to right now … where you stand at the cusp of another stage.

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us”

Gandalf

This precious gift of life is filled with an unknown amount of time that we can never recapture. Once it is lived it is in the past … gone.

Colossians 4:5b tells us to “redeem the time” or make the most of your time. See the value of not just your years, but the days, even the minutes. Consider how you will spend your time … for it flies ever so quickly.

Happy 21 … may the next twenty-one be as memory-filled.

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Unknown Artist – Germany 1560s

I realized the problem … me.

It is something that had been gnawing at my for quite awhile. I couldn’t figure out why my advise wasn’t being taken … I mean, I do know things.

It wasn’t like this was the first of our three adult kids to ignore my sage advise, my words of wisdom. But … this time is was really contributing to my knickers being tied up in a knot.

Then it hit me … I am the problem …

It was a simple thing, a parental ‘letting go’ of control of an area of one of our kid’s lives. An appointment had to be made, so I said, here’s the number you need to call and make an appointment asap.

An hour later … call not made.

The next morning … call not made.

That afternoon … call still not made.

Three days late … notta!

The procrastination to make this simple appointment was getting under my skin.

“But, it’s not rocket science.”

“How hard is this?”

“It will take mere minutes.”

… all my thoughts in response to this … nothing.

Then it hit me … when I was that age, I hated to make telephone calls to doctors, dentists, hairstylists, businesses. I would avoid it at all costs. Actually, I still hate doing it … I don’t have good rationale for my avoidance, it’s just an area that I can procrastinate with natural flair. Except that, I have mostly overcome it, managed to accomplish such tasks with little procrastination.

So, I started to look at other areas of our (adult) kid’s lives that made me kinda crazy. The things that had me shaking my head most often were the areas that, at a younger stage of my own life, I struggled with. Whether it was getting enough sleep, spending/saving money, time management, or … making an appointment, it is the things I struggled with that I am less gracious or understanding about in my kid’s lives.

This realization had me thinking about the parable of the unforgiving debtor/servant (Matthew 18:21-35). A man had a debt he simply could not repay the king, so he begged for mercy … for time to repay it. The king not only let him go, but forgave his debt. The man then went, straight away, to find one who owed him money and he demanded it immediately. This indebted man also begged for mercy, for time, but he was thrown in jail. When the king heard this story he was aghast. So he had this man thrown into prison (after a good tongue lashing).

The Matthew Henry Commentary on this parable states:

“Though we live wholly on mercy and forgiveness, we are backward to forgive the offences of our brethren.”

Though this story deals with debts, which my own story does not, it also deals with learning about grace and mercy.

In my life, I have had to learn from my own successes and (maybe more-so) mistakes. I have had to pay the price (literally) for debts unpaid, for late nights, for poor time management, for not making an appointment. These experiences have helped me to learn and grow.

But, I cannot expect my kids, who are still in the early stages of learning and growing, to have mastered the same level of learning as I. They too need to learn from their experiences and that means making their own mistakes along the way as well.

They, like me, will learn best from their own successes and errors. I hope that I can view their struggles … the ones I have learned from … with eyes of grace and mercy.

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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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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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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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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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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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