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Archive for the ‘The Kids’ Category

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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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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