A Letter to My Son After a Visit With His Children

“Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,  Who finds great delight in his commands.

His children will be mighty in the land;  The generation of the upright will be blessed.” Ps. 112:1,2

Dear Aaron,

After several days looking forward to seeing you and your family this weekend, it seems like I blinked and our Easter visit was over. Next thing I knew, your Dad and I were comparing notes on the three hour drive home, like reporters who’d been at the same baseball game only on opposite sides of the field. I’ll go with the baseball metaphor here; although the nine of us were in and out of each others’ dugouts, most of the weekend we were there I hardly had a chance to talk with you. Dad was filling you in on all the particulars of his old pick up truck that we were giving you or you were tending to one of your brood.

It was clear we’d each missed some significant plays on the field, what with all the player movement and such. (Argh with metaphor. Blame it on the pre-season Mariners game you and Dad were listening to.) Of course with four grown ups and five children aged 14 years to 5, there are a lot of moving parts to our visit; it was impossible to be everywhere all at once, privy to every conversation.

Somewhere on the I-5 between the capital in Olympia and the main gate at Ft. Lewis Army base, I told him about my interactions with each of the kids and Dad shared the various conversations he’d taken part in.

We thought you’d like us to fill in some of what you missed and may not know about your wonderful kids. Your investment in their lives is pouring out in God-honoring ways.

  • Friday night while Dad was going to pick you up from work I waited for the kids and Courtney to arrive and join me at the hotel. They anticipated a pizza dinner and a swim at the pool. That hotel apartment with the full kitchen was a godsend, especially since we needed a place to cook two pizzas! After cutting and serving various portions of combo or pepperoni, we finally sat down at the table together. Although some of the kids were several bites in, when I said, “let’s stop and pray”, everybody stopped to link hands. Peter and Abi each announced, “I’ll pray! I’ll pray!”

Peter was first and poured out a grateful heart, thanking God for “not being homeless” and “having Grandpa and Grandma give us a truck.” He also told God he was happy about the pizza. The ease of his words and his ready attitude showed me he was used to talking to God about just about anything, which will do him well in his almost 11-year-old life.

  • As we were driving along, I remarked to your dad about the pizza dinner prayers. “Well, you should have heard Abigail later on,” he said. “I was talking about my ear recent surgery to help me hear and she offered to lay hands on me and pray for me.”

“Oh, Grandpa, I’m sorry you’ve had so much trouble with your ears,” she said. “God thank you for making a way for Grandpa to hear better.” She didn’t hesitate a bit; it was clear that a conversation with Jesus was a very natural thing to have.

You and Courtney have done a great job modeling for your children how to pray.

  • While you and Dad were finally catching up on pizza in the hotel apartment we all took to the pool to swim. I was amazed at 7 year old Paul and the way he took to showing me all he could do in the water. “Get your phone, take a video, Nana!” And he proceeded to jump off the edge of the pool, cannonballing into the water and waving his arms Olympic style when he rose up to the surface. He was so proud of himself; I remember on our many past visits over the years that he was often the one sitting on the pool steps, too timid to even get wet.

Good job investing in all those YMCA swim lessons for your kids—it’s made Paul a confident young man.

  • I remarked to Dad also about the way your oldest, Hanan, hung out with him and enjoyed all the car talk. He loved being with both of you guys, taking part in all the particulars of tires and engines and carburetors. Clearly the male bonding over speed and fast cars is a real thing. You may not have noticed, but we did. That 14 year old likes being around you. That is no small miracle.
  • Sunday morning after church we offered to go pick up all the kids from Sunday School so you and Court could visit with friends. Luke, the 5 year old, showed me his cross picture he’d made. “That’s Jesus there on the cross, Nana. I drew Him.”  “And this here” (scribbled orange color) “is the Holy Spirit,” and this (scribbled green color) “is God,” “and this” (scribbled brown color) “is the devil.” “Jesus beat the devil and He won.” “That’s why we have Easter.”

Feeding and clothing your family and getting yourselves to church each week is no small feat. Courtney and you do an amazing job making it a priority—the truths your kids are learning are sinking in and making a difference in your childrens’ lives.

~~~~~

Most people have photographs of their family on Easter morning, but this weekend I have memories instead.  We packed a lot into twenty four hours–pizza night, swimming time, church together, Easter brunch, and Dad’s crash course about the pick up we were gifting you. It’s impossible to recall when we were all actually still long enough for a photo, so I’ll have to close my eyes instead and remember.

Sunday morning, Grandpa in his ponytail and cool shoes, you with your new spiffy hat, Paul’s bowtie, Hanan’s towering frame or us girls in all our Easter finery. Peter snuggling that afternoon with his mom for a nap, favorite stuffed toy next to him.

Photos can gather what’s seeable but they’ll never catch what’s invisible—the respect, love and care families have for God and one another.

Those are just as real as any picture on my frig or in my phone. Your dad and I rejoice and applaud you for the way you and Courtney have kept the first things first.

Those are the memories we take with us; I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

I love you son,

Mom

~~~~~

Sunday night as I scrolled through Instagram and Facebook on our drive home from Portland to Seattle, I smiled at all the Easter family photos I saw. This year we had none–except my daughter in law at the pool with my grandkids. (oh, and Paul’s Olympic jumping video). I was pondering what to write for a blog post and this came to me….I’ll send it to my son, but wanted to honor him here and share with you, too. I hope you don’t mind me inviting you into our family–thank you!

 

 

 

Why We Need to Keep Some Secrets (and the Two-Edged Sword of Social Media)

I thought because I’d finally retired from teaching Elementary School this year I’d be virus-free without all those Kindergartners around.  But no, I am at home on a Sunday morning with a sinus infection while my husband is off to church. Ah, life.  I was looking forward to some quiet time ALONE (Plan A) to catch up on some writing (all the ideas!) and blog posts (yes, ideas!) but alas, there is a friend of ours on my front roof with a nail gun going and a compressor humming; it’s only 9:30 in the morning.

R doesn’t go to church.

He promised my husband he’d finish the window project they started last Saturday. He did not say he’d be coming on a Sunday. But there’s a Seahawks game on television this afternoon and he wants to finish in time to enjoy watching it.

So I made ‘adjustments’, (Plan B) and sought some peace and quiet on our back deck.  Since it rained last night it’s a little chilly and wet out there. Not to be deterred, I grab a blanket from the closet, wrap myself and settle in the deck chair to listen, write, journal.  But then the crows. There is no bird noisier than a crow. (Well, perhaps a blue jay).

Plan C-Currently I am typing on my makeshift ‘desk’, a smoothly sanded, unused piece of shelving propped across my lap inside on the couch where it’s warm. And semi-quiet.

I wanted to post a status on Facebook to share my woes with the world. Sort of an, “I can’t get no respect-Don’t you feel  sorry for me-Isn’t life hard?” kind of thought, so the world would know what I was going through. My world of Facebook, anyway.

But I decided against telling everyone and thought I’d just tell you. (Aren’t I sly?)

~~~~~~~~~~~

I’ve heard many Holy Spirit nudges when I’m writing lately about “keeping secrets.” Not a hide-things-in-the-dark kind of way, but in a way that honors the whole of my life.

It is easy to curate for others what I want them to know and see, to give the impression that I think deep thoughts and live in quiet beauty (which is what Instagram is for). If I ponder a Scripture that speaks to me or find a photo on my morning walks I like to share that with the world to edify others and add a little encouragement to their day.

But it’s not the entire picture of my life.

Continue reading

Old Tables and New Life {Roots & Sky Edition}

I pour lemon oil onto my dust rag, massaging the small table’s worn and chipped surface. No amount of elbow grease or lemon oil will cover up the wear and tear–scuffs from an old plant container, water rings from one too many glasses of iced tea, the solitary black circle from a dropped cigarette.
Simply an every day side table, no precious wood or dovetailed joints in its construction.  Made of common mahogany, one small drawer holds the flotsam and jetsam of my living room, a shelf underneath supporting a large basket of books.
There is an angry spot on the bottom shelf where some rubbing alcohol spilled. I thought it would come off with the lemon oil, but the surface’s finish prohibited such repair.
Chips, scratches, streaks….the wood is far from perfect, but no matter. We will keep the table, hauling it into and out of the garage each Christmas making way for our holiday tree. Repolish, re-oil and sift through the drawers contents as needed.
Why? This piece belonged to my mother and my mother has been gone for over 30 years. I have so few of my mother’s things in my home; this little table is a daily reminder. Its value is only in the eyes of the beholder—and I am thankful to behold its glossy, worn presence.

In Christie Purifoy’s new book, “Roots and Sky” she ponders the power of every day wonder in simple things, viewed through the lens of the Seasons.  I asked a friend if I could begin reading “Roots&Sky” with the ‘Spring’ section, skipping over Fall and Winter. She counseled me to begin at the beginning, explaining there was a reason for the Autumn backstory.
I’m very grateful I started with Fall. Christie’s journal chronicles the trials and triumphs encountered when she and her husband purchased a very old farmhouse high on a hilltop in Pennsylvania. Old, like built in the 1880’s old.
 Dreaming of a grand future—flowers, farming, fellowship with neighbors–Christie and her husband begin the daunting process of reclaiming the old and worn and broken down.

Without the dark and empty slate of Autumn/Winter, 
we cannot appreciate the riot of new birth in the Spring.
What a parallel for life.  As I sit here typing on this rain-soaked day, the old, tired earth is waking up. There are signs everywhere.  Although the mantle of ground has been beaten down, grass browned and soggy, leaves laying in saturated piles scattered about, the scilla and tulips are peeking out. The Crocosmia are threatening to invade the vinca, my Pink Viburnum puts on its saucy show.
Viburnum ‘Pink Dawn’
Why do we tend the earth? Why do we tend anything that we hope will grow and yield a present joy or future beauty in our lives? Perhaps it is a statement about our confidence in the future.

From the ‘Autumn’ chapter:
“This house is deteriorating. My body is dying. We are subject to the same terrible decay.  But worth is not measured in such terms.
Once upon a time, God called his creation good.  And no curse of sin unwound those words. Gnarled maple trees. Plaster walls. An ordinary woman’s ordinary body.  All good.
To care for these is to say to death, “You are not the end.” p. 55.
This is why we care for the earth, care for ourselves, care for our homes. 
Death is not the end, but a beginning, we know, to another life with our Saviour.  The physical earth mirrors the spiritual, the cycle of seasons death/life/care, death/life/care ultimately mirror the power of God’s saving.
purple scilla
red flowering quince
From the ‘Spring’ chapter:
“To remember as the earth remembers is a powerful thing. 
Winter remembers death and spring remembers life…”  p. 121
‘Death’ is a near naked lilac bush with bare bumps of buds threatening to bloom.
‘Death’ is an old, worn table or a scuffed threshold or a broken down fence.  

We repair, we replace, we rejoice when the new comes and the old holds. When life stirs in the ground and in us we remember—what we love will hold us until that final day we see our Jesus.
But for now we plant, we tend, we care.  Spring is coming.  
Winter Hazel (smells like honey!)

Can I Get a Do Over?

     I was lamenting recently with some friends in our Glory Writer’s Facebook group about my good intentions not exactly panning out for observing Advent….I SO wanted to light the candles each Sunday and do the readings. I even have a daily devotional “2016 A Book of Grace-Filled Days” with selections to read. Little selections–just a nugget for the day to contemplate. But each entry had four Scripture references. No way I had time to read all those passages in The Word. Every day. 

     I think what finally did me in was the pink and then purple candles.  The colors just didn’t seem right for Christmas. I just couldn’t put them in my Advent candle-holding table wreath.

But I wanted to.

     It’s my want-to that gets the better of me sometimes. On the DISC Personality assessment, I’m a High “I”–Impulsive and Impressionable–I want to please people and I think a lot of ideas are Great Ideas and I Should Do This.


Silly me.


     My dear writer friends Amy Young and Tresta Payne (of said Glory Writers group) also wrote of the tension–the balance of wanting to remember without getting buried in the ‘shoulds.’ And over at The Mudroom-you’ve read at that place, yes?–Velynn Brown shares her thoughts–can she still be a good Christian without all the reciting? (Links to their posts are below).


All of this brought a comforting smile–I’m not the only one.


Instead, I’m going back to the word God gave me for the year–‘Surrender’ and camping there. I have to ‘camp’ there–no matter where I am, it keeps coming up.

In the worship songs we sing at church, in our Small Group Bible Study, and in my own reading.

Andrew Murray, Abiding in Christ, has this to say:

“Whatever the present moment may hold, however unprepared the message finds you, however sad the divided and hopeless state of your life may be, do come and surrender–this very moment. I know it will take time for the Lord to assert His power and arrange all within you according to His will, time to conquer your enemies and train all your powers for His service. 
This not the work of a moment.”

The words “unprepared” and “divided” really resonated with me–and a little sadness, too. The sadness is because I’m not always feeling the love and joy and peace I should. And when I don’t ‘feel’ something, I think it’s not there.  That’s the problem with the other “I” that I am–intuitive–much of what I focus on comes via my sense about some things, and I’m not sensing the joy. Or peace. Or love.
Doesn’t matter, it’s still there–’cause God is bigger than all that. That’s why you walk by Faith. End of Story.

Also? I have 5 grandchildren arriving next week (their parents are coming, too) and they’ll be here for one week. (and I couldn’t be more thrilled ’cause I love them to the moon and back).


But still…. They’ll be headquartered downstairs in our finished apartment during their stay, but of course there will be all kinds of traipsing and traversing upstairs, downstairs in and out.


Getting my house ready for Christmas–my stove sized-boxes are stacked in the living room waiting to be unpacked–plus getting their space prepared….oh, and the grocery shopping and well, the planning. And vacuuming the pine needles off the trampoline. 

‘Cause people gotta jump–rain or shine.

It’s all been a bit much.  


     Do you know how many moving parts there are when you add seven people to seven days and two cities and throw in Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and the ‘Event Day’ which of course is going to see some movie everyone wants to go see (the one with the word ‘Star’ in it)?  Well, we had to make a chart to organize it all.


Well, I had to make a chart. For my sanity.


I think I’ll adopt the word ‘Surrender’ for next year, too. But for now it is a moment by moment life, as Murray reminds me.

A daily, “Yes, Lord, Abide with me now.  I’m not waiting for you to come–you’re already here. And I need you.”

I think I’ll get a do over in 2016….It takes a long time to surrender.

~~~~

You can read Tresta’s post “Failing at Advent” here
Amy’s  “Out of the Mouth of a UPS Worker” is here
and Velynn’s “Coloring in Christmas With my Favorite Things” is here.
The 2016 Book of Grace-Filled days is by Jessica Mesman Griffith. You can find it here.
2016: A Book of Grace-Filled Days

Memories, Flora-wise, a Polysyllabic Poem

Botanically speaking, the plant names 
trip on the tongue with some effort (mine)
but once murmured, sound like the tune to an old song
I’ve known all my life,the words rolling off in 
chunks of meaning as I pass by a rainbow of familiar flora – 
oleander-pinnate, poisonous, softened by pink and purple
eucalyptus–fragrance in crushed wood, leaving the warmth of summer on the wind,
agapanthusamethyst blooms, towering hedge-high
bougainvillea-starburst magenta gems on a stem
mandevilla-fluted swirls of indigo, twirling tendrils, fence-tight
jacaranda-lavender floating ballerinas, suspended sky-high
crape myrtle–rainbow sherbet colored curls 
manzanita–bronzy branches, twisted trunks
hibiscus–deep throated petals of the South Pacific.
I carry the colors home, sorting out the images 
remembering the days 
when summer lived in my yard
while the pictures, people and places 
I ferry home in my heart.
~~~~~~~~~

Linking with Kelly and The Small Wonder Community