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

Why we need to Feel all the Feels

“Inside/Out” Board Game, granddaughter Abigail Age 7

      During the last Christmas season I was commissioned (long distance) with procuring a set of plush character toys from the movie “Inside/Out”. You know the gang–Anger, Joy, Sadness, Fear and Disgust.  These were to be gifted from their beloved Auntie M to my two youngest grandsons–ages 6 and 3–on Christmas morning when my son and his family arrived for the holiday.

      The gifting took a bit of reconnaissance –back and forth texts and emails with my daughter in law, phone messages ironing out who would pay for what and how. I would be purchasing them on behalf of the aunt who wouldn’t be with us and well, it was all a little complicated. Finally, father Christmas and I located the items on Amazon via the Disney Store and we were in business.

Except for one thing: there was no Sadness doll. Sold out. Apparently she was the most popular character, for good reason.

                                                       

      For those of you who have seen the film, you know ‘Sadness’ is the heroine of “Inside/Out”‘; without her, blue hair and saucer-sized glasses included, the little girl Riley’s emotions are incomplete.  
Because, to paraphrase one of the characters, “You can’t feel Joy all the time.”

Back to Christmas morning.

      Gift opening time came;  after much fanfare to unwrap said Big Gift, cameras and phones poised, we thought the littles wouldn’t notice the lack of the Blue One. All the other colors would be there: Anger, Red, Fear; Purple, Joy; Yellow and Disgust; Green. The boys ripped open the box spilling tissue paper to the Heavens and within 2 milliseconds exclaimed, “There’s no Sadness!!”  

That blue girl’s presence was sorely missed. Two wise little guys let us all know the set of Feelings was incomplete without her.
———
      Facing Palm Sunday and heading into Holy Week as we contemplate Christ’s Death and Resurrection, I think it is critical to remember without the sadness of Good Friday there is no Joy of Easter morning.

      A.J. Swoboda, in his book “A Glorious Dark” talks about the problem of only embracing one day of the Easter Triduum thereby limiting ourselves to Friday or Sunday Christianity. His book’s powerful premise is we need all three days–the tragedy of Good Friday the darkness of Saturday AND the joy of Easter Sunday.

“Friday Christianity is the religion of those who’ve chosen to find their identity in a spirituality of defeat, death and loss.  Their spiritual depth abides solely in the torment of suffering on the cross.  Friday Christians worship suffering so much they assume one must be experiencing loss and suffering in ordered to be considered “honest” or “authentic” or “real.”

Sunday Christianity is equally problematic. These chipper, slick, ever-too-happy Christians see God in, and only in, victory, prosperity and blessing.  Everything for them, is a footnote on their own pursuit of personal happiness. When Christians live in Sunday alone, they fabricate a kind of hassle-free approach to Christian spirituality that, while outwardly appealing, is entirely impotent–lacking power, girth and any amount of stamina.”
‘A Glorious Dark’, A.J. Swoboda, p. 4

      I confess I used to be a Sunday Christian.  I am an Extrovert, First Born, Impulsive, Impetuous and Intuitive–I can find the fun in anything. The yellow sunshine of Joy was my litmus test for how well I was following Jesus–and how well YOU were following Jesus. Sick? Having trials? Problems looming? You must be doing something wrong.  

      Ah, well, isn’t God patient?  I’ve come to learn these last few years how truly complete we are when we live through and experience all the emotions God has given us–fear, anger, sadness and joy. Our feelings reveal to us not only our desperate humanity, bankrupt without the redemption of God, but also can become channels for God’s glorious joy when there is a resurrection on the other side.

       Our initial repentance and turning towards Jesus is just the beginning of many resurrections. We grow, spiraling back on lessons and seasons in our lives, embracing the dark and the delight and dying daily to our sin, rejoicing in more freedom as we walk this labyrinth of life.

Let’s walk together and give each other room to embrace it all, 
even, especially, the hard times and Sadness.
~~~~~~~
Shhhhh…don’t tell my grandkids, the Sadness plush doll should be in their mailbox soon.

Linking with Kelly for the #Small Wonder Link up


Constant, Like the Waves

     

     The ocean has always been an anchor of home for me—particularly along the Southern California coast.

     I spent all of my growing up and teenage years near there and most of my best memories involve the sand, the sea and the surf.  There is a lot of life wrapped up in those waves.
     However, we’ve lived in Seattle now for over 20 years and my visits to the beach are few and far between. The Washington and Oregon coast do not compare—the water is near frigid even on the hottest days; I can’t remember when I’ve ever ducked under a wave to get completely wet—it’s just not warm enough.
     Standing with my toes at the Northwest water’s edge makes me homesick. Thankfully, I was able to get my toes in the sand this summer as my husband and I traveled to Southern California for an extended vacation, back to our old stomping grounds.  
     Along the way we visited folks from North to South. (We spent the first 18 years of our married lives in Central California and some of our richest treasures are the friends we have there.)
     One of our visits was an overnight with Rocky and Steve, bosom friends with whom we’ve walked through triumph and tragedy together. Our children and grandchildren provide the extra ‘glue’ that joins us via ups and downs and challenges.  We are grateful to Jesus that we are still close friends and still walking in The Way.

     Rocky and I took a walk early the next morning in her old neighborhood down one of my favorite streets. The sidewalks were lined with established homes, landscaped yards with vine-covered fences, the sound of morning sprinklers and birdsong everywhere.
     The fulsome trees shaded us as we walked and talked passing flower pots on porches and the occasional stained glass window.  It was a holy time.

     We returned to breakfast on the front patio, strong coffee accompanying fresh, just-picked-yesterday peaches and toast made with sourdough bread from our favorite bakery.
Before we sat down, Steve beckoned me over to his easy chair and picked up a small book. 
     “I have something to show you,” he said. He was holding a disassembled copy of  Oswald Chambers’ little devotional book, “My Utmost for His Highest.”
     “Jody, I want you to know I still read this book every morning when I have my devotions and I think of you. I ponder the days’ entry, pray for friends, jot a few lines in my journal while I sit here by the window. Every day it’s the same, right here with this book.”
     I was overcome; they were still reading this copy?? Wow. I hardly remembered giving it to them.
But there on the inside cover he showed me these words,
“September 1990
Rocky, Jesus will talk to you every day through this book—
I promise!  I know you’ll hear him speaking to you ‘cause your heart is so open. 
I love you, Jody”
Twenty-five years.  They had been reading that book daily for 25 years.
     “We got a new copy of ‘My Utmost’, Steve continued, “but it’s just not the same.  I write down peoples’ birthdays, the days my grandkids were born, a particular prayer need. It’s all right here, like a diary.”
     The new leather bound volume with its shiny gold lettering sits on an end table—“it hasn’t been used yet,” he said. “The pages are too new and stiff.” 
“I can’t find my way to the days. This falling-apart volume”—he pointed to the loose pages—”still speaks to me after all these years.”
     I thought about all the things that had changed since we left—the burgeoning growth of the city heading north, a complete remodel of the 100 year old high school, a Whole Foods Market where my old grocery store used to be. Sadly even the yard of our old house was unrecognizable.
     But this little book in my friends’ living room, like our friendship and our faith, was steady and constant over all these years.

   When I texted Rocky to have her snap a photo of the inside cover, she typed these words in return: (sadly, the photo did not translate)

     “Here you go. 25 years later we are still reading Oswald.  I gain a different perspective every time I read these pages; it’s as if he penned the words yesterday.
     “This little book also serves as a family record of events–births, deaths, marriages and so on are all recorded on these pages.
     “Steve and I have mended this little book so many times over all these years. Alas! it is beyond repairing. But our new copy doesn’t ‘feel’ like my old friend.  
I will keep my ole’ friend.”
     What a beautiful picture of the anchor that is God’s word, coupled with the sure thing of a long friendship through thick and thin, keeping our “ole’ friends.”
     We’re all worn out around the edges, have life ‘written’ on our skin, and parts of us may be unrecognizable. And yet there is Jesus holding us fast year after year while the waves of time wash over us, in and out, a constant sure thing after all these years.
     Some things never change.

~~~~~~~~

                                           Linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee 

& the Tell His Story Community.

Ten Things about My Mother (for Father’s Day)

Have you ever been able to hang out with an 8 or 9 year old and read the book ‘Because of Winn Dixie’? (Kate DiCamillo, Newbery Award Winner 2001).

“The summer Opal and her father, the preacher, move to Naomi, Florida, Opal goes into the Winn-Dixie supermarket and comes out with a dog. A big, ugly, suffering dog with a sterling sense of humor.   A dog she dubs Winn-Dixie. 
Because of Winn-Dixie, the preacher tells Opal ten things about her absent mother (who died ‘because of the drink’), one for each year Opal has been alive.”

Last week I was able to read a chapter of this wonderful book and was inspired to make my own list. I realize Father’s Day is coming up, but since I remember my mother so much better than my Father (he left us when I was very young) I now give you….

my dad, bottom left, and mom, pregnant with me, ca. 1951.
Ten Things about my Mother

1. She was determined to make something of herself when she left her home and family in Montana at the age of 19 and moved to Seattle. I married at 19 and 20 years later moved to Seattle.

2.  She never knew a stranger and welcomed people of all races and colors, waaaay before it was a cause celebre, just because that’s who she was.

3.  She loved to belt out Johnny Mathis and Ella Fitzgerald songs. I get all my love of music and song from her.

4.  She wrote down her life on bits and pieces of paper, stealing away from five busy children and a full time job whenever she could. I got the writing bug from her.

5. She taught my brothers and sisters and I the importance of working together and pulling our weight. I started my life as a paid employee at age 15 because of her.

6.  She was a mad, creative seamstress, whipping up Barbie Doll clothes (yes!) Christmas pinafores and Easter dresses for my sisters and I, even made my prom dress and wedding dress.

7.  She was always game for adventure…..one time during a summer in Newport Beach, she was sure we’d be able to rustle up stew from sandcrabs, so we and our housemates stormed the surf for hours collecting them.  You can’t make stew out of sandcrabs.

8.  She loved passionately, perhaps choosing partners poorly four different times, always believing there was love for her somewhere.

9.  She doted on her grandchildren, the two she was alive to meet–and left small and quiet gifts in books and poems.

10.  She died way too young–at 55–a life cut short by drink and disease.  But not before daring greatly to make a difference in the world, loving us all with everything she had.

I wouldn’t be here without my father, but I wouldn’t be who I am without my mom.