Category Archive: Family

Amazing Grace

So we’ve sold our former home, and emptied it of the hundreds of tools my dear husband had organized in one of the garage bays. We’ve cleared out my mother’s apartment and she’s settling into the Assisted Living Center well, albeit adjusting to the changes, in her new digs.

We’ve donated hutches, armoires, clothing, and more, that we hope will help someone else along their journey.

We’ve worked together with family to accomplish all this, working around schedules and other priorities to get the jobs done.

We’ve prayed for strength and grace, rested when we could, and have received grace each day to go at it again. I was reminded this week of when my late husband was in the hospital. I was exhausted at the end of every long and intense day. Yet the next morning I would be ready to do it again, with joy.

God’s mercies truly are new every morning; He is faithful! (Zephaniah 3:17)

I couldn’t have done all this without a lot of help, especially from my wonderful Don, who had his own priorities to deal with in emptying out the old garage. He’s loaded, lifted, loved Mom, worked with his son and my brother and his son-in-law, and has been more gracious than I through it all. My sister-in-law and I spent several afternoons packing together; and our nephew and grandnephew both worked with us. When I’ve been discouraged, feeling like there was no end in sight, Don has listened and encouraged me that this season would end.

And we’ve experienced small graces along the way, which have again shown God’s faithful character and attention to our needs. I think of the friend of my mother’s who said she would take everything we wanted to give her … and did, including about 12 full boxes of cooking utensils and other items can no longer use or store, planters, tables, and potting soil. Don and I were amazed at how much Patty and her friend got into their pickup, and relieved to have these items picked up, many of which were going to Patty’s church to help others.

And Mom’s sweet neighbor Connie who, despite her own need for a cane, got down and cleared out some of Mom’s kitchen cupboards, making a pile for Goodwill in the process.

Or Mom’s Bernina sewing machine, which I posted online Thursday evening and sold Friday morning, our last day at Mom’s apartment before turning in the key. How perfect that in God’s timing someone saw it and wanted it right away!

As the week progressed Don and I began to see an end to the pressure, the time crunch, which allowed us to begin to relax. Sometimes rest doesn’t come when we feel the need is greatest; but when it does come it is so very sweet and renewing.

“For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” (Psalm 127:2, NASB)

As I’ve pondered my own stress due to multiple demands on my mental, physical and emotional energies, I’ve thought of the persecuted Church around the world. When missionary Tom Randall was falsely imprisoned in the Philippines, sick and weak in body, he led Bible studies and a number of men committed their lives to Jesus Christ within the walls of that prison. And when his jailers came to tell him he was being released, Tom asked if they would allow him to stay in prison one more night and day so he could teach the men one more time before leaving. That’s God’s grace in spades!

Many are dealing with the ongoing daily stress of threat, imprisonment, torture, loss. Their needs go so far beyond mine. I pray that in their circumstances they too will experience little graces that express God’s faithfulness to them, His promise never to leave nor forsake them. His promise that there is hope beyond this life that is sweeter than anything we could hope for here. His presence that sustains and comforts and yes, gives strength that is supernatural despite horrific circumstances.

Won’t you join me in praying for these persecuted saints?

God bless and guide you today in all your thoughts, actions, and decisions. May His name be glorified!

Agency

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Have you ever wondered how best to help a loved one or friend in a way that retains his dignity? While my brother and sister-in-law, Arnold and Carol, were here last week, we talked a good deal about the concept of “agency”.

Arnold’s definition of agency is “power and ability to do what you want to do.” He says “People with disabilities have lost some agency. People without power have lost some agency. Women have less agency in general than men because of cultural stereotypes and limitations. Prisoners have had agency removed from them by the courts.”

My brother has given a lot of thought to this topic because his wife, Carol, suffered a life-altering stroke six and a half years ago. There are things she can’t do herself any more; and activities with which she needs help.

Our mother has also lost some ability to do things she wishes to do, and therefore, some power. Mom’s mind is still quite clear; however, her legs are getting weaker. She’s fallen twice in the last two months. She has thought for awhile about possibly moving into the Assisted Living section of the senior manor where she lives.

Living independently at 97 is quite a feat, but we wondered if it was still wise for Mom. Of course we children want her to be safe. Arnold put it well when he said he sees his role with Carol, his wife, to be that of providing agency–or power, ability and environment for her to decide and to act as she wishes, rather than by simply doing things for her.

So this Christmas we, along with brothers Bob and Melvyn and their wives, talked with each other, and with Mom, asking questions like what situations would cause her to say “It’s time,” “I’m ready,” “I need to move.” She also asked whether we would be disappointed in either decision–to move or to stay. We set her mind at ease regarding that, and told her our desire is to help her achieve her goals, not to impose ours on her.

And she’s decided she’s not yet ready to leave the cottage which she loves and has decorated with precious mementos from the family home she shared with Dad. So our role is to support her, to help identify ways she can get additional help i.e. with taking care of her patio and plants, and to fill in some of the gaps for her on a more regular basis.

I appreciated Arn’s explanation of agency. When we help someone achieve their dreams, meet their own needs or make decisions that we then help facilitate, the person retains his dignity. He or she is acting rather than being acted upon, as it would be if we told that individual what to do.

There are certainly situations where safety or protection are so critical, or abilities so limited, that decisions must be made for another. But when there are still decision-making capabilities, how much better to help in that process.

Isn’t this what Jesus did for us? He took the penalty for my sins and yours, something we are incapable of doing for ourselves, and freed us, gave us the power and ability to walk with God through faith in Him.

Do you have someone in your life who lacks agency, or the capacity or power to act on his or her own behalf? If so, how can you help that individual identify or communicate their choices and then facilitate those choices to become a reality?

A Little of This and a Little of That

A week and a half ago our dining room was stacked about seven feet high throughout with packed boxes. More were in various rooms in our new home, and in the garage. 

After a long week of unpacking, putting things away, and repacking items we no longer have room for, one of our nephews flew in from Texas for business and we had the privilege of dining and visiting with him. Their town had about 10 inches of rain in the past four days–overwhelming, but not to the extent North Carolina has suffered recently.

Grandnieces and nephews at tonight’s Family Dinner. Love these littles.

Tonight Bob and Sheila hosted their wonderful bi-weekly family dinner. Don and I picked Mom up and enjoyed the time with our brother and sister-in-law, two of their sons and their families. With three candles on a delicious brownie, they serenaded me with “Happy Birthday” Three candles–thirty years! I like that!

And our realtor told us some of the people visiting our Soquel home Open House asked if we planted a heart or if it (the heart) grew on its own. Neither Don nor I could figure out what she meant. Marie sent a photograph of a section of our wisteria–which grew into the shape of a heart all by itself. We hadn’t noticed! But others did!

Kind of like our relationship with the Father … as we spend time with him, allowing him to prune us, absorbing his character, others begin to see in us a heart of love, when we did nothing consciously to plant it. God’s likeness simply grows as we bask in his presence and take in the sunlight and watering of his great love for us.

May you and I enjoy relaxing in the Father’s love this week as he embeds his character into our lives.

“He sets the Lonely in Families…”

As we hosted our grandniece Savannah last weekend, she, Don and I talked a great deal about missions. Savannah felt God’s call five years ago. Since then she has gone on several interim mission trips and continued her nursing in preparation to go overseas, her commitment remaining strong. Together we delighted over a mouth-watering Thai dinner of Fresh Spring Rolls, Tom Kha (coconut soup), Panang Curry, Broccoli Beef, and brown rice. The next morning we breakfasted at home with bacon and eggs, rolls and fruit. We laughed a lot and enjoyed worshiping together. Don and I shared our love story, and Savannah told us how she is preparing for her ministry assignment. It didn’t seem we would ever run out of things to talk about.

Later Sunday evening we met members of my family, including my New York niece, Nicholee and her son Calum, who is entering his senior year of high school. They were in California exploring film schools, Calum’s interest. What a delight to catch up on the lives and future plans of these two, whom we last saw four years ago.

And yesterday Mom and I attended a baby shower for my niece Janae, who is expecting her and Leon’s first child in November. Our family continues to grow and diversify. Between both sides of our families we have members from New York to South Carolina to Virginia to Texas, Idaho, Colorado, Kansas, here in California, and in Canada – and in future, in other parts of the globe. I’m grateful God has put us in families. He created us to be in community, understands our need for companionship, and provides that in more than one way.

I’m thankful that God’s children, those who are Christ-followers, are another kind of family, one of faith in the blood and redemption of Jesus! Even those without traditional “family” members can still be a part of a family, a community of faith. And within that community we can hopefully find the kind of support, affirmation and love we hope to find in our natural families. No, God’s family members aren’t perfect – far from it, matter of fact. But we’re forgiven and so are also learning to forgive and love each other along a common path. Psalm 68:6 says “God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.”

Family Reunion in 2012

My family has loved and supported me through all the seasons of my life: childhood, schooling, college, ten years of ghetto ministry, marriage at the age of 36 and widowhood at 57; and remarriage at 62. They traveled across the country to support my late husband and me while he was trying to recover from a transplant. And while two brothers helped me carry Jerry’s ashes back home after he passed into the waiting arms of Jesus, two walked me toward my new husband, Don, and a new life five years later.

We’ve had our disagreements, some significant. But we’ve loved each other enough to work through those and to value relationship over “same thinking”. I love both my natural and my faith-families.

So what’s the best part about the family(ies) you’re in?

May God be with you in whatever relationships you are experiencing; and with those of you sending your children off to another year of school. Hold them close, and teach them to fly!

P.S. I told you I’d let you know what color we chose for the living and dining rooms of our new home (move to come in two and a half weeks). It’s a beautiful aqua grey–and as our realtor pointed out to me, almost exactly the same color I’ve been wearing on my fingernails recently. I guess I’m consistent!

Mothering … By Birth or Otherwise

My beautiful mother with about half of her great grandchildren!

As we celebrated Mother’s Day yesterday, Don and I were surrounded by my darling 96-year old mother, Helen; one beautiful sister-in-law, Sheila; and two lovely younger mothers, my nieces Amanda and Heather.

Earlier in the day I had listened to “Hey Mama,” a beautiful song by the Ball Brothers that talks about a mother who made home a safe place, who gave wise insights and advice, and who loved well. Sobs welled up inside me and tears rolled down my face, recognizing my mother in the words of the song, and also realizing that in a few years I may be singing this song, wishing I could hear her voice when she’s on the other side of the great divide. What a gift to have had, and to be surrounded by, loving mothers who show by their words and actions what it means to honor their husbands and raise their children in love and faith. The song is worth listening to, at the link below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAM9O76Fjls

But not all of us are, or can be, biological mothers. Yet in His grace, God has provided other ways of loving, teaching, guiding, encouraging that are open to all of us, whether or not we have birthed children from our own bodies.

I mentor two capable, lovely daughters-in-faith. I received loving notes from both yesterday, along with fragrant flowers. I also received a meaningful card from one of my stepsons, who is just a few years younger than I am. How thoughtful! And I realize what a gift God has given, that there are ways of loving, teaching, guiding, encouraging that any of us can pursue, whether or not we are biological mothers.

So, to each of my readers who has raised, or is raising children, God bless and guide you and give you joy and strength for the challenges of each day, each year. And to those who, like me, have not birthed children of our flesh, God love you and show you opportunities to invest in younger women, to encourage family members, to serve God in the lives of others, and to feel His love and grace through those precious God-given relationships. He is faithful. Let us be also, whether it’s to nieces and nephews, stepchildren, mentees, the weak and helpless, or children of friends who need loving adults in their lives.

And Mom, I love you and thank God for your influence and impact In my life over the years: from the time as a tiny girl that I spilled a cup of milk and, instead of scolding me, you said, “Oh well, that can be cleaned up.” Or the time you stayed up late, crying with me as I shared about a broken engagement. To the example you were when your beloved, my father, went Home to be with Jesus and you refused to pull away from others but continued to engage even as you grieved. Or the overnight trips we took together as widows; and the joy you expressed when God brought another wonderful man into my life. Thank you for loving me and teaching me through your example.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. (Proverbs 31:30 NIV)