Category Archive: Family

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)

Love, Commitment and a New Year

The gifts have been unwrapped, wrapping paper has been cleaned up, joy-filled Christmas carols have been replaced by Easy Listening radio and Bowl games, and turkey leftovers are in the freezer. Today we’re taking down the tree.

As we enter a new year, many will make resolutions, many of which will go by the wayside before the end of the month. It is good, however, to reflect on the past year and consider where we might want to make changes.  Some of my goals, not resolutions, for 2018:  to know Christ better; to love and serve my husband, family and others; to build relationships and focus on presence.

And as I think of some memories from this Christmas just past, I am incredibly grateful for family.

It was the anniversary dance at my niece’s celebration of marriage. Don and I, who are not dancers, enjoyed holding each other and swaying to the music. We sat down pretty quickly, at “married ten years or less” (our eighth anniversary is this month).

The DJ kept counting.

“If you’ve been married fifteen years or less, sit down.” Some did.

“If you’ve been married twenty … twenty-five … thirty-two … thirty-seven …”

Of about twenty couples who started the dance, only two remained on the floor: my second oldest and my youngest brothers and their wives. My oldest brother would have been there too, had his wife been able to join us that day. Bob and Sheila left the dance floor at “forty or less”, while Arnold and Carol remained center stage until the DJ said “If you’ve been married fifty years or less …”

Dad & Mom, married 58 years

I loved seeing my brothers and sisters-in law out there, a testimony to the grace of God and to commitment over the long haul.

Bob’s tender gaze as he danced with Sheila touched my heart.

Carol had a life-changing stroke five years ago. Her mobility is limited, despite her determination to regain health and strength, to relearn the use of muscles and processes from walking, to using her hands. So to see the love she and Arn share, the laughter and joy they express with each other, and to see them standing, Carol dependent on Arnold for stability, on the dance floor after fifty years of marriage was especially meaningful. And to have the last two couples on the dance floor be two of my brothers and sisters-in-law touched my heart with thanksgiving. It speaks to the values we have learned from our parents, from our understanding of God’s principles about love and commitment, and to the grace of God in our family’s life. Each of us has faced hardships. We’ve lost family members we treasured. Marriages have gone through difficult challenges. But our commitment to God and family has kept us together, and I thank God for His grace in each of our lives and marriages.

So as we move into this new year, I pray God’s grace on each of us, and on you, my dear readers. Grace for each day, each trial, each joy, each marriage and family. As Tiny Tim so aptly said, “God bless us, everyone!”