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A Grand Adventure or My Grandson?

horses by oceanThere will be no vacation for us this year. No foreign excursion. No Alaskan cruise. No bungalow on the beach. No mountain cabin by a crystalline lake.

Not that those things were very affordable in the past, but this year is different.

This year, David and I have committed to keeping our almost 6-month-old grandson for my son and his girlfriend when they are at work.kSlUPi%vRdWg+mZXzteP6Q

When we first learned of our grandbaby’s existence almost a year ago, the assumption was that they wouldn’t be able to keep him because they were very young, unmarried and would not be able to pull if off financially. They had thought it through, talked about it, and decided that adoption was the way to go.

And that’s what they told us when they finally got up the nerve to tell us about the baby.

But no, grace dove in and we were under it’s unrelenting power. If they wanted to keep this baby boy, we would do everything we could to help them, short of paying their bills. We would provide childcare—Nana Daycare we call it—and call upon our vast network IMG_9540 2of friends to help provide the necessities for setting up a home with a baby.

So this year we will take no vacation, but we will rest in knowing that God’s grace gave us this sweet gift instead.

You are the trip I did not take,

You are the pearls I could not buy

You are my blue Italian lake

You are my piece of foreign sky.

Anne Campbell

 

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. Join the fun!

 

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Restore the Fathers

Jesus with childrenFather’s Day is just around the corner. How very appropriate and heartbreaking that the immigrant crisis—children being torn from the very breasts of their mothers—now center stage in our country should be garnering so much notice at this time.

My grandfather was an immigrant. Granted, his parents went through the arduous process of coming legally, but had they not been able to do that, if they had been fleeing a dangerous situation and needed refuge, I can’t even imagine what would have happened had my grandfather been taken away from them.

We lost our younger son at Sea World one time. It was only for a few minutes, but the terror that was in my heart during those few minutes has never been forgotten. Had anything happened to him, I would have been devastated. So to know that hundreds, no, thousands of parents are experiencing their children being taken away from them by authorities in a country they thought would be their refuge is completely unimaginable.

The law of the land, they say. It’s biblical to obey the governing authorities, they say.

How they can look themselves in the mirror or even sleep at night is beyond me.

Families belong together. There is no excuse. Maybe the parents have broken the law, but IMG_0654there are better ways to handle the situation. I’m not a fan of illegal immigration, but I am a fan of people. You can’t treat them like animals. They are not cattle or sheep to be separated for slaughter.

It’s Father’s Day on Sunday. While you’re celebrating your own father, or being a father, or fathers that you know, take time to pray for those fathers who have had their children forcibly removed from their care by the governing authority, that they would be restored to their children.

And weep for them, as I’m sure Jesus is doing even now.

“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” — Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 19:14)

This post is a part of the weekly Five Minute Friday link up. Come join in the fun!

 

image from vvsventujuparapija.lt

Anonymous No More

I’m a fan of the new TV show “This is Us.” Week after week I watch this family make choices, both good and bad, and love each other through it all.

kevinIf you’re a fan but are behind on watching, I’ll warn you right now that there is a mini spoiler in here. I’ll give you time to look away.

OK, so Kevin is in rehab and it’s family day. Everyone gathers and they sit together in a room with the therapist and Kevin starts talking.

One thing that struck me that he said was “We’re a family of addicts.” Which of course didn’t go over well with his family. Much more was said in that room that wasn’t very pretty, but Kevin was right. Only no one wanted to face it.

An addiction is defined by dictionary.com as “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit forming.” To end an addiction is traumatizing. Some would say “once an addict, always an addict.” You can never be completely free. But you can overcome it.

Baseball player Josh Hamilton battled drug and alcohol addiction and it almost ruined his career, not to mention his life. He got clean and sober and went back to baseball and was successful. Several years later, he confessed to having relapsed into cocaine and alcohol use. He was disappointed in himself, but he was aware that this would always be a struggle for him.

That’s the thing about addictions, especially when they involve chemical substances thatalcohol affect your brain. You can’t overcome them on your own.

My father was an alcoholic. It’s not something we ever talked about in our home. But when he fell down the stairs and suffered a cracked skull, he started going through withdrawal that at first the doctors didn’t diagnose. They thought he might be having a seizure or something else. When it became clear that it was alcohol withdrawal, we couldn’t really deny it anymore.

But still we don’t talk about it. Even when he almost turned into oncoming traffic on a busy thoroughfare just days before my wedding. I made him pull over and let me drive so I wouldn’t die before I got married.

My dad went to a couple of AA meetings, but then he decided he could beat his problem on his own. It didn’t work. He died of a heart attack 11 years ago, undoubtedly related to the strain he had put on his body for all those years.

The actions of addicts affect everyone around them. Be it alcohol, drugs, sex, or technology, addictions break relationships. An addict needs the help of others to overcome their addictions.

I watched a bizarre documentary recently about animal addictions in Great Britain. (Watch “41 Dogs in My Home” on Netflix.) To a person, none of them would admit they dog hoardingmight have a problem. One woman had 41 dogs. 41! Another man had 60 exotic animals. A woman had cats that couldn’t even be counted. Each one of them said they just loved the animals and couldn’t ever contemplate giving any of them away.

Relationships were lost (the man with the 60 exotic animals had been married at least twice) or severely strained. Finances were always a concern. Houses were a mess.

Yet they couldn’t see it.

We know a man who recently confessed to years and years of a well-hidden addiction. We were shocked. We had no idea. The effort it took to put on that façade must have been exhausting. He and his wife are now separated and he is absent from important family events. I’m praying restoration can happen. It’s heartbreaking. But he’s certainly not alone.

In “This is Us,” Kevin is going to need his family to listen to him, to support him and to help him beat this thing. I hope they’re willing to listen and to talk about it.

It’s not just a cliché; it really does first take admitting that you have a problem, not just being found out. If your heart doesn’t change, neither will your actions.

 

 

images from: usmagazine.com; bradfordhealth.com; viralnova.com

The Power of Friendship

I told my daughter today that I needed to write. She said, “You should write about the power of friendship.”

IMG_0632That’s something she thinks about a lot, being just a couple of months shy of 15. This past year has been dominated by a group of friends she and her 18-year-old brother have that call themselves The Marathoners. It started as a small gathering from the youth group at church that got together weekly to watch movies (thus the name “Marathoners,” from movie marathons, not running marathons.)

It’s funny how just watching movies together can bond people so closely.

The group normally met at the home of a young husband and wife who were volunteer leaders with the group. We knew them fairly well, in fact I mentored the wife, getting together with her each week, so we felt comfortable with all the people involved.

Oh my, how this group loves each other. They formed a chat group and message each other numerous times during the day both to solidify plans and to share funny videos, songs, poetry, prayer, or whatever they desire. Many of them even camped together with a couple of the dads for one’s birthday in order to see a meteor shower.

While keeping tabs on the kinds of things they were sharing with each other, I also cautioned my kids to beware of becoming a clique and to be sure they were including FullSizeRender-3others, especially at youth group meetings where there could be those who felt left out. I told them there would be those who were envious of the kids in the “cool group.” They assured me, “Mom, we’re far from the ‘cool kids.'”

Maybe so, but the closeness and love the Marathoners show for each other would be obvious to those observing.

And then something catastrophic happened.

The young wife, whose secrets I had been aware of for quite some time, went public on Facebook that she and her husband were separating and the leadership of the church had told her that she was not allowed to have contact with any of the youth inside or outside of Wednesday night youth group.

FullSizeRenderTwo problems: #1 That statement wasn’t true

and #2 Without any context whatsoever, that announcement sent the Marathoners into a tailspin.

In a rush of texts and tears and frenzied phone calls, we pulled together the Marathoners and the leadership of the youth the very next day, knowing that we needed them to hear the truth of the matter and have a time to process it all together.

I will forever be grateful for the way the leaders handled that meeting, and for the maturity that my kids showed. As we processed together in the following days, my son showed a huge heart for these friends who meant so much to him. And my daughter, who had been very close to the young wife, cried over this situation more than any other in her life, but found solace in the group who leaned in and loved each other even more.

Just a couple of weeks later, both of my kids were asked to speak to upcoming middle school and high school students at a graduation event at church. My daughter, who hates being in front of people, bravely took the stage to address the rising 5th graders and spoke from her heart about how having the right friends and trusting the leaders of TheCity (the name of the youth group) were so very important for their middle school years. If it FullSizeRender 2weren’t for The Marathoners, she didn’t know how she would have survived struggles she had with long-time friends at school. They meant the world to her.

I can’t say that I have a lot of friends still from high school, and certainly not from junior high. Not only do I live on the other side of the country now, but that was almost 40 years ago. But those friendships I have maintained grew and blossomed in the soil of a solid youth group.

This summer, we’re enjoying having the group over to swim. It gets my 2 introvert cave dwellers out a lot more. I love hearing their laughter, watching their friendship and praying for them.

FullSizeRenderThe power of friendship. It can change everything. It’s what Jesus wants for us. Oneness with Him, and oneness with each other.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47 ESV).

It Starts With Spilled Milk

After my post the other day regarding lying, I had a conversation with several young moms about how to encourage an atmosphere of grace in their homes when they are more prone to be rule followers.

spilled-milkThat’s a great question. I think it starts with spilled milk.

Surely every parent, sometime in their parent life, has experienced a child spilling milk or some sticky drink either at the dinner table or in the car or on the carpet. Your reaction to these accidents helps set the tone for bigger mistakes in your child’s future.

Mistakes are opportunities to grow and learn.

Here’s what I suggest could be said in different circumstances.

Your child spills his/her drink.

Oops! Well, I’ve spilled my share of drinks, too. Let’s clean it up together and see what we can do to be more careful in the future.

Your child breaks a favorite item of yours on accident.

I’m sad this got broken, but I know you didn’t mean to break it. It’s just a thing. You’re more important to me than that [insert broken item].

You forget to do something you promised your child you’d do. 

I’m sorry I forgot to do [insert whatever it is]. I was wrong to not follow through on what I said. Will you forgive me?

These are all common circumstances that every family can relate to. Building an environment where your child is not afraid to tell you they did something is critical to helping them understand that grace reigns in your household. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences for their bad choices, but choosing to do something wrong and having something happen by accident are different.

Open dialog happens from a very early age. Listen to your children with your full attention. Ask them questions. Help them come to their own conclusions about issues. Let them express themselves in an appropriate, respectful manner.

With my kids, I found that there was a little bit of a Catch-22: We had such a close relationship that they didn’t want to disappoint me, even if I had never made performance a priority. The notion that lying to me is more disappointing than the original act doesn’t seem to get through their heads!

The most important thing I think I do is to keep telling them, “I love you.” And it’s never the person I’m disappointed in, it’s the choice. That is emphasized time and again.

 

Amongst many other forgotten things, I’ve had countless items borrowed and lost, and a favorite bowl knocked off the counter and smashed, all accidents. All covered by grace because the lossshattered-trust was unintentional.

But I’ve also had my trust absolutely demolished like that favorite bowl by a child lying right to my face. Things hidden from me because that child knew those actions would grieve me.

But grace wins every time. God will deal with the sin. I’ve given consequences for the actions to my minor kids. But for my adult children, I’ve cried, prayed, told them truth over and over, but ultimately, their decisions are part of the journey God has them on.

And sometimes that journey goes through the stream of spilled milk. Will it be a sour experience or a sweet one, ending in a pool of grace?

Longing For Lake Tahoe

FullSizeRender-1I have been battling with discontentment this summer. Last summer I got to spend several weeks driving to and from Colorado and hanging out in the mountains. This summer, with sweltering temperatures and cloying humidity, I sit at home, not wanting to venture out past 9 in the morning.

Maybe some people like living in Florida in the summer; I would not be one of them.

And yet that’s where I’ve been for the past 24 summers, with small breaks here and there to be elsewhere.

I long for elsewhere. I long for Lake Tahoe.

When I was younger, my family and I spent many a joyous vacation at Lake Tahoe. Whenever I smell pine trees I fly back in time to that log cabin nestled in the woods that we shared for oh-too-brief vacations with my grandparents. Version 4

The beauty of the mountains, the coolness of the water, the serenity of the lake.

It was idyllic. But I was a child and didn’t have the responsibility of cooking or packing or planning. I just got to enjoy the scenery.

Why, Lord? Why Orlando?

I guess it’s not all about me.

But I long for the beauty, the outdoorsyness, the cool nights sitting on the porch. How did I get to be this person who doesn’t even want to venture outside?

Version 3Would it have felt better if I didn’t have Facebook shoving it in my face that so many other friends get to be elsewhere?

Pennsylvania. Paris. Milan. Minnesota. Washington. Wales.

I see the photos. They draw me.

But here I sit watching another afternoon thunderstorm. Remembering that God’s grace reaches Orlando, too. Maybe my city needed me this summer as it bent under a terrorist attack.

Maybe my daughter needed me as she took another step closer to maturity. As she finally got her braces off. As she struggled with the wherewithal to follow through on her desires of the spring.

Maybe my middle child needed me as he toured college campuses and tried to figure out what he wants to do after graduation. Maybe he needed me to listen to his fussing about his online class, his summer reading, his hatred of math.

Maybe my eldest needed me here as he navigated a breakup with his first girlfriend. As he applied for and started another job. As he took his first online summer class for college.

I am here for a reason. I can whine about my circumstances or I can embrace the plan Version 2God has for me. In Philippians chapter 4, the Apostle Paul says, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

The plenty of beautiful surroundings and the days of my youth. Being brought low to where I don’t even want to step foot outdoors through the long days of summer. I know this isn’t exactly what Paul was referring to, but it’s how I feel.

IMG_5602I can do this. I can live in Orlando for another summer. Or 2. Or 30. If this is where the Lord has me, then He will strengthen me to live in it.

And at just the right angle, the retention pond could actually look like a lake.

The Robe

The last time I saw my mom alive,IMG_6503 9 years ago this month, she was wearing her favorite big, fluffy bathrobe. Undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer, she sensed her struggle was coming to an end and she didn’t have the wherewithal to get dressed most days. While I was with her, a hospice nurse came in and talked to us about the future. We arranged for Meals on Wheels to bring food several times a week. I talked to the postal deliverer about bringing her mail down to the front door because her mailbox was at the top of a steep driveway.

She was still sleeping in her bedroom which was on the lower floor of the house where I grew up, so she had enough energy and strength to climb the stairs every morning. But she was growing weaker.IMG_6502

I didn’t know that was the last time I would see her.

After she passed away, my sisters and brother and I went through all the things in the house (my dad had passed away 16 months previous) and chose what we wanted to take home with us, what would be donated, and what would be thrown away.

I chose the robe.

That old robe is getting a little ratty, but I can’t see myself ever wanting to let it go. It doesn’t smell like her anymore—she’s been gone too long—but it still looks like her, and that’s enough for me.

Would I rather hear her voice over the telephone line? Of course. Would I prefer to get a letter in the mail with the latest photographs of whatever she wanted me to see? Absolutely. But instead, I have this old robe. And it’s precious to me.

IMG_6501Miss you, Mom. You would be proud of your grandkids. The one who had a baby almost a year ago and would have made you a great grandma. The one who graduated from college this year and already has a job. The ones who got married and are making new lives for their families. The one who opened his own business and has been written up in several publications because of it. The one who started college and wants to be a law enforcement officer. The one you never met, who learned to tie his own shoes and loves Star Wars. The one who loves horses just like I do and takes riding lessons and has been in horse shows. The one who will be a high school senior and is trying to figure out where he wants to go and what he wants to do.

And so I wear the robe. It holds me close when my mom no longer can. No matter how ratty it gets, that robe isn’t going anywhere.