Quietness

 

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed Mark 1:35

Just one day ago, our home was bustling with family members who came for a visit. The laughter and conversation of our grandchildren and their parents filled the air. There were a couple of evenings when our son surprised us with amusing renditions using musical instruments. Teenage granddaughters burst out in song, and suddenly, improvised  dancing routines were being displayed in the living room! We played board games, grilled seafood outside, had neighbors over for dinner, and stayed up late watching movies together. The days were bursting with activities. We swam in the perfect temperature of the coastal water, toured the sea turtle rescue center, and played golf. We went out to eat at our favorite restaurants, took long walks along the shore, and sat for hours feeling the cool sea breeze under the shade of beach umbrellas. All the while, we talked about our grandson who, instead of being here, spent this week of vacation in boot camp. Our grandson missed the first of several summer beach trips he will miss as he serves our country. We missed his entertaining conversation and laughter, and each day, we prayed for his safety.

From daylight until midnight we were busy, busy, busy. There were sunburns in the evenings and sleepy-eyed discussions before coffee in the mornings. There were piles of wet beach towels and sandy shoes. There were shopping trips for beach souvenirs and examinations of sea shells washed up by the tides. We crammed two-weeks worth of activities into just a few days. And all too soon, we heard the sound of roller-board luggage wheels wobbling  back out to the car. Then, a final wave goodbye and honk of the horn, and the carload of our loved ones began their long journey back home.

That was yesterday. This morning was quiet. Too quiet. After the days of chaotic family fun, our house is back to the usual state of quietness. After days of being on-the-go, the morning has almost too much stillness to bear. These quiet times provide a pause in which we can remember our gratefulness to God for giving us the chaos. We are thankful that our house can be filled from time-to-time with the commotion of activities from morning until night. The solitude and silence allows us time to appreciate the blessings of the past few days. And during this quietness, we can do what Jesus did in his quiet time. We pray. IMG_3549

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord teach us how to pray, as John taught his disciples. And he said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation. Luke 11:1-4

So in our stillness, we pray. In the quietness of the day, we are grateful. We give thanks for our family and all of our many blessings. We sweep the sand from our floors and give thanks for the feet that visited our home and brought the sand with them from the beach. We wash the piles of beach towels and are grateful for the sunshine filled days and warm breezy weather we enjoyed with our family when they were here. We pray for our family’s safe travel home and safe return to us for another visit. We are thankful for our freedom and our resources that we enjoy as we travel back and forth to visit each other. We give thanks for our wonderful country in which we live and the bravery of our grandson and his best friend, as they prepare to protect us all back home. God is good.

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ Ephesians 5:20

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Vacations….the days we wait for

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Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers Proverbs 17:6

When our children were young, we ventured to destinations during Christmas breaks, spring breaks, and summer. We enjoyed the majesty of the mountains, the steamy summers of the south, and the excitement of DisneyWorld. Often, we traveled to visit family for extended visits.

Following retirement, my husband and I moved to the coast. Now we are one of the vacation destinations not only for family, but friends who live great distances away. The vacation season is upon us once again, which means our children and grandchildren will be heading our way soon.

The sheets and towels are all changed, house ready, and a few meals cooked ahead of time so that we can enjoy every minute. As I look forward to their arrival, I think about their visits of past years. We have witnessed young babies in floaties, sun caps, and inner-tubes, slathered in sun screen, wearing oversized sun glasses, as they kicked their little feet beneath the water. We weathered through a hurricane, flooded roads, and bat-sized mosquitoes. We have seen children appear with braces for the first time, and return again with straight bright teeth. We witnessed surf lessons, golf lessons, and had all of our faces painted on a pirate ship. We went to church by the sea, went on dolphin watches, and sailed on catamaran dinner cruises. We’ve decorated Christmas trees, gone Christmas shopping, and viewed the latest movies. So many days of our vacations with so many memories.

During the time I wait with anticipation for vacations, I cannot help but be thankful for every single minute we shared together as a family. It is not the pirate ships, the golf course, or the surf that make the best memories. My favorite activities are sitting on the screened porch watching the sunrise and sipping a cup of coffee with teenage grandchildren who are barely old enough to have coffee. Or sitting on the patio while visiting with my grown children for hours at a time as the smell of the grilled fish or steak permeates the warm air. Or the time spent in the kitchen making homemade pizzas, pasta, and cheesecakes with my children and grandchildren while we visited about events happening in their lives over the past weeks. And of course taking those early morning walks, jogs, bicycle rides, and swims as we talked about the coming days’ activities. Those precious moments are the real blessings. Those are the moments that warm my heart and remind me of the goodness of God’s many blessings. Those moments are what I wait for and what I enjoy the most.

This summer will be different because our oldest grandson and his best friend will not be with us as they were in the past. They are in the military and are sacrificing their family time as they serve our country. These young men are a crown for us. I pray for their well being every day.

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul 3 John 1:2

The fact that these two young men are away underscores the preciousness of each second we have together with the remaining grandchildren. Before we can say Amen, our other grandchildren will be grown and busy with their own lives, too. But for now, I give thanks for the time we are given. I give thanks for the health and welfare of all of our children and grandchildren. And I give thanks for the vacation days ahead. I am abundantly blessed.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work 2 Corinthians 9:8

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Pets, Children and Love

Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel. Proverbs 12:10

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As I sit on the sofa with a thunderstorm raging outside, I look down at my little puppy asleep beside me. She is recovering from a minor surgery and has been asleep for a few hours. Glancing at her, I remember how our children used to talk about older people and their dogs. We laughed because we had dogs too, but the older folks treated their dogs like children! And now, here I am. Our children have children of their own. And my husband and I have a new dog. My daughter recently remarked that we had become “those people” who treat their dog like one of their own offspring.

I cannot deny this. We do baby this puppy. She goes with us everywhere we can possibly take her. She goes to the store, to any restaurant with outdoor dining, and even to the beach.  She goes on road trips, sleeps in our hotel room, and looks out the car window toward our next destination. And now, as she lays quietly and moans, I think about our love for animals and even more, I think about our profoundly deep love for our children.

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There are guidelines in the Scripture about parents and children. There are verses about how fathers and mothers are to be parents. And of course there is much written about how children are to behave, listen to, and respect their parents. All of these verses about children, and about animals, have one thing in common: love. The guidelines are there so that we, as Christians, know and understand how precious these lives are. And, as Christians, we know a lot about love. The Scriptures are full of examples and stories about love. As it turns out, love is the most essential part of being Christian.

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

And how much does God love us? The most important indication of that is found in the well known verse from John:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son…John 3:16.

Think about that. As parents, it is hard to conceive of loving others so much that we would offer up our own child to die for other people. But that is exactly what happened. And even more difficult to comprehend is the love that God has for his Son, and the love that Jesus has for us. Jesus said:

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.  John 15:9

We cannot possibly love as much as God loves us. But we can try. We can follow the guidelines set before us to strengthen our faith and our love for our children, our family, our God, and of course, our pets. My puppy will recover and we will go on our next adventure. We trust that God will also watch, guide, and love our children, and their children, as they go through each day. We know His love is powerful enough for us all.

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Her children call her blessed

 

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After reading my last blog, my mother emailed me and asked. “Are you sure you are my daughter?” She was asking because she has trouble understanding that she influenced my love of writing. It is true. She did contribute to that skill along with other skills possessed by myself and my siblings. But this question made me think about mothers and mothering in general.

Mothers come in all types and with many different abilities. My mother, for example, instilled in me the idea of independence. It is not independence just for survival. It was the concept of independence of ability and the belief that “You can do whatever you set your mind to do.” There was never any condition set upon it. I could have told her I would be an astronaut, an executive CEO of a business, anything. She would have said the same thing. This belief propelled me to eventually earn two doctoral degrees, become a professor, dean, and writer. But this blog is not about that. It is about mothers.

Mothers can by choice, or necessity, work full-time jobs. These moms instill independence and motivation. Their children can become excellent problem solvers and independent thinkers. Other mothers dedicate their lives to staying at home and they make a career of raising productive loving families. These children may learn excellent interpersonal skills that will help them to have empathy for others that will boost their success in all walks of life. Still, other mothers put careers first and instill achievement and self-sufficiency in their children.

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Then there are the “super mothers.” I know about these super moms because my daughter is one. A super mom is a mom when she does not have to be. This can include being a super mom because a mother raises children who are not hers. My daughter is a super mom because she fosters infants who, for one reason or another, cannot remain with their biological mothers. She is a foster mother of infants whose bodies may be withdrawing from drugs or grappling with recovery from neglect or abuse. She is the mom who is up all hours while the infants experience withdrawal, anxiety, or physical illness. She is an angel for those babies who need an angel more than anything.

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat of the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all…” Proverbs 31:25-30

But one thing all mothers have in common is praying for the very best for their children. This never stops. As long as a mother is alive, she is praying for the best health, completely amazing welfare, all-encompassing safety, unbelievably wonderful relationships, strongest faith, and general well-being, for her children. Mothers whose children leave home for college, the military, a new job, or inter into a marriage, are all praying for their children. It never stops.

I often worry about and pray for my own children and their children. My children are adults, and their children soon will be. Embracing our faith keeps us strong and helps us to turn our worry about our children over to Him. Children raised in faith may be tested but will ultimately return to their faith. So, for now we all pray and give thanks for these many blessings of motherhood and families. We know that our children lives, and ours, are in His hands.

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it Proverbs 22:6

 

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Peacefulness in Times of Worry

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There are many reasons we worry. We worry about planning something. We worry when we are doing that thing we planned. And then, afterward, we worry if we did the right thing. Later, we worry what others think about what we just did or said. Worry, worry, worry.

Our family is worrying because we are experiencing the unknown. Maybe, your family is like our family. Your family may be facing something unknown. When we are faced with the unknown, it creates worry that may escalate to anxiety. The anxiety occurs because we are not in control. We cannot see the unknown, so we think about it constantly and we worry. What we fail to remember is that we are never really in control. We make plans and decisions and hope for positive outcomes. We pray for positive outcomes. And, if it is His will, we have positive outcomes.

There are times when we will not know the outcome right away. This extended period of time, when we do not know what will happen next, causes worry. The period of time may be days, weeks, months, or years. Such is the case when our loved ones are critically ill, our loved ones are serving in the military, our loved ones go off to college alone for the first time, or our loved ones leave the house each day to patrol our cities or fight our fires. We wait. We pray. We worry. That is our nature.

Giving in to worry and anxiety is not what God wants for us. Jesus talked about anxiety and worry with His disciples when He asked:

“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” Luke 12: 25-26.

Being human, we cannot help ourselves. Try as we might, we still worry. We are still anxious. So, what can we do? What should we do?

We lean on each other. We talk to each other. We have fellowship together. We celebrate our good times. And we wait together. We wake each day with hearts full of thankfulness for the gifts we have. For guidance, we turn to Scripture. Scripture can calm our souls, free our minds, give us hope, and help us pray.

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Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Remembering that God’s ways are higher than our ways, we know that all things will work together for the good for those who are His children. So take a moment, say a prayer of thanks, and look forward to the times ahead with thankfulness. This is the way to peacefulness in times of worry.

 

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