Category Archives: Uncategorized

Lots of Lasts

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It’s our last child’s last day of high school. Our last hurrah with DSISD. John and I have sat through our last child’s last award ceremony, his last FFA meeting and last Ag Boosters banquet. It’s our last week of our last child not studying enough for his last set of high school finals. He’s paid his last class dues. We’ve written our last check to the lunchroom (where current lunches cost considerably more than Micah’s grandfather’s seven cent lunches) and, this morning, received our last e-mail (well, maybe) from the Dripping Springs Independent School District, reminding us about caps, gowns, graduation practices, returning textbooks, senior pictures, and overdue parking tickets.

It’s kind of a big deal. And it’s got this mama’s heart feeling a bit nostalgic and reflective.

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During the past twenty plus years of schooling, our three boys learned a lot of “book smarts” and made a lot of changes. They went from simple addition to calculus and trig, from reading sight words to (trying to comprehend) Shakespeare. They learned to dribble a basketball and hike (or throw) a football. They dealt with separation anxiety, kids that weren’t always nice on the playground, and occasional less-than-stellar report cards.

Typical of any student’s senior year, we were asked to provide a list of Micah’s accomplishments and awards throughout his academic career. We’d done this same gathering and assembling for Jordan in 2008 and Jacob in 2010. Grades, scholarships, ribbons, medals. And they received all of those. But wouldn’t it be great to be asked for a list detailing what our kids have learned that we are most grateful for – those things that really have little to do with academics?

They learned to shine their bright lights in a dark world, and they learned – and saw for themselves – that light is far more powerful than darkness. They learned that they didn’t have to conform to the world to be accepted, appreciated, or liked. They learned from private – and not so private – mistakes. They learned to live in the world, but to not be of the world.

With every group project and sport they participated in, they learned how to get along with people, how to work as a team, and that the world doesn’t revolve around them.

With every closed door, they learned how to deal with disappointment, and how to look for and develop their other talents. When they found those talents, they learned tenacity. They learned that persistence pays off. They learned that life (and judges, coaches, referees, and officials) aren’t always fair, but that you have to pick yourself up and keep going with a smile and a good attitude. (I think they’re still learning this.) (Let me just be honest: so am I.)

The boys learned that almost everyone appreciates a genuine smile and a hug. They learned to ask for help from their teachers. They learned that John and I can’t do everything for them, and they realized that they didn’t want us to. They’ve learned to be patient with people who don’t think exactly like they think, and that unlikely friendships can be unexpectedly rewarding.

They have learned that God uses other people in surprising ways to reward and acknowledge their hard work.  They learned that people notice and appreciate kindness, respect, and good manners. They likewise learned that people are hurt when there is a lack of kindness, respect, and manners. They learned consequences when they sometimes procrastinated and neglected responsibilities.

Today, we are especially proud of our “last baby” Micah. We recognize the man he is and continues to develop into. We are grateful for the struggles, challenges, and rewards that came through these years of public education – we are glad that he can read and write, but we are most thankful that those struggles, challenges and rewards have helped to develop him into someone who can shape the world around him. We pray God’s richest blessings to be upon him!

 

 

 

 

Thankful

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On my heart: I’m thankful for so many things about the last few days.

I’m thankful John, Doug and I had returned home from Israel.

I’m thankful John was home after he’d been gone all week.

I’m thankful that Mom was always a strong advocate for Dad’s health and dignity.

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I’m thankful that Dad had sweet, funny, and engaging table-mates at mealtimes at Hill Country Care – June, Maggie, and Anne.

I’m thankful to have learned some really practical things that help grieving families (especially large packages of Kleenex pocket packages, Ziploc bags, and paper goods!)

I’m thankful for thoughtful people who bring what seems like the entire grocery store – including Cokes, Keurig cups, and bottled waters.

I’m thankful for laughter through tears.

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I’m thankful for thoughtful daughters-in-law who jumped in and helped with things that I didn’t even know we needed help with.

I’m thankful for beautiful weather while sitting at my father’s graveside.

I’m thankful for an honorable, meaningful service with so many words that captured Dad’s essence.

I’m thankful for the opportunity we had to look through Dad’s writings and notice things we’d seen before but had forgotten about.

I’m thankful to hear of so many kind things he had done for others in the past.

I’m thankful for a family gathering of those who knew him best, laughing about his quirks and sharing memories.

I’m thankful for a cohesive, loving, united family.

I’m thankful that my brother loved my Dad and always respected him.

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I’m thankful to have seen Mom ministering to the staff at Hill Country Care, and seeing how they love and respect her and how they came to surround us with tears on their faces.

I’m thankful for a father who wasn’t careless with anything: his possessions, the way he treated Mom, and his responsibilities as a father.

I’m thankful for good friends who stopped their hectic and eventful lives just to bring us cinnamon rolls, or barbecue, or coffee cake, and to hug us tight.

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I’m thankful for arms around us and prayers on our behalf.

I’m thankful for tears.

And for waterproof mascara. 🙂

I’m thankful to have witnessed how much people respected Dad.

I’m thankful to have no fear of death.

I’m thankful that Dad never lost the ability to pray, or sing songs of praise.

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I’m thankful to have heard Jordan’s wise words and reflections, and all of the grandkids’ memories of their Pawpaw.

I’m thankful for Dad’s legacy of faith, wisdom, steadfastness, and love.

I’m thankful and humbled by dear friends who came from so far away to pay their respects to Dad.

I’m thankful for how much my parents loved and depended on one another.

I’m thankful for the comfort that comes with the thought of his reunion, however it happens: with his father and mother, his old college buddies, preacher friends.

I’m thankful for the comfort that comes with imagining what his soul may be seeing and experiencing right now!

I’m thankful for peace.

I’m thankful that my Dad knew where he was going.

I’m thankful that he was ready to go there.

I’m thankful that I saw recognition in his eyes when he saw me on Thursday night.

I’m thankful that for years, I have witnessed Mom’s tender care of Dad, but especially on Thursday night, as she held him and whispered to him.

I’m thankful that I got to tell him one more time that I loved him, and unexpectedly heard myself call him ‘Daddy’, even though I haven’t called him that since I was tiny.

I’m thankful Mom wasn’t alone.

I’m thankful that death came quickly.

I’m thankful that he wasn’t hurting.

I’m thankful for the memory of his left hand, lying still on the sheet, yet thinking of the thousands and thousands of good, helpful words that left hand had written; of holding my hand, and Mom’s hand; of holding chalk to a chalkboard; of driving to Ruidoso and Colorado and around Maine and New Hampshire and all over Texas.

I’m thankful I was there when he drew his last breath.

I’m thankful that my Dad is strong again.

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Still Dad

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Dad loved golf, Mom’s chili, browsing in Goodwill, homemade ice cream, and perusing house plan magazines. He was a great whistler, played a mean game of basketball, and was – hands down – the best and most practical Old and New Testament survey instructor. I wish you could see his notebooks (as Jordan recently noted, filled with notes taken long before Google, eSword, or Logos.) He took time to think through an answer before he gave it. He was a prolific and talented writer. He was honest in his evaluations, and that probably frustrated one or two former students! He was confident, witty, fair-minded, reserved, intelligent, and well-respected.  As a boy, he sang soprano (yes, soprano!) with the Fort Worth Boys Choir. He got up in the wee hours of the morning to take care of his neighborhood paper route for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and often spent his nickels and his Saturday afternoons at the “picture show” watching westerns and World War 2 newsreels.
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Most of those interests and talents, aside from his affinity for Mom’s chili, homemade ice cream, and whistling, have faded by now. Dad has some form of a cognitive disorder, sometimes called dementia – but I don’t like that term. It makes him sound as though he is demented – and he is not. He still loves my mom. He still knows who we are. He dresses for worship just about every day. He still wants to teach. He is still funny: recently he had taken a fall in his bedroom. As we walked into the room to help him up, Dad, flat on his back, stared up at John and said “I always did look up to you!” We all burst out laughing. He is still Dad.

A recent novel (and subsequent movie) called Still Alice by Lisa Genova captures the story of a 50-year-old woman living with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, and its impact on her loved ones. The story hit home. The fictional character Alice is a doctor of psychology who taught courses in cognitive psychology, researched in the field of linguistics, and lectured publicly. The disease was detected early enough for her to be cognizant of the inevitable frightening outcome.

“My reality is completely different from what it was not long ago. And it is distorted. The neural pathways I use to try to understand what you are saying, what I am thinking, and what is happening around me are gummed up with amyloid. I struggle to find the words I want to say and often hear myself saying the wrong ones…my short term memory is hanging on by a couple of frayed threads. I’m losing my yesterdays. If you ask me what I did yesterday, what happened, what I saw and felt and heard, I’d be hard pressed to give you details…I often fear tomorrow. What if I wake up and don’t know who my husband is? What if I don’t know where I am or recognize myself in the mirror? When will I no longer be me? Is the part of my brain that’s responsible for my unique ‘me-ness’ vulnerable to this disease?”

It’s impossible to know how far into this journey we have come, and how much farther we have to go. When did it even begin? Two or three years ago, those of us who are close to him noticed him repeating himself, or grasping to find a word that he wanted to use, but we brushed it off as Dad simply growing older. Of course, Mom saw much more than Doug and I did. But we didn’t want to believe anything was wrong. I didn’t want to talk about it. Yet, almost against our will, we have learned a lot in the past 18 months. Perhaps some of you who are facing the same daunting diagnosis may benefit from knowing what we’ve learned.

Denial is not helpful. I’ll never forget the Sunday morning that Mom called me, crying. She was juggling too much, trying to finish printing Sunday morning’s bulletin, struggling to meet Dad’s needs and answer his questions and get to Bible class on time. I felt ashamed that I had not seen (or had not wanted to see) her rising stress level. She had been trying, in various ways, to tell us that something was wrong. But because she didn’t want to interfere with our lives, she was reluctant to ask for help. Now, I wish that we had sat down with her earlier, and said “What are you seeing? How can we help? What do you need?” It seemed that putting a voice to our fears made them more real, and it hurt. But it hurts more, now, to know that she needed our help earlier and we did not do all that we could have. Those of us who are masters at procrastination and denial need to know that we are only making the disease more difficult for our loved ones and for ourselves.

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Memory loss isn’t all bad. One of the earliest visits with Dad’s neurologist was painful to witness.  He asked Dad questions regarding dates and times that would be simple for you and me, and yet Dad couldn’t answer them. It was evident that he was embarrassed. It hurt me to see him hurt. And yet, by the time we got to the foyer of the building, he had forgotten the questions and his embarrassment. So, there are times to be thankful for memory loss.

Creating good memories for our children is vital. Dad can’t remember what he did yesterday, but much of his long term memory is intact. He can remember his childhood on Harrington Street, playing baseball with his buddies and those friends from his church group who influenced him. It brings a smile to his face to talk about his childhood, because it was happy. Not perfect, of course, but he was loved and cared for and taught truth. I’ve often thought – what if he didn’t have those happy childhood memories? There would be fewer memories to bring him joy now. I’m so thankful for Dad’s parents, my Meemaw and Boompah, and their family trips to Colorado and New York and the memories that they unknowingly crafted for Dad to enjoy in these later years. I’m thankful for Dad’s good school friends and college friends. We can say something about “Vinzant” or “Clyde Alderman” and I know he will smile.

If someone has influenced you, or taught you, or helped you – tell them now. In June of 2013, we had a 50th anniversary party for Mom and Dad. Using social media, we asked for – and received – many notes and cards of love and appreciation from former associates, students, longtime friends, and family to be put in a memory book for them. It meant so much to Doug and me, and especially Mom, to be able to read those affirmations of their worth over the years. Dad, though slipping away at the time, was able to read and recognize and understand the significance of those notes. So many times we have been thankful that we had that gathering of loved ones, so that Mom and Dad would see how much they have meant to so many people over the years. I’m so glad we didn’t wait to give them this tangible evidence of love.

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The caregiver needs more help and attention than the patient. Mom is with Dad 24/7/365. Because of her love and care, he doesn’t really know that anything is wrong with him. But he is reluctant for her to be out of his sight. She fiercely guards his dignity and carefully dispenses his meds and watches his diet and minds his schedule. My heart breaks for her when I consider that, at some point, she’d had her last truly cogent conversation with him (how could she realize it was the last?) When I cry, I turn to John for comfort. But when she cries, how can she turn to Dad, who would be distressed by her tears, especially if he understood that he was their source? She has no way of knowing what each day holds. And so now more than ever, she needs our help and support. She needs us to be her shoulder to cry on, and she needs us to bear the sadness with her. Before any of this began, I loved and respected her, but I do even more now because I’ve witnessed how tenderly she cares for my Dad.

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Cognitive disorders seem to create a role-reversal. I’m not suffering under the delusion that Dad changed many of my diapers or often got up during the night when I cried (thanks Mom!) But growing up, I was confident that he loved me. I remember that he taught me. I knew he had the answers. In September of last year, Mom had major spinal surgery to alleviate the severe pain she had been enduring. She was in the hospital for several nights, so I stayed with Dad. There were a lot of things I worried about before and during that week – how would he handle her absence? How would I handle difficulties that might arise? But now I’m thankful for that time, because I know he was confident that I was there, I loved him, and I had the answers to his questions. He patted me on the shoulder and said “I don’t know what I’d do without you.” We sat on the deck and enjoyed the sunset and drank milkshakes together. Though I was fearful at the time, I’m thankful that God gave me the opportunity to serve and show love and appreciation to my Dad. “Blessings”, by Laura Story, contains this lyric:

“What if Your blessings come through raindrops, what if Your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near? What if the trials of this life, the rain, the storms, the hardest nights – are Your mercies in disguise?”

I am confident that God didn’t cause Dad’s illness. This life is full of struggle and sadness and difficulty and disease. But I know He cares for Dad, He hears my Mom, He knows Doug and I hurt. I trust Him. He can use these difficulties to draw us closer and reveal our need for Him and His mercy toward us. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength,” (Isaiah 40: 28-29). Dad’s “outer self is wasting away” but his “inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal,” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
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There are other things I’ve come to see. I will try to be more conscious of older people who do not have children or family close by to help. They need our attention and love – it’s very likely that they are struggling with things that are simple for those of us who are more able-bodied: adjusting their home’s thermostat, keeping the car’s battery and tires maintained, or picking up items from the drugstore or grocery store. I’ve noticed that I needed to learn how to sit still again. We’ve become so accustomed to multi-tasking, errand-running, and constant use of technology. While Mom was convalescing, she just needed me to be there and be still and pay attention. And while time flies for those of us on the go and there aren’t enough hours in the day, time passes slowly and days run together for those who spend most of their time at home. When it is appropriate, a visit is a welcome diversion for a long, quiet day – and it is a blessing for everyone involved.

Finally and truly, I have been made even more aware of my wedding vow to John – to love him through “sickness and health, for better and for worse.” Watching Mom loving Dad through the “sickness” and “worse” part has made me appreciate even more the “health” and “better” that John and I have right now. I am determined to love him more and tell him more often and not take our conversations, our laughs and tears, and our whole relationship for granted. It is precious and it is here and now and will not be forever.

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I miss the old Dad. Sometimes I see an old photo or hear his voice on an old recording and it catches me off guard, and I have to swallow the big lump in my throat. I ache for Mom and her loss that is so much greater than mine. But we count our blessings. We are thankful that he is agreeable and enjoyable to be around. We are grateful for the things that he taught us before, and for what he is still teaching us, and for the memories that we have. We are glad that he is still Dad.

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Do You Believe in Something That You’ve Never Seen Before?

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I love wedding songs. An old Peter, Paul and Mary wedding song asks “Do you believe in something that you’ve never seen before?” Every time I hear that song, my thoughts catch on that line in particular. What is that “something that you’ve never seen before”? I believe it must be a faith-filled, hopeful, trusting, passionate, promising kind of love. That love convinces us to trust another person with our whole heart. It persuades us to loosen the ties that bound us to our childhood and hold tightly to the hands of our beloved.
We witnessed this kind of love on Friday. Under beautiful blue skies and in the midst of a lovely pecan orchard, I could not take my eyes from our son’s face as he worked to contain the joy, peace, and pure love while his radiant bride approached on her father’s arm.
I said a silent prayer of thanksgiving as our three sons stood before us, side by side, God’s greatest gifts to John and me.

There was no bitter – only sweet! Thank you for letting me share some sweet memories from the day.
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Meet An Old Lady

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An old lady in the Costco parking lot got really mad at me yesterday.

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(By “old” – I mean that she appeared to be in her late sixties. My apologies to my friends who may be advanced in years – YOU aren’t old!)

I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that the entire city of Austin decided to go to Costco yesterday, and there was an automobile slugfest in the parking lot. I was on the wrong side of the aisle when I spotted her pulling out, and as she was backing up, I pulled slightly forward and to the right to get out of her way.

What followed was a lot of arm waving and rude gesturing and angry eyes and words I couldn’t hear (thankfully.) As I sat there in disbelief, she laid on her horn and then gunned her fancy BMW SUV toward the hood of my car. The look in her eyes was memorable – as was the nervous look in the eyes of her passenger – a woman that looked old enough to be her mother.

Maybe she’d had a bad day. Maybe she’d just had someone shout at her. Maybe she was sick. Maybe she hadn’t started her Christmas shopping yet. Didn’t she know it’s the most wonderful time of the year??

But I couldn’t help thinking of something that my mother passed down to me (and has given to a lot of other women) – an essay called “Meet An Old Lady”. The author is unknown. It might take you a couple of minutes to read – but it’s sobering and well worth the time.

“You are going to meet an old lady someday. Down the road ahead, ten, twenty, thirty years; she’s waiting for you. You will be catching up with her. What kind of old lady are you going to meet? That is a rather significant question.

She may be a seasoned, soft and gracious lady. A lady who has grown old gracefully, surrounded by a host of friends – friends who call her ‘blessed’ because of what her life has meant to them.

She may be a bitter, disillusioned, dried-up, cynical old buzzard, without a good word for anyone or anything – soured, friendless, alone.

The kind of old lady you will meet will depend entirely upon you. She will be exactly what you make of her – nothing more, nothing less. It is up to you. You will have no one else to credit or blame.

Every day, in every way, you are becoming more and more like that old lady. Amazing, but true. You are getting to look more like her, think more like her, and talk more like her. You are becoming her.

If you live only in terms of what you are getting out of life, the old lady gets smaller, drier, harder, crabbier, more self-centered.

Open your life to others, think in terms of what you can give, your contribution to life, and the old lady grows larger, softer, kinder, greater.

The point to remember is that these things don’t always show up immediately. But they will – sooner than you think. These little things, seemingly so unimportant now – attitudes, goals, ambitions, desires – are adding up inside, where you cannot see them, crystallizing in your heart and mind. Some day they will harden into that old lady; nothing will be able to soften or change them then.

The time to take care of that old lady is right now, today. Examine your motives, attitudes, goals. Check up on her. Work her over now while she is still pliable, still in a formative condition. Day comes swiftly soon when it is too late. The hardness sets in, worse than paralysis. Character crystallizes, sets, gels. That’s the finish.

Any wise business person takes an inventory regularly. Merchandise is not half as important as the person. You had better take a bit of personal inventory, too. Then you will be much more likely to meet a lovely, gracious old lady at the proper time.”

I am thankful for that mean old lady yesterday – she reminded me of who I don’t want to become.  I’ve known a lot of gentle, kind, and beautiful “old” ladies in my time. My mother and my mother-in-law are at the very tip top of the list. Gwen Worthy. Ruth Locke. Inaleen Varner. And so many, many, many more! I’m going to meet an old lady sooner than I think – hopefully she will be soft and gentle and kind and admirable.

Mama Bear

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Here is a portrait of me last week. Big, fat, snarling, vicious, angry Mama Bear (who incidentally needs a dental cleaning.)  Mama Bear with three cubs…no matter that two of them hunt and fish in other areas of the country. I know that in this condition I am unattractive, and a teeny bit intimidating and certainly unreasonable. Because if someone messes with one of my “cubs”, the hair stands on the back of my neck and my teeth and fingernails grow into fangs and claws.

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However, it has caused me to do some soul-searching. I’ve looked back on some memories of my less-than-attractive “Mama Bear” moments. I’ll never forget a meeting with a teacher back in 1997, who told me that my highly intelligent, analytical, logical and reasonable Jordan was not qualified for the “Gifted and Talented” program. Apparently what they were looking for was an imaginative, free-spirited, creatively inclined child, not one with excellent behavior and grades. Silly me! I managed to maintain control of myself, but I had to keep my mouth closed lest the fangs become visible – and for the next 10 years I had a bad attitude about that teacher (who was, honestly, a very capable instructor.) (And by the way, he made it into the GT program…and excelled.) (I’m sorry, but Mama Bear has a long memory.)

I also remember an incident where Jacob was required to complete a project creatively recreating DNA. We…I mean HE…spent hours on the project, painstakingly using guitar picks and strings to make his DNA model. He turned it in on time, but lo and behold – his grade was barely passing! The claws made their appearance and we immediately telephoned the teacher for a conference. “How can my genius child, who labored intensively over this masterpiece model of DNA, only receive a 70? It MUST be your failure to recognize his geniousness!” (Okay, that isn’t what we said, but it was certainly what I was thinking.) Hmmm. Come to find out, his teacher explained that yes ma’am, it was quite creative, but he failed to make it a double helix. Oh. Claws retracted.

And then there was the couple who thought it was funny to call my child “Chunky Monkey” whenever they saw him. To them, I think it was a term of endearment. I’m not sure how anyone could consider it a term of endearment for any child over the age of 2 years, but apparently they did. Was it wrong for me to want to pull out a fully loaded Super Soaker 3000 Watergun and aim it right between their eyes? Maybe. And it might have been hard to manipulate with my claws.

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I know every mother has memories of her own “Mama Bear” moments. It seems like our society makes it worse, when in Little League games there are no winners or losers, everyone gets a trophy and we all want our kids to go home happy and satisfied. We may not have as many opportunities to teach our kids how to lose, or how to respond to failure, or the implications of being told “No”.

I had to step back last week and think about why we become so angry in our Mama Bear moments. Why do we lash out, want our kids to “get even,” or hold long-standing, painful grudges?  I think most of it is due to HURT. When our children hurt, we hurt tremendously, and we want to lash out at whatever or whoever is causing the hurt. But I think that isn’t the only reason we turn vicious. I think sometimes our pride is hurt, when someone fails to see how precious and perfect our babies are.  Sometimes we have difficulty accepting that our child is wrong about something, or that they “forgot” to tell us – as Paul Harvey said – “the rest of the story.”

I would imagine that the vast majority of things that anger us are earth-bound. Things that have no heavenly significance.  Paul said to “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God…put to death therefore what is earthly in you,” and he goes on to list such character flaws (sins) as covetousness, anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk (Colossians 3:1-8).

But he didn’t leave it there. He went on to say that we should “put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another…forgiving each other…and above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful,” (Colossians 3:12-15).

Here is the bottom line: pain isn’t always a bad thing for our children. Pain often leads to growth. When handled properly, it leads to great strength of character. Why not teach them to suffer a wrong (1 Cor. 6:7)? Why not help them to see that true greatness isn’t found in being first, but in serving (Matt. 20:26)? If we guide them correctly (and don’t slash the offender with our claws) pain and struggle help them to develop meekness and unselfishness and fairness – what this world needs a whole lot more of.

(Yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition. Focus.)

Here’s something else to think about: Jesus was insulted, lied to, lied about, hated, physically abused, mocked, tortured and murdered, all by evil men who professed to love the Father. The Father was witness to all of it. Yet His arm was outstretched to those very same people, and Jesus said “Father, forgive them…” (Luke 23:34). I am ashamed of my silly fits of anger when I think of His humility and sacrifice!

What is the most important thing in life? Is it being valedictorian? Having the nicest car or the most money? Winning Olympic gold? Being the fastest kid in 4th grade? I hope not! All of those things are nice, but they are temporary and they aren’t necessary. The only crown I truly want my sons to win is the crown of life that is given to them by their Heavenly Father. May I always keep this in the forefront of my mind!

I’m sending Mama Bear back where she belongs! Anyone need a nice bear rug?

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Caleb

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Twenty some-odd years ago, John and I met an energetic, mischievous, fun-loving, God-fearing, smiling young man named Clay, and a beautiful, serene, generous, kind and gentle young woman named Joanna. In 1998, the Lord merged those two personalities and Caleb was born, followed by Faith, Jenna, and Audrey.

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Our lives have crossed and intersected and merged now and again and we occasionally were blessed to hug their necks and laugh about things that happened when they were in college (like the fact that Clay taught Jordan and Jacob – when they were toddlers – to say “hey, chicky baby” when girls walked by.) We loved seeing their growing family.

Last summer we spent a weekend with them and their church family at a retreat in New Mexico. On our way there, we met them for a bite to eat and from the moment he bounced over to us, it was evident that Caleb was someone special. He peppered me with questions about Micah and talked about basketball.  He affectionately rubbed his baby sister’s head and smiled all the way through eating his sandwich. I teased him all weekend as he suddenly grew tongue-tied around some pretty girls. I noticed how he was comfortable with all ages and consistently wore a smile. He made such an impression on me!

Last Saturday, August 24, 2013, Caleb left Clay and Joanna, and went home to his Heavenly Father.

Several times today I’ve watched the slide show from his memorial service and as his baby pictures flashed by, I wondered – what if Clay and Joanna had known that they would only have him for fifteen short years? As a parent, I can’t imagine the dread that would create; the panic to hold on tightly as the time approached.

Caleb’s death and Clay and Joanna’s pain have made me think even more about the kind of love that God has for us. Losing a child is every parent’s worst nightmare and we would do anything – give anything – to prevent it from happening. But then I remember that oft-repeated verse that I might not really pay enough attention to, because He knew all along what would happen to His Son – “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

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I’m thankful for precious Caleb’s life. I’m thankful for my Father’s sacrificial love. And I’m thankful that one sweet day there will be a joyful reunion.