Category Archives: parenting
Sometimes we fail to say things to our children when we are thinking of them. Sometimes, it is because we don’t have the courage. Other times it is because we don’t have the time or the opportunity. Or, sometimes, we don’t know how they will respond. I thought I would occasionally post letters to my children to inspire others to share their hearts with their children, too. This first letter is to my son who is now 21 years old and who, last night, had to make a difficult choice to sacrifice a friendship he has had since first grade in order to try to save that friend’s life.
My Dear Son,
You have grown into a young man—one any mother would be proud of. You know the meaning of friendship—of true friendship. The Greek call this philia –fondness, appreciation, and loyalty to those you hold in community.
Your passion for life and those you care about drive every part of you. I admire it and at the same time I see it as a cross you bear. Your friendships have been characterized by loyalty, availability, honesty, trust, listening, nurturing, and a sense of finding a kindred spirit. But they also have been characterized by conflict, sacrifice, forgiveness, grief, and disappointment.
The depth of your friendships, the love you have for others in your life also means that you have had—and will continue to have—a sense of responsibility for those you care about. I know that you have had to choose, on occasion, doing what is right over the relationship. It has meant not just calling out your friends but also standing beside them when they desperately needed a friend they could count on. It has meant seeking help from family and friends to save the life of a friend. It has meant agonizing over the choice and ultimately choosing love and life, knowing that someday your friend might turn back to you, and may even thank you—hoping that you will have restoration.
It has also meant grieving deeply at the loss of some of your closest friends—whether the loss was because of death, or distance, or doing what was right. I have grieved for you, as I can’t imagine at your age having endured the loss that you have already endured. I know you have sought to understand loss and that, in many respects, it has eluded you. But I know that you have faith that someday you will heal, even if small scars remain. That somehow loss and grief will shape you in a way that will remind you that loving others was worth the pain of loss.
So I pray that you will continue to love deeply and value friendship above other things, for it is part of the fabric of who you are. It has been imprinted on your soul as long as I can remember. And, while it has been a burden at times, it has shaped you into a man of integrity and given you great joy. The way that you love others in community beautifully reflects Christ.
As C.S. Lewis wrote, “Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument through which God reveals to each the beauties of a thousand other men; by Friendship God opens our eyes to them.”
With love always,
I’m re-posting from my old blog today. I thought it was timely during a time of year when many children and family members are traveling. Blessings!
I sat on the blue leather sofa, gas fireplace burning, as the first light of day broke through the darkness. The house was mine at this hour. Even the dog left me alone. Time with God. Quiet. Calm. Uninterrupted.
And so, I prayed, as I did so often recently, “Please God, cover him. Keep him safe. Help me to trust you.” God knew that prayer was coming every day while my son was overseas last year, in a remote village, in a country that was giving him the experience of a lifetime.
For me, it was the first time that he had been that far away, without a group of friends or people we knew and trusted to look out for him. I trusted our son enough to let him go, but once he was gone, I had to learn to have faith that he would be okay.
There was nothing that I could do 7,500 miles away.
Despite one stint in the local “hospital,” our son arrived home unharmed — a little thinner, older, and wiser, but safe. God kept him safe and healthy. And, brought him home.
Today, my prayers in these early morning hours have shifted. Our son is across the country, no longer in a poverty-stricken country. Instead, he is in the throes of urban-American-big-city life, grappling with his faith.
It is a familiar place. I grappled with my faith at his age, too. Questioning, doubting, not finding God relevant or consistent with the life I thought I wanted. Turning away as I lived a life that was less than what I knew was desirable. And, so, I have hope and faith that my son will grapple and fall back into the arms of a loving God. I see him turning back towards God, slowly. On his own terms.
As a mom, I have few details about my son’s internal struggles. But the details don’t matter. He needs to grapple with his faith, more so than he needed to go to Africa to grow into a young man.
Rather, I need my son to know that it is okay–even good–that he is grappling with his faith. I need to let him know that I love him unconditionally. No matter what.
So, he seeks.
And so, I sit on the blue leather sofa, gas fireplace burning, as the first light of day breaks through the darkness. Time with God. Quiet. Calm. Uninterrupted. And, I pray, “God, cover him. Guard his heart. Reveal yourself to him. Pursue him.”
God is faithful. I need to trust Him completely. Instead of asking God to bring our son home safely to us, I ask God to bring him home safely to Him.
Christmas eve at our home was about dinner and then an evening of opening gifts. As young kids, we looked forward to it with great anticipation. We usually had dinner at the Gaddie’s house, so mom and dad would let us open one gift before we went to dinner, and then the rest when we got home–usually late at night.
I remember some of my favorite gifts. Mrs. Beasley, a talking doll. Shrinking Violet, another talking doll. Mighty Mike, a truck that could do anything. And when I got older, a pair of my favorite “Seafarer” jeans.
I think back about those holidays and I remember the tree and opening gifts and the feeling of anticipation. They were good memories. Time with family. Time with family friends.
But the focus was on the gifts and the opening of gifts. At times, it was embarrassing. So many gifts piled under the tree. We joined in the consumerism that drives Christmas in America.
Guilty as charged.
But, four years ago, that changed for me. Our Pastor and a few other pastors from around the United States introduced a radical idea: Advent Conspiracy. It was exactly what I needed–affirmation that I could get off the treadmill of consumerism and celebrate Christmas in a way that honors Christ.
I’m so grateful.
Advent Conspiracy is about reclaiming Christmas for Christ — worshiping fully, spending less, giving more [time], and loving all during the season of advent. Advent Conspiracy asks us to be present this holiday–present in the lives of those we know and love. To give of ourselves by making gifts or just spending time with those we love. To avoid racking up credit card charges for gifts out of a feeling of obligation. Instead, to focus on Christ and his love for the world. To worship Him, and in doing so, to love the world–to love the least of these.
Advent Conspiracy has changed Christmas for our family. We buy no gifts. In fact, after Thanksgiving, the only shopping I do is for groceries and household items. The stress of the traffic and crowds, the pressure to find the perfect gift for each person, is gone.
Instead, we pack up our car and spend three days together as a family at the beach. While it is still a “gift” to take a short trip, it is a gift of time together. This is our fourth year. And, I can’t tell you how it feels to have our now young adult children “anticipate” Christmas. Beginning in July, the kids start asking about the trip. And, from September on, we hear over and over how much they are looking forward to the trip.
It isn’t fancy or eventful, after all, it rains at the Oregon Coast all winter. So, we’re pretty much stuck indoors as a family for three days. Together, we cook, read books, build puzzles, play games, sit by the fire and look out on God’s creation–and even brave walking on the beach in the wind and rain. And, we also catch up on each others lives. We spend time being present–living in the moment. Laughing, talking, loving.
Advent Conspiracy–our celebration of Christ’s birth–is more than that, too. Advent becomes a season of Worship because we don’t have to think about buying gifts or spending money. And, instead of giving what might be meaningless or trivial gifts, we give to local and international charities–to the least of these. To those who Christ asks us to love as He loved.
God’s gift to us was a relationship with Christ–a relationship rooted in love. I’m praying that we celebrate Christ’s birth in a way that reflects His love. I’m praying for a season of being present in the lives of others.
May your season be so blessed.
Here is the Advent Conspiracy Video. I hope you enjoy it!
I slip the covers gently off and swing my feet to the floor. I move slowly and carefully to make sure I won’t step on the dog. And then, I remember: he’s not there. We haven’t picked him up from the kennel since returning from our trip last night–taking our oldest to the East coast for college. I think, oh good, no dog to walk today. A little break.
I make my morning tea in the dark and nestle into my cozy chair with my bible. But I’m first distracted by my cell phone. I need to check for text messages. See if I’ve heard from either of the kids. I check. Nothing from either. I sit in my cozy chair, no dog curled up by my feet, no word from the kids. Husband still asleep.
I relish the time alone and feel lonely at the same time. I’ve always needed time alone. Time with God. Quiet time. Or, as a teen, time running–usually along a wooded path near our home. Time to reflect, to pray, to sing praises. But today, the loneliness sinks me deep into the chair. Tears flow slowly yet steadily down my cheeks.
I miss the kids. It has been so good to have them home for the summer. Seeing how they matured over the school year. Getting to know them again. Seeing their hearts. Their spirits. Seeing what makes them passionate. And, yes, picking up after them. Trying to figure out meals that everyone will eat, and whether everyone will even be there if I do. Juggling schedules and cars and moods and who gets to use the washing machine next.
I miss it all–the messiness of living as a family–a hopelessly imperfect family–in this broken world. And, I thank God for it all. For His hand in it. For His grace and forgiveness. For the fullness of relationships. For the pain that comes along with it sometimes.
And, I thank Him for the loneliness because it reminds me that He is present in it all. In the fullness and in the loneliness. In the joy and in the sadness. And, that as I sit here none of us are alone–even if we are lonely. He is present some 2,500 miles away with our son and some 25 miles away with our daughter. And, He is here. Now. With me.
And so, I sip my morning tea with Christ. And find comfort in it all.
Graduation events begin today. Parents flying in from out-of-town. Family gatherings. Proud moments for children, parents, grandparents. This is a big day.
The students, young adults, walk across the stage and receive their graduate degrees. Three or four years of hard work brought them here. They feel a sense of accomplishment, completion, pride. They should.
As a teacher, I am proud too. I see the growth in these students over the course of their time here. From struggles and new beginnings — to confidence and moving on to another new beginning. They embark now on new careers.
The teacher is left behind. Students move on. I find I am reflective, melancholic, about sending these students off. Pleased for them. Sad for me.
They have enriched my life. They helped bring out the best in me. They helped me become a better teacher.
And so, I pray from the Psalms for each of these students.
Show them where to walk,
Let them give themselves to you.
Rescue them from their enemies, LORD;
Let them run to you to hide them.
Teach them to do your will,
for you are God.
May your gracious Spirit lead them forward
on a firm footing.
For the glory of your name, O LORD, preserve their lives.
Because of your faithfulness, always bring them out of distress.
In your unfailing love, silence all their enemies
and destroy all their foes,
for they am your servants.
Psalm 143 (modified)
Do you have a teacher who you left behind as you moved on? What about that teacher enriched your life? Do you ever wonder whether you enriched that teacher’s life?