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I love you more.

img_6140In 2016, within my very small circle of family and friends, we have lost four parents. Interesting to note is that despite all of us being “well-aged” adult children we all still have one parent left. That is rare indeed. And a beautiful blessing.

Though we have shared many things in common through our losses, we each have had our own unique experiences with the death process, the loss of our parent, and in adapting to our new normal without them.

Sorting through stuff is one shared experience…one that has evoked all sorts of reactions and emotions in each one of us.

For me, giving away clothes and my mother’s other stuff wasn’t too bad but in my quest to do so it was very important to find something of hers that would uniquely remind me of her. Something I could have as a constant reminder of what she meant to me.

The picture above shows a small decorative piece I gave her a few years back. It was the ending to every phone conversation with my mother. I would say “I love you, Mom” and she would answer back “I love you more!” I look at it every day and smile.

One of the other adult kids shared that going through her dad’s stuff helped her get to know him more…even in death. Because each item found or piece of paper discovered painted a more complete picture of who he was both to his family and to others.

I’m not a “saver” so my kids will find no great treasures of any value when I’m gone nor will they discover box upon box of unused, forgotten stuff. But I do find myself wondering if the few items I’ve kept from their childhood will bring a smile. The samplings of their old schoolwork, my daughter’s written statement from high school pleading her case for being allowed to go to an overnight at the beach without a parent, my son’s artwork, or their baby books.

To me these are treasures, memories of my very precious children. But what they do with them will be their choice.

And if they choose to look and toss, that’s just fine. It’s only stuff. What’s more important is that we leave behind things of lasting value. Things that age can’t destroy. Love for family and others. And having lived a godly life—one that showed the importance of having a relationship with God.

This is the legacy I hope to leave. And I’m certainly still working on it.

We learn in Matthew 5:16 (NLT) to “let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

Mimi

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Don’t be Dumb!

This summer our church is doing a series called Don’t Be Dumb! The practical messages about how to do life are taken straight from the book of Proverbs. This past week’s message was on parenting.

As a grandmother now, I often think and remark to my husband that I’m glad my parenting days are over. I love having the little ones over but they are so full of energy and enthusiasm I often find myself a little weary after they’ve gone. Content and delighted that I got to spend time with them, but weary nonetheless. And that’s when I realize why God gave women the gift of menopause…because at some point it’s time to rest and leave the parenting to the younger crowd!

But though I’m not actively parenting children, I am grand parenting four and am still and always will be a parent to my two by birth and my two by marriage. And in that regard I still have quite a responsibility on my shoulders to portray godly character traits at all times and in all ways because…little AND big eyes are always watching.

Let me give you just a few brief phrases from Sunday that sum up the message, are easily remembered, and pack quite a punch.

  1. Start children off on the way they should go and even when they are old they will not turn from it (Proverbs 22:6). A verse we all know, it contains great truths. Don’t put off being a good parent or grandparent. Attend to those responsibilities now. The Bible promises a good outcome if we do so while they’re young (and you have the energy), take the time to instill love, discipline, and a focus on God.
  2. Be intentional and deliberate in your parenting. Don’t be passive and assume all will be well. It takes diligence and consistency but the payoff is huge and worth it.
  3. What’s rewarded is repeated. Yes, there are times when we will negatively correct behavior but let’s spend even more time looking for the good behavior and rewarding it. Kids respond to that, see what’s required and what makes Mom or Dad happy, and then naturally repeat the behavior.
  4. We run into danger when our focus is on making children happy, rather than holy. So often we want to be the fun parent or grandma. We steer clear of investing in the training to make our kids holy and instead spend time just trying to make them happy. But all the toys in the world, all the special events or treats, all the lavish gifts, all the vacations hold no eternal value. The eternal value is in pointing our kids and grands toward Christ and Christ-like behavior.

We each need to find our own way but the above certainly provide some great starting points (taken from the June 21 parenting message from Real Life Church in Clermont, FL). You can watch the message here or get the message motes here.

Tough jobAs grandparents our time of hands-on parenting (typically) has ended but we always have influence. We can always pray, and we can always love. So let’s think about how we can assist our adult kids in training the little ones. Let’s be intentional and deliberate in our actions. Let’s reward great behavior from the children. Let’s lead by example. And let’s focus not on making others happy but in living holy lives and helping nurture our grands toward living holy lives as well.

For more on this message series or other practical, real-life messages, please visit the Real Life website.

Mimi

The Family Tree

Two weeks ago today was my sister’s 62nd birthday. Two weeks ago Monday was Labor Day…the day my sister passed away and her battle with multiple myeloma came to an end.

In the past two weeks I’ve found myself thinking about life…and death…more than I have in the past. Losing someone and coming face to face with the reality of not seeing them again in this lifetime is very sobering.

You take a hard look at what matters. You re-prioritize. You find yourself saying “I love you” much more frequently. You find yourself hoping you’ve said and done things that make a difference. You realize life is so much shorter than you’ve thought in the past. You decide to make changes you’ve been putting off. You determine that moving forward things will be different.

There are probably a million other things I’ve pondered over the past few weeks, especially in the dark of night with the house quiet—the perfect time to reflect. Haven’t necessarily come to any earth-shattering conclusions but this I do know. Family matters.

It’s not the size of the house, the amount in the bank, whether or not you have fancy jewels to wear, or if you’re driving the latest, greatest car. Nope, for me it’s all about the fam.

With my sister in the hospital and very little room for any extras, we came up with a fun idea that would represent the family…something she could hang on the wall and look at to remind her of us. Sadly, that won’t be happening, but the idea is a good one and I think we’ll make it a tradition, perhaps each Christmas. Over time we’ll be able to look back to see how many more “leaves” we’ve added to our family tree as what are now little hands grow into bigger ones.

Welcome to part of our family tree.

Mimi

Kate & Pop Pop work on the family tree.

Kate & Pop Pop work on the family tree.

Mimi adds her own "leaves" to the tree.

Mimi adds her own “leaves” to the tree.

It’s not easy saying goodbye.

Conan-dear friend and family member

Conan: dear friend and family member

Quite unexpectedly my daughter’s family recently had to say goodbye to their dear companion of ten years, Conan.

A family member? Yes. A friend? Yes. A comfort? Yes. A playmate? Yes. A big brother? Yes. And a dog; a miniature dachshund to be specific.

My kids will be married ten years this fall and Conan has been a part of their married lives almost from the beginning. When they got him they were newlyweds, recent college graduates, living in their first apartment, and trying to make a “go” of this thing called life.

Conan brought joy and activity in abundance.

After he arrived the kids made a move, earned advanced degrees, began new careers, bought a house, and best of all had two precious boys.

When someone is a part of your family for a decade and when children grow up only knowing the household with their canine friend in it, losing that friend leaves a deep hole. A wound that takes time to heal.

Was Conan perfect? Of course not, but he perfectly blended with his family, providing years of love to everyone.

So today I’m thinking about him and thinking about my kids and grandkids. And while I can’t take away their sorrow I know hearts will eventually heal. And always, always they will remember their little doxie Conan.

Mimi

Callan’s un-birthday party.

From near to far
From here to there
Birthday fun was just nowhere.
April is the month and the 6th was the day
But Callan Reid was too sick to play.

All the presents had been bought and wrapped. All the food prepped and ready. The house was cleaned. Everyone was coming. And all were ready for Callan’s second birthday party…until he got sick. Came down with the exact same gastro thing his brother had the week before.

The family had been to dinner and Callan had eaten a lot so the first time some of the dinner “came back up” you think No big deal…he just ate too much! Then it happens again and again and you realize he’s sick. No party, no nothing. Just taking care of a sick kid and changing sheets—lots of sheets.

The plans were laid
All prep had been done
But with young Callan sick
There’d be no fun.

At least no fun that particular day. Callan is better and the party has been rescheduled for later this month.

But have you ever experienced the stress of planning and prepping for something, only to have it interrupted or cancelled? Even if for good reasons you can’t help being disappointed and frustrated. You’ve spent a lot of time and money to make everything perfect, only to realize the event has to be postponed.

Maybe it was a trip – that almost happened to us last fall when a few days before our cruise our travel partner got sick. What to do? Should we cancel, too? Do we go without our loved one?

Or maybe it was a quiet evening home with your spouse. Kids were staying overnight with friends, the house would be quiet, and romance was in the air. Until some change of plans meant the kids would be home instead of with friends and that romantic evening just flew out the door.

Truth be told most of us don’t handle last minute changes too well. We like to think we do but if we really give voice to our thoughts we’re actually stomping our feet and complaining to beat the band when we don’t get to follow through on something that was so important to us.

This became all too visible to us this past weekend at church when the pastor talked quite a bit about complaining. He was referring to the Israelites who had had everything supplied by God. But they were never content with what He did for them. And at first you think Glad I’m not like them; I’m always grateful and never complain. Until you realize you absolutely DO complain and you complain about a lot.

I started thinking about my own speech lately (and remember your speech reflects your thoughts and intentions):

  • Every single light red! Really? Are you kidding me? Can’t we even travel two miles without a long red light? After all, we’re on the main road.
  • What’s with these long lines at Costco? Why can’t they have an express line? I’m only getting milk and everyone else has a packed cart.
  • The new fan in your car just isn’t working properly. It’s hot in here. You need to take it back and have the place look at it. Man, everything is made so poorly these days. Your old fan never acted like this.
  • Does this burger look like medium to you? I ordered medium and I really should send it back. But then you’ll be done with your meal and I’ll just be starting on mine. Forget it. I don’t feel like waiting. I’ll just eat it.

Unfortunately, these are real life scenarios in my recent life and it’s shameful to realize how selfish I’ve been. And how petty over things that really just don’t matter. In the scope of things, if this is all I’m complaining about then I think my life is pretty good.

So hubby and I were actually quite challenged by the message and are determined to make changes. Our new mottos after we say something we shouldn’t is “BWNC” (but we’re not complaining!). My hope is that in the long run we’ll continue to see the patterns that need changing and be willing to do what’s necessary to be grateful and trusting in God rather than full of complaints and bitterness.

Philippians 2:14-15 reminds us to “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people” (New Living Translation).

Mimi

“I do it, Mimi.”

That’s just what the nearly two-year-old stated Monday when he wanted to use the ipad I held in my hands. New to the ipad experience, Callan is just a bit rough so it’s definitely something that must be done with an adult until he learns the proper finger swipe finesse.

English: An image of an iPad 2.

English: An image of an iPad 2. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I chuckled at his resolve and resourcefulness in trying to obtain the goal as he clambered over the arm of the recliner right into my lap. He wasn’t going to give up! And while he was resolutely trying to achieve the coveted prize, you’d better believe I used the opportunity to get in an extra snuggle.

We raise our children to be independent so listening to Callan confidently state, “I do it, Mimi” shows me he’s growing up and learning new things. Yet this sense of independence is actually contrary to what God has in mind for his family. We are sons and daughters who need Him. But we often echo Callan with similar statements such as “It’s okay; I can do it on my own. I don’t need you God. In fact I don’t need anyone.”

I thought about my own kids and how we rejoiced as they matured and started making their own decisions. Greg and I found ourselves more and more in the hands-off position, though always available should they need us.

So often this is what we do with God – we become independent of him and at times rely on him as nothing more than a safety net. But God is looking for so much more than this; he’s after a relationship with us. One where we are completely dependent on him.

Our greatest example of this is Jesus. “I tell you the truth; the Son can do nothing alone. The Son does only what he sees the Father doing, because the Son does whatever the Father does” (John 5:19). And later on in John 15:5 he declares “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”

It is definitely not easy to live a life dependent on God. I’ve been a believer for 45 years and I’m still learning this. But with Jesus as my example, my heart’s cry is “less of me and more of you God.”

Mimi

It’s never too late to reconnect!

It’s been forever since I posted my first comment, which means it’s about time to post again.

Life has been about reconnecting of late. I reconnected with a dear friend who I haven’t seen in about 15 years. He even wrote a song for my wedding that I sang to Greg 35-1/2 years ago. Nick and wife Sally came for dinner and it was just like old times. What a hoot they are! (I can say things like “hoot” because, after all, I’m old!) We just talked and talked and talked as if we had always stayed in touch.

I’m also reconnecting with a friend from California and will be seeing her in just two weeks. She’s the mother of Matthew, the young man (at the time) who I donated my bone marrow to nearly 19 years ago. Can’t believe it’s been that long! Pat is coming to speak at a convention in Ft. Lauderdale and asked me to come speak as well, sharing my personal experience with donating. While I relish (another word old folks use) the opportunity to speak, I mostly just want to see her. It’s been something like 16 years. Pat is a precious lady who has now become very much involved with the City of Hope, the hospital that gave Matthew back his life after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Don’t know why it’s been so hard for me to stay in touch with people who have been such an important part of my life, but what I love about reconnecting is that those who I truly connected with in the past, are still right there in my heart so with very little effort, the relationship simply picks up where it left off.

More to say, but I’ll leave it for another day.