Category Archives: Friends and Family

Celebrating Father’s Day


My husband didn’t have a father.

Father's Day 2014-0017Oh, he had a man who was physically present in the home throughout his life and was technically his father.

But he was not a dad, not by a long shot.

That story is his to tell, not mine. However, what I can say is that my husband is a miracle of grace.

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Father's Day 2014-0199From the moment our kids were born, Doug fully embraced his role as “Daddy.”

He read endless stories. He willingly watched the same movies over and over. He was able to patiently endure all those silly kids shows that left me wanting to scream. (Seriously, how could anyone stand to watch that insipid singing purple dinosaur named Barney every single morning?!). He took on the herculean task of teaching math to Josh and Julia during our homeschooling years because math remains my biggest nightmare to this day.

Father's Day 2014-0205He made bath-time fun. He patiently answered all their questions, both serious and silly. He kissed boo-boos and his arms were always open for a cuddle.

Father's Day 2014-0049Every Saturday morning, he took the kids out to breakfast so I could sleep in. (if I had thought that he was the perfect man before, I certainly knew he was when he began that particular tradition!).

Those Saturday morning excursions were accompanied by a customized soundtrack. Doug made up a mix tape (hey, it was the 90’s!) of all his favorite tunes and he played it from the moment they left the driveway until they returned. The “Saturday tape” was an eclectic mix of artists: Van Morrison, Stevie Wonder, Little Feat, Dionne Warwick (singer of the only cheesy song on the tape, ‘Do You Know The Way To San Jose’?), Don McLean, Billy Joel, etc.

A few weeks ago, Doug decided to make a list of all the songs on that tape with Julia’s help. Together, they compiled the complete list, which Julia immediately downloaded onto her iPod.

Her grin was brighter than the sun and her eyes danced happy.

“This is the soundtrack of my childhood!” she exclaimed, bubbling over.

Of this I am certain: Julia will return to these songs again and again during the storms that will undoubtedly hit her life. Those songs will represent her happy place, a time of innocence, sheer happiness, wonderful memories, and utter safety.

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Father's Day 2014-0043As the kids got older and they ventured further and further out into the world, Doug was always there to offer support, enthusiastic endorsements of their interests,  a strong shoulder, a listening ear, sage advice, a brilliant sense of humor, and his vast array of knowledge.

“Is there anything you don’t know?” Julia asked incredulously during a recent family dinner.

Doug spent countless hours researching colleges for Josh and he will do the same for Julia. He organized all of our college trips and especially enjoyed showing the kids where he had gone to undergraduate and graduate school. He was thrilled when Josh got accepted to his alma-mater and proceeded to embark on hours of searching out the best scholarships available.

He also taught both kids how to drive, refusing to cut corners on the state-mandated 40 hours of parental instruction. They drove all over the state in a variety of conditions so the kids would be prepared for any weather event.

He came home with a wistful smile one particular night that marked the end of Julia’s instruction. He said that while lots of parents would consider that responsibility a drudgery, he saw  it as a gift of time with his kids during the days when their lives seemed to be moving at warp speed as the end of high school loomed large on the horizon.

A total of 80 never-to-be-repeated hours with his kids. Priceless.

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As I said, Doug is a miracle of grace. He came to know Jesus when he was 27 years old. His living Savior made all the difference, as He always does. That day, He set Doug on a different path than the one his father had taken and he has never looked back.

As the grace and love of Christ took greater and greater hold on his heart, Doug became the man his father never was: an incredible husband and an extraordinary father. Doug’s own sisters marvel at the man their little brother has become…so different from what they knew growing up.

They chalk it all up to various things; we know that the difference is Jesus.

Father's Day 2014-0162For Father’s Day this year, we hiked up one of the many mountains in our state. It was a gloriously beautiful day.

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Father's Day 2014-0180After climbing the mountain, we went to a local country store to enjoy a delicious lunch.

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Father's Day 2014-0219We carried our lunch across the street to the town green and ate on a picnic table in the midst of a playground.

Small town America at its’ finest.

The kids had barely finished eating before racing away from the table to play. I immediately picked up my camera, delighted to capture their playful abandon as they relived their childhood on swings, slides, and spinners.

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Doug and I smiled at each other in the summer sunshine.

Our formal parenting days are fast drawing to a close. We have loved taking this journey together and we are treasuring the remaining days ahead before our son heads off to college.

Come what may, I know one thing: Josh and Julia have had the most excellent example in their father.

Doug has taught Josh how to be a man, how to cherish and love a woman, and how to be an incredible father. He has shown Julia what a real man looks like and taught her by example to accept and expect nothing less. She will certainly know an impostor and a fool when she sees one.

It has been said that anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a daddy.

My kids have the very best daddy and I will be forever grateful.

 

 

 

 

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Manic Monday


 

Credit: Google

It’s just another manic Monday…” —(The Bangles).

It’s amazing to me how quickly a day can turn from good to bad and back again, all in the span of a few hours.

Early this morning, I received some very good and welcome news. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how Jesus caused me to see the word SOON on a local billboard in response to my heartfelt cry about when this particular tough season we are currently experiencing will end.

That morning,  the first piece of the puzzle fell into place. We are on our way to “soon.” My heart rejoiced at His faithfulness. And in the meantime, I am just living a life of gratitude, counting my 1000 gifts…because He IS truly enough, regardless of our circumstances.

This I have learned and this I know beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Yesterday was also my beautiful mother’s 78th birthday.

She came downstairs early to warm birthday greetings from all of us, as well as several cards to open. Her friend Karen would arrive shortly to take her to breakfast, followed by a shopping spree.

And then the phone rang.

It was my uncle Duane with a triple dose of bad news. My Aunt Dot (his sister) was in the hospital with pneumonia. Uncle Ted (her husband of 68 years) was dying and only had hours to live, having never fully recovered from a fall he took several months ago. And Duane had collapsed and was in the hospital himself. (We would later discover that he had pneumonia as well).

Such is life in this fallen world.

When the other shoe drops, life seems to veer off course and we reel, trying in vain to shield ourselves from the next blow.

How do people do it who don’t know Jesus? I  wondered to myself as the texts between my cousins and me flew back and forth with various  health updates on our loved ones.  I can’t imaging anything more terrifying than thinking you are alone in this vast universe,  simply the victim of capricious fate.

When my world starts to shake, I know that there is One called the Prince of Peace who can never be shaken and has me tightly in His grip.

The doorbell rang and I was so grateful to see my dear friend Karen’s smiling face.  I shared with her the ups and downs of the morning and she hugged me tight.

Jesus shows up in the arms and hands and feet of our friends when we need Him most.

I love that about Him.

Karen and my mom headed out for some birthday fun while the text updates continued to come in.

And then the phone call came.

“It’s over,” my cousin’s wife declared.

My Aunt Dot was now widowed after nearly after 68 years of marriage.

My cousin later texted me  to say that he had taken her up to Ted’s room so she could see him before he died. Her form was so small in her wheelchair and she was weak from her illness. Once they got to her husband’s room, she said that she wanted to kiss him one last time. Bobby was able to lift her up so she could do just that. And then Ted slipped away forever.

It was a heartbreaking moment, he told me.

A memory flashed through my mind.  Duane, Dot, and Ted had come up to visit us when we lived in Rhode Island.  We had a single daybed in the guest room where they would be staying and I had pulled the trundle bed out from under the daybed.

I saw Aunt Dot notice that there were two single beds. She immediately pushed the two beds together  with a slight smile and said, “We’ve slept in the same bed for 53 years. Can’t stop now. ”

I wrote about Dot and Ted’s love story here.

The day went on. I shared the news with my son when he came home from school and decided to meet my daughter at the track so I could share the news in person. As I watched practice, there was something very soothing about seeing all those healthy kids run and jump and laugh. I watched my daughter fling herself over the high jump bar, then high-five a teammate afterwards, her smile wide.

Minutes later, we were sharing a booth at McDonald’s.  Her strawberry blonde hair was pulled back into a ponytail. Her blue eyes sparkled and she radiated health and youth.

I hated to share the news. As parents, we always want to shield our kids from the painful parts of life but we can’t. So I told her about Uncle Ted and watched those blue eyes fill with tears.

We talked a little bit until she said she didn’t want to talk about it anymore.

When we got home, I reminded her that we had a 7:00 appointment that evening with the seamstress who was altering her prom dress.

Later, as we drove to our appointment, the happy music of  her favorite band One Direction filled my car. We discussed prom details. Apparently, everyone wants to come to our house to get ready that afternoon. Our conversation was filled with talk of flowers, limos, shoes, etc.

The pendulum of the day had swung back to happy.

As we stood in the fitting room a few minutes later, my daughter looked radiant in her beautiful blue sparkly dress and silver sandals. Life was full of promise and excitement once again.

As I climbed into bed, my thoughts turned once more to what a day of highs and lows it had been.  Life on this planet is not for the faint of heart.

To everything there is a season and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven.

A time to be born and a time to die… (Ecc. 3:1-2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Curve Ball


Life can take a nasty turn sometimes.

Our family had a wonderful Thanksgiving: lots of laughter, good food, and sweet fellowship. Thanksgiving 2013-0217-1

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The joy from the day was shattered 24 hours later with the phone call that everyone dreads.

Our brother-in-law Tony had had a heart attack and would require quadruple bypass surgery. Here is Tony just hours before, proudly displaying his impressive 25 pound turkey: Thanksgiving 2013-0094-1 The next couple of days were filled with sterile hospital halls, somber waiting rooms, many tears, powerful prayers, sleepless nights, bland cafeteria food, and agonizing waits.

In the midst of fear, sadness, and uncertainty, our family bonded tightly together throughout those scary hours.

Doug and I were so proud of our nephews and our niece (who are all adults now) for being so strong for their mom and for each other. We may only get together a couple of  times a year these days, but when tragedy strikes, we are there for each other, no question. That is such a gift.

But the greatest gift in the midst of a nightmare is the soothing, comforting, and strong and steady Presence of Jesus. It seems that when the heartache of this life crashes in, His Light shines the brightest, the Hope He offers blazes brilliantly, and His Peace covers my fearful heart like a security blanket.

The news was good. Tony survived and as I write this four days later, he will be released to rehabilitation tomorrow.

It is a miracle and I give the Author of Life all the praise.

However, before any of us knew how this story would end, I was sitting alone in the hallway outside of the surgical ICU waiting room. I needed a break from that somber place where grieving family members speak in hushed tones and the lights are dim. I sat for a moment with my eyes closed, enjoying the feel of  the warm sun that was shining from the floor-to-ceiling  windows.

Then I heard the music:  A woman’s voice raised in song rang through the hospital corridor.

She had one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard in my life: sweet, strong, and clear.

I couldn’t see her since I was too far down the hallway but I closed my eyes again and just let the music wash over my tired soul. She was singing in another tongue so I couldn’t understand any of the words, but  I imagined that is what the voice of an angel singing would sound like.

It was exquisite…a reminder straight from Heaven that because He lives, beauty lives…even on the most desperate of days and in the saddest of places.

Life is fragile but His love is not.

The fire of love stops at nothing—it sweeps everything before it. Flood waters can’t drown love, torrents of rain can’t put it out. (Song Of Songs 6:8).

I’m grateful for the little reminders of that love that come just when I need it the most.

And I am most grateful for my beautiful God, who gives songs in the night. (Job 35:10).

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If I Had It To Do Over Again…


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This morning, I was looking through my mountain of books in order to determine which to keep and which to give away.

In one of the books, I found this poem on a bookmark:

If I Had My Child To Raise Over Again

If I had my child to raise all over again,
I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I’d finger-paint more and point the finger less.
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.
I’d stop playing serious and seriously play.
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I’d do more hugging and less tugging.
I’d see the oak tree in the acorn more often.
I would be firm less often and affirm much more.
I’d model less about the love of power
And more about the power of love.
—-Diane Loomans

Young mom who may be reading this, take those words to heart.

This time with your little ones goes by in the blink of an eye.

For this moment in time, you have been given a miracle, a window of grace in which you have the privilege and joy of watching your little ones explore the world around them.

Is there anything more enchanting than being a witness to the wide-eyed wonder of a child discovering delight and joy?

Don’t miss it.

In  the midst of the dirty dishes, diaper duty, tantrums and sibling squabbles, the bills, the fatigue,  the piles of laundry, brightly colored toys everywhere… the beauty of life is unfolding.

The passage of time is swift and you will turn around and those moments will be gone.

Don’t miss it.

Just last night, my nearly 18 year old son told me that he is so ready to leave our small town for New York City and begin the next chapter of his life story. One eye is on the present moment, the other eye looks ahead to see a future sparkling with excitement and possibilities.

I share in his sense of expectancy and anticipation. Yet I think there will always be a tiny part of my heart that wishes for just a little more time.

And there will definitely be a part of me that sees this in my mind’s eye as I talk to my son, both today and in the coming years:

josh0006🙂

During this time of year, especially, we would all do well to stay awake to the beauty and wonder of this beautiful place called now. 

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A Sweet Victory


We found out yesterday that our son Josh is now a full-fledged member of the All-State band!

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Josh with his beloved oboe

This has been a long, three year process.

Back in 2010, my husband and son wandered into a local pawn shop during an outing. They had never been there before and never went again. But that day, Josh discovered an oboe for sale. He had been playing the clarinet in the high school band for the past year but was looking to increase his repertoire.

He paid $40 for his new treasure…and a love affair was born.

It was definitely not love at first sight, though.

The oboe is an extremely finicky and difficult instrument to play. He hated it at first. Then he heard his girlfriend play it and loved the sound. He decided then that he would learn (and master) this instrument that was capable of making such beautiful and stirring music.

He switched to the oboe in his high school band and began private lessons. He decided in the fall of his sophomore year to audition for All-States. He knew he wasn’t  yet ready to make it, but he wanted to try.

The first audition did not go well. He was extremely nervous and when it came time to sight read, his mind went completely blank.

Still, when he walked out of his audition, he had a smile on his face. He was both relieved that it was over and filled with a new resolve to dramatically improve his skill.

A new goal had formed in his mind and heart: he wanted to make the All-State band by the time he was a senior. He threw himself into his private lessons and played the oboe in three different bands.

He  improved in his junior year audition, coming within just two points of making the band. Sight reading was still something that needed some work so he concentrated on that with a laser-like focus.

He also joined our church’s worship team and was now playing the oboe in four bands. He relentlessly practiced his sight-reading and continued taking lessons. Our house was often filled with the sound of his music (which I loved).

This past Saturday were the auditions and his last chance to realize his dream.

I woke up and saw his stuff in the kitchen  and had a nostalgic moment, knowing that this was it.

All States 2013-0049-1Next  November Josh will be away at college.  There will be no more All-State auditions after today.

All States 2013-0051-1But today he is here and the day sparkles with the possibilities of a dream being realized.

When we arrived at the high school and crammed into a crowded cafeteria filled with student musicians from all over the state. Josh was quietly confident, able to joke and laugh with his fellow classmates. He alternated between chatting, practicing, and reading his favorite book, Catcher In The Rye.

When they called his name, he smiled as we all cheered for him, grabbed his music, clutched his oboe, and disappeared down the hallway into the audition room.

He would later tell us that as he placed his music on the music stand, one of the judges instructed him to turn to piece #18 and begin to play.

Josh was startled. “18? You mean 19?” he asked hopefully. He had been practicing #19 for months, thinking that that was the piece he would be required to play.

“No, #18,” came the reply. “Please begin.”

There was a moment of sheer panic.

He had practiced the wrong music!

This was his last chance and everything he had worked so hard for was in jeopardy.

He would have to sight read. The moment of truth was upon him.

And he did it!!!

The very thing that had undone him two years before proved now to be the point of his triumph.

What a fabulous lesson for all of us!

Josh had a choice to make when he fell short the first time he auditioned. Would that failure define him? Or would it spur him on to make progress, to improve, to master the very thing that had threatened his dream?

I happen to think that just taking those first steps toward a dream, being willing to enter the arena—rather than sitting on the sidelines and playing it safe— is a win.

And if you find that you falter or stumble?

So what?!

We all do from time to time. The only time failure is permanent is if you quit.

Failure is an excellent teacher…if you are willing to learn.

Thomas Edison tried over 1000 times to invent the light bulb. When asked how it felt to fail 100o times, his reply was, “I didn’t fail 1000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1000 steps.”

Whether you are still trying to find the courage to take the first step toward your dream or you have just taken your thousandth step, don’t give up.

The very next step may be the one that leads you to victory!

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Extra Time


Uncle Duane and me

When my brother and I took a road trip to our hometown a couple of weeks ago, one of our main priorities was to spend time with our Uncle Duane.

Back in February, our entire family headed to Pennsylvania to say what we thought would be our goodbyes to our beloved uncle. (I wrote about that here and here).

It turns out doctors can be wrong. He wasn’t supposed to live to see April but he is still alive and kicking in November!

Simply put, my uncle is a warrior. He is a WWII veteran and his frail body houses the heart of a fighter.

His goal for our trip was to purchase a laptop and a printer. And to get a Facebook account! 🙂

So, my brother and I happily picked him up the day after we arrived in town.

It was hard to see how much effort it took for him to do such a simple thing as get into the front seat of a car. Yet he carries himself with such dignity that we could not feel sorry for him. We simply—and happily— adjusted our pace to his, just glad to be with him on a sunny autumn day.

I am not in any way a patient person. I have one speed…fast.

However, that day, I was content to match my pace to my uncle’s. I had all the time in the world to give to him.

Love does that.

Later in the trip, he showed me a box of letters and documents from our ancestors on my dad’s side. (Uncle Duane is our family historian).

I looked with wonder at the documentation of my first relative to come to this country. His name was Samuel and he was born in 1777 in Switzerland. He came to New York City in the 1800s, and became a citizen. One of his children was born in 1813 and was my great, great, great grandfather.

I was able to read a few letters from some long-gone relatives who were first generation Americans. Even though there was nothing earth-shattering in their words, I was absolutely fascinated to read about their day-to-day lives, their struggles, their joys. I wondered what they looked like? Would I have enjoyed spending time with them?

Among the letters were photos of my Uncle Duane and Aunt Dot touring the midwestern family homestead that had been  built in the 1800’s. It was still standing well into the early 1980’s.

After I finished looking at the letters, I was able to talk to Uncle Duane about them. I was able to ask him questions and hear his memories and stories.

“I want more time,” I thought as I hugged him goodbye, fighting tears.

Time with our loved ones is such a precious gift. It is also the easiest gift to take for granted.

I am already looking forward to the next time that I get to see my uncle.

Regardless of when that is (whether on earth or in heaven) I will always be grateful for the “extra time” I had with him on those sunny October days.

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A Visit To The Guidance Counselor


Photo credit: Google

I had a surreal moment this morning.

My husband, our son, and me sat in his guidance counselor’s office at the high school to discuss the college application process since this is his senior year.

Wait a minute…wasn’t it just yesterday that the three of us sat in this very office for the first time to discuss our son’s transition from homeschooling into the high school?

Wasn’t it just yesterday that I sat in the school parking lot after the first day of school searching for  his red hair in the sea of students as they streamed out of the building at the end of the day? Practically holding my breath wondering how it had gone…then exhaling with relief and a smile when he declared that the day had been “a great one!”

I looked at the young man sitting beside me, confidently telling the guidance counselor that he had already finished his college essay, had lined up his teacher recommendations, and was registered to take the SATs for the second time.

I listened with parental pride when the guidance counselor told us that Josh qualified as a New Hampshire scholar. His hard work, laser-like focus, and dedication have paid off. I had nothing to do with it; this was all my son’s effort. It’s who he is.

I silently gave thanks to my very good God who had taken my hand and stilled my trembling heart all those years ago when He placed me on the road of homeschooling with this promise: “Your children will be taught by the Lord and great will be their peace.” (Isaiah 54:13).

I knew I could not possibly take on the herculean task of educating my kids on my own, but He used this verse to assure me that He would help me give them what they needed. After all, they are more His than they are mine. His love for them amazingly eclipses my own. He knows that I would give my life for both Josh and Julia…and He has already given His for them. (John 3:16).

I listened to Josh tell the counselor about his dream of being a writer. I listened to her tell Doug and I what a fine young man we have raised.

And I fought hard to hold back tears.

Ann Voskamp wrote on her blog the other day, “Your Father is bigger than your failures.” 

I have made so many mistakes as a parent. The other day, I was scrolling down my newsfeed on Facebook, seeing all these fresh little faces, proudly posing for their first day of kindergarten. These photos trumpeted hope and the promise bright new beginnings.

I found myself wondering what I would do differently if I had it to do over again. If I am honest, lots of regrets immediately filled my mind.

If only I had…”

“If only I hadn’t…”

“If only I had been more like…”

We are so hard on ourselves, aren’t we? We try so hard to be the “perfect” parent but there is only One who is perfect. (James 1:17).

The truth is that we are broken people trying our best to parent other broken people.

There will be hurt feelings, misunderstandings, temper tantrums, disappointment, heartache…as well as laughter, togetherness, inside family jokes, road trips, and sweet memories.

The fact is that I don’t have another chance at parenting my kids through childhood. But I know that I have done my very best to prepare them to live their God-given stories in this world.

Rather than looking back, I will look forward to the precious day that is right in front of me. I will celebrate the fact that God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). I will treasure the days as they slip past, rushing toward graduation day in June.

I will stop taking guilt trips. I will instead rest in the knowledge that His love and His grace mercifully cover my mistakes and fill in the holes.

I will let go of the things that don’t really matter and focus on the things that do.

I will thank Him for the privilege of being a parent to our two red-heads who fill my heart with such joy everyday.

I will continue to mentor the young moms in my area of influence and encourage them to stop trying to be supermom and concentrate on filling the role of being God’s “Plan A” for their children.

I will endeavor to demonstrate the same grace that He has shown me.

I will savor the music of a house full of teenagers.

I will resist the urge to hover and simply walk alongside.

I will listen more than I speak.

I will not take today for granted.

“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings.” 

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