Category Archives: Family

Why Bother With Family Gatherings?

Vanessa, our granddaughter, is our family’s very own Canada Day baby. Her birthday party is unique in that both her dad’s (my son’s) family, and her mom’s family come to celebrate with her every year. And then there are fireworks, all over Canada. When Vanessa was little, I’m sure she thought those fireworks were just for her. For the past twenty-seven years, we have gathered as a family to celebrate Vanessa and Canada. I am so grateful.

Why are these family gatherings important to me? Especially on Canada Day, there are always heaps of other places to be, events in which to participate.

My parents didn’t have family gatherings, but Bruce’s did. I remember the thrill I felt at the age of 18 when I experienced that first White gathering 55 years agp. I’d never been part of a large group in which everyone loved each other just because they were relatives and the focus was to have fun and eat lots. As the years passed, our group of five became the only family that lived away. Still, we came back to Lion’s Head for every possible holiday, so the kids could learn to love their cousins, and so I could once again feel that love that special family feeling.

I believe that God created us to be in relationship with God and with each other. Being adopted I learned the value of the family relationship, first in terms of my adoptive family, and later after I turned fifty in terms of my birth family.

Of course, every family doesn’t live up to this ideal. Some of us try our best and succeed often. Some of us pull away, because of distance, grievances, huge expectations that aren’t fulfilled, and more. Over my lifetime, I have learned a great deal about the extended family. At its best the family represents unconditional God-given acceptance. You are loved, not because you have done anything special, but rather just because you exist and belong to us. The goal of family is to support, celebrate and grieve with you, to be your anchor in all the storms of life.

I realize that we succeed as family because we are committed, and determined. It’s not easy to make time for family, give family a priority year in and year out. I know it’s worth it, totally and completely.

“…there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:25-26)

Actually I recommend you pick up your Bible and read all of chapter 12 and 13 of 1 Corinthians. In this part of his first letter to the people of Corinth, people gives a beautiful picture of what family CAN be. Thanks be to God.

 

When I Thought I Wasn’t Looking at You, Dad.

Father’s Day celebrations dominated my thoughts today. I felt called by God to consider my adoptive father. He was a good man, respected, and yet, for many reasons, he and I were not particularly close.

There is a beautiful poem available on the internet titled, “When you thought I wasn’t looking,” (author unknown).  When I think about my dad, I need to write a new version of that poem. It goes like this.

“When I Thought I Wasn’t Looking”

When I thought I wasn’t looking, Dad, I experienced you driving my sister and me into town for Sunday School at 9:30 a.m. You then returned to the farm, collected our mom, and returned for the 11:00 worship service. Dad, your commitment to Sunday worship as a family, is a strong part of my faith today.

When I thought I wasn’t looking, Dad, you wrote the cheque and put it in the offering envelope. It lay on the kitchen table every Saturday night, along with our Sunday School offering. Dad, your generosity to the church and its programs is the yardstick by which I measure my own.

When I thought I wasn’t looking, Dad, you planted a garden much too big for our family. You tended it lovingly. At harvest time, you took so much pleasure in eating the tasty vegetables, and just as much in giving them away. Every time I make a salad, I see you with a huge bowl of lettuce sprinkled with salt and vinegar. Dad, your love for your garden has shown me the wonder of God’s beautiful world. A tiny, spindly blueberry plant, baking in the hot sun, produces a whole handful of luscious berries. I take nothing for granted.

When I thought I wasn’t looking at you, Dad, someone crept into your garden and stole your entire crop of cantaloupe melons. I remember the tears in your eyes when you said, “If they’d only asked, I’d have gladly given them all they needed.” I learned from you, Dad, the pain that comes when we steal, lie, or deceive.

These are but a few of the things I learned from my Dad. We learn even when we think we are not conscious of what is happening. On this Father’s Day, I encourage you to go back through your memories. Regardless of who your father is, whether the world identifies him as good or not, there will be things you learned that have been helpful in your life. Give thanks for those things.

Even if you don’t know who your father is, you can give thanks that his DNA is part of you. Fathers, like mothers, have given us life.

When I thought I wasn’t looking, my dad taught me lots.

 

 

 

On the Road Again. This Time Vancouver and Calgary

Last fall when we were booking these flights, it seemed reasonable to find the cheapest. Travel is expensive and we’ve done a lot of it in the last seven months. We set up a flight to Vancouver that stopped in Edmonton. For the difference in dollars it sounded like a great idea. In actuality it hasn’t worked out quite as well as we had hoped.

We left Toronto last night one hour late, due to mechanical difficulties. In my desire to follow the words of St. Paul and think on whatever is good, whatever is lovely, etc. I have decided that it was much better to miss our connecting flight in Edmonton than to have our plane fall out of the sky over the prairies, especially in winter. I don’t like the cold. When we finally arrived in Edmonton we learned that the later flights for Vancouver were fully booked. Westjet set us up in a beautiful room in the airport Comfort Inn and Suites. We phoned Bonnie. She was supposed to pick us up at the airport in Vancouver. It was already midnight there. She was grateful that she could go to bed.  We had time for 4 solid hours of sleep in a king-size bed. Much better than stretching out on the airport floor.

This morning we’re aboard a Turbo Prop Dash Eight or Q400 .The tiny wings are loaded with a huge engine and propeller, so they have their own set of wheels. Flying in a small plane, feels much like being aboard a bird. On the big passenger jets it feel as if you are just boarding a bus, even though it’s hard to believe those monstrous contraptions ever get off the ground. With the Dash 8 we didn’t even have a boarding ramp. We walked out into the snow, across the tarmac and climbed the stairs into the plane. I let myself imagine I was one of those famous people, or politicians who wave at the world as they board their private jets.

It’s very cold here in Edmonton, so our plane was totally de-iced before we could leave. That is certainly an interesting thing to watch. This trip has been an education. Once again something good on which to focus. There are only thirty passengers. The plane can carry 50. Loading was quick and efficient. Deplaning will be the same.

My last good thought for you this morning. We are flying over the snow-covered Rockies. The clouds have parted and we can see them. Spectacular! Just Spectacular! What a bonus. We’re flying high but not quite as high as in an airbus. Thank you God for parting those clouds. Thank you for five minutes of soaking in your magnificent creation.

Yup St. Paul has the right idea. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things and…the God of peace will be with you…

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want… (Philippians 4: 8 and following)

A Lazy Day – Feb.16

It’s only been a week and already the inches are piling up.

Today Tom and I enjoyed a slow day at the “White House”. I slept till 9:00 a.m., Tom quite a bit longer. For most of the day, I worked on yesterday’s very long blog, writing the text and organizing the pictures. We went for a walk to a strip mall up the street to buy a thank you card to send to Leone and a box of just plain tea. The tea of choice in South Africa is Roibos and Roibos Chai. It tastes good, but my digestive system hasn’t been all that happy. I decided the familiarity of good old English Breakfast tea might help a little.

Tonight we went to a tiny Chinese restaurant for supper with Dave and Jo and their friends Lee and Russell. The food and the company were both grand. It’s good to meet some of Dave and Jo’s friends. Jenna stayed home to do homework. Lee and Russell’s three boys didn’t come either. I guess the teens thought the old folks could use a night without them. Homework does rule a teenager’s life. Tonight we went on online to look at things to do in and around Johannesburg. We picked a couple. Tomorrow we’ll set them up.

One of my joys today was the pleasure of returning to my daily routine. I actually started the day with my meditation/reflection/prayer time. And I did my physio exercises. Routine has its advantageous. I felt a bit like I was home and I needed that.

A second joy of course was meeting Lee and Russell and sharing a meal.

Best of all was the grand conversation we had with Jenna after school. We were in the pool. She came out to talk. It’s wonderful to be a part of her life. Yes, even on this lazy day, we have had opportunity to give and receive love and add a little light to the world. Sometimes, we just have to be intentional about noticing it.

 

 

 

A Sunday Dinner

summer-still-life-783347_1920

Last night, Tom and I sat on my daughter’s deck with family and friends. Some of the circle were missing. Sickness, work, life had led them to different places at that moment. We ate well from a simple and delicious meal prepared with love. We shared stories of the past and present, and we shared dreams for the future. I felt love’s mantle enfold us and with it came inner peace.

It was just a Sunday dinner; a rare occasion in today’s world; a quiet gathering. For me, it was a glimpse of heaven. I could have missed it. We could have gone home early or been too busy to come. I could have been focused on my own concerns, but last night, my heart was open – open to God’s special gift of love. In Biblical terms, “Last night, I joined Moses as he saw the burning bush, took off his shoes and walked on “holy ground.” I’m truly grateful.

I’ve been practicing. Just as a child needs to learn to stop, look and listen before he/she crosses the street, I have been learning to stop, open my heart, look and listen for the moments of joy that God offers us daily.

I recommend you start this journey for yourself. It means letting go of whatever is going on in your mind – plans, frustrations, fears, worries –  letting go for just a few moments so that you can become aware of the love and joy around you.

All God needs is a crack in our armor, just a crack. Open your heart to the love that surrounds you. Whether it’s the joy that comes with a stranger’s smile, a child’s laughter, or a dog’s cold nose on your arm, let it in. These moments will stay with you. Their memory will give you strength in your darkest hours.

Remember, God’s “holy ground” is where you are at the moment. And…Don’t forget to give thanks.

My thought this morning is, “With moments like last night as part of God’s heaven, I have no fear of death.”

A Tip for Celebrating Father’s Day.

Pray for Fathers and their children.
Pray for Fathers and their children.

At least once every week, Tom’s daughter Bonnie calls with “Dad, have you time to Skype with me and the children?” Bonnie obviously loves her Dad and wants her children to develop a strong relationship with us. Three weeks ago, Tom received his father’s day card from Bonnie. Tom is truly cherished.

Fathers are important in their children’s lives. Most often, Fathers are like Tom, aware, appreciative and thrilled with that relationship. Today, with so many blended families similar to ours, that father-child relationship has become very fragile. When the children are small, fathers have to work hard to maintain the connection. When your children live with their mother and you see them every other weekend, it takes tremendous intentionality for father’s to keep up with all the sports and school events and all the other important things in their children’s lives. As the children mature, they can (like Bonnie) take some responsibility for maintaining the relationship.

God created us to live in relationship. Through Jesus, God taught us how to love one another.  And God is wise. God does not force us to nurture our family relationships. We have the freedom to choose. When we choose to work at those relationships, we open ourselves to the wonder and joy that is given and received.

This year as we celebrate Father’s day, and every day, I suggest we open our eyes to see and appreciate the beautiful father–child relationships around us. Give God thanks for creating these wonderful opportunities for joy. Hold each Dad and each child in your prayers. Prayer is powerful. All fathers need God’s strength to live their relationships well.

“Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.” Proverbs 17:6

Saying Goodbye!

Goodbyes are never easy.
Goodbyes are never easy.

Saying good-bye is not easy. Practice does not make it easier. Two weeks ago, I woke up at four a.m. to help with the last minute stuff and say goodbye to our Bonnie, two- year- old Alex and three-month-old Lise. We’d been blessed with a two-week visit, half at home, half in Cuba. We’d laughed heaps, taken a host of pictures, played, talked and walked the floor with baby Lise. We’d enjoyed a wonderful time together. Their flight home left Toronto at eight a.m. Alex gave me a wonderful hug and said, “See ya.” In his short life, Alex has already said good-bye many times.

 

As I sat down to do my morning journaling, after they left, both the toys and I were already lonely. Tears lurked in my eyes. These three are not our only family members living far away. Several of our grandchildren have grown up and gone away to college. One lives in Vancouver permanently. Teenaged Jenna and her parents live in Johannesburg, South Africa. Saying goodbye is common today as families disperse around the world.

 

I’m grateful for modern technology. In a couple of weeks, through Skype on my computer, I will take Alex to the garden to see the tiny sprouts growing from the seeds we planted while he was here. When I lose patience with computer glitches and ever-present cell phones, I give thanks that they bring our far-off children and grandchildren into our living room regularly. We are truly blessed.

 

Yes, good-byes are difficult, but visits from our loved ones are well worth the pain.

 

“God, whom I so love to worship… knows that every time I think of you in my prayers, which is practically all the time, I ask God to clear the way for me to come and see you.”  (Romans 1: 9-10)

God’s Call to Relationship

I have no pictures to share tonight. For some reason I cannot get the SD card to relinquish any of the pictures taken on September 18. Today, I took only family pictures on my phone. They are not for distribution.

September 18 Day 20

We’ve had a lovely quiet day. I think we managed to pack all our belongings this morning without forgetting anything, leaving any droppings behind as my sister Sharon says. After saying goodbye to Ross and Carol we set off for Vancouver about an hour late. For the next four hours we enjoyed mile after mile of mountains and valleys with lakes and switch backs to add spice. We arrived in Coquitlam about 3:30 just as the afternoon rush was beginning. I set up google maps on my phone to lead us to the owners of the condo we were renting in Vancouver so we could pick up the key. Neither Tom nor I have used a GPS before. We learned that it is difficult to trust a voice from our phone to lead us through strange city streets and 4 o’clock traffic. We did arrive at the right place and the owner was waiting with the key. Of course we still had to let the phantom voice lead us back to the highway and then to grandson Christopher. We discovered that this GPS does work. It will get us where we need to go although it is a stressful exercise.

We were an hour late arriving at Christopher’s house. All the traffic and stress disappeared when I saw him. He’s been here in Vancouver since last March and we’ve missed him. In fact our whole family has missed Chris. We unloaded his stuff and climbed back into the car. With Chris being our GPS we headed for daughter Bonnie’s apartment in North west Vancouver. We’ve missed Bonnie and Alex and Boris over the last year. With them we have skyped regularly which has helped. We’ve watched Alex as he learned to walk and all the other developmental steps he has taken. After about an hour and a half visit, it was time for the three of them to go to bed. The three of us walked up the street for a very late supper. Now we’re settled in our beautiful condo. We’ve unpacked everything. I’m sure the car must be taking the same deep breath I am tonight. I’m happy to be in one place for a while.

Tonight I am grateful once again for good roads, amazing scenery and a safe journey. We are grateful for that GPS voice even though at times we wanted to scream at her. Most of all, I’m grateful that our loved ones who live here in Vancouver are healthy and happy. Tonight we are blessed.

September 19 Day 21

I’m aware that for the next week, we will mostly be doing family things. Today was no exception. I had a special time with Chris and Tom his individual time with Bonnie and Alex. Boris cooked roast chicken for dinner, and Bonnie made Carrot lentil soup for supper. Both were delicious. It rained all day which is normal for Vancouver except this year. They’ve had very little rain so this was welcomed. We both had time with Chris and with Bonnie, Boris and Alex – a wonderful family day.

We’re enjoying the condo rental. Not only is it considerably less expensive (which is an important factor in Vancouver), it is wonderful to have a fully equipped kitchen and lovely livingroom. Being on the sixth floor, we look out over English Bay from the bedroom and out over the city from the livingroom. Tonight the city lights are beautiful.

Where was God today? Right here with us. At the YM/YWCA I was surrounded by beautiful children and loving parents, enjoying the brightly coloured play room on a rainy day. For me it was a tiny glimpse of heaven, as children and adults enjoyed the facility and each other. The blessing of God’s call to us to live in loving supportive relationships descended upon me all day, as I enjoyed our grandsons – 23 year old Chris and 18 month old Alex. I’m sure God smiled upon us as we talked and played. Tonight the quiet of this lovely apartment and the blessed opportunity to write this blog, tells me that God takes care of our needs even before we know we have them. We are truly blessed.

The Gift of a Cross

cross

Last month, our youngest granddaughter confirmed the baptismal vows her parents made for her as a baby. I prayed that she would feel God’s Spirit lift and carry her, not just on that day, but every day of her life. Tom and I gave her a gold cross to mark her commitment to follow in the “Way of Jesus” and her formally becoming an adult in her church family. We want that cross to be a symbol of faith for her. Every time she puts it on, and all the time she wears it, we hope she will be reminded that she is totally wrapped in love, the love of family and particularly God’s love. No one and nothing can take that love away.

We hope it will help her to look for and recognize God’s presence in her life in the multitude of little joys that surround her every day. At the moment, she knows the pleasure that comes when she offers Grandma and Grandpa a spontaneous hug. I watch her pour her love on her animals – cats, dogs, horses. I experience her joy as she flies on her skates at hockey. Together we can sit and read, leaving conversation behind, solid in our love for each other.

We hope it will remind her to live a life of gratitude. She knows how to say thank you. She knows how to express her joy. That cross is a sign of our hope and trust that no matter what comes in her life, she will continue to live that confidence. There will be times of questioning, disappointment, hurt as well as times of great celebration. That cross is a symbol of that sure foundation of faith and love she has today.

As Christians, we wear a cross as a symbol of the love and teaching we have received, as a symbol of the Way of Christ. Whether plain wood or solid gold encrusted with diamonds, the cross is worn to remind us that each and every person on earth is created as God’s special beloved child. In the words of St. Paul, “You are God’s temple. God’s spirit lives in you.” (1 Corinthians 3: 16)

 

“Twice Blessed”

Please check out the Spirit Story in the May issue of the United Church Observer. My personal true story titled “Twice Blessed” has been published as the “Spirit Story” in the May issue of the United Church Observer. Please check it out. You can also read “Twice Blessed” on line at www.ucobserver.org/opinion/2015/05/spirit_story/  At that site you can click to hear me read the story as well. When you are finished please leave a comment. That helps both the magazine and me. Blessings to you all. Janet