The First 50 Years

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With every sun’s rising, surprise us with Your love,
satisfy us with Your kindness.
Then we will sing with joy and celebrate every day we are alive. –Psalm 90:14

I turned 50 this past week.  (I know. You’d never guess it to look at me….) For the past 10 years, I’ve celebrated anniversaries of my 39th year.  This year, I ‘fessed up to my actual age.  I don’t fear aging–just kinda liked the shell-game of ‘how old am I’.

’50’ doesn’t mean much to me.  Except that I told my husband, “It just sounds so grown-up.  I guess I should act more grown-up now … But that’s probably not going to happen.”

One of the many things my mom taught me was that birthdays should be celebrated.  I don’t think she ever used words to convey that message–just the joy she exuded with every birthday.  She had ovarian cancer back in 1970, and she’s considered a medical miracle.  Ever since, she has celebrated ‘as long as people will let [her] celebrate.’  I love that she’s passed that idea down to me.  

None of us know how long we will live.  I’ve got long live-ers in my family.  Most of my immediate line have lived into their 90s.  However, with military life came realities of lives cut shorter than was natural.  I think of my husband’s best friend, Bob, who died in the first or second year of our marriage. His funeral initiated me into the gravity of military life.  Many others would follow through the years. Length of life comes with no guarantee.  However, regardless of how long or short our lives run, we can live them fully and without fear.  Which brings me back to my running theme for 2015:  the tree of life vs. the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  As I pass what very well could be the mid-point of my life, I want to continue to eat from the tree of life.  

With so much life behind me comes so much opportunity for shame and regret. How do we choose Life every day? How do we identify every day with Christ and not with shame? How do we oppose the shame–even when others tease without realizing the effect on us … on me…  I heard Nadia Bolz-Weber speak recently.  She distinguished between ‘shame’ and ‘guilt.’  She said something like, “Guilt is good.  We should feel guilty when we do something wrong or hurt another person.  Shame is an identity.”  I never want to identify myself or others with shame.  Shame is not nourishing.  Or life-giving.  Or joyful.  It sucks all the life and joy and sustenance out of us.

And shame makes it really hard to CELEBRATE ourselves!  

With living in the midst of my 51st year, I celebrate who God has made me.  I celebrate my best qualities.  I roll my eyes at some of my not-so-best-but-ever-diminishing qualities. I humbly accept the love and patience of my family and friends, and I offer them my love and patience in return.

We need each other to remind us of our best qualities and our amazing potential.  We need each other to fiercely stand with us when all we see are (and others remind us that they see also) our short-comings. 

Before I go and savor another piece of cake, let me encourage all of us to ask God for perspective on ourselves and our lives.  God can satisfy our need for love and kindness, and give us a reason to sing and celebrate.  Choose to believe the truth about yourself.  Choose to believe that God loves you.  That God treats you with kindness–even when others are unkind in our every day lives.  Find friends who will build you up and help you to discover your value and worth.  Life’s too short, whether it’s a few hours or a hundred years, to experience without grace.  So, I offer a toast of thanks for today, yesterday, and any days to come for all of us.

And now … cake!

I welcome comments!  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

 

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Beloved Gift of God

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My darling youngest son, you turned 18 today.  How can that be?  How can this young man before my eyes be you?  Your name means ‘beloved gift of God.’  And you live up to that name.

I prayed for joy with all of you.  Joy flows out of you and is all around you.  I remember telling you recently that often I would send you to your room after you had disobeyed to wait for your consequences.  You thought it was because I was incredibly angry with you and needed to calm down.  Most of the time, you waited because I couldn’t stop laughing.  You all are the joy of my heart.

I remember Gammy marveling at you when you rolled over the day after we brought you home from the hospital.  I’ve never stopped marveling at you.  You astounded Poppa with your sports ability–especially throwing and catching.  And now you are a top shot putter in the state.  I remember your energy far surpassed mine, so you motivated me to exercise and improve my energy and stamina so that I could keep up with you.  I remember when you were 2 and we all went to one of Dad’s work functions at a home with a lot of land.  You walked away across the field, never looking back, and sat down just before you got to the trees …  with your back to us.  I wondered what you were thinking.  I would wonder that a lot through the years.  We kept our eye on you and Dad finally went and sat down with you before coming back to the group.  I remember lunches at Village Inn–chocolate chip pancakes and club sandwiches–when you were in kindergarten.  I remember dancing at the dentist office to the elevator music, singing and praying before bed and you dancing to the songs Dad would play on the guitar.

Before each of you were born, Dad would poke my stomach to see what you would do.  Em kicked back–no one was going to take up her space!  We knew she would be a fighter, a challenger.  J just rolled over and repositioned himself to accommodate the new normal of his environment.  You didn’t move.  You didn’t kick.  You just blew it off.  Our concern began….

Instead, what we’ve found turned out to be a free-spirit in terms of peer pressure.  You have always been well-liked; but you never seemed to care what others wanted you to be.  Because of that attitude, you are a leader.  Your teachers all have said how kind you are.  Parents of classmates would wax  lyrical about you and smile warmly at me when they found out you were my son.  A couple of teachers commented how inclusively you treated all your classmates.  In gym classes, you wanted everyone to have a turn and would even toss or throw the ball to the girls to give them a chance to shine.  Other classmates said that you would stick up for them and protect them.  You make others feel good about themselves by embracing them in your world.  

I remember praying for each of you and asking God to reveal what part of Him you contain.  With you, I see a pastor’s heart–I don’t know if you will ever be a church pastor; but you have a deep caring and empathy for others.  I remember one Sunday, you were about 8, you came to me with your Bible open and said that you’d been reading about how the Israelites had hurt the heart of God so often.  You continued that it made you think of how many times you had done things that must have hurt the heart of God and it made you sad.  We prayed for God to reveal more of His heart to you and the ability to live out His way of life.  You trotted off and all was well with the world.  I pray now that you will not let others shape your identity.  You are big and strong.  You have a protective nature; but I pray that you will allow yourself to need protecting sometimes.  People look to you as a role model; but I pray that you will embrace God’s humility so that you can use the power others give you in their lives to point them to Him.

When I see you all grown up, and yet behind your beautiful blue eyes I also see the little boy who still lives in you, my whole being swells with pride.  I’ve often said that as a mom, my goal is to work myself out of a job.  I’ve done my job well.  I know you don’t need me like you used to when you were little young.  You are confident and appropriately independent.  My role in your life has changed through the years.  I miss the ‘little boy’ years; but I look forward to where God takes you through life.  My mama’s heart still worries, still panics, still wants control.  But as with these first 18 years, we will grow together and figure out our changing roles with each other.

I know one thing will not change.  I will forever love you and be proud that you are my beloved gift of God.

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Birthday Blessing

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My Jason–

20 years ago this week, you popped out into the world, and you haven’t stopped amazing me.

I remember Dad being so sick that last trimester before you were born.  I thought he might die; but I couldn’t think about that.  I had you to think and take care of inside me.  I remember a friend praying over you and me and just giggling as soon as she touched my belly.  She said, “I don’t know if you realize it or not, but this baby is FULL of God’s JOY!!”  She went on to say that she believed you had the heart of ‘Timothy’ from the Bible.  She didn’t know that we had picked out ‘Timothy’ as your middle name.  I remember the Alabama years and your lispy, nasally twang that is long-forgotten by everyone but me.  I remember the time you rode Jon’s much smaller bike around the BMX track and looked like a professional as you flew into the air … until gravity slammed you into the ground.  Thank God, no bones broke, and we got to watch Fear Factor for the first time as I snuggled you.  I remember soccer, hurdles and relays.  I remember experiments, breakfasts and errands.  I remember conversations, late-night papers and movie nights.  I remember you.

So, this week, as you end your teen years and enter your 20s, I think about how much you’ve grown and matured through the years.  I’m so proud you are my son–my eldest son.  You’ve never lost the joy, the piece of God, that He put in you.  You’ve never lost your sense of adventure and curiosity.  I hope you never do.  You are one of the bravest people I’ve met and one of the most secure in who you are and who God created you to be!  I love it that you’ve cliff-dived, challenged yourself with new hobbies like unicycling and learning to play the saw, travelled to various places in Colorado just for the adventure.  You still make me smile and bring me joy.

My prayer for you (and all in your generation) is that you will continue to find yourself in Christ.  Continue to see the world through His eyes.  Continue to live with His ABUNDANT LIFE in pure abandoned joy.  My prayer is that you and others will see God’s grace, love, hope and faith as you journey toward the prize in Jesus.  I pray for you, my treasured child, that what you have to offer the Body of Christ, people will embrace with gratitude.

So I celebrate you and give you this blessing for your life.  HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!  May it be filled with adventure and joy!!

Love you, Sug–mama

My prayer for all of us is that we encourage and validate this next generation as they go out to change their world!

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A Birthday Letter

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My dearest Em–

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! 

Today is Palm Sunday–just as it was 22 years ago.  The whole ‘triumphal entry’ theme resonates with me afresh in Palm Sunday sermons.

Kusel, Germany, 1991.  Desert Storm had left the military hospitals gutted in preparation for wounded, so I, along with everyone else in our Lamaze class, prepared to deliver in a German hospital.  My OB/GYN hailed from Greece, but studied in the US.  The OB who actually delivered you came from France.  Your half-Japanese dad dutifully and sensitively held my hand.  Diversity in action, it felt apropos for our ‘melting pot’ family.  I’ve heard it said (from mostly men) that women forget the pain of childbirth when the doctor or nurse puts their beautiful baby, all snuggled and clean in a blanket, into their arms.  *sigh*  How magical childbirth is in their world….  Reality check:  Those people lie…. However, with the pain comes great joy.

I hope I never forget the beautiful European years of raising you to toddlerhood.  Going to the park down the street, strolling to the Greek restaurant past the cows, gasping with awe as the shepherd helped birth his sheep in the springtime.  The fields of saffron flowers blooming gave me such joy.  Oh, I wouldn’t call it idyllic (I’m not that naive).  I also remember dad almost dying when I was 9 months pregnant with Jason, and our little church community completely falling apart and relationships destroyed.  But I remember the pace of life.  I remember quietness and peace.  I remember church bells echoing through the villages.  I remember old people oooh-ing and ahhh-ing over you in your stroller and giving you candy while we shopped, traveled and ate in the German cities and towns.  And I remember letting you eat the candy that I would throw away if a stranger in America gave it to you.  I remember feeding the ducks in the village next to ours–and you stuffing the bread in your mouth while throwing some to the ducks.  A different culture.  A different life.

I loved the beginning of our family and the treasury of those memories.  I’ve loved raising you to adulthood, and although there have been many bumpy years as we grew and learned together, pride fills my heart as I see you pursuing your passions and learning to fly.  I still see that little girl in Germany who brought such joy and wonder to life.  I see her when your excitement and effervescence lights up the faces of the girls you mentor.  I see her when life is hard and tears fill your eyes at injustices.  I see her when you hope for a better tomorrow.  I see her when you curl up in a blanket and watch a Disney movie.  I see her when you courageously face the critics, once again, and fight for righteousness.  I see her when you see chocolate milk in the refrigerator and all is right with the world.  I see her when Jesus shines through you and gives grace to a soul who believes itself undeserving.  I see her when you worship God–with music and the sacrifice of your life.

You are my beloved child, in whom I am well-pleased.

Love you–‘madgey’

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