Jesus and the Family

This advent season we have attended beautiful concerts. Our grandchildren participated in a Christmas program at their church. The fours & fives sang Away in a Manger. Older children read scripture and sang additional Christmas carols. Advent is a time to share the celebration of Christ’s birth with others. 

I have been writing Christmas cards and receiving messages from friends that date back to my high school and college days. Our friendship continues.

Christmas is a time that ties family and friends together. And yet, some of the deepest pain comes from loss and broken relationships during the holidays.

God sent Jesus to an imperfect human family. This is significant. Jesus lived a sinless life in a human family and then offered himself as payment for our sin. He offers us salvation and the opportunity to become a member of God’s family . . . forever!


Nativity

When we reflect on this truth we see God’s great love for us and find the joy of Christmas.

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46: 10

The prompt for the Five Minute Friday community is: STILL

Experiencing the Goodness of Marriage

Thanksgiving is approaching and I have begun some early preparations. Our family has a favorite cornbread dressing, but it is a complicated and time-consuming recipe. I have made it ahead. While in the kitchen I have been thinking about many blessings in my life, especially one.

I am thankful for my husband. We have been married for 41 years and have experienced good times and difficult times. God has helped us through the hard times.

This past summer we became the interim caregivers for our five grandchildren ages 18 months to twelve years. Our oldest grandchild was suddenly in need of emergency care. Shortly after arriving at the hospital he was taken to the operating room for a bleeding brain aneurysm. Our daughter and son-in-law took turns at his bedside for the month that he was in the hospital.

By God’s grace our grandson received amazing medical care and is recovering. I was glad to have my husband by my side as we managed the daily needs in a busy household.

It was the same way when our son was fighting leukemia. We worked together.

As I thought about this I went and gave my husband a big hug. I told him, “I am thankful for you.” He was a bit surprised by the sudden affection but smiled with gladness.

Thanksgiving

What are you thankful for?

Today’s prompt for the Five Minute Friday writing community is: ONE

Crowds and the Confirmation Hearing

Senate confirmation hearings can be boring. Not the hearing for Judge Kavanaugh.

While protests where taking place at the Capitol, groups of Students for Life were holding rallies across the country.

I watched the confirmation hearing for an hour last week and witnessed the loud protests and interruptions that were taking place.

Discussion, questions and clarification of released documents took place. The Judge was questioned and he remained composed, answering questions clearly. At times his brow furrowed as he took notes. At other times he smiled and shared a light moment with a Senator.

Judge Kavanaugh had an interesting exchange with Senator Dick Durbin. Senator Durbin thanked the Judge’s wife for attending the hearing. In turn the Judge thanked Senator Durbin for a book he had given. And then the Judge commented that his daughters would return in the afternoon to see democracy in action.

And here a little back-story is enlightening. On the first day of the confirmation hearing the Judge’s wife and daughters were present. When the hearing chamber became raucous, with chants and shouts, the girls were escorted out. The girls are 13 years old and 10 years old.

Many would wonder why a parent would bring his daughters into such a contentious hearing. And the Judge was having them come back. After observing Judge Kavanaugh’s demeanor and ability to answer hostile questions, I can imagine that he will guide his daughters.

Hard things are happening in the world. As parents and grandparents we have an opportunity to teach children and teens how to handle themselves in the face of adversity. It was the one take away that I had from watching the confirmation hearing.

The prompt for Five Minute Friday is: CROWD  Visit the link-up here.

Flying to Finland to visit my Grandmother’s birthplace

In July of last year my husband and I flew to Finland to visit my grandmother’s birthplace and to attend a family reunion. We had a nonstop flight on Finnair from Chicago to Helsinki Finland. Relatives met us at the airport.

My grandmother’s travel to the United States was much more arduous. She traveled by boat from Oulu, Finland to the port city Hanko. From Hanko she took another boat to Hull, England, then a train from Hull to Liverpool. As far as I know she traveled alone in 1903.

In Liverpool she boarded the Ultonia (a former livestock carrier). She traveled third class in steerage. She had a bunk, along with many other immigrants, in the hold of the ship. This crowded space had inadequate sanitation, and many of the passengers were seasick. I can’t imagine what she endured.

She arrived in Boston and was directed to a train  that  took  her  to  Chicago.    From Chicago she took a train to  the  Upper  Peninsula  of  Michigan where she was met by two of her brothers.

My grandmother had told family members that she planned to go back to Finland to visit one day. But after completing her journey to Michigan, she decided that she could never make such a difficult journey again. Instead she asked her daughters to promise that they would one day visit Finland.

Vuostimo Finland
House that neighbored my grandmother’s girlhood home (now gone).

My mother, my aunt and my sisters have all made the trip. We are blessed by the ease of air travel.

Linking with the Five Minute Friday Community. Today’s prompt is: FLY

Crisis & Prayer

Today I am joining a community that is writing on the prompt: PAUSE

Life has been on pause.

No, that is not quite right. The nonessentials of life have been on pause.

A week ago my grandson developed a critical illness and has been in a pediatric ICU. My daughter has been at his bedside. My husband and I have been taking care of the other children.

We have been learning their daily patterns, seeing more of their school projects. It has been an intense week. Grandpa has earned the title of Grand Nap Master for his ability to coax the toddler to take a nap.

The days have been stressful but touched with little blessings. We are thankful for the prayers on behalf of our family. A dear friend sent me scripture verses. This one has encouraged me:

Psalm 62:5-6  Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

The evening before major surgery my grandson’s youth group held a prayer meeting. About fifty people, many of his friends, showed up to pray.

We are blessed by God’s love being displayed by faithful friends.

UPDATE: Our grandson is recovering after two surgeries for a bleeding brain aneurysm. We praise God for answered prayer. We are grateful for the skill of the medical team and the advances in medical technology.

UPDATE on 8/3/18: After a summer of therapy our grandson is preparing to begin high school in a couple weeks. We are praising God for his progress and continue to pray for returning strength and adjustment/healing of limitation in his eyesight.

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Supporting Mothers: The Hike for Life

Over the years I have often participated in the Hike for Life on Mother’s Day weekend. It has been a family event, children included.

In the 1990s we hiked along the shore of Lake Michigan in downtown Chicago. Yesterday my daughter reminded me of her first hike. It was the beginning of her concern for mothers and their infants. The years that we hiked together have now been passed along to the next generation.

Hike for Life

Now my grandchildren participate in the Hike for Life. A couple years ago we all went together.

Mother's Day Weekend

This year they will hike, and I will go visit my mother who is in a nursing home in Michigan.

All women need support during the transitions of life.

The money raised by the Hike for Life goes to pregnancy care centers. These centers provide ultrasounds, parenting classes, infant clothing and diapers. The staff at the pregnancy care center come along side a woman that needs assistance.

It is wonderful when a woman has the support of family and friends during pregnancy. Sometimes she needs another source of support. //

I am grateful, too, for organizations that help women adjust to the roles of motherhood. The Mother of Twins group meeting was my favorite evening out when I had three children under the age of three.

My daughters have benefited from MOPS (mothers of preschoolers), and I have enjoyed being a mentor mom for MOPS.

When we were in Finland I was  happily  surprised  to learn that the    parents of young children ride the buses in Helsinki for free.

Flowers and cards for mothers are nice, tangible help is better. Perhaps, there is someone that you can encourage.

Today I am joining the Five Minute Friday community. Our one word prompt is: INCLUDE

 

When the Church Responds to Foster Care Needs

On most Fridays I join the challenge to write for five minutes on a prompt given by Kate Motaung. Visit this inspiring community by clicking here. Today’s prompt is: PROVIDE

My children are grown and married. Currently we are taking care of my daughter’s children while she and her husband attend a seminar and celebrate their anniversary. As grandparents we are being introduced to foster care—we have two foster grandchildren. My eyes are being opened to the circumstances that many children face.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau, 437,465 children in our country were in the foster care system in 2016. The most common reason a child is placed in foster care is neglect (61%). The second most common reason is drug abuse (34%).

I was talking with my son-in-law and he said that poverty is a factor. He has participated in a poverty simulation course and was awakened to the stress that poverty places on a family.

Some children bounce back and forth between foster care and their biological family. It is heart breaking. But I have been encouraged to see the way the church in this community has stepped up.

Last Sunday we attended church with our daughter’s family. A dedication service took place for a young couple and their foster daughter. The children’s pastor invited people that wanted to  support  this  young   couple to come to the front of the church.

About thirty people, from teenage to elderly, walked to the front. They encircled the couple. The young mother had grown up in the foster care system and had been befriended by a family in this church.

My daughter’s family is part of a community of believers who are taking in foster children, providing support to families (children’s clothing, furniture as needed, meals as their family grows suddenly).

The community provides material and emotional support. The love and compassion for children is palpable.

It has blessed my heart to see this faith community engaging in the needs of children. I am so grateful that my daughter’s family has this support system.

Mental Illness Affects the Whole Family

Yesterday I began the task of going through my brother’s papers. After years in psychiatric hospitals and then group homes he passed away last June. I was his guardian.

When I saw the prompt for Five Minute Friday, I was already there emotionally. Sadness and REGRET.

When my Dad could no longer handle his  finances,  I  became  his  rep payee. I have years of bank records and medical records. I am discarding many of the papers, but keeping those that tell his life story.

My brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a young adult. His illness shattered our family. Each of us was traumatized by the events that took place.

Over the years my sisters and I had our turn as advocate for our brother. We visited him in the hospital and arranged outings.

Among the papers that I accumulated, are papers that my parents saved. I found my brother’s birth certificate. And I found copies of letters that my father wrote seeking better care for him. Letters looking for answers. Letters from hospital administrators, doctors and a senator. A letter from another parent of a mentally ill son.

My brother’s life was tragic. I do wish that I had understood better the heartache that my parents carried for so many years.//

Now I have to trust God’s word.

And I heard a voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4

Musing About Family and Privilege

The snow has come as forecasted and the world outside my door is cold and white. It is a good day to stay inside. It is Five Minute Friday—the day that we take five minutes, or just a little more—to write on the prompt that Kate Motaung gives us. Today’s prompt is: PRIVILEGE

There is a great benefit to growing up in a family with both mother and father. When the family reads Bible together and prays, there is additional blessing. This is God’s design. An intact family is not meant to be a privilege, but we live in a broken world.

My daughter and son-in-law have taken in two children through foster care. They have had some contact with the biological parents and are deeply saddened by the brokenness that has led to the child entering foster care. My daughter has shared with me her gratitude for our family, her growing up years.

Sometimes we don’t recognize the privilege we have experienced until we move outside of our comfort zone. Sometimes we need a new perspective. //

Family - Bouquet

As a nurse I had a dramatic change in perspective when I left the hospital labor and delivery unit to attend home births. For years I had taught Lamaze classes, giving instruction on how to stay relaxed, how to breathe, comfort measures for labor. When my clients gave me feedback, they told me about the hospital procedures they encountered. The breathing techniques and relaxation did not always help.

For home birth, the laboring mother is in her home. I was the guest giving her guidance and support. She was able to work with her labor in a way that I hadn’t seen in the hospital.

I am now an advocate of homebirth—with a clear plan for hospital transport when labor is prolonged or complicated. My hope is that hospital staff and homebirth attendants can have increased communication and understanding. All can benefit from a new perspective.

It is a challenge to step outside of our comfort zone. As Christians we have been given a great gift and the ability to reach out to others with love.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And it is not your own doing; it is the gift of God . . .

Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the common wealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2: 8, 12-13

 

Talking About Sex

On Thursday evenings I look forward to seeing the prompt  that  Kate   Motaung has chosen for Five Minute Friday. I enjoy linking up with this community of writers and seeing where the word takes us. Today’s prompt is: INTENTIONAL

I was born in the 1950s, before the b.c. pill became widely available

My mother had five of us. The women in my church had anywhere from three to five, maybe six children. My aunt had six children.

I was just out of nursing school when Roe v. Wade legalized abortion. I still remember the young woman that was brought in to the  labor and delivery unit where I was working. She was there for a saline induction and as I understood what was happening, I was horrified. The baby would die before being delivered.

The next day I went to the nurse manager and told her that I could never be assigned an abortion case. I wrote a letter about my conviction, and it was placed in my file at work.

I grew up in a different age. The sexual revolution has made things seem common, things that are harmful to women.

I want my granddaughters to know that they should protect their bodies. I want them to know that sex is a deep bond reserved for marriage. It is just one part of a life-long commitment to one man.

I want them to know that sometimes pregnancy is a surprise,  but  it  is  always a gift. Motherhood is hard; it is a self-sacrificing role, but it has many joys. It is a time to get close to God. A time to lean in to Him for strength and guidance.

I will tell them.

All Life is Precious

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