A New Creation

During this past two months we have been blessed with two new creations! One little boy, Caleb Benjamin,  and in just this past two weeks, a little girl, Adella Kathleen. I have flown to Washington State to be with this precious little girl and her three brothers.  One of the joys of Nanahood!

I’ve noticed that one of the first things we do when a new baby is born is compare that child to a family member. “Who does she look like?” “He has his daddy’s smile!” The comparisons seem never-ending , and in fact they are.

I am 60 years old. People STILL tell me how much I look like my mother! It started as soon as I was born – so I am told  – (unlike our son, I don’t remember my actual birth – he claims he does) and continues, to this day. Once in my life someone told me I looked like my father. I politely asked this individual if they had ever met my mother – they had not.

As soon as our first daughter was born, Phil called my mother and announced “Now there are three of you.” Bless their hearts, two of our daughters live with the stigma of favoring their mother in appearance. A friend of mine asked my mother one day if any of our daughters reminded her of me. Without hesitation she replied “Oh, no. They are much prettier than Gayle ever was.” (Some of you are feeling horror at this moment – don’t  – Mother was right)

The fact remains that it is in our nature to compare children and their appearance to relatives we feel they favor, sometimes even ancient ancestors. “Great-great Uncle Reuben had ears just like those!”  These innocent little babies are tagged from the start. Yet to be fair there are certainly family characteristics that are in our DNA . My parents moved near us following  7 years of living in Taiwan. After hearing my mother speak,  people in stores and businesses would ask her if she knew Gayle Woody – our voices sound that similar.

I love the verses in  2 Corinthians 5:17-20  – New Living Translation (NLT)

17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to Himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

Just as each baby born is a new creation with a unique DNA, when we become Christians, we become new creations as well. “The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

We look at these new-born children and think of the great potential each has. Our heavenly Father looks at us and does the same thing! What a blessing to know God as Father. As loving parents, we make every effort possible to help our children to reach their full potential. God does that with us well. God has given us the Holy Spirit to equip us to be His hands and feet wherever we are. Just as our family has hopes and dreams for Caleb and Adella, God has those hopes and dreams for us who are His children. We are so blessed to be part of God’s family.

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The Best Father’s Day Gift

A co-worker of mine was sharing recently that her son and daughter-in-law are expecting their first child. She said that he was reading about becoming an effective father and that the article he read said that there was one quality that research had shown was most important in predicting the well-being of children. That quality was a stable, loving relationship between the parents. In other words – the best thing a father can do to help his children become well-adjusted and happy is to love their mother.

This makes sense on many levels. If the parents are loving and supportive of one another, this is certainly a positive example for the children. There will also be a sense of security if the parents have a stable, committed relationship. One of the worst things that can happen to a child is for that child to believe that she is the center of the universe. If the parents are investing in their relationship with each other, the child will learn that real love is not selfish, but can be shared among family members and multiplied.

We were encouraged early on in our marriage to make time for each other and to keep our relationship a priority. I must admit that it was not always easy to do this.  We had four children in 4  1/2 years. Phil was working at the university library as well as serving in leadership in our church. I was staying home with our children after having taught school for 3 years before our first child was born. I wanted to stay home and be a full-time homemaker, yet there were times when I tried to mentally calculate how much I would have to make in salary to pay for childcare for four children – and still have some money left. I’m not sure such a job existed in our rural community! I would hear “experts” talk about keeping romance alive in your marriage by having a date night. Right! When we only had enough money to make our house payment and buy groceries, a date night was not going to happen!

Looking back on those days one of the biggest blessings to me was that we were not alone. We had some very good friends that also had limited financial resources. They too desired to invest in their families. We would get together for picnics in the National Park, a cook-out at someone’s house, or share meals on the spur of the moment. Those times of fellowship with others did not cost anything (we would have eaten anyway) but they sure paid off in enjoying each other as families.

We now tease each others’ children that we helped raise them, and in part that is true. But more than anything, these families modeled Godly relationships for our children, as well as their own. Each of these fathers loved their children, but more than that they loved their wives. Their good example is a treasure that has paid off in the lives of their children and grandchildren.

I was blessed with Godly parents and grandparents. They loved me and prayed for me. My father and both my grandfathers loved their wives. I grew up expecting that was the norm. My husband did not grow up in a Christian home, his father did not honor his mother and love her respectfully. There was much turmoil and dysfunction in his family. Yet Phil has been a loving husband and a wonderful father to our four children. This is because he has committed his life to God as his Heavenly Father. Phil has allowed Biblical standards to guide his relationships in our home. We have three sons-in-law that are Godly young men who love and respect our daughters and are such a blessing to us! This is the evidence of God’s grace and redemption. Even though Phil did not have a Godly example, his desire to follow God’s plan has resulted in blessing for our family.

We are not perfect, our marriage is not perfect, our children are not perfect, and our grandchildren ARE perfect. Just kidding…they are amazing….but not perfect. Yet because of God’s love and grace, our family is blessed with the love we have for each other.

Ephesians 5: 25-28  (NLT) challenges husbands in this way;

25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to Himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.

The best Father’s Day Gift is love, and the best thing a father can do for his family is to love his wife!

Dreams

 

This past week, Phil and I attended a promotion assembly at our oldest granddaughter’s school. She has completed 1st grade and was promoted to 2nd grade. Two things stood out to me in particular at the assembly. First, the ethnic/racial mix of the students and therefore the audience of family members was very diverse. The names that were called out reflected this diversity as well. I was so pleased to see this variety –  this is the real world in which our grandchildren are growing up. The various children our granddaughter has as classmates and friends will allow her to appreciate and know from an early age that as humans, we have much more in common than the differences of our hair texture, skin color, or the shape of our eyes. “Red, brown, yellow, black, and white , they’re ALL precious in His sight…..” All children have the potential to dream. 

The second thing that blessed me was the song all five classes of 1st Graders sang together. It was called “Dreams” and the words the children sang told about the dreams each of them had for their futures. Their lives lay ahead of them and there is so much they dream of doing. Having bright hopes for the future is an important part of healthy child development. Wanting to be a fireman, nurse, or a cowboy gives a child a vision for their future and it also makes going to school purposeful. (Does anyone know what degree a cowgirl needs?) If a child has no dreams for their future, they will not have hope.

Each milestone a child reaches is worthy of celebration. I was pleased that this promotion to 2nd grade was low-key – just a song and calling out each child’s name. Yet it says to the child – “you have completed something and we are proud of you.” Their dreams may seem unrealistic or even silly at this stage in their lives, yet those dreams give children a hope for their future. I can tell when one of my high school students has no dream for their future – they are apathetic, disengaged, and unhappy.

Phil and I went on a hike Saturday with dear friends to Pinnacle Peak. This is a strenuous trail that climbs steeply up to the peak and the reward is a spectacular view of the county in which we live. While hiking our friends mentioned that their son has told their five-year old grandson that when he is 16, his dad will take him on a hike to a mountain peak in Yosemite National Park. Their grandson talks about this and is looking forward to this “milestone”. It struck me how wonderful this dream is for this little boy! He is looking forward to doing something that is very special, it involves his dad, it is “healthy” on several levels, and it is something that he will always see as a significant accomplishment.

God has dreams for us as well –

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

 Psalm 40:5 (NIV)

Many, Lord my God,
    are the wonders you have done,
    the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
    were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
    they would be too many to declare.

The dreams God has for our children and grandchildren are beyond compare. It will be a wonderful challenge to seek God’s direction and allow God to use us in fulfilling HIS dreams in these precious children’s lives.

Summertime!

I still remember the sense of freedom that I felt when school was finished for the year. A whole summer of possibilities lay ahead! These are some of the most endearing memories of my childhood – the times of playing in the creek, piling rocks to dam the Oconolufte  Creek up so we could swim. Building “forts” (my brother Gregg was especially good at this!) with old boards and whatever was lying around in the woods so we could have adventures. We went tubing and threw rocks in the river trying to “skip” them like our father did. We attended Bible School at the Cherokee Baptist Church and made new friends.

All these memories revolve around being in the mountains of North Carolina. My summers as a child were idyllic and I treasure these memories.

Then I married a mountain man and our four children were able to enjoy many of these same activities as children. Each would probably list different things that they enjoyed most about summer, yet I know that they all loved this season and the chance to be “free” from the schedule of school.

We would often meet our family friends at the library for the Summer Reading Program and afterwards eat a picnic lunch in the park. We would plan “Fridays at Deep Creek” where the older kids could tube down the river and the younger ones could play in the shallows with round river rocks. We mothers could visit and supervise the little ones, getting the social interaction with adults that we needed.

Summer also involved chores in the garden. Once when our children were small, someone asked our third child if she was looking forward to summer. Her expression saddened and she replied, “NO, I have to weed the garden”. My heart sank as I heard this. I did not want her memories of summer to be sad ones! We still gave our children chores, but I made sure that they realized that the chores were done first, so they could play, swim, and be with their friends afterwards.

I have sometimes heard mothers of young school children lament the fact that school is almost over  – that summer break was about to start. These mothers are not looking forward to having their children home with them. They see their children’s freedom as interfering with their freedom. This is an attitude that pervades our culture. The attitude that children are a burden and need to be “managed” with as little interference in the parents’ lives as possible. How tragic! These parents are missing out on a wonderful opportunity to build memories that last a lifetime. These years when our children are young and at home go so quickly. (I remember thinking, “yeah, sure” when I was in the middle of those years) Looking back – they did fly by.

Mark 9:36-38 (NIV)

36 He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the One who sent me.” 

When we put time with our children ahead of our own desires, we are following the example of Jesus. He placed a high value on children. As parents and grandparents we are able to maximize our children’s summer. Young ones will not choose the best activities on their own. We must plan and guide them, considering their preferences such as swimming, playing ball, creating art, building forts, even just playing with favorite toys.

Limiting screen time is important, even more important in the summer. Children learn creativity, problem solving, and build their imaginations while playing. Screen time is usually passive entertainment and is counter productive. Active play helps children develop physically, mentally, and socially.

Have a wonderful, blessed summer building positive memories!!