Tag Archive | family

Come to the table

Have I mentioned that my favorite all-time holiday is Thanksgiving?

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No trying to guess the perfect gifts to buy.  No struggling with a tree to put up and decorate.  No ladders and lights on the house.  No obligatory cards with expensive postage stamps to send.  (Sorry, sometimes I am a bit bah-humbug-ish about all the trappings of Christmas.  I will most likely write about that in December.)  Thanksgiving is just a much simpler holiday.

At Thanksgiving, we come to the table, and there is more going on then just filling our tummies.

I have fond memories of childhood table times when my family gathered to share a meal. Laughter and story telling were as regular as mashed potatoes.  Pastors and their families, soldiers far away from home, missionaries often sat with my parents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

We miss a lot by driving through for meals.  We eat on the run on our way to some place else.  Or we sit in front of the TV so we can catch up on the pre-recorded programs we just can’t miss while we scarf down our food.  All eyes are glued to a screen – instead of each other.

I’m as guilty as the next person so please don’t think I am throwing stones.  I live in a glass house myself.

But I am learning to value the ministry of the table.  With Sweet William and me confined to the house a lot lately, our coming and going is limited.  What we can do is invite people to come sit at the table with us.  It might be a home-cooked meal or simply store-bought muffins and coffee.  Either way, there is something precious and meaningful going on, and we are the richer for it.

So I look forward to the Thanksgiving table.  The food will be wonderful of course, more than we will be able to eat.  The special recipes we’ve been enjoying since our parents were the primary cooks will be there along with new and fresh dishes from the younger generation.  We will come hungry and eat too much.  After the main meal and the sampling of several desserts, we will settle back with cups of coffee, looking through Black Friday ads as some plot the course for shopping.

At the table we will reminisce and catch up.  We will laugh and maybe cry a little.  We will share ideas and opinions.  We will find our hearts longing for those not with us this year, and we will treasure each person who is present.

At the table I hope we accept one another with our differing opinions and gifts and strengths and weaknesses.  It is the way Jesus sat at table with such a variety of people.  Scripture records Him often enjoying food with disciples and friends.  He always brought His most tantalizing dish, His love for those sitting close.  He offered them a taste of abundant life and deep drink of living water.  Some partook.  Others went away still hungry and thirsting for things that cannot satisfy.  Still Jesus offered.

While our table setting is different, the principle remains the same.  Sharing the table is a way we share ourselves.  And we hope others accept our gift.

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The table gives us time to sit and just enjoy, not just the food but one another.  We don’t always allow ourselves that luxury in the busy world in which we live.

I will soon be making my grocery list for Thanksgiving, ingredients for my own special dishes, my standard repertoire.  As I cook I will remember other years and rejoice in the gift of time to enjoy family and friends.

This year I will linger at the table and will remind myself to treasure these moments.  We never know if it will be our last time to be with the ones we love.

So no matter how far or how much effort it may take this Thanksgiving, come to the table.  Take time, my friends.  Sit awhile.  Relax.  Love those around you at the table.   There is ministry going on.

A melancholy musing

Two almost-sisters were blessed with new grandbabies last week.  One is a cousin by marriage who has been family a long time  The other is a life-long friend who calls me her “forever friend.”

I am so happy for both of them.  There is nothing like holding a new baby in your arms, and when that baby is your very own grandchild, well you just have to experience it and you know what I mean.

I was blessed beyond measure to be at the birth of my first grandchild, a girl.  Our one and only son and his beautiful wife lived close to us then, and her parents were driving from out of state to be here when she entered the hospital.  So it was my great priviledge to be in the birthing room when that tiny little creature breathed her first and squalled like a baby.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life,   Because birth itself is simply breathtaking.  But when the son of my heart gives life to his own child, that is a mountain’s high peak.

My melancholy comes when I wish for and long for that grandgirl to be closer to my house.  She, along with her two siblings (my other equally precious grandchildren), and her parents moved far away three years ago.

So when I get a Facebook message from that first grandgirl saying, “Dreamt that I arrived at your house after a long trip. I miss your face!!!!!”, I weep.  I just can’t help it. Because I. Miss. Her. Face. So.Very. Much!

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I know I’m not the only one.  I have friends whose grandchildren live across country, and we often share our joys and heartaches at short bursts of togetherness and long stretches of being apart.  We understand each other.

So I rejoice with those almost-sisters who have new babies to hold and snuggle.  They will cherish these days.  And I weep with those who wish their grands were right next door, like mine were for twelve years.

I thank God for those twelve wonderful years.  I was given time to invest in relationships with three that are still precious and dear to this Grammy’s heart.  Those years were a gift, an important and valuable gift that I don’t take for granted.

In my tears, I will remember the hugs, the smiles, the cups of hot cocoa, the snuggles with a thousand Disney movies, the tucking into bed, the reading of books, the telling of stories, the prayers.  Ah, the prayers.  They never stop.  They go wherever the grandchild goes because that is my connection with her and with God.

And I trust God to hold her.

What are you waiting for?


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I stopped by an estate sale on my way home from work.   A huge barn-like building housed rows of shelving with items of all sorts, shapes, sizes, and ages.  Apparently the big items had already been claimed by family members or sold to interested buyers.  What filled the shelves were the leftovers I assume.  Glassware, Christmas decorations, costume jewelry, kitchen utensils, even cans of cleaning products and a bottle of dog shampoo.

I cruised the isles looking for a treasure when my eyes fell on a white sheet and two pillowcases being sold as a set.  Crisply ironed, the set had lace attached that was exquisite, about 2 and a half inches wide along the edges.  It looked practically new yet it’s design and craftsmanship indicated it was not new but old.

And I wondered about the now deceased owner.  What was she waiting for?  Who would have been a guest worthy of such quality and beauty?  And why didn’t she enjoy them on her own bed?

Just when that thought entered and left my mind, I remembered an equally beautiful set of pillowcases with intricate lace tucked safely into one of my drawers.  They have not been put on pillows in a very long time.

And I said it out loud to myself, “What am I waiting for?”

I guess many of us have the fine china we purchased years ago and only use for special occasions.  But really, how long ago was the occasion special enough to pull it out?  Paper plates are so much easier to dispose of.  Or the every day dishes will easily go into the dishwasher.

A couple of years ago on Christmas Eve, I took my wedding china from the hutch that had belonged to my mother.  I had not used the china in decades.  But that year I set the dinner table with their creamy elegance.  I arranged the silver plated cutlery beside plates and put the cloth napkins in pretty napkin rings.   The ruby crown glasses were taken from a protected shelf and set at their proper place above the knives.

And that Christmas Eve Sweet William and I celebrated a special occasion with our son, daughter-in-love, three precious grandchildren, my dad and step-mother.

When the evening was over, I hand washed the platinum edged china, the glassware and the forks, knives and spoons.  It took time, but it was worth the effort.  I was able to share my best with the ones I love the most.

Two Christmases have passed since then, two years without our family gathered around the big table at the holiday season.  The one and only son does not live in the house next door any longer.  My precious old dad went to be with the Lord this year.

The family table is not the same anymore.

I stand there in the barn at the estate sale and wonder about saving things for later, about waiting for a special occasion.  When I have the time.  When life is not so busy.  When the house is clean.  When that project is complete.  When we have more money.  When the weather changes.  When . . .  ___________.  Fill in the blanks.

Is there a phone call I need to make?  A letter I should write?  Do I need to have lunch with a friend?  Should I extend the invitation?

Is there a word I need to speak, an offering of encouragement and a “you can do this” a person longs to hear?  Is someone waiting for an “I love you” from me?  Or “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you.”  How about those who need my witness and my question, “Do you know my Savior?”

What is the special occasion I’m waiting for when the time is right?  When will the time be right?

Time is short and life is uncertain.  I have this day to live but not the promise of tomorrow.  I recall the admonishment to make the most of every opportunity.  Am I?

I left the sale not wanting to wait for special occasions to enjoy the bounty of God’s gifts nor to neglect to share them with others.

I was holding the set of sheets in my hands as I walked to my car.

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What are you waiting for?  

Thoughts of my son on Mother’s Day

For the second time since becoming a mother, I will celebrate Mother’s Day without my one and only child, my son in whom I am well pleased.

After he married, he lived close enough to our house for more than 14 years.  Not so now.  He moved miles away in 2011, taking his sweet wife and his three children, our only grandchildren.  I have not gotten over it yet.  I don’t think I will.

I’m aware that many moms do not get to spend Mother’s Day with their children.  Bear with me.  I am still trying to adjust to it.

My thoughts are on my son this day, the babe in my arms, the toddler waking in the middle of the night, the boy riding his bike saying, “Watch me, Mom,” the teenager taking the car alone for the first time as I stand at the window and pray for him, the man who took a wife with all its responsibilities, the young father who made me a grandmother.

I think of him with tenderness.  The struggles of parenting don’t matter any more.  I just remember the joy of being his mom.

His birth changed my life forever in ways he will never know.  But I will always thank God for it.

Bill and me, pregnant 1973My very first Mother’s Day picture was taken in 1973 while I was about 8 months pregnant.  The handsome man beside me is my Sweet William.  I was full, like the moon.  My belly was big, my smile was bigger.  My hair looked stupid – it was the 1970’s.

Big as a barrel and happy about it.  I loved wearing maternity clothes and sewed most of them myself.  People thought I was having a girl by the way I carried the baby.  One friend told me she could not imagine me with a boy; it had to be a girl.   Did she think I was I too prissy to mother a boy?

Yet a boy child is what the Lord gave us.

And what a joy that boy was, a tiny little found-faced creature.  I felt the weight of the world as the nurse placed him in my arms the first time.  How was it possible that the Lord Almighty had entrusted this tiny helpless human being, this everlasting soul to Bill and me?   I knew nothing about rearing a child except what I had seen my own parents do.  They did it so well.  So I tried to do it like they did.  I failed often.

I was cross too many times.  I expected a lot.  I doled out punishment when I could have given more grace.  I should have played more and cleaned less.  I wanted to be such a perfect mother.  But I was not.  I did what I thought was best.  It wasn’t always.

Oh, but I loved that boy with all my heart, and I prayed to be a good mother.  The Father took the feebleness of my efforts coupled with my prayers, and miraculously made a fine man from my tattered efforts.  What a great miracle that He took what little I had to offer and redeemed it to create something good and wonderful.

I wish I had understood more and acted differently when Travis was small, growing up, emerging into a teenager, becoming a man.  I wish I could undo some events and wash away others.  But alas, the days have gone by and I am left with the memories of them.

My son grew to be a good man.  He adores his wife, loves and plays with his children.  He takes his role as provider and spiritual leader seriously.  He loves the Father above and seeks to do His will.

I’m thankful for grace that accomplished much with what I gave to this son of mine.  I call him my Son of Consolation because he brightened my darkness and lightened my heart.  Truth be told, he has done more for me than I think I ever did for him.

To my son I would say:  Never could I have imagined the joy, the pain, the surprises, the laughter, the delight, the tears, the wakeful nights or the fun-filled days of being your mom.  You are a treasure to my heart.  Though the birth cord was cut when you were born, the cord that connects my heart to yours is never severed.

I love you, son.

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So this is life?

009The call came early, before the first pot of coffee was emptied.  “Your dad is on the way to the emergency room.”

I ask a few questions, assume auto pilot to get myself dressed and to the hospital.  It will be the first time Dad has ever been in the hospital.  Ever.  It must be bad for him to submit to an ambulance, to poking and prodding, to needles and hospital beds.

Blood is drawn from small veins.  Tape attaches to paper-thin skin.  IV needles invade his body in too many places.  He looks uncomfortable yet submissive and compliant.  He cries out in pain, grimaces. And is there a gentle procedure in a hospital?

News travels.  Channels of information run quickly to family and friends.  Facebook posts prayer requests.  Responses simply say “praying.”  And praying is always more than just a simple response.

People come to sit with my step-mother and me, to share our angst, to whisper silent prayers.  To tell their stories of my father.  Stories that reveal a compassionate heart, a tender concern, a promise made to pray and a promise kept.  And lives are changed by the power of the almighty God my father serves.

Tests reveal infection.  Pneumonia.  Internal problems.  The heart beats regularly, not strong but true and faithful.

Dad is frail and thin, a mere wisp of the man he was when I was a child.

He was a builder by trade and craft, a carpenter, like Jesus, with strong muscular chest and arms.  I felt safe with him.  He was always busy building.  Houses, churches, businesses, play houses for his little girl, dog houses for her pets.

When he was in the prime of his life, the Lord called him to build people.  He exchanged his nail apron for a towel and wash basin, the garb of a servant.  He visited, counseled, encouraged, taught, and built up the kingdom.  His materials were the eternal kind, not the wood and stubble used to build the kingdoms of this world.

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He lies still, breathing regularly but not full and deep.  He has few teeth now and his mouth hangs slightly open.  His hairs are white and fine, barely covering his scalp. His face is sunken, showing the outline of the skull, fine wrinkles on skin that covers but just barely.

I stand in the doorway gazing at the ravages of sickness, the strong hold of a sin-cursed world on these earthly bodies to the very end, even those who are sanctuaries to the very presence of the Almighty.

And I ask myself, so this is life?  Is this how a life ends?

He was once a sturdy man, strong and capable, working long hours and toiling hard.  It seems he has always taken care of others.  He marched off to war to help defend his country.  He stayed at the task until it was done no matter the cost to himself.    Now he can barely lift his hand.  Unable to speak clearly, unable to chew food, unable to hear the conversation, unable to hold a glass of water to his parched lips.

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I’ve seen this happen before.  I’ve watched this same struggle as other loved ones came to stand at Jordan’s stormy banks, casting a wishful eye to the other side.

So this is life?

The days of sitting in the hospital give me time, time to think and remember.  Time to hear how my Dad’s life and prayers and teaching the Word and loving people are living on.  His life, the one lived for his Lord, is not lying in a hospital bed languishing between white sheets.  It was cast upon the waters of service, and it has not returned void.

The breath of life may be slipping away in the body that holds my dad’s spirit and soul.  But the life he lived in Christ lives on in me.  In others.

I hear it from their own lips, the fruit of his labors bearing fruit in their own lives.  Prison ministry.  Wisdom to raise a child in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  Deliverance from an addiction to pornography.  Marriages salvaged.  Demons cast out.  Broken hearts mended.  Encouragement to keep pressing on.  Proclaiming the Lord’s return and people get ready!

Jesus said, “. . . whoever loses his life because of Me will find it.”  Dad wore himself out in his servant’s role.

And I see that THIS IS LIFE!  This is how to live.

It is not in gaining the world but in giving oneself away.  This is life!  Proclaiming to any who will listen the goodness of God and the salvation He provided.  This is life!  To visit the widows and care for the orphans and the lonely and the unlovable.  This is life!  The way it was meant to be lived and used up and wasted away for the sake of the Gospel.

This is a man who spent himself on others.  Even now in mere whispers, he  prays for those visiting him in his shadowy hospital room.

In the stillness of the evening, I hear him say it softly.  “Praise You God.  Praise You God.”  The Father knows this man’s voice.  He has heard it countless times as he  daily knelt by his chair to pray, as he prayer-walked every night for how many years (?) as long as he was able.  His voice has called out my name in prayer countless times, and I see that I have been left an amazing heritage.

A life lived this way has no fear of what is left of it or how it will end or what lies beyond when he breathes his last.  His times are in His Father’s hand.

So this is life and the way it should be lived?  Yes, it is!  Of this I am sure.

Who am I?

 

WHO AM I?

I’ve worn a few hats in my work-a-day-for-a-paycheck life, professionally speaking. Personally, I’ve been daughter, niece, cousin, wife, mother, mother-in-law, friend. But the one that tenders my heart the most is being grandmother.

Just this week, the one and only son brought his family from their Tulsa home to visit for a few days. Just a few short days. Not nearly enough days. But I will take what I can get.

As they came in the door, there was a sudden invasion of joy brought by five precious souls, and this house was full again. Full of talk and catching up. Full of games, toys and laughter. Full of kids running in and out. And hugs! Lots of hugs.

Tucking sleepy heads into beds was my privilege. Cooking meals to fill hungry tummies was not work but pleasure. Keeping the coffee pot full and hot was no chore at all.

The few days went by too swiftly.

Already they are gone. Out the door, into the SUV, and down the road before I can hardly blot the tears from my eyes.

For me the time is too short and the distance is too long.  Because those three precious grandchildren and I, we share something that cannot be explained. 

If you are a grandmother, you know what I mean.

I am very much a relational woman. I love my family and friends.  I gladly make room in my heart for one or two or many more, and I feel rich because of these precious gifts from God above.

But this grandmother thing, it’s just something not easily described in words. It is deep like the ocean.  It is like priceless ancient treasure while being fresh and new each time the children and I are together.

In honor of the three stars that shine in my sky, the sunshine that drives away my rain clouds, the faces that melt me every single time,  I will tell you who I am.

I’m the . . .

  • Bubble blowing – wagon towing
  • Game playing – “be kind” saying
  • Story telling – letter mailing
  • Walking, biking, sometimes hiking
  • Lesson teaching – WORD “preaching”
  • Favorite book reading – hungry tummy feeding
  • Sometimes singing – Front yard swinging
  • Together chatting – love patting
  • Picture taking – cookie making
  • Apron wearing – Popsicle sharing
  • Hug giving – Christ living
  • House cleaning – crock pot beaning
  • Clothes washing – dish washing
  • Kid washing – foot washing
  • Dinner fixing – pies a-mixing
  • Table setting – doggie petting
  • Swim time taking – fall leaves raking
  • Movie time snuggling – sleepy head tucking
  • Bible reading – Flower seeding
  • Journal writing – bird nest sighting
  • Papaw loving – grandkids loving 
  • Others loving, loving, loving 
  • Whisper praying – blessing saying
  • Chair rocking – Time tick-tocking

 EVER LOVING GRAMMY!

“Grandchildren are like a crown to older people.”  Proverbs 17:6 (NIRV)”

Are you a grandmother?  Do you know what I mean?  Please tell me I’m not alone.

In honor of fathers

It took me a while to understand and to appreciate the fact that men are not like women.  If I had known it when I first married Sweet William, I think it would have made both of our lives easier.

But I love it that they are different.

As I think of Father’s Day and the men in my life, I am thankful.  So many have left their mark on me, have changed my life for the better, have shown me the face of God.

There are the pastor and choir director who encouraged this shy young musician to use her gifts in spite of her fear.  There is the uncle who gave me money to help buy my first car and sent me on a trip to New York City free of charge.  There  are the ministers who preach the Word that cut like a sword and healed the wound and helped me grow.  There are the deacons who take their role seriously, who visit the sick and shepherd the flock.  There are the teachers who challenge me to think deeply, to question what I believe, and help me confirm what “thus saith the Lord” really means. 

Men are focused.  I love it that they can stay on one task and not veer off until it is complete, unlike me whose brain scatters from one thing to another to another until I wonder how anything gets accomplished.

Men are protective.  I remember when my very young grandson, Ethan, was pretending to be in a battle.  He looked at me standing there at the kitchen sink and said, “Don’t worry.  I’ll save you.”  His DNA is infused with a warrior spirit to fight for and take care of those he loves.

Men are courageous.  It isn’t that they are unafraid.  It is that they are willing to go check on that noise in the dark or to tread foreign soil for freedom’s sake.

Men are tender.  I’ve seen them cry over a sad movie, trying to hide their sniffles.  The tough exterior is just a covering for a soft heart where gentleness resides.

Men are strong.  They exert their strength to lift heavy loads, to trudge off to work every day, to go the extra mile, to be there for their friends and families.

I come from a long line of good men.

My grandfather Charles Lockard was a minister of the gospel who paved the way for me disregarding the persecution.  Yet he was one of the gentlest souls I ever knew. 

My dad, John Rayhill, is a man who knows how to take care of the women in his life.  He prides himself that he never let my mother take out the garbage.  That was his job.  He was always busy with something but he was never too busy to stop for me or one of the neighbor kids who needed a bike tire pumped up or something repaired.

My husband, Bill Wright, is my hero.  He was a good provider until his health took him down.  He fought for our marriage when everyone else gave up on it.  He has endured so much pain and too many surgeries with courage.  He still tries to look on the bright side, and he makes the effort to be kind to the hospital staff and learn their names, making him their favorite patient. 

My son, Travis Wright, is funny and fearless.  He has an infectious joy that draws people to him.   He has been my Son of Consolation through many tough years.  He is a faithful husband and a playful dad.  He bravely left his hometown and moved his family to Oklahoma to pursue his dream (though I have not yet gotten over it). 

I honor the men who stand for God, who take care of their families, who protect their children, who are determined to do the right thing even when it is hard. Men who go to war so I can be safe, who fight fires and keep the peace.  Men who lead with courage and care.  Men who put their lives in harm’s way for the sake of others.

Thank God for fathers who show their boys how to be good men, who treasure their daughters and teach them how a man should treat a woman.  Thank God for fathers who love their wives and stick it out when it would seem easier to walk away.  Thank God for fathers who love and care for other men’s children who have walked away.  Thank God for fathers who discipline with love instead of anger, who set a high standard of living so that their children have a role model worthy of following.  Thank God for fathers who get on their knees and pray every day, who take their children to church instead of just send them.  Thank God for fathers who go to work, for fathers who know how to play, for fathers who teach right from wrong and walk their talk.

I love those men in my life:  my precious going-on-91 Dad, my Sweet William, my son of consolation Travis.  And there is still one more, our little man, Ethan, 10 years old.  He is watching these good men, listening to their words.  He will be influnced by their lives. 

May he follow their footsteps.

 “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”    –Deuteronomy 4:9