the comfort of three

I wear three bracelets on my left wrist and during a quiet time the other day, I was contemplating why I feel so strongly that I need to wear all of them. And I realized that the comfort they offer goes far beyond the habit and the physical sensation of having them there. Each bracelet is different and each represents important, even vital, aspects of my life.
One is a cuff bracelet with the phrase “always in my heart” engraved on it. I’ve worn it every day since I purchased one for myself and both of my daughters after my mother-in-law passed away last November. I’ve come to see it represents not just my mother-in-law and her loving heart, but all those that have come before me. They are the foundation I have built my life on, and without them, I would not be the person I am today.
I also wear a beautiful double strand braided gold chain bracelet that my husband gave me in honor of of our 25th anniversary. In the 11-plus years I’ve been wearing it, it has come to represent the interweaving of our two lives. Each visibly separate, but intricately connected. It is my present, the circle of love that surrounds my daily life.
And “last but not least” is an expandable bracelet with a charm that says “Nana”. I received it as a Mother’s Day gift, and I proudly wear it in honor of my grandchildren and my children as well. Because without my daughters and sons-in-law, I would not have this amazing blessing of being a grandmother. They are the future, not just my future, but the future of the world. I pray that at least a tiny part of my love will live on in them and perhaps be the foundation of their lives…

always in my heart

We lost my mother-in-law last week when God called her home after 93 years. She was an amazing woman, and her deep faith was equalled only in her belief that family was God’s greatest gift. Though feeding everyone would be a very close finisher!

I am blessed to be able to say she taught me many things, but the greatest was the importance of keeping family in my heart and in my prayers. As her health failed and her strength waned, she wasn’t able to cook for her family as she would have liked. But as she reminded me, she could pray. And pray she did. She trusted that God would hear and understand, no matter how she prayed.

My prayer is that as my children and grandchildren grow I can share that same message with them. That I love them no matter what, and that a deep and trusting faith in God will help them face every challenge.

To that end, I recently purchased bracelets for my daughters and myself that say “always in my heart”. Not so much as a reminder that we have Mem in our hearts, but that we were always in her heart – right up to the very end. I wear mine all the time and every time I look at it, I thank God for the great gifts gifts God has given me – a deep faith, a loving husband, two amazing daughters, two wonderful sons-in-law, three precious grandchildren, and of course the generations that have come before and laid the groundwork for our family.

I pray they never forget that they are always in my heart…

see me beautiful…

See me beautiful look for the best in me“… Hearing those words a few weeks ago brought me back some 25 years. When my girls were small I had a cassette tape Teaching Peace by Red Grammer. It has a lot of wonderful songs of different genres that share important lessons. I loved it and played it frequently. I happened to mention to my younger daughter that I thought it might be nice for her 5 month old son and the next time I was at her house she played it for me. It touched my mother-heart that something I shared with her was something she wanted to share with her son.

My favorite song was always See Me Beautiful, and hearing it that day touched me on a deeper level. When my girls were younger I had so many doubts about myself – my abilities as a wife and as a mother, my value as a person. “It may take some time, it may be hard to find, but see me beautiful” spoke to me. I wanted to feel that I was worth the effort to see the beauty in me. I now know that because of my self-doubt, I was harsher at times than I needed to be, than I wanted to be. I have come to accept that I did the best I could considering all the circumstances of my life. I have forgiven my younger self and I have apologized to my daughters.

Through God’s loving grace, I am no longer that same insecure young mother. God has helped me understand that He has always seen me beautiful. He has helped me accept my beauty and to see the beauty in others. And I strive to help others see themselves beautiful.

It’s what I really am and all I want to be…”

(Thank you Karen and Red Grammer for giving words to my longings all those years ago. I am grateful to be able to share the gift of your music with my grandchildren!)

bring them home

On my way home from my daughter’s this afternoon I experienced a new (at least new for me) way of praying. I was listening to the song “Bring Him Home” from the musical Les Mis, written by Claude-Michel Schonberg. This song has always spoken to me, and for some reason, I felt pulled to play the song over and over on my 30 minute ride. Since I was alone in the car I felt free to sing along (often quite loudly, but I had the windows closed, so I wasn’t worried about torturing anyone around me with my singing!) and today, I heard in the words of the song words to an unspoken prayer of my heart.
In my church, we are dealing with the effects of too few people to do too many jobs. And whether this is an effect of the falling numbers of families with children and youth, or the cause, our Christian Education program is struggling. This is certainly not because of a lack of effort on the part of a group of dedicated volunteers. Their perseverance and willingness to give their hearts and time for the children and youth is truly a blessing. But we seem to be at a crossroads, and this is the basis of that unspoken prayer. Where, and how, are we to go? What am I, as an individual, being called to do with my God-given gifts?
I was about halfway home when I realized that I was praying with/through the song. And as I continued to listen to “Bring Him Home”, I heard the answer to at least part of my prayer. When I take the song and apply it to all the children and youth of my church, rather than just the young man Marius that Jean Valjean is singing about, I hear the direction I am seeking.
I’d like to share what I heard through the simple yet powerful words of Claude-Michel Schonberg…
“God on high, hear my prayer. In my need, You have always been there.”  
I couldn’t agree more. God has always been there for me, even when I didn’t know I needed God.
“He is young, he’s afraid…” 
Even with my years, and the wisdom I’ve  gained from many struggles, there are times when I am afraid because of things going on in our world today. I can only imagine how much harder it is for the children and youth.
Let him rest, heaven blessed. Bring him home…”
How will the children know that God is their fortress, their hiding place in times of trouble, if no one will tell them? How can they begin to understand the blessing of having Jesus as their close, personal friend and the Holy Spirit as their constant companion and guide, if no one shares their own experiences with them? And if they don’t know those things, how can they rest, how can they come home?
“The summers die, one by one. How soon they fly, on and on. And I am old, and will be gone.”
There is no way to know how long I, or any of us, have on this earth. Time passes so quickly, each day that I hesitate to speak of my love of God, the joy and blessing I receive from my friendship with Jesus, the security and peace from the Holy Spirit, could be one less day for the children and youth to know that joy and blessing.
“You can take, You can give, let him be, let him live. If I die, let me die, let him live…”
If giving more of my time can help the children and youth come to know God, can help them understand more fully that they are truly beloved children of God, then let me die. Die to the time I spend on the computer or waste watching TV. Let me die, so that they can live. Live in true relationship with God.
“Bring him home, bring him home…”
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me” (Matthew 19:14). Not standing in their way isn’t enough. I, no, all of us that know and love God, need to do our part to share God with the children in our lives. Because that is the only way we can bring them home, home to God.