The Inevitable Legacy a Mama Leaves

 

The Inevitable Legacy a Mama Leaves

A sudden wail startled me from sleep last night.

My second daughter, our bright butterfly, was uncharacteristically frozen in bed with all her energy going into calling my name. Hair going every which way and lashes stuck together from sleep and tears, she knew her belly was sick but couldn’t remember what to do about it. I held her hand, guided her to the bathroom and held her hair back, and afterward poured her a drink of water, helped brush her teeth and tucked her back into bed with a bowl nearby.

I hate being sick and spent much of my many months of pregnancy avoiding it at all costs! Yet here I found myself, at 1:15 in the morning, willingly dealing with what was probably the consequence of too much indulgence at the movie we’d been to that afternoon.

  Moms work hard.

We run laundry and buy groceries, make meals and wash dishes, comfort hearts and read bedtime stories. We listen and counsel, train and disciple, snuggle and carpool. We stretch dollars and fish sticks and sweater necks, hours and bedroom space and patience. We deal with things we’d rather avoid, all because we love our children.

There are a lot of things we do on purpose. But what about the things we’re doing without even being aware of them?

When I was tucking Savannah back into bed the second time that night, smoothing her hair back from her face and saying one last, hopeful prayer for rest, I thought about the fact that I have no such memories. Maybe it’s why I’m so fretful when I’m sick now. Anyway, I realized that while she may not remember that particular night, there’s been a certain atmosphere she’s breathed all her life which she surely will remember.

 We really have no choice in the matter, mamas: we are leaving a legacy.

Every morning, when we make breakfast and greet them with a smile or lounge in bed while they pour cereal. When we hustle them off to the day’s activities with shrieks of “Where are your shoes? Your bag? Your … stuff?!” or bend heads together over God’s word. When we respond to the cries of even the tiniest ones at night.

Our children are taking mental notes. On the days we want them to, and the days we don’t.

Believe me, I’ve said plenty of prayers asking the Lord to erase certain days. The ones where hormones were high and patience was low. I’ve pulled blankets up over my head and offered TV rather than my attention, too. Someone has said that mothering is a marathon … not a sprint.  Only the Lord can give us the strength we need to finish this mothering marathon well.

 “Let us not lose heart in doing good,  for in due time we will reap, if we do not grow weary.” Gal. 6:9

That sounds an awful lot like a command to me! Let us not. In other words, if you begin to grow weary, stop it. Which means you and I have to know where to go for help.

The good news? He is here. Closer than the breath we breathe. Living right within us, the Maker of the universe, flinger of stars, designer of galaxies, Boss of it all.

 And He is looking for those whose hearts are completely His …

 “that He might strongly support” them. ~2 Chron. 16:9 

 Might you qualify for His support today, friend? Are you one He is looking for? If your heart is His, you’ve made His list. Won’t you cry out alongside me for His help, today?

 That we might leave a legacy of faith rather than fear?
Of grace, rather than striving?
Of love, rather than anger?
Of patience, rather than short-temper?
Of a soft answer, rather than a raised voice?

 Father, I lift all these sweet moms to you. I ask that You would draw close to each one of us, Lord. Help us! Oh, Lord, help us to be more like You. We can’t do it on our own and You know we are but dust. Without You, we can do nothing. With You, we can move mountains. Come breathe in us today, Lord; that we might fill our childrens’ sails with Your life and send them out strong, carrying a legacy of a mama who leaned on Jesus. In Your mighty and precious name, Amen.

 

Blessings and prayers for you today! ~ Misty

 

Celebrating God’s miracles in the Clarkson History through Family Day

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The Clarkson Kids–Nathan, Sarah, Joy and Joel

Candles flickering, luscious smells of cinnamon rolls hot out of the oven, strong coffee and lots of noise and laughter marked one more gathering of the Clarkson clan. Thus began our 25th year of celebrating the story and heritage of our family. Family Day, we call it. It is a time of remembering who we are, as well as to document what God has done in our family to give us hope for what He can accomplish in the future.

When a child knows the heritage of faith  and cherishes the messages of the heart that has been passed down to him, he feels a powerful connection to the past which gives a spring board to his future. Joshua knew that the Jews who were allowed to leave the desert to enter the promised land, needed to constantly be reminded who they were–the chosen people of God–and that they were to called to possess the land God had provided for them. Consequently, he had them gather memorial stones to document all of the miracles God had performed and teh ways He had faithfully led them in their lives.

When our children were still young, we started this tradition of having an annual Family Day. It was inspired by God’s power, faithfulness, sovereignty, and love (Joshua 4:19-24).

Even in the midst of four children on spread across the United States, we all made it a priority to gather together last week for Family Day. Our Family Day is a whole day of family togetherness. Homemade whole wheat cinnamon rolls start the day, a tradition for all of our breakfast holidays each year.  Remembering just what defines the “Clarksons” and reviewing our values, traditions, tastes, memories and pictures reminds us again why we are all tied together by invisible and unbreakable strings at the heart. Taking time to affirm all the things we like about our family and one another builds each person’s sense of worth and belonging to this tribe!  Photo albums from the previous year or two are admired, while favorite memories of family times are rehearsed and remembered all day.

Next is the trek to our favorite mountain spot. Singing familiar songs with the cd player blasting–Rich Mullins, Chris Rice, Andrew Peterson songs are the favorites from times gone by. Winding our way through the mountains to Mueller State Part, with Pike’s Peak in view, we smack our lips in anticipation of yearly fried chicken, chips, baked beans and Texas chocolate sheet cake. Tromping on the trails and taking about 1000 family pictures takes up most of the afternoon.  Coffee stop is a must on the way home at the same place each year. And then of course, we eat again!

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Later in the day we might play games or watch a good family movie. Then we have a special dinner to lead into our Family Day memorial stone time.

First, Clay reads the account of Joshua and the memorial stones to teach the principle of taking time and making a way to remember all the ways that God has been faithful. After the story, we all begin to share and discuss all the ways we see that God was faithful to us as a family in the year since the last Family Day. Each thing becomes a memorial stone of God’s faithfulness written at the top of a piece of paper. Those are parceled out to different family members, who draw pictures on those papers to illustrate each of the memorial stones.

The memorial stones are all stored in a Family Day notebook. Each year we review them and we are amazed as we read our family history together at all the ways God has worked supernaturally. It is so easy to forget. We also select annual verses for each family member. We then write down prayer requests for the year ahead, pray, and end the day with a fun activity and a favorite dessert.

Giving our children a story of the miracles God has performed in our lives has enlarged the hearts of each child to be willing to trust God for even bigger things. Understanding how we started our ministry with no money, no books, no conferences–just a thought and a prayer, always inspires our children each year to imagine how god will work in their lives.

Thanking God in the circle of family is one of my sweetest moments each year as I hear the deep voices of my boys praying fervently for all of us and the girls passionately speaking to God with thanks and anticipation of how He will be faithful the next year is the memory that I take to heart. Here, these sweet ones, in whom I have invested for so long and given so much, are now living vibrant lives of faith.

And so, this year, as we prayed blessing and sent everyone out again, we have much to trust God for–

Nathan is filming his first Christian movie this week on a shoe-string budget, but with hope in his heart that His movie might just redeem some prodigals and bring families back together. (Confessions of a Prodigal Son).

Joel is working with a composer in Hollywood on some projects for PBS with amazing music and is hoping to write some choral music that will be sung by choirs all over the world.

Sarah is foraying to Wheaton, with her eye to attend Oxford next year, to see if God will open doors for her to become an academic who can write messages about the incarnation of Christ in a technological world.

Joy is in training her second year of college where she will be an RA and have the opportunity to disciple and challenge 45 young women.

But all of them love and support each other in their dreams of bringing God’s light to their own arenas, because they know our family history and story, and it has launched them to continue to write a new chapter.

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Playing the part of provider to bring life and beauty!

Wisdom has built her house, She has hewn out her seven pillars,
She has prepared her food, she has mixed her wine,
She has set her table, …,
“Come eat of my food.  And drink of my wine I have mixed.
For sake your folly and live,
And proceed in the way of understanding.” Proverbs 9:1-6

I am getting mommy excited about next Tuesday. My youngest, precious one, Joy, will come home from her first semester at college. She has sustained the 3 months alone  without one visit and we have been constantly chatting and planning and sharing hearts so much that it feels like the last few days before you give birth–just biding your time until the momentous occasion comes. As a result, I have been looking at some old pictures and drawing up old memories and here is one of them–our fall apple picking and putting away for the winter. We missed it this year with Joy gone and us traveling too much.

But I had so much fun remembering, I thought I would share our memory with you! Getting into the mood for cooking a feast for all of my children and special others who will be with us!

Below a story of life from 4 years ago–hard to believe the time flew!

Yesterday we had a great sermon–one of four–which addressed the reality of heaven. I loved hearing that in heaven we will eat and drink and feast and have gardens and rivers and beauty and celebration and singing–only it will be in a perfect and wonderful place–called paradise–even more wonderful than anything we can see or imagine here.

I like knowing these things. It makes me think that when I prepare these thousands of meals that I am providing a little heaven on earth–an imperfect picture here of what real celebration and living will be there! I think that one of my delights over the years, which has grown as I have become better at it, is providing life-giving meals and memories for my family. Wisdom (I love it that wisdom is personified as a woman!) sets her table and provides wonderful food and in the midst of serving, calls those she serves to wisdom, understanding, love and righteousness. I am convinced that we have done more discipleship over meals than any other way!

As the old saying goes, “the  way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”, but I think there is some truth to it, only applying to all people! Even Wisdom knew as much. Though there are so many things that reach and touch our hearts, I do think that the dining table can become the place of so much spirituality. At least it has for our family. Clay and I talk to our sons Joel and Nathan several times a week. Though both are thriving where they are, both have mentioned often missing our family. And when I asked them what they missed the most, it is as Joel and Nate said, “It’s the great food and the meal time discussions that I miss the most–just being together like that as a family.”

I would have to agree that these moments (and there are thousands of them) have held celebrations, devotions, discussions, funny stories, jokes, laughter, songs, correction (How many times have I told you–use a fork–not your fingers!) and sharing our hearts together.

God designed us to eat, but the time spent eating in warm fellowship, giving words of love and affirmation, challenging ideas with a meaningful quote to discuss or bringing and insightful article to the table to read together makes the moments that we spend in delightful fellowship feasting, a discipleship moment!

Just thought I would include a recipe from a most recent Sunday breakfast meal. Though we try to have devotions as a family, as our children became older and had their own cars, jobs and activities, we could barely get everyone together at once, but we could almost always get everyone together on Sunday morning. So many years ago, even when they were young, I got up early to make a great Sunday morning breakfast. Some of our favorites include home made whole wheat cinnamon rolls–(and yes, someday I will provide the recipe–but it is not perfected yet and I am afraid of misleading all of you! I am so used to throwing it all together–my own recipe–that I don’t exactly know how to put it down as it is different every time!)

Now onto more–scrambled cheese eggs–I do it a certain Clarkson way with bacon bits, cheese and sour cream; Polish eggs–the same only with hash browns mixed into the eggs-omelette’s with green peppers, onions, ham, bacon, avocado as the favorite items and of course cheese; muffins–our favorite being oatmeal and also blueberry or pumpkin; also, apple coffee cake; cottage cheese pancakes with strawberry or blueberry topping.

But one of the family favorites, which I do when I run out of time or get up late, is Whole Wheat Pancakes. I use this recipe below. The great thing about this recipe is that you can change it by adding just a few items. The ones pictured below are my regular ones–pancakes with grated apple, pecans and cinnamon.

Sometimes I add chocolate chips and have made a smiley face with them; or blueberries, one to two squished bananas with chopped nuts; hot peach sauce on top, hot apples on top and whip cream on all of it if desired. The girls in our family prefer real maple syrup and the boys prefer Aunt Jemima or log cabin light.

Of course we always light candles and put on some kind of music.

Somehow our table looks sparse now that we only have 4!

Whole Wheat Pancakes
2 eggs
2 cups whole wheat (or white) flour
1 1/2 cups milk or yoghurt
2 -4 tablespoons honey, sugar or maple syrup-depending on your taste
6 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat eggs with beater until fluffy. Add remaining ingredients until smooth. You can add up to 1/4 cup of milk if you prefer thinner cakes, but we like them fluffy and thick. They do spread out on your griddle–though sometimes I give them a little help when I put them on the griddle by spreading them out a little with my spatula. Let them cook until there are lots of bubbles showing on the surface of the cakes, and they are beginning to dry out on the edges. This makes enough to feed all 6 of us. You can halve the recipe and feed 4 if they are not big eaters!

*as an aside, I always grate apples to put in the pancakes. I also add pecans to some of them. You can also fold in blueberries. Yumm–a great way to add whatever you happen to like! (Once a woman told me that she followed this recipe and her pancakes turned out really heavy. I grind my own flour and don’t add more flour if the batter looks wrong–I add a little more milk. They are pretty light for us–hope it works for you!)

Next, I like to decorate for each season. I keep lidded plastic boxes with the season’s decor and it just takes me a small amount of time to decorate my whole house. (autumn, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s, Easter, Spring and summer) I like, also, these  tall glass cannisters that hold whatever you want in the bottom and  candles on the top part as pictured below. You can get them in all sorts of sizes–expensive designer ones or Walmart or Target. The reason I like them is that you can just put different things in the bottom of them, place a candle on top and it is an instant centerpiece on a table or coffee table. In autumn, leaves are on the bottom. At Christmas, I put tiny red and green Christmas tree balls in one and pine cones in another I have; small hearts at valentines with a red strand of beads during January and early February, etc.

Providing can also be  designing traditions just for your family that take on a life of its own. Every year for a few years, we took a trip to the local apple farm and picked our own apples, ate a picnic out in the fields. Then, some weekend, we would all peel apples, slice and cut them and freeze them for applesauce and or warm apples to have with our soups in the winter. This year, our apple farm had a freeze and so we bought 3 boxes of organic apple  to use for our recipes. We always watch the Anne of Green Gables series while doing it and I think we have every line memorized. This year, since our family is ridding itself of lots of our plastic, we decided to put our recipes in jars. I must say we missed the boys as they always did a lot of work with us on these!

The final outcome so far: 17 jars of homemade applesauce and 12 jars of apple butter (minus the jars eaten!)

 

Now, tonight we will do the last box–apple pie filling!

We so enjoyed praying for all of you today. It was such a good time of fellowship with my girls–I should do this more. Have a great day tomorrow and know we are in His loving and wonderful hands.

Grace, peace and an abundance of His love to all of you today!

Sally

 

Cultivating Civility

Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.
C. S. Lewis

As I pursue the idea of building foundations of truth and beauty and loveliness into the souls of our children, I have to say that we cannot pass on what is not a part of our own lives. A mom is the CEO of her home, the one who determines and cultivates the life, activities, values and soul, she must be working from the depth of her own soul. This is a long term call–a long distance run, and so pacing ourselves, making sure our own emotional cups are full, seeing that we are growing in grace and beauty is essential to modeling that to our children. I will be more intent on writing about how to build foundations in little ones, but first I would suggest that a mom must define, “What kind of a woman do I want to be? How can I become more excellent? How I am doing on growing more in grace and civility each day?” I suggest that each year, moms who want to grow in wisdom, must take a morning or afternoon away to think through personal goals for themselves and the plan in time to make those goals happen. I will be writing more about that after I finish writing about how to establish values that build children into strong, godly leaders. But, first, you must define who you want to be, so that the influence you give to your children will come from your own soul-set values and convictions. Below I share a story of my own life from a few years ago–and I see that my children love it when I am a picture of civility–it draws them to their finer selves! Enjoy.

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Excitement bubbled up inside as I considered the day I had charted for myself. A morning away as a real, live friend, around my own age! Carefully applying my make up, smoothing my hair to its most beautiful style and dressing up in something a bit more sophisticated than my regular jeans marked an adult day out with a beloved friend. Time away from my work-a-day world of children, dishes, teaching, writing and then doing it all over again, is rare. I am one who sometimes likes the predictable on such days–depending on those places I know will bring pleasure and comfort. Meeting my friend in a favorite cafe promised to provide a spot for catching up and sharing dreams and ideas. Now the reason I am telling you this is that I was looking for a day off–a day without conflict, a day of rest before the “busy-ness”  of the year starts again!

High-backed, overstuffed chairs provided privacy from the other customers and just the settling in we needed for our morning together. A steamy pot of tea, warm apple-caramel coffee cake all went down easily. Times like this help me to find my center. A busy and passed-too-fast summer had left me a bit fragmented and out of breath. I was storing up this pleasure and goodness and relaxation against the very busy next few months of a new school year, which is upon me!

After an hour and a half of conversation, we were ready to proceed on to our next pleasure–a stop at a lovely gift shop, filled to the brim with china tea cups and pots, delectable bits of jams and jellies and tea; a beautiful array of cook books and biographies and children’s books, feminine clothing and an array of other girl-pleasing artifacts. We hoped to exchange some ideas with the owner about books and art and other future projects.

Just walking in was a pleasant sensate experience, because of all the pretty and fine gifts scattered around the shop. As we chatted with the store owner about our day and some of the books and one of my new projects, she engaged with us in lively conversation. I looked at my watch and realized that I needed to be home to take Joy to a choir practice and so I tried to savor my few minutes as of quiet heart-sharing with my friend. We left the shop and I drove home. Much to my pleasure, the traffic was much less than usual and I found myself home with a half-hour to spare.

I chose not to glance in the kitchen to see what messes were there, but instead, made myself a cup of hot tea. I knew the messes would be there to tame when we all got back home later. I walked over the backpack and a small stack of books on my stairs to my bedroom. They could be cleaned up before dinner. I walked in, lit my candles, turned on my cd with the soothing piano melodies rising and flowing from my Pride and Prejudice cd (very beautiful, by the way!). Joy, who had been in her room reading, heard me and gently knocked on my door.

“Come in, sweetness!” I responded. “Here, have a few sips of tea with me before we have to leave.”

She sat down, and began to bubble all over me with thoughts and ideas and incidences that had happened in her morning. I intentionally took a deep breath and observed with thanksgiving at my child who has so much become my delightful friend. We had fifteen minutes together in peace and pleasure.

“Mom, I am so glad you take time for civility–it makes me feel special, and most of all, it really makes me feel like you like listening to me and just celebrating life together.” (Has she been around Sarah lately? And now, she regularly lights candles, sips tea and reads–hummmm–where did she get the habit?)

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I taught my monthly mom’s group and we were discussing chapter 8 in Mission of Motherhood. Our topic was becoming the gardener of your children’s souls. Even as you would not expect a garden to emerge from throwing a handful of seeds into the wind into your back yard, so we cannot expect our children to have excellence in their own personal lives by just hoping it happens. Though education is important, it is mostly the way we invest in the other moments of life when our children’s souls, manners, habits, skills will determine who they really become. When we become the gardener of their souls, we plant beauty, memories, confidence, and  winsome ways of living that  will capture their own imaginations. (Mission of Motherhood)

First, we must take time to be civilized. I know that my soul dries out if I don’t plan in time that fills my own emotional cup. Getting away from my home (where all the chores cry out my name!), to a lovely place where I can think or read or share time with a friend is something I try to plan into my schedule. It doesn’t happen as often as I like, but I need it so that I can get back to my center and fill the cups of all those who are in my life to take from my own heart–children, husband, friends, and ministry. I will have nothing to give if I don’t take care of myself first. So each year as I plan my children’s needs and schedules and activities, I take time to get alone and evaluate, “How am I doing–physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally? How can I simplify my responsibilities so that I can make it with grace through the next months.

Next, though, I make sure to plan in civilizing times with my family–traditions like family dinners or deserts that we will share with our friends, special Sunday afternoon tea times–the first Apple Pie time with a story book. (Giving my children the responsibility of decorating the dining table, writing little notes of encouragement  to their guests who will come, lighting the candles, making the meal.) We plan a time for making cookies or bread or flower baskets to share with those we know who are in need of encouragement or love. (We found cute pumpkin baskets and filled them with dried flowers–Joy sold a few to raise money for a dog she hopes to purchase and then we chose two for special family friends who need to know they are appreciated.)

Plan civility into the moments of your life this fall. Make time for you to have your own experience, however small, that will remind you that you are royalty–as a child of the king. And then, make time for your family, to have peace and beauty and manners and elegance in your home, however small. It will produce a soul that values taking the time to celebrate the importance and intimacy of friendship and fellowship. Happy weekend!

Valuing Traditions

Last weekend, I had the privilege of having all  of my children with me in California. They are a blessing and I do want to say, they are mostly happy with each other and get along and are a blessing–your children will grow up and they are listening to you!

Many moms asked, “What did you do to cultivate your children into best friends? How did you help them learn to enjoy each other? I think one way is that I purposed time that we would all spend together, even as they got older. There were some non-negotiable times when everyone had to be home–sometimes it was a Saturday night pizza movie, most times we were always home on Sunday afternoon tea times, or Sunday morning feasts. Of course when they were little all time was family time and that is when you are really securing tight relationships.

I found this older post from 4 years ago. Joy is now almost 16, but I hope you might enjoy this post of yesteryear!
Every May about this time, I find myself wondering how we started so many birthday traditions so that the expectations of each birthday child is so high. I am a little worn out by this time and my mind ponders, “Now why am I doing this? Does it really make a difference?As I have pondered this the past couple of days, I have realized again, that traditions force us to take time to celebrate life.

Pausing, as a family, in the midst of the busyness of life, communicates that we are more important to each other as a family than all the activities that are swirling around in our lives that separate us from each other. In our case, twelve year old Joy doesn’t often have the full attention of her siblings, who are quite a bit older than her. They are always running here and there to a job, to classes or to meet friends. Yet, on this day, everyone takes a break from their other commitments—even Clay stays home the mornings of birthday breakfasts–and says to the birthday child, “You are beloved in this family and we are here to celebrate your life!”

Joy turned 12 today. I have to admit, that in spite of all the work, I think I can see that the traditions have deeply filled my children’s hearts with affirmation, validation, memories, confidence and blessings that they will draw from for years to come. Today was especially bittersweet, as I imagine that by next May’s birthday, probably only Clay, Joy and I will celebrate her birthday as a family! We will have to import new friends as family.

Each birthday morning, the person we are celebrating, has to wait expectantly in their bedroom. They are allowed something to sip–hot chocolate or tea—and then must wait patiently for the other siblings to come to deliver them to our breakfast table. Usually, I have made my whole-wheat cinnamon rolls–the expected favorites–and I make my own special scrambled eggs—with cheese, sour cream, ham or bacon bits. Strong Austrian coffee is dripping through the filter, while one child is setting the table with the ceramic tea set usually used for all birthdays. (The set was bought over several years at a second’s shop in Austria. By now, several of the dishes are chipped or cracked, but, as we cannot buy anymore here in the States, we are happy that the dishes aren’t broken.)

We are all a part of a team seeking to throw things together as quickly as possible, since often, presents are wrapped and cards are written at the last minute. One child throws the gifts into very familiar bags–many of which we have kept for years. As a matter of fact, the kids all discussed which bags were their favorites and warned me never to give them away to anyone else with a present in it, because it is family tradition! (Winnie the Pooh and a pre-Raphealite bag tied for the favorites!) We put every gift, however small, in it’s own bag. Even if something was purchased for a song at Good Will or at the dollar store, it gets fully wrapped. Consequently, each year, it looks as though the birthday child is getting a zillion presents, even though the ultimate value may not be much at all–it is all part of the sparkle and fun of the morning. (Once, a child received a pacakage of ball point pens–each in its own bag!)Life is a flurry as one sets the table, one lights the candle and puts coffee cream out, another is wrapping and putting on music to set the mood and Clay is always looking for the camera and batteries since he is the official photographer.

Finally, at least a couple of kids, go to the birthday child’s room to blind-fold their eyes, so that they have to stumble into the room with no peaking. What a funny sight this year as 6’5″ Joel and 6’3″ Nathan still willingly participated in leading Joy down the steps for her surprise day.


Seems the conversation never varies from year to year—I think your cinnamon rolls are the best, Mom. Yeah, we have never tasted any that even compared. (Of course this is so I will keep making them from year to year and yes, it does encourage me to keep up the work—even the 5th time this month!)

After breakfast is appropriately enjoyed, the birthday child begins opening gifts one at a time–to be marvelled, commented on and appreciated. Then come the cards—each child and parent usually creates a card and message for the birthday child to read and save in a special box.

Humor always adorns every meal we share, whether it is our somewhat retarded golden retriever who almost knocked down the table to get to the leftover eggs, or some extravagant comment. Today did not disappoint us. I was reading a Jane Austen quote outloud from a card Joy received, “It is much easier to kill realities than phantoms!” At which exact moment, the front door mysteriously blew open–and we all looked for the phantoms who must have entered at precisely on time for a great effect! (Maybe you had to be here–but the timing was perfect and made us all giggle!)


Finally, the pinnacle of the morning is when all of us at the table share with the birthday child what they have meant to us and how we appreciate them and how they have grown. I am still astounded that at 23, 20, 18 and 12, my children take this ritual so seriously. I thought when they were young, they would surely giggle and make sarcastic comments and find it difficult to finish the time. Yet, I am truly amazed that they have vested lots of love and thoughtfulness in these times and I can farely observe the heart of the birthday child being watered and refreshed enough to last for months.

Nathan started this year. “I have been amazed at how confidently and professioally you have been performing–through your Youth Performing Arts choir and through the musicals you were in. You have quite a voice and your are so poised and confident. At the last concert, I got my whole row of friends to yell your name at the teen concert. They all said they wish they had a sister like you. I prayed you into the world and I am very proud to have you as my sister!”

Followed by his generous comments, came Joel’s, Sarah’s, Clay’s and mine. “You have really grown in your commitment to the Lord this year and you have such intelligent things to say in our discussions.” “You have really developed in your personality this year. The way you decorate your room is amazing, your writing is very expressive, you’re learning to read music so well on the piano, and you are passing all of us up in your many abilities!” “You have been a real friend to me and you always have such interesting things to say in the car when I pick you up from classes. It is obvious that you are reading and learning a lot. You have also been a lot of fun for me.” And on it goes.

I see before me, these children who have learned to love each other in spite of the personality differences, the various immature and hormonal and argumentative stages of life. I am amazed and grateful. How did this happen—these children who threaten to undo me from time to time with their whining, silly fusses, immaturity and friction. Yet, here they are in their right minds, enjoying each other, laughing at each other’s jokes, discussing issues loudly, and participating in family bonding–willingly, generously. What a gift to me, Lord, to see this picture of watching Joy’s heart fill with emotioal health, before her brothers and sister venture to the far winds-Sarah and Joel to Cambridge, then to Seattle in the fall, Nathan to his classes in another state.

But when everyone goes their way, I see that there will be hundreds of memories shared, loved communicated, prayers offered at our table over the years of celebrations–because we took time to invest in tying our heartstring to each other. These foundations of emotional mental and spiritual health will serve to stabilize and give hope to each of us long after we are separated by miles. Now I see, all the effort and cooking and washing of dishes and wrapping of presents did matter because they provided the frame around which a life of love was painted on the souls of each of my precious children. Ok, move over—I will finish the dishes this morning!