Love and weddings in these stressful times – a story

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For young people in love

Coming home from another stressful trip to the grocery store, the music on the radio turned to love and nostalgia.  It made my heart feel weepy and my thoughts turn to other days of stress and turmoil long past when young people were in love.  Just as there were in those days, there are today so many young couples who would like to get married, and so many long planned weddings that were to take place this summer, but big weddings have all been put on hold.  Maybe romantic movies have changed our expectations of what a wedding should be, but I would like to tell you a different story.  It ain’t about the weddings, my darlin’s.

To Ken and Marie

My parents were young and in love in the early 1940’s.  Dad joined the army before Pearl Harbor.  He had aspirations to be a pilot, but a small problem with color blindness kept him from it.  In the early spring of 1942, he proposed to my mother, his Marie, by long distance phone call one day when she got home from work.  He had sent the ring to Mom’s mother, but Mom had already intercepted the package and knew what he was going to say and what her answer would be.  There was no time for long engagements then.  Pearl Harbor had come and gone and there were plans for Dad’s unit to be shipped overseas.  A quick and simple wedding was all that could be arranged.  To marry her sweetheart, her Ken, Mom bought a new blue suit and traveled to North Carolina by train with her mother and best friend.

The day of the wedding was a day of torrential downpours and it also just happened to be the first day of gas rationing.  Dad had forgotten to fill up and they ran out of gas on the way to the church.  Someone helped them out, but the new blue suit got wet.  At the church, they had to hop over a puddle in the middle of the center aisle.  They each had one attendant.  Mom’s maid of honor was her best friend, her brother’s wife.  Dad’s best man was a friend from the army.  My grandmother and the priest were the only others there.  They got married, spent a couple of days together and then Mom had to go back to Michigan with her mother.  Not long after that, Dad got orders to ship out to England.  So Mom went back to North Carolina to see him before he left.  So many of the guys had their wives visiting them that there was no place to stay.  Most of the young couples, my parents included, spent the night in the woods near the base.  The second night, someone Dad knew arranged for a room for them.  Then he was off to England, and Mom went back home to spend the war years with her parents and her sister-in-law.  My parents did not see each other again for two years.

While working and crying on each other’s shoulders, Mom and her best friend, my aunt Mary Ann, waited anxiously for the letters to come and for any good news about the war.  Dad was not in immediate danger because he had done shorthand and typing during his high school years and so he spent the war as a secretary, traveling first to England, and then eventually to the Rock of Gibraltar and Italy.  His unit helped to plan the invasion of North Africa and then he was with the British in Italy.

Returning from the war in 1944, they finally had a honeymoon in New York City.  Life after the war was also difficult, but they began their family, bought a house on the GI Bill, and made a life for themselves.  Their marriage lasted for 75 years until Mom passed away two years ago at the age of 96.  Dad is now 99 and misses his “Marie” every single day.  In their elder years, they always held hands as you see in the picture above.  Their marriage survived economic hardships, the crazy sixties and seventies, sons in the army in Vietnam and Thailand, illnesses, caring for elderly parents, marriages, grandchildren and so much more.

So, you see, love is more than a wedding.  Love is a lifetime commitment to uphold each other, encourage each other, see the best in each other, help with the worst in each other and maintain an everlasting faith in the God who brought you two together and who will get you through the worst and the best that life has to offer no matter which way the road leads you.  And in the end of it all, you will look back and be astounded at all the way that the Lord has led you.  A wedding without love is just a party and a big waste of money, but love, even without a big wedding, will stand the test of time and keep you feeling young at heart all of your life.  Yes, you will cry and yes, you will laugh, but most of all, your love will continually grow.

Don’t be afraid to marry your sweetheart even in troubling times.

Hope, Spring and Resurrection!

With one grim news story after another, it has been hard to keep negativity at bay.  This afternoon, I was looking out my kitchen window while washing my hands for the umpteenth time.  The woodpeckers were pecking at the suet, a gentle spring rain was cleansing the landscape and a patch of bright yellow daffodils were lightly dancing in the gentle breeze.  Wow! I thought.  It’s spring!  Why did God allow all this to happen in the spring?

0414131347b

God is always looking for a closer relationship with each and every one of us.  We have forgotten Him and put Him in second (or third or last) place in our lives.  He wants to be first.  Is that selfish of Him?  Absolutely not.  When He is first in our lives, He can lead us in the way we should go.  He can show us the right way.  We do have free will, but our free will should guide us to choose the right way.  There is a right way and a wrong way.  The wrong way always leads us into trouble.  He wants the best for us, but individually and collectively, we have let Him down.  He’s not allowed in very many places at all any more.

People are fond of quoting this Scripture: If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)  It’s one thing to quote it and shove it into people’s faces, kind of raw and self righteous, but it’s another thing to take it to myself.  Looking at myself, having a serious talk with God my Father and admitting my own issues.  I can be sure, 100% sure, that when I do the first part of this Scripture, God will always keep His promise and do the second part.  He is over the top reliable and dependable.

Sooo, why is this happening in spring?  Spring is the season of so many hopes.  The hope of warm weather.  The hope of a great garden this year.  The hope of quiet evenings out on the deck or afternoon picnics in the park.  We have a spiritual hope as well.  He will never leave us without hope.  “A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench.”  (Matthew 12:20)  This is also the season of resurrection.  We can resurrect our connection with our Father.  He is always there to encourage and sustain us.  When we do the self reflection, the repentance, the restoration, He will absolutely hear from heaven, forgive us, and heal our land, both the personal “land” of our hearts and the land of our nation.  Let’s not take this time in quarantine lightly. Let’s use it to reconnect with Him.  We can resurrect His life in us.  Sincere best wishes for a fruitful (and healthy!) time of quarantine and a peaceful season of resurrection.

Strong families – a crucial need in troubled times

parenthood

 

Violence wracks our nation.  Each time we collectively experience another mass shooting, we all grieve the loss of life, of innocence and of liberty.  We search for answers.  The newspapers search for motives.  The police search the shooter’s home, computer and affiliations.  Where and how did he/she get the gun?  Was he/she bullied?  We blame guns, mental illness, video games or the ease of finding extremist ideas on the internet.

Perhaps there is not just one answer, but we can all do something.  Whether we believe in gun control or greater protection, we can still change something in our lives to create a better society.  Parenthood.  Many of us have lost the art of parenthood.  While our lives have gotten busier, we have willingly handed over the authority over our children to “the experts.”  Who are these experts?  Teachers?  Counselors?  Therapists?  Teachers are responsible for teaching children. Parents are responsible for raising their children.

We need TRUCES!  Children who are the beneficiaries of these following qualities do not go out and shoot up strangers at a mall or a public event.

Time – If a family is to become a true family, it requires time together on a daily basis – breakfasts, dinners, conversation, true communication on what’s happening in each person’s life.  Put down the cell phones.  Remove the earbuds.  Turn off the TV.  Talk!  Smile at one another.  Forget the stresses of the outside world and enjoy each other’s company.  Most importantly, we have to give them our time persistently, especially when they negotiate the turbulent teenage years.

Respect – We should never call our children by derogatory names (I have heard parents call their children snot face, butt head, dumb bell, etc), but we should honor the life of God in them.  Respect what is good in them.  Observe your children and discover what they are good at.  Commend them for those things and if necessary, help them develop the gifts and abilities that you  see.

Unconditional Love – We must always love them with a feelable love, even when they’ve done something to test our patience.  Unconditional love wants the best for each child but it does not give them everything they want.  It makes decisions based on the best interests of the child.  Unconditional love is forever, even when children become teens and test everything that we stand for.

Consistency – We need to give them the rules, rules that will guide them in life, and let them know what will happen when they break those rules.  Then we need to maintain our integrity by applying the appropriate discipline.  When we’re consistent with discipline in whatever form we choose, they get the message.  Children who have a certain discipline in their lives (without an overabundance of rigidity) are happy and more secure.  They can hang on when the emotional teenage years bombard them with unhealthy and even dangerous choices.  Consistency is dauntless and yet not entirely without compassion.

Energy – We must find a way to renew our strength and energy either daily or at least weekly – either with prayer, meditation or time to reflect on what’s happening in our lives.  If we are frayed at all of our edges, we cannot keep up with the pace and responsibilities of parenthood.

Sacrifice – We have to be willing to give up a lot for the benefit of our children.  Sometimes it means the sacrifice of what we wanted to do with our time.  It could be giving up something financially so that we can offer our children extra lessons in piano, sports, art or ballet.  It most often personally means that I have to give up what I want to do at this moment because my child has a need that must be met.  I have to put down my phone and listen or, more important yet, I have to start the conversation with my child by asking a few focused questions.  Sacrifice is always important, but it may become more compelling as lives get busier and the children get older.

We need to understand that all parents make mistakes.  When it happens, we should own up to it and be ready and willing to change our behavior.

We as a nation need a re-education, a re-involvement and a renewed respect of parenthood.  Parents have lost the tools with which they used to raise responsible children.  Maybe some of those old tools were flawed.  Okay, but let’s not throw everything overboard.  Let’s create new tools within the new framework.  Do new parents need an app to show them how to deal with discipline, tantrums and responsibility?  Then let someone with gifts in creating apps create something together with someone who understands the needs of children.  Do parents need a new awareness of their own responsibilities?  Then let’s have a national program (or many local ones!) or an outreach to raise such awareness – never to usurp parents’ authority, but to enhance it and protect it.

It may take a village, but most of all, it takes parents who are there and who are engaged in this lifelong process called parenthood.

 

 

Youth Activism for a New Generation

sky earth galaxy universe

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

SAVE OUR EARTH!

On the Ides of March this year, young people around the world held climate strikes to protest what is happening to our environment on our beautiful planet.  It’s wonderful that today’s young people want to step up and do something to improve our beloved earth.  Certainly, our weary earth could use a little support together with some positive changes.  Along with the protests, I heard a few short clips of young people talking about why they were protesting.  Some of them said that climate change is the biggest current threat to human life.  One young lady was lamenting the condition of the world and her future.  She laid the blame on older generations and she said something to the tune of “We just want a world like you had.”

Her words struck me as (at best) uninformed.  Really?  You want the world that we had?  We had the Cuyahoga River filled with so much debris and pollution that it caught on fire.  We had so much air pollution that the skies over Detroit and many other major cities were red.  What we did not have was recycling programs or trash to energy plants.  We had Three Mile Island and superfund sites.  In our youth, we had rampant discrimination against blacks and lynchings.  We had Emmett Till, the Mississippi Burning civil rights murders, and the Birmingham Baptist Church murders.  Then we had the civil rights demonstrations where people were tear gassed and water cannoned.  We had the assassinations of Medgar Evers, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcom X.

We should never desire to go back in time or wish that we could have something other than our current situation.  Our generation made it possible for the new generation to worry about single use plastic bags, bottles, cups and boxes.  Our generation created recycling programs and trash to energy plants and closed down many nuclear power plants.  We demonstrated for civil rights and against the Vietnam War.  Although some of us embraced chemical fertilizers and GMO crops, others of us began organic gardening, seed saving and the Environmental Protection agency.  So, quit blaming the preceding generations.  Now it’s time for you to step up to the plate.

Your generation has awesome ideas.  Put all of your boundless energy to a positive use.  Many of your generation are creating ways to clean up the oceans, end the use of plastic bags in grocery stores.  Do some research.  Find out what the problems really are and create solutions that will not only work, but also add something positive to our earth.  Remember that you too will leave a legacy.  Leave one that you will feel proud of one day, and when your children reach their age of maturity, don’t let them tell you that they wish that they could have what you had.  Remind them that you had issues too and that you dealt with those issues and that they should not look back, but look forward and use their energy to solve the problems of their day.

Check out Regeneration International, a group that is not just going organic but is trying to leave the earth BETTER than it was before.  (https://regenerationinternational.org/)  We don’t have to continue to hack down our forests and destroy the earth with mountains of chemical fertilizers.  We can improve.  We can go one step further than previous generations.  You can.  You can do it, but don’t waste your precious energy blaming generations before you. They did their best.  They didn’t know what you now know about plastics.  Create something better.  It’s all inside you.  Let it grow.

Time Passages

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

I love the title of Al Stewart’s song, Time Passages.  It describes so well the amazing gift of time that we have on this earth.

My dear mother passed away in early January.  A parent’s passing is always a defining moment in a person’s life.  My mother was blessed with time.  She was 96 when her time came to pass on.  Although she had been afflicted with some type of dementia for several years, she was still cute, sweet and at times downright funny.

However, it wasn’t always so.  Helping to write her obituary, I realized a lot of things about my mom and ever since her passing, there have been conversations with siblings about her life and reflections on what she accomplished in life.  One single life on this earth is so complex and so precious.  Each life has a myriad of experiences to go through and so much to learn from those experiences, taking each lesson learned on into the next experiences.

Mom had a lot of challenges in her life.  She had a fairly controlling mother, eight children and not much money.  She lived through the depression years, World War II and the shocking 60’s when all societal rules seemed to fly out the window.  She spent hours dealing with her own mother when she herself had small children to take care of as well and later, when her father and her mother-in-law were old and needy, she spent all of her days caring for them and taking care of those needs.

My mother was an overcomer.  She met all of those challenges with grace and dignity.  Sometimes she had reactions as anyone would, but she did what she needed to do without complaint.  As we were writing our mother’s obituary, we realized that we couldn’t make it so flowery that she would seem to be a saint from the moment of her birth.  It wasn’t that way.  It never is, right?  Isn’t it more real, more adventurous, and more challenging to have a life long parade of situations that, through the passage of time, shape our nature?

Mom always had her own personality, but her character developed as she aged.  She became more patient, a better listener, more concerned with others.  As those qualities increased, others decreased: less anger and less worry.

Enhancing the positive qualities and diminishing the negative ones is what this life’s journey is all about.  We are all born with issues and we all encounter troubles along the adventurous road of life, but what an exquisite testimony there is when one of God’s children is at the end of their journey here, giving those who knew them the opportunity to look back at all the hardships along their route and to witness firsthand the growth of God’s life in that person.  What a solid evidence, sure and positive, that we can do the same in our lives.  Our situations may be different, but we have the same potential that they did.

When we witness a wonderful life, we don’t have to stand far off and feel dismal about our own existence.  This person was an ordinary person, just as we are, and he or she began his/her life with the similar challenges and similar skepticism about the possibilities of ever changing them.  Because we, like them, are born into the human condition, we too can allow our circumstances to mold our character and improve those things that require either a bit of touch up or a major overhaul.  We too can experience time passages and watch God’s handiwork in our lives.  Day by day, step by step, we come up a little higher and when time has finished its passages in our lives, hopefully others will say of us that we were overcomers and will, in their time, find inspiration to do the same in their lives.

Verses and a verse: Courage

butterflies-are-free

 

**Sandinista Avioncitos

The little airplanes of the heart

with their brave little propellers

What can they do

against the winds of darkness

even as butterflies are beaten back

by hurricanes

yet do not die

They lie in wait wherever

they can hide and hang

their fine wings folded

and when the killer-wind dies

they flutter forth again

into the new-blown light

live as leaves

–Lawrence Ferlinghetti

 

These are difficult days that we are experiencing.  Sometimes, it feels as if we are buffeted by the winds of the hurricanes that have recently traversed our world or by the flames that scorch our west coast.  We need to take heart in the Scriptures that uphold the righteousness that God has planted in us.  We need to surely know that righteous lives soften the paths that others must follow in the future.

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

** Although this title seems negative to me because of the reference to Sandinistas, I have chosen to leave it in so that the poem can be properly identified.  The poem itself is very sweet.