Thursday, July 23, 2015

Honor the Past by Honoring Others

I'm not a person who has a past riddled with pain and tragedy.  I've lost 3 grandparents, an uncle, and then a handful of friends, but nothing so personal as a spouse or a child.  This week marked an anniversary of a sweet Roscoe's passing and then we received word of a sweet family's loss of a precious little girl.  Miss Z is just a little bit older than Carly and that combined with my overactive empathy bone, I'm just over here sobbing during nap time.

The pain we endure, directly and indirectly, is usually ugly and for little profit.  I know nothing of a parent's painful loss so I will not pretend to offer some cheap quote that presumes simplicity and order.  I never actually met either child and I'm a blithering mess over them both.  Clearly I've not mastered simplicity and order.  Still, my heart wants to do something and so I write.

So, as an introverted mother who is homeschooling, gardening, working (from home) part time and a lousy housekeeper in the first place, I've seen why moms need a break from their kids.  It is challenging to be everything to everyone in every situation.  But today as I weep for families who have lost, I'm convicted to honor the little innocent souls who look to me and every other adult to make sense of their world.  It's so easy to communicate annoyance to our kids.  They pester and whine and argue.  It's so tempting to diminish their needs or experiences because we have weightier matters to worry about.  They are messy and complicated.  But so am I.

While we have today with tiny fresh souls (or even the jaded, old souls), let's do more than just survive a moment.  See it through the window of the future when, whether through loss or maturity, these trivial moments will cause your heart to swell with yearning.  Give those you love more honor today.  The past cannot be changed, but you can honor it through the relationships you feed today.

Right before Miss Z was born, we planted a peach tree in our yard.  My parents used to have one before their home was hit by a tornado a couple of months before that so we were hungry for it.  This year was the first season we had peaches.  The tree was full and we had already had 5 or 6 - delicious!  The other day I went to pick a few and I felt disoriented.  There wasn't a peach on the tree.  Not even on the ground half eaten!  Apparently, squirrels can and do wipe out a harvest over night once everything is really ripe.  I cried and Mr. Butler was ready to kill some varmints.  The taste we received of the sweetness of peaches wasn't enough.  It was delicious but it was over too soon.  These precious babies' lives were only beginning to charm us with their purity and joy.  And yet.  So, what can we do? What I can do is desperately try to live this way:

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
And when the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say, Lord
Blessed be Your name

Monday, July 20, 2015

Family Matters

Family is a funny thing.  Some of us complain about what's missing from ours.  Others cut out the family we don't want to claim as ours.  And most of us just don't appreciate it much until much later in life.  As I think about how I want my children to appreciate their family experience, it's convicted me that I must model that for them.  

Last weekend I attended a family reunion and had a moment of reflection that just hasn't left me.  What does being family mean?  Different things to different people, of course.  One thing it really is, though, is a group of people who share experiences.  There are people, places and events that were shared over time and no matter the course of their life later, those common elements will remain.

There are billions of strangers that even if you meet you likely won't share more than a glance or a few words.  With your family, extended and immediate, you share hundreds of instances and events before you're even born!  Especially in childhood, there are only a certain number of people who will witness your many milestones.  Within each family group, there are certain people or items that have great significance (simply because you all were there together) that will hold no value to anyone outside of the group.  That commonality that you share with family members matters.  I believe it matters more than we think.  No matter where you are today, those people were witnesses in your life and the life of those you both love.  It matters because of that, I think.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that in most circumstances (not talking about abuse or criminal behavior), our various family circles deserve a little more love than we tend to give.  We forget that they were there too.  Sure, not all experiences are going to be the same, but the commonality of places and people means that their different experience might help us find better perspective sometimes.  With my own little family, I know that one day J & Miss Z will have conversations about their parents, probably complaining about how awful we are in some way.  And they will have the best tools in each other to better understand what's happening.

Family, big or small, near or far, isn't just some obligation to fulfill.  It is an obligation, but within it are endless opportunities and tools to grow and gain a better, richer experience - even separate from them completely.  In the past I've let myself get so caught up in how family makes me feel or how much I agree with them on this or that.  Discussion and principled debate has it's place but it shouldn't overshadow the respect we all deserve for being witnesses to each other's life.  Even more so when they were supportive and active witnesses.  May we work a little bit harder on loving for others' sake and honoring because of history's sake.