You Held My Hand

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Calls from both our sons came on Mother’s Day, as well as chats with our delightful daughters-in-love. I also spent part of the afternoon thinking back over the years I had to invest in two wispy-haired strawberry blonde boys.

I found myself looking at various photos of their hands…pudgy, dimpled hands that once grabbed mine. The backs of those hands exploded with freckles and often, smeared with peanut butter, jam, and other substances I’d rather not even consider,  grasped onto mine! What trust children exhibit when they reach out a hand, without even looking up to check who is above them on the other end!

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Fast forward, as life truly telescopes time when children grow, and I see grown sons married to extraordinary women,  raising their own offspring. Patches of blue sky — but also laden with some clouds —  mark their years of marriage and family. As tree branches ramify toward the heavens in various directions, so their children’s interests now begin to branch outward. But I, through photos, was watching hands this Mother’s Day.

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Look at the hands, at the journey that bonds generations and tells amazing stories of trust, leading, exploring.

Soft, tiny fingers clutch and hold the veined hand of experience, spanning generations and connecting them.

Fathers and daughters eat and talk with their hands…sometimes instruction; sometimes just savoring the moment of a new experience…

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like fingernail polish in honor of your fourth birthday!

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I still treasure this photo because it helps me remember our younger son making a very early connection with his firstborn. She had her Daddy’s hand — and he had her heart —  just that fast!

Yes, those two little boys held my hand, but even more precious to me is the fact that one day in their childhood, they held another hand, one that reached for them through all eternity and called them to Himself.

A mother can easily, thankfully let go and say, “Hold His hand.” Getty Music’s, “A Mother’s Prayer,”  expresses my heart well:

This world is not as it should be
But the Savior opens eyes to see
All that’s beautiful and true
Oh may His light fill all you are
And the jewel of wisdom crown your heart
This is my prayer for you

Hold my hand, I’ll teach you the way to go
Through the joys, through the tears
The journey of these years
He is with us till the end
He is faithful till the end

You’ll travel where my arms won’t reach
As the road will rise and lead your feet
On a journey of your own
May my mistakes not hinder you
But His grace remain and guide you through

This is my prayer for you.


Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/keith-and-kristyn-getty/mother-s-prayer-lyrics/#eomAuWXfaA1G5rp1.99

A Heart Full of Love

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 Early in the lives of little girls, Dads really can set the bar for their daughters’ future expectations from guys. The look on Taylor Faith’s face tells how delighted she was to receive birthday flowers from her Daddy last Friday. In keeping with the Frozen theme of her fourth birthday party, Dad even got the appropriate colors!

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Mommy baked the birthday cake and then Daddy did the decorating to create Elsa’s Ice Castle, personalizing it for Taylor Faith. How important for the future man in her life to personalize things for her and to add creativity and fun to life.

DSCN0373 Dad’s making sacrifices, like a late-night trip to his office to give Olaf a bubble of words, will hopefully set the standard for Taylor Faith’s future. We hope she will learn to seek out those men who will make sacrifices for others, even when it is not convenient.

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When 14 children prepared to have a “soft” snowball fight, southern Georgia style, Daddy set some ground rules and kept order,  not an easy task with excited party-goers.  May an involved Daddy be the measure for the kind of leadership this four-year-old will grow up looking for in her life.

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 All life is not a fairy tale, but we hope Taylor Faith will grow up looking for a Kristoff rather than a Hans! Daddy is surely showing her the right traits to consider.

Grieving the Holy Spirit

Tired children display a grief that often draws our sympathy.  They look so pathetic that as we tuck them into bed, we also tuck them into our hearts.   When wee ones fight naps despite their exhaustion, we sometimes even respond, “Don’t give me any grief. You need this.”

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Grief morphs into a far more sordid shape when a loved one dies. Getting through the initial shock, funeral arrangements, funeral or memorial service and burial, we often find ourselves operating on autopilot. Infused by adrenalin, practical care from others, and prayers, we simply, as Elisabeth Elliot says, “Do the next thing.”

Only in the alone moments after the official functions end do we wrestle with the angst of memories. We begin to grieve. Dates on the calendar, clothing, still pictures, videos as well as telephone-recorder messages, even smells, can avalanche through our gut months, even years, later.ALASKA 07.2012 089

If our human understanding of grief straddles the momentary grief over a tired child and the undulating waves of pain from the loss of a moved one, how are we to grapple with grieving the Holy Spirit? I am again indebted to Sinclair Ferguson’s series, Knowing the Holy Spirit, for helping me sort through what it may mean to grieve the Holy Spirit. The phrase, grieve the Holy Spirit, appears in Isaiah 63 and again in Ephesians 4.

 I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. For he said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely.” And he became their Savior. In all their affliction, he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled and grieved the Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them. Isaiah 63:7-11

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  Ephesians 4:27-32

I begin to see the pivotal, but often secretive work the Holy Spirit does. He took part in creation (Genesis 1:2), as well as being present in Mary’s womb at the incarnation (Luke 1:35). In the OT, the Spirit unveiled not only the attributes of God, but also the face of God to man (Ezekiel 39:29).  Any who embrace the gospel today today receive Jesus as the Spirit unveils Him.. “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” II Cor. 3:16-18.

Ferguson uses an analogy of a father playing peekaboo with his child. How long do we play such a game? Endlessly, it seems, because the child delights to see the face of one who loves him. The Holy Spirit is the intimate companion of the Father, the One who unveils Jesus and God to mankind. To grieve that Spirit is to ignore any biblical insight He shares with us about the Father and the Son. Wouldn’t we rather enjoy a game of peekaboo, allowing the Spirit to reveal more to us about our Father and His Son?

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Groaning and Grieving

OK, I’ll grant you we have experienced a hard winter thus far. Daily temperatures toppled faster than a toddler could crash a tower, and our total-inch snow tally continues to rise.So folks have done a good bit of complaining about this winter. Our birds even stick close to the feeders.

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For part of this fall and winter, our Sunday School class has watched Sinclair Ferguson’s video series on the Holy Spirit, so I’ve started to develop a different view of groaning and grieving, but one not related to weather.

Instead,  I am learning to associate both words  with the Holy Spirit. Romans 8, a favorite chapter of Scripture to many, makes great use of groan. Creation groans, we groan, and the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf with groanings. Different from the grousing that first came to my mind, the Greek word here carries the idea of longing for something that we know awaits.

As I get older, I spend more of my prayer time in confession, conscious of sinning in thought, word and deed. Happily, however, I don’t fight my fallen nature alone. Jesus left me the Holy Spirit, and He has a passion to conform me more and more to the image of Christ. Thus the groaning  that accompanies my realization “I’ve again sinned” creates a longing for the day when I will not. I groan, not in despair, but in a duet with the Spirit.

I still struggle with the moral lapses and long to be made whiter than snow. Don’t you?

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When Romans 8 speaks of the Spirit coming alongside us with groanings, the word for the Spirit’s task is actually prefixed by two seemingly opposite prepositions. The word ends up meaning to assist,  but in a task normally needing more than one party. Any living I am able to do for God’s glory occurs not through my power but because of the Holy Spirit’s power in me.

In addition to assisting in my transformation of becoming more like Christ, the Spirit supports me in moral weakness and assists me in my prayers. As a person of the Trinity, the Spirit knows the mind of the Lord, and He enables me to pray the will of God, even when I am at loose ends for words or ideas. What a loving tenderness that my heavenly Father willingly assists in my weakness! His Spirit, though not always sensed at first, is there beside me.

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Encouragement as a Blessing

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How easily we offer encouragement to little ones as they try to master even simple skills as part of play. We do it automatically, repeatedly…

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We allow for mistakes, bend rules to accommodate their level of understanding the game. Generously, we offer help, add laughter, and enjoy the time spent together. When little ones tire and can no longer function well, we pick them up and move to another activity, feed them, or head home for a nap. We pat those silky-haired heads, laying our hands on our children and grandchildren as the patriarchs of the Old Testament did. Genesis 49 records the blessing Jacob gave to each head of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Where do we lose this gracious blessing of encouragement? I ask this because so many children, by as early as upper elementary school age, find life crushing to the point of doing themselves harm. Their confusion, like that of this bear in our backyard in December, turns dark and savage.

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 Yet the Christian faith offers real hope in Christ, a hope that has sustained many in hardship, pain and anguish. Those who know the Savior, have more opportunities to encourage than we often realize. How do we start?

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So what if you didn’t get Christmas cards sent out this year? Take a wintry day and email or write notes to brightens another’s day. Pick up the phone if that’s easier than writing, but actively declare the blessing another has been in your life. And tell them about the blessings of the Gospel.

Those who know Jesus have been declared holy; that’s our identity, even if not our current daily practice. The indicative or TRUTH is that we are now new creations, set apart, anointed, blessed and destined to reign with Christ. God has accomplished all of this, in Christ, for our benefit.

Taunts, threats from the enemy, come trying to undo us. Remember Goliath goading the Israelite army into paralyzing fear? To encourage his fighting sons, their father, Jesse of Bethlehem, sent bread. To those of us who are unable to fight the sin within, the Father of the Bread of Life sends the Bethlehem Babe. The Old Testament foreshadows the New Testament. One OT character, David, moves the people from cowards to champions. We can be confident and hopeful because our champion came as the Justifier.

Having no need – or ability, for that matter – to justify ourselves, we see differently. We have a right to rout the enemy because we have an advocate in Jesus the Righteous. May we live with that confidence in 2014 and pass on that blessing to others.

The Em-Pha-Sis Matters

DSCN0093 With great concentration, our oldest granddaughter recently checked out the fruits and vegetables at the Children’s Museum. The hands-on experiences available at such places provide as much joy for parents and grandparents as for the children. Sometimes, however, the grandparents do need to rest. Isn’t it thoughtful of the museum to have an emphasis for all age groups?

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Daddy and daughter can enjoy a game of checkers with his daughter….

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Future veterinarians get hands-on experiences with the toy animals…

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Would-be tree climbers can get an assist from mommy….

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 until they pass out from exhaustion at lunch!

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 As we played and interacted at the museum, each child could wander with a parent or grandparent, seeking an emphasis that appealed to his interests, whims, desires for activity or quiet reading.

All of life has an emphasis for us, though the energy given to the pursuit varies with age and ability. As a scooter-driving grandma on such outings, I often try, as Mary did, to “ponder these things in [my] heart.”

What is to be my emphasis at this stage of life? When I visit with our grown children and their children, I exert my physical resources, thankful for my battery-driven scooter and Dave’s help in so many ways. This blog goes on a hiatus of silence, but my prayers and biblical readings/thoughts continue.

When I am home at our mountain cabin, I rest. That’s the physical emphasis, but there, “recollections in tranquility” (Wordsworth) find a voice in the blog. The emphasis matters, whether at rest or play. Why? Our sovereign God weaves Himself through every moment of life, both soaring joys and deepest sorrows. Allow Him to thread His way into your 2014.

Post Christmas

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PC can mean more than politically correct. Two weeks post Christmas, also PC, calls for an assessment of the recent festivities and the aftermath. Since ten of us gathered in North Carolina to celebrate, we began with Grandpa reading the words of Luke 2, reminding ourselves of the real reason for our celebration. We opened gifts for a while on Christmas morning, delighting in the “oohs” and “ahhs” of the little ones, and expressing thanks to the thoughtfulness of choices made for each other. Grandma enjoyed the fact that the 15-month-old who loved tissue paper in the morning, returned faithfully to his favorite book later in the day.

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 When new books were opened, two of the little girls wanted to hear about Eloise right then, so we stopped unwrapping and read.

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 More intricate gifts were exciting, but would become a special project with Daddy when the younger ones napped that afternoon.

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In the days following Christmas Day, we visited SciWorks, the Children’s Museum and a trampoline park, making the most of our limited time together.

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Now, two weeks after the Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, with the turkey and ham leftovers finished, decorations taken down and , hopefully, stored away, and the new toys already in need of fresh batteries, most of the country plunged into the Polar Vortex. ow long ago the holidays seem.

Even if temperatures had not dipped as they did, we realize that all too soon the newest toy or the most glittering Christmas trip dulls. Kids discover they are not the center of all things; squabbling and whining can echo through school halls and homes while adults face PC bills arriving daily.

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We’d all do well to catch a higher perspective, actually, God’s perspective. He loves us with an everlasting love. Our worth is not in oursleves, new toys or experiences, but in the One God sent to save us.

What was God’s cost? The Message paraphrases I Peter  1:17-19  this way:

Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God.
It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in.
He paid with Christ’s sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb.

If Post Christmas leaves any of us feeling left out, if the doldrums of winter have us in a slump, we need to focus on the way God sees us. Let His perspective, which is the only accurate picture, change the way we see ourselves. Now that will bring a Happy New Year.