Sunday, April 22, 2018

TO ALL PARENTS:

Never underestimate the importance of what you do for your children.


In the midst of parenting, it's easy to think kids don't appreciate your efforts to teach, encourage, support, build self-esteem, create memories, etc.

When I was in 5th grade, our class planned a special program. We invited our mothers to come watch. I don't remember what it was, just that it was important.

I invited my mom, of course, but knew she couldn't come. School was a mile and a-half from home and my mother had no car. Even if she did, she didn't know how to drive. So, I accepted that she wouldn't be there.

The big day came and we were about to begin the festivities. In through the door walked my mom! I gasped and ran to give her a big hug.

To this day I remember how she looked. She wore a gray, nubby-weave car-coat. Her hair was held back on the sides by clips, leaving a cluster of curls in the back. She wore make-up and high heels--heels because that's how women dressed for important events in those days. I smiled and thought she was the most beautiful mom in the room. It was a good day.

Later I learned she had walked the distance over gravely, uneven country roads in heels! (These were the days before women actively exercised or wore sensible sport shoes.) Years later, it dawned on me how her feet must have hurt from the long walk.

The fact I remember this event with warmth so many years later tells me how impressionable children are.

Message to parents:  keep making those efforts--big and small--to show your children:

"What's important to YOU is important to me!"

 
My Mom & Dad - Bill & Marge Faris   




(Postscript: Mom was well into her 40s when she learned how to drive--and swim! Gutsy woman.)

 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

PERFECTION IS OVER-RATED

Do you secretly try to re-enact a Better Homes & Gardens Christmas? You know, one with all the beautiful decorations, delicious food, elegant parties, and smiling families gathered around a shimmering tree.

It's easy to succumb to the pressure of making the holidays perfect, when often they're anything but.


Pictured here is the Dutch pastry, Banket (bahn-ket). It consists of a delicious buttery crust wrapped around an almond-paste filling. I salivate just thinking about it. Next to my husband, it's my favorite thing about the Dutch.

I finally learned how to make Banket. It is labor-intensive--two days of work, resulting in a kitchen dusted in flour and a sink full of baking dishes. Worth all the effort.

My family loves it, so I make it every year to take to our Thanksgiving celebration. This year I baked early and gently wrapped nine pastry rolls in aluminum foil and put them in the freezer with ominous "keep out" signs on them.

Travel day came. I placed the Banket rolls in a cushioned carrying bag and admonished my husband to carefully place it on top of the suitcases. We handled them like newborn babes.

Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving was the big reveal. Children and grandchildren gathered around the table as I proudly pulled out three of the rolls. The family oohed and ahhed, much to my prideful delight. I cut pieces for everyone and glowed, watching them enjoy this time-honored treat from their Dutch ancestry.

Suddenly, I jumped up from my chair and shouted, "I just sat on the Banket!" I had placed the carrying case on my chair and inadvertently sat on them. Had been sitting on them for about five minutes!

Oh, the hoots and hollers and laughter. The kids went crazy and the grandkids thought it was the funniest thing they'd ever seen from Grandma. One videotaped the whole disaster of me alternately crying and laughing.

The Banket? Flat as a pancake. So pitifully thin. All that hard work to make them light and fluffy. All that effort to transport them from Arizona to California. All wasted.

So much for a perfect Better Homes & Gardens Christmas. I'm guessing all my readers have similar instances of disastrous attempts at perfection. (I'd love to hear some of them in the Comments section.)

Perfection vs. Reality.

Think about the first Christmas. Mary and Joseph probably wanted to welcome their baby, God's own Son, in a perfect setting surrounded by loving family. It was not to be. Jesus was born in a lowly stable, far from home and surrounded by animals. God's plan for perfection differed from mankind's.


When--not if--things go awry this holiday, try to see God's working and remember to keep your priorities in line with the Messiah coming to save the world.

For me, my Banket fiasco was a reminder to tone down the pride and the desire for perfection.

By the way, the kids said from now on, it will be called, "Butt-ket." Our Dutch ancestors are rolling over in their graves. Sigh.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

FLIGHT INTO EGYPT



The Flight into Egypt…is depicted in these unique figurines from our Nativity Set. They are elegant, simple, and not what you see in a traditional Christmas display. They trigger emotions, both loving and disturbing.


Loving, because they show a mother and father doing everything humanly possible to save their baby from evil King Herod.

Disturbing, because Mary and Joseph again find their lives interrupted with instructions from God. They are on another perilous journey to a distant land—frightened but obedient. They also know the horrible tragedy taking place in Bethlehem, the town they left.

This young couple knew interruption:  the announcement of a Holy conception and a virgin birth, and travel to a far off land to welcome God’s Son in less than ideal circumstances.

Though we cannot begin to compare our struggles with those of the Holy Family, we do have our burdens. Sometimes life gets interrupted in the most inconvenient way. Can you relate?

·   Why the health issues?
·     What’s with this broken relationship?
·      Why the career snag?
·      When will money not be a problem?
·       Why this loss and how will I deal with it?
·        Why illness, tragedy, abuse, evil?

Mary and Joseph didn’t see the big picture, but they obeyed anyway—they trusted. That’s what we’re called to do—listen to God’s direction and obey.

Whatever interruption to life you’re experiencing this Christmas season, may you see God’s leading and feel his love. He’s with you on the perilous journey.

Christmas blessings.

Monday, November 20, 2017

GRIEF & THE HOLIDAYS

My mother died the day after Thanksgiving many years ago. I still remember the devastation. She was 55, too young to die. I was 28, too young to lose a mom.

How do you face the holidays in the midst of fresh grief?
  
Everything about the season seems poised to magnify your sadness: the music, the ads, the parties, the decorations, etc.

A week after my mother's memorial service in Ohio, I returned home to Phoenix to my husband and four young children. Bob's mother had coincidentally (a God-thing, for sure) been there on her way to California from her home in Chicago, and was able to care for my busy family during my absence. I am grateful, even today so many years later.

Before my mother-in-law left to continue her trip, she insisted she and I go shopping to buy the children's Christmas gifts. She wanted my help in selecting them and wanted to avoid having to ship a large parcel.

The LAST thing I wanted to do was go to the mall, but I respected her and realized she had held my family together for a week. No easy task.

On our trek to the noisy mall, I felt numb. I hated the blaring holiday music, I hated the shopping, I hated seeing the long line of children waiting to see a jovial Santa. I even hated when we stopped for a coffee break.

I wanted to stay home and cry and wallow in my sadness. Instead, this wise woman knew I needed to get back to doing "life," no matter how painful.

Looking back, I see it was the best thing for me. The hurt never goes away (even today), but the act of putting one foot in front of the other helped me re-enter life.

Are you grieving this year?

Is there an overall sadness that envelops you as you encounter all the holiday hoopla in the air? 

Take heart. You will re-enter life again, though it might be with a new sense of "normal." In time, the hurt will be less painful. Let positive memories of your loved one ease your pain.

Two verses I find comforting:

Psalm 16:
"I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken."

Romans 8:26:
"...the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."

Mom & Dad - Bill & Marge Faris, circa 1969




Sunday, October 29, 2017

SERVICE

We've all heard the old saying:

Service is Love in Working Clothes

I saw an example of that this week. A friend suffered the tragedy of the death of her adult son. The heartache is immeasurable. This mother walked through the agony of her week in a fog of grief. There were hundreds of details to tend to: a service to plan, photos to gather, family and friends to notify, etc.

A good friend of hers called and said, "I'm bringing over the woman who cleans my house. She and I are coming to do yours." And, they did, making it ready for out-of-town family.

Service is Love in Working Clothes

A similar thing occurred many years ago. A dear friend of mine, an accomplished musician and worship leader in several churches, went to the home of a church member who was dying of cancer. She cleaned the bathrooms, allowing the man's wife to take a little break and to return to sparkling bathrooms.

Before she left, she asked him if he wanted her to sing. He had spent his life serving God and she knew he loved the old hymns of the church. Of course, he was delighted....and so she sang.

I wasn't there, but this is the image I have: there she stands at the foot of his bed, dressed in comfy old cleaning clothes, perhaps still wearing her rubber gloves and holding the scrub bucket. She sings several of his favorites. Her beautiful soprano voice echoes throughout the sickroom and home, bringing a bit of God's grace to a sad situation.

Service is Love in Working Clothes


 "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2)


 "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?...Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."(James 2: 14-17)


Let's look around and see where we can express our love and the love of God through our service to those who are hurting.

Let's get to work!


 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

FRIENDS

We all remember the television show, Friends, that showcased several young adults trying to "do life" together. They became a pseudo-family. The highly successful series resonated with its audience on several levels.

I believe many enjoyed the show because it mimicked a group of friends in their lives both past and present. For others, it may have triggered a longing for such a fun group to connect with.

This past Sunday, my pastor preached on the remarkable friendship between David and Jonathon of Old Testament times. He had a lot of important things to say about the value of friendships.

For me, good friends do three things:
  • They make me feel welcomed in their presence. I'm happy to be with them!
  • They bring out the best in me by encouraging me to exercise my abilities and tell me when I mess up.
  • They complete me. What do I mean by that?

I am blessed with a wonderful group of long-time friends. One of them has amazing spiritual strength. Another exhibits the gift of hospitality. She loves welcoming others to her home and making them comfortable. One blesses me with her sense of humor that helps keep things in perspective. One has incredible Bible knowledge and spiritual maturity. And one has the gift of nurturing others.

These women have much of what I lack. As I look to them as role models, I learn and feel completed.

One of my favorite New Testament passages comes from John, chapter 17, where Jesus prays for his disciples, a group of men he has poured himself into for three intense years. And...get this. He includes US in that prayer! Click here to read it for yourself: John 17. It's friendship at its very best.

* * * * * * *

Are you blessed with a good friend or friends? Cherish that.

To keep from being "me-centered" I should ask, "What kind of a friend am I?"

I must check myself:
  • Do I make others feel welcome in my presence?
  • Do I bring out the best in others?
  • Do I help complete my friends by openly sharing my strengths?
Whew. A lot to consider.

Thanks for reading, my electronic friends! 

 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY



GOD BLESS AMERICA

God Bless America is an American patriotic song written by Irving Berlin in 1918, during World War I. In 1938, in response to Hitler's anti-semitism, he revised the lyrics, making it an important song of World War II. Kate Smith introduced it on national television and in the 1943 movie, This is the Army. It became her signature song.

God Bless America is a prayer asking for God's blessing on a nation looking for peace.


To hear Kate Smith sing it in her beautiful contralto voice, click here: Kate Smith
(Be sure to watch the whole five minutes.)


* * * * * * *
 
After the tragedy of 9/11, when our country was reeling under nationwide devastation, members of Congress gathered on the steps of the Capitol to reassure a hurting country. They broke out in a spontaneous rendition of God Bless America.

Democrats, Republicans, Senators, Representatives--all barriers were down as our leaders led us through our grief.

Click here to read an article depicting that event: Article

Click here to see a You Tube version and hear them singing: Congress on Capitol Steps



* * * * * * *

The most moving rendition of this beautiful song occurred May, 2017, at the National Memorial Day Concert at the Capitol on PBS.

Captain Luis Avila, a wounded warrior fighting his way back from horrendous injuries suffered in Afghanistan, sang this prayer, along with his musical therapist and opera star Renee Fleming.

Music is helping Captain Avila recover. His singing fills me with gratitude for the sacrifices many have made so I can live a life of freedom. His is the most beautiful performance of this song I've ever heard.

Click here for a very special blessing. You won't be disappointed:  Captain Luis Avila



Enjoy celebrating the 4th of July.

Pray that God truly will bless our America.