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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Newport, Oregon, Nye Beach We sit in the comfy chairs on the third floor of the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon, gazing out at the gray sky and the rolling white caps. It’s our 36th anniversary, and we came to celebrate in this wonderful book-filled hotel. But my mouth hurts from the tooth that had to be extracted yesterday, and husband is coughing from the cold he caught recently. In our younger days, this might have ruined our special day.Sylvia Beach Hotel

However 36 years give one a little perspective. Seagulls soar past the windows, pushed by the wind. The sun peeks out briefly to light up the waves. Husband sketches a beach scene; I write these words. The ocean beats a constant rhythm into our souls. We are at peace.

Life needn’t be perfect to be good. So many times our expectations prevent us from enjoying the blessings we receive. We want the perfect job, the perfect wedding, the perfect spouse, house, and kids. But life has more glitches than a new computer system, and perfection is a rare commodity here on earth.

Newport, OR beach with gullsMy husband’s uncle had a stroke. While Uncle John partially recovered, he remained weak on one side and had difficulty speaking. A former outdoorsman, he took up painting with his good hand. He made the most of what he had. And whenever he was asked how he was—or many other questions for that matter—his answer was always “Good enough.”

And what’s so wrong with “good enough?” We all have things that keep our lives from being perfect—whether health issues, money problems, disagreements with family or neighbors, job hassles, whatever. We can spend our days bemoaning our problems, or we can accept what we are given and make the most of it. We can enjoy the blessings we are given.dark clouds at beach

The waves keep pounding onto the sand, an ever-changing, but ever-the-same pattern. Dark clouds promise rain. We sit side-by-side, staring out the window, sharing the beauty of the moment. Thirty-six years. Years filled with smiles and tears, joys and frustrations. Not perfect years, but definitely “good enough.”

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Foggy morningI hate goodbyes. I dropped my son off at the airport this morning, knowing I would probably not see him again until next Christmas. We hugged, and I watched him pull his suitcase toward the revolving doors. Around me, other people hugged their goodbyes, grasping that last touch, one final memory to hold them until next time.

Why do kids have to grow up and move away? I remember how excited I was when I went away to college. Did my mother cry as they drove away from my freshman dorm? Did a hole open in her heart that only my return could mend? I never thought about it much at the time; I was too busy living my own life.Son and husband

At my age, goodbyes become more common. A little over a year ago I whispered goodbye to my father as he lay silent in a hospital bed, his spirit perhaps already flown. That farewell was even more wrenching, tinged with the knowledge that I wouldn’t see him again until eternity.

sun shining through the fogAnd yet I go on. The sun shines through the fog and brightens the morning. I smile through my tears. Tomorrow my husband and I will be the ones leaving, off to see our other son and his wife. The hugs will be ones of gladness, as we reconnect after many months. The time will be all the more precious due to its brevity.

At the end of every hello is a goodbye. It’s just how life works. But the pain carves passageways for joy, and every farewell increases my longing for that day when goodbyes will be no more.

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Dad 2011Treasures come in many forms, sometimes quite unexpected. But an old pack of cigarettes?

My father died a couple of months ago, and so I am spending time at his house sorting papers and cleaning out cupboards and drawers, in preparation for an estate sale. The process brings back many memories, as I unearth old photo albums, wall hangings I remember from childhood, and other memorabilia. It can be a bittersweet time.

Yesterday was another day of interesting finds as I began going through his desk. An envelope containing half a dozen two dollar bills. Hmm. Wonder what those are worth today? A drawer full of those address labels that charities send out, hoping you will donate. If Dad had lived another hundred years, he couldn’t have used all of the labels he had there.Galatians 5:1

Then I pulled out something different. An old pack of cigarettes that looked like someone had started to open it and then stopped. Odd. My dad used to smoke. He had tried many times to quit, but never quite succeeded. Until my mother died of lung cancer. Actually it was the kind of cancer usually caused by asbestos exposure, rather than cigarettes, but there was some speculation that secondhand smoke could have played a part. I never saw my father with a cigarette after that.

Now here was this old, yellowed pack of cigarettes. But there was something different about this package. Securely taped to both sides of the pack were Bible verses. On one side: “Galatians 5:7: For freedom did Christ set us free: stand fast therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage.” And on the other side: “John 8:32: And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

John 8:32This must have been the last pack of cigarettes my dad ever purchased. I could imagine him picking it up when he felt the urge to smoke, reading the verses, and then placing it back in the desk, gaining strength to resist one more time. How telling of my dad’s character that when he became determined to quit, he turned not to hypnosis or a patch, but to God. And he found what he needed to win the battle.

Treasures come in many forms, but I never expected to find one in an old pack of cigarettes.

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Family is one of the most important things in life. I’ve heard that many times, and I really believe it. But often I get so busy that family gets ignored, particularly family that doesn’t live in the same house. I intend to call or visit, but time flies, while I crawl along, loaded with the chores of everyday.

Last weekend I spent time with family. My brothers, husband, sister-in-law, and I took our father to the beach for two nights to celebrate his upcoming 90th birthday. It was the first time I’d been to the beach with my brothers since we were kids. And it was wonderful!

We spent a lot of time remembering adventures—and misadventures—we’d had when we were little. “You know,” one brother said. “I can’t blame any problems I have on my childhood.” So true! We had a good childhood. Our parents weren’t perfect (although they didn’t make any more mistakes than I did with my kids!), but we always knew we were loved, and that they would be there for us anytime we needed them. That sense of security made childhood a safe place to explore and learn and grow.

We walked on the beach once the sun cleared out some of the clouds—at least all of us did except for my dad. Legs no longer steady enough for beach walking, he sat by the picture window, content to watch the crashing waves and kaleidoscope sky.

If any man fits Paul’s description in Philippians 4:12, it is my dad: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…” He has been widowed twice, survived four types of cancer, been on three-times-a-week dialysis for years, and yet I rarely hear a word of complaint. “The secret to happiness is not feeling sorry for yourself,” he told me.

I’m so glad we could all spend the weekend together. It’s good to be with people who know and love me just the way I am. Not all families are like that, I hear. I feel so blessed!

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