June 26? The last week of June? Already? This month sped by. Where did the time go? What happened to rest, relax, and renew? I feel like I go, go, go. And still there are piles-literally piles-of things I need to do. I’m being interrupted by the urgent things we need to do to complete the sale of our house. And in my determination to s l o w d o w n, I’m taking longer than I think I will to do things I enjoy.
I keep thinking I’ll get to things like daily writing, going through the turf in my office, cleaning out a drawer or a closet. Maybe even packing a box or two. When I have a couple of hours together, I promise myself. But so far, that hasn’t happened.
I want routine. A completed to-do list, items neatly checked off. A feeling of accomplishment.
And then I remember. I’m retired. I don’t have to hit the ground running at the beginning of August anymore. While I do have a deadline for cleaning closets and packing boxes, Van and I will do that together. Slowly, I realize I focused on the wrong list. Instead of worrying about what I haven’t done, I need to remember who I am in Christ. What are His priorities? It’s time to adjust my thinking.
On Tuesday, Van and I drove two hours to celebrate our granddaughter, Katie’s, promotion from eighth grade. Katie is a special treasure, precious and loved, so the trip was worth it. We toted our lawn chairs and joined the other families spread out across the lawn for the picnic on the field. Balloons, flowers, and leis added to the festive atmosphere. Music from a live band of dads floated through the air. Families chatted while they enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine. Making playdates for the summer that stretches ahead. Sharing their child’s successes in school.
Katie attended a K-8 charter school, specifically for art and technology. She started at the beginning of middle school, as a sixth grader, but many of her classmates spent all of their school years here. Every year, VCS does something most schools don’t do; they celebrate every student, from kindergarten through eighth grade. Each one heard their name called and walked across the podium. Big smiles lit their faces and there was a spring in their steps.
Teachers stood on the stage with the students, their faces wreathed in smiles. Hugs and handshakes and quiet words of congratulations acknowledged the strengths of their students.
The eighth graders, the ones the school nurtured the longest, stand out from the other students. Their class, wearing green caps and gowns, march in accompanied by Pomp and Circumstance and sit in a special section to watch the rest of the students. Instead of a silk flower lei, theirs boast real carnations. In between the other classes introductions, several eighth graders spoke about their time at VCS.
Katie reached a milestone, but she is precious to me. The days I get to spend with her always make me happy, whether we’re celebrating or simply hanging out.
We are children of the King, adopted into His family through faith in Jesus. Although we did nothing to earn it, through His grace and mercy, He shows me us we are worth everything to Him. And that is worth celebrating every day.
We celebrate because
We are clothed, not in caps and gowns, but in the righteousness of Christ. I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10.
We are chosen. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9
We are set apart as holy. We have been set apart as holy because Jesus Christ did what God wanted him to do by sacrificing his body once and for all.Hebrews 10:10
Don’t wait for a special occasion to celebrate your worth to God. Celebrate every day! With rejoicing. Declarations of His goodness. Sharing the good news. Walk with a spring in your step. Light you face with a smile.
On Friday, February 17, my mom passed away. She had been sick for almost two years. Today, Mom rejoices in heaven. All of her pain, gone. She sees her Savior face to face and casts her crown at His feet. The best parts of me are because of the lessons I learned from Mom. I will miss her all the rest of my days, but the things Mom taught me are a legacy of her unconditional love.
All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned from my mom. Wisdom was not found in school, but in the day-to-day examples set by Mom at home.
Lessons I Learned from Mom
Be faithful to God
Every day, Mom took the Methodist daily devotional, the Upper Room, and her Bible and spent time alone with God. But she didn’t leave the Word in between the pages, she lived the lessons she read there. She prayed for her family and friends. Mom was faithful to go to church her whole life, but she didn’t just sit in the pew. She served however she could: making soup, filling communion cups, being on committees. And she encouraged her sisters, Sandy and Bev to go to church with her.
Give others the gift of yourself
Mom gave love, kindness, and caring in so many ways. She helped others even if she had something else to do. If someone couldn’t drive, she picked them up and drove them to church or to the market. She baked Christmas cookies and fudge and gave them away. She called people who were alone.
Put your family first
Mom would go without so we kids had whatever we needed. She made sure that there were treats like a candy bar on Sunday afternoon when we stopped at Joe’s Italian Store to get the weekly pasta.Mom opened her home for Christmas, Easter, birthdays, and holidays so the whole family—grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins—could be together. She and Daddy took my daughters, Kim and Erin, on vacations to Yosemite and Sequoia. When Erin lived in Hemet, she brought Zach and Katie to Mom’s every week to use the washing machine and take the kids swimming.
Let your children be who they are
Mom encouraged each of her three children. She went to every tap dance recital, Girl Scout badge ceremony, mother-daughter tea, and basketball game. To keep me supplied with the books I craved, she drove me to the library every week. But she didn’t freak out when she realized I went into the bathroom every night after dinner to read and then hid the book in the hamper. She made me stop reading until after the dishes were done though!
Never stop learning and growing as a person
Take risks and venture outside your comfort zone. She traveled with Daddy to the Orient and Europe. When she first moved to Sun Lakes, she took swimming lessons. For twenty years, Mom loved doing aerobics with her friends. At seventy-five, she got a computer and a tablet and kept up with friends and family on Facebook.
Make life-long friends
Mom and her friend, Marilynn, met in elementary school. In their fifties, they started weekend adventures several times a year. When I was in elementary school, Mom and her friend Alice met for coffee every morning after the housework was done. Alice moved to New York fifty years ago, but last month, Mom and Alice chatted by phone. Mom looked forward to her Breakfast Club every Friday, and every year on her birthday showed me all the cards she received, “And not one is a duplicate,” she said with amazement. She loved her newest friend, Laura, deeply. Mom was delighted when she got Laura to eat broccoli and fresh cranberries and watch Call the Midwife. And Mom’s life was enriched by Laura’s care.
Never give up on yourself or others, keep trying
Even in pain, Mom made her bed every morning. She tried chair aerobics when she couldn’t do her regular aerobics any more. She liked reading the paper with a cup of coffee while she enjoyed the beautiful view out her kitchen window. “God is always good,” Mom said constantly. “He’s given me a great life.”
My life is better because of Mom and the lessons she taught me. She never said I needed to know these things; this was how she lived.
Her example and her love will always be with me. They are the best parts of me. The lessons I learned from Mom are gifts I will treasure and use forever.
I know it’s a cliche, but one of the best parts of being a teacher is having eight weeks of vacation during the summer. I value this time as a period of rest, getting household cleaning projects done, and time with family and friends.
My daughter, Erin, works for the United States Postal Service as a supervisor in a plant that sorts mail. Because her children are teenagers—Zach is almost 15 and Katie is 13—she works the graveyard shift. She gets home just in time to get them to school, sleeps while they’re at school, and gets up a few short hours later to pick them up and spend the afternoon helping with homework, spending time with them, and eating dinner together. That means I don’t see her very often during the school year, because our days off don’t coincide.
I love the days in the summer when I can make the 2 hour drive to her home and enjoy time visiting. Last week, we went to see Finding Dory (which I highly recommend, no matter what the age). Next week, we’re going to the beach and then I’ll bring Katie home with me. My other granddaughter, Robyn, will join us. I look forward to a week of giggles, art projects, baking cookies, silliness, and hugs. Just the thought of being with these people I love puts a song in my heart.
Spending time. No agenda. Listening. Being together. I value this more than words can say.
I am of value to God
God values me like this. He wants nothing more than me. My attention. No agenda. Listening; He listens to me and I listen to Him.
It’s another thing I love about summer. I have time to linger over His Word. To gaze out the window at His creation—and sit outside on the patio when it’s not 100º—meditating on what He reveals to me. Or being amazed at His gifts (thank you, Ann Voskamp). I’ve spent hours watching the birds take baths in the sprinklers this summer, fluffing their feathers to dry. Admired the smell of jasmine and basil, the magenta bougainvillea and red roses, the sounds of birds chirping and tweeting.
I sit amazed. I am of great value to God. Just the way I am. He loves me. He wants to spend time with me and is always there, waiting. Ready to welcome me into His presence.
Seek God everywhere. In everything. At all times. Open my eyes and my heart. Seek His will instead of my own. His wisdom and His peace. His way. Seek Him when I rise up and when I lie down. When I’m busy and when I’m quiet. Seek Him in the mundane, the crisis, the unexpected and unwanted. Seek Him.
That sounds so obvious when I write it. And I believe it with all of my heart, but I’m not living it well. The last two weeks have brought news that hurts. News I don’t want. Mom has Alzheimer’s. My mom who, until July 11, 2015 was active and could do anything she set her mind to, has slowly declined. First physically, with set back after set back due to complications from osteoporosis. And now, this news of Alzheimer’s. There is no healing from this. Not here.
In my pain and sorrow, I’ve been playing solitaire on my phone. Avoiding thinking. But that means I’m avoiding God. Instead of seeking comfort and peace from Him, I’m trying avoid thinking about the situation. All I’m really doing is wasting time. How can I have His peace if I ignore Him? There is no hope in a card game. No joy.
I delete the game from my phone, and I think instead about my one word for this year: persevere. I long to let God transform me on this journey that is harder than I ever thought possible. To help me navigate in the uncharted water I find myself in. To truly persevere, I must seek God first.
How do I Seek God?
Surrender to Him by willingly accepting His Will instead of my own. Letting Him transform me from the inside out.
Serve God by helping Mom. Even though my sister, Robyn, is the primary caregiver, I go to see Mom. Continue to call her. Bake her cookies. I serve in our church by facilitating GriefShare.
Stand firm in what I know to be true. God loves me more than I can imagine. He is always good.
Sit at His feet and listen. Even more than doing something, resting in His love and goodness.