Monday Musings: A little laughter

 Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.’ Genesis 21:6

Another new life! A few months ago I wrote about the latest addition to the family in “Dear Little Man.”  I was overcome with the joy of new life, still am.

Now, I find myself wanting to write of our newest member, the gift of Isaac, who appropriately came home from the hospital on Mother’s Day.  He is indeed a gift! A quiet, calm baby from all accounts so far. He will have to insert himself into this little family with an older sister and brother to look up to and admire. They think he’s the cat’s pajamas and big sis loves to hold him- right now. Later, he will be the little brother, next to the other little brother.

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He has a wise, open face that seems to me to be that of a very old soul. He looks deeply into my face, searching for something I’m not sure that he does or does not find. We’ve not had much one on one time yet. It’s like that when there are others clamoring for attention. 8 others.

I know that spouting about 9 grandchildren may sound prideful. It is not. These children are the highest blessing I could ask for on earth.  The Lord has truly made up for the years the locusts ate out of my heart.

I was born into a family, quite by accident (if you know what I mean); a marriage ensued, I was born and then I suppose the first 6 months of “bliss” with new baby wore off along with the attraction that brought them together. I was handed off to a grandmother who, as she put it, “there was no one else to take you.”

 My birth mother had been adopted from a children’s home and her first adoptive mother died within a year or two. Her father could not take care of her so she was sent back to the children’s home and then later as a near teen was adopted out again. It must not have gone well because she was out and on her own and I was born when she was 17. My birth father was 22 and just returned from a tour of duty in post-war Japan. Neither was prepared nor able to be a parent.

I grew up in a household that was tumultuous at best, deeply dysfunctional and influenced by alcoholism at it’s worst with a generous serving of emotional manipulation thrown in for good measure. I was the pawn in my grandmother’s chess game of life.  She used me to manipulate the people around her. She didn’t often realize consciously that she was doing so, but she just had to be on top every time and if I was the pawn needed….

There were no siblings, only me. At times I felt greatly loved but there were times when I was sorely neglected. Mostly emotionally, left to my own devices. There were also times my grandmother allowed me to be in danger in situations with people I didn’t know.

She had faulty trust filters.  Either everyone in the world could be trusted or no one could be trusted. As a result, her judgment was often swayed by her most immediate previous trust experience. If it had gone well, she was off and running again in the trust everyone direction. Sometimes, I was the victim and sometimes I was the happy recipient. She would often leave me with her friends and considering that she was not a very good judge of character, some of those people felt very dangerous to me- at other times- they would be of the kindest, gentlest nature and I was drawn to them and their country way of life.

I found that my internal radar would go into overdrive and I would pretty much shut down around those that I felt were untrustworthy- I would not talk, I would make myself small, and I would read, and read, and read.  Until she picked me up again.  I look back on those times and realize that I was indeed in danger with some of those people, and that God in His providence, set His angels round about me.

I went from ‘pillar to post’ as she would say about some things- meaning never in one spot very long. That was her life she was describing though. I was subject to the frequent moves due to my grandfather being in the Air Force-never in one place very long. And, when she would find she couldn’t deal with me and whatever else was going on in her life she would send me off to my father and his new wife for months at a time.  Do we ever really know what’s going on in someone else’s head or heart?

There were occasions, as I look back on my childhood where I saw a very loving, generous woman. She would pick up any and every hitchhiker between Texas and Tennessee when we traveled back to her family’s hometown in east Tennessee. She would give her friends the very clothes she had if they had need. She would take food, and my clothes (sometimes I had actually out grown them) for their children. She would keep track of those women who she knew would be in need by the nature of their marriages, and when they found themselves forced to move again to escape the spouse or because they were evicted from a previous spot she would take cleaning items with her and clean the new place from top to bottom and she would take food from the garden and me to help. Often the children were younger than me, their mothers were marginally able to care for themselves let alone their babes. I became the entertainment coordinator and child rodeo expert. I would want to fly away to anywhere but there- I didn’t understand- then. I do now.

As I got older she began to share snippets of her life with me. My father, her son, was born less than a year into a marriage that she entered into, out of spite, in anger at her father, to get away from home. She left her husband, and left my father with her parents when he was a babe in arms. Eventually, it came out that she had been married many (at least 7 documented) times, had attended nursing school at one time, and had run cafes and restaurants along the way in the south as she traveled further and further from home. She implied she had also done what she had to do from time to time to survive- use your imagination. My response to that information was that I’d starve before I would do anything like she did; I told her we always have a choice. I still believe that.

 She went from Tennessee to North Carolina to Georgia to Alabama and then on to Texas. in Texas, she found herself in a marriage that took her 20 years to get loose from the man who was physically and emotionally abusive. She finally escaped with his mother and sister’s help and years later, took me to visit them. He was dead by then. They seemed nice. 

She then married an artist- and that lasted all of about a year and a half. Then she met my grandfather and married him at the beginning of the year that I was born in November. He was already in Korea when she was given custody of me, so they hadn’t been together very long. She had managed to save enough when she was on her own to buy some land and had had a one-room house (shack) built on it- it had a kitchen area with a sink and a hot plate, and on the back porch a tub and a toilet. TWhat was where we lived off and on until I was 4. There was a short stint in Kansas.  She would trade veggies for chickens, bread, butter, whatever we needed to live on. She bartered and begged and borrowed- we were poor, just not dirt poor.

And, during that time she became the first woman taxi driver -at least for the company she worked for in San Antonio- according to her. She sent me to nursery school at the age of 3 and there for the first time in my life I knew I was in a safe place. I was where they taught me about Jesus. God is so Good!

My life growing up and living with her, then watching her age and age and age and watch her deteriorate physically, continue to make poor decisions and refuse to give in to the very end was never calm, always stressful, and sometimes dangerous.  My children loved her very much; knew she was crazy and thought it was funny. I on the other hand….

Now my stage of life is coming close to where she was when I had my children –only she was their great grandmother. I am the grandmother. I love my grands with a fierceness that I don’t think even my own children understand.

I have a full family around me, and the never-ending joy of children close and far away. I think it very appropriate for Isaac to be Isaac and to be the youngest grandchild for us. Isaac means laughter and that is what every family needs.

A little laughter.

He has already started to bring it to us as you can see in the pictures below- only a few days old and already perfecting the meaning of his name. Thank you, Lord, for the restoration of laughter in my life!

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Dear Little Man

 

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Dear Little Man:

Little Man. 

That is how I see you, not as the sweet babe in this picture.  I see in my mind a young man, grown, tall, lean, with a sparkle in your eye. The baby of the family; at least for now. That position will cease to be yours with the next generation.

You have been born into a privileged estate. You may never know anything different.

What makes me say you are privileged?

You were born into a family- whole and intact. A mom, a dad, and siblings who love each other and that love will surround you daily. And that family will teach you and care for your physical, emotional and spiritual needs. They will introduce you to the Author and Creator of the Universe, the High King of Heaven and His Son who gave up all He had for us.

Your grandparents (all of us) are praying people. That means we rely solely on the Lord God Almighty for our strength. We will pray for you. That is certain. We don’t know whether we will see you as a grown man with our earthly eyes- you are the youngest and only the Father knows the number of our days. But, we will pray while we have breath.

You have a Godly heritage. He is the center of our existence and we will all strive to show you Him every day in every encounter and when we fail utterly we will ask your forgiveness and point you to the One who never disappoints.

You have been born into what some say is the most affluent culture on earth. By accident of birth you have been born in America. Where you can practice your faith freely. Where you can state your opinion whenever and wherever you want.  Where you have the right to defend yourself. Where, if you are charged with breaking the law, you are considered innocent until proven guilty.  Where you can choose what you want to do with your life when you grow up. Where being a citizen is a right by birth and also a privilege and a responsibility. You can vote your choice here with impunity. No one will haul you off to jail if you support the losing party or make you a non-person because of your choice.         Yet.

There is history in your family, too. Of love and loss; of brokenness and healing; of orphans and veterans of wars; of country hicks and big city folk; of children who barely learned to tie their shoes as an adult and those who could solve a high algebraic equation in their heads; of dreamers and realists; of writers and doers; of educators and medical professionals;  of travelers and homebodies; of those who hold a college education and those who never got past the third grade; of step and half siblings; of marriages for life and multiple marriages in one life; of pious little old ladies and swearing sailors; of great cooks and let’s go out to eat grandmas; of Mr. fix-its and Mr. financial-whizzes; of crazy people and those who loved them; of patriots and protesters; of Tennesseans and Texans and Mississippians and Scottish and Irish and German and Scandinavian, too. So you see, what you will be is made up of all of this. I just don’t know how that will look in the little man I now see.

I was asked today how it felt to be a grandma again. I really couldn’t answer in a small sentence. That’s how this post came about.

I think it feels like this: I have been given the greatest opportunity that one can be given.

There are eight little souls who will be impacted by my presence in their lives.

I can be a positive influence or a negative one. I can be a Godly or a worldly representative. The choice is mine to make and this is the most important choice a grandparent could ever make. I choose to handle each soul with care and careful discipline.

I am a boundary maker and one who builds esteem. When you are small I will correct you when you are being willfully disobedient in my house. When you are older I will give you my opinion-it will not be my place to discipline you; and you may take or leave my words with a grain of salt but I will hope that you will value my words. I will see your strengths and weaknesses for what they are and I will encourage you to always do your best, to be honest and live with integrity. I want you respect others regardless of their sex or their standing in life. I will love you to my last breath and beyond regardless of your situation in life. We all make mistakes; no one is perfect. Life is meant to be lived – so live with joy even in the pain; live with hope even when there’s only darkness around you. And finally, in the words I live by:

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14

  Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault though you live in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe, as you hold out the word of life- in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in for nothing. Philippians 2:14-16

And finally:

 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:15-20

Always remember I love you,

Your Nana

Will it matter in 20 Years?

In the car this morning, with son and granddaughter, on the way to school, I had a sudden flashback when I heard the words coming from his mouth to her ears. Laughing and appalled at the same time. Laughing because it was coming from HIS mouth and appalled that I must have sounded just the same when giving him a talking to when he was that age. Oh, my goodness. Hysterically funny and tragic all in one breath.

We really don’t get how we sound when we are trying to be stern and make a point hit home to our children, do we?

He didn’t raise his voice but the deep, ‘I’m being serious’ daddy tone came out for just a few seconds. Her reaction was contrition but more than that, I could tell there were some feelings hurt there, too. It’s so hard for those happy go lucky kiddos who have a great deal of sensitivity to hear “the voice”.

We talked after she went into the school. After all, this is new territory for him, too. A first grader and a bouncing baby boy can make it tough. He’s hard on her in the ways I was hard on the first two. By the time he arrived on the scene I had mellowed.

I developed a gauge for myself over the years: Is this {issue, behavior, talk, association} going to matter to the person they become in 20 years?  Will it adversely affect their relationship to God, their character, their integrity, their ability to socialize with others, or their ability to be an upright human who can relate their love for Christ to those around them?

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about- this morning she had walked out with a note pad and pen that she had received at her birthday party last weekend. She knows the school rules- not to bring personal toys or items from home unless they are to be used in the learning process. Translation: don’t bring toys and stuff to school. It clutters up the place, causes friction when someone else wants it, and takes away valuable time from learning, not to mention the fact that if it gets lost, then the teacher has a new problem that must be addressed in the classroom.

So, no stuff from home. Not a new issue with her. She loves to show and tell and she loves to share. Bless her. But will it matter in 20 years? Maybe, maybe not. After all, sharing is a good thing, right? And show and tell was around in my day too! So, will it matter in 20 years? Bottom line is – yes.

Because this is not a new issue but one now, of disobedience. She knows the rules. She “forgets” the rules. She disobeys the rules. He’s trying to be a good daddy and teach her right from wrong, obedience and the importance of being honest. He had told her to leave it in her room for after school – more than once this morning.

It’s hard being a parent, seeing those traits in your children and trying to mold their hearts while teaching responsibility and accountability. It’s even harder, when you are trying to see them with Jesus’ eyes.

Spilt milk won’t matter in 20 years, but not making them clean up the mess- just might.

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck. Proverbs 1:8-9


 Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. When I was a boy in my father’s house, still tender, and an only child of my mother, he taught me and said,  ” Lay hold of my words with all your heart; Keep my commands and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom,and she will protect you; love her,  and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost you all you have, get understanding. Esteem her, and she will exalt you;   embrace her, and she will honor you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor.”

Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.

Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way. For they cannot sleep till they do evil; they are robbed of slumber till they make someone fall. They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.

The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.

My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body.

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. Proverbs 4


 

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:14-17