My eighth grandchild, Grace, recently came into the world. She’s beautiful. As I held this tiny little girl in my arms, I was keenly aware of how fragile she is. As the days, weeks and years pass she’ll get bigger and stronger as did her older brother and cousins. One day she’ll be able to take care of herself. Grace doesn’t realize it but many folks have already rallied around her to provide support. During the sleepless and exhausting first few weeks of life, her mom and dad have been blessed by encouraging messages, visits, meals, and gifts. There’s a team in place to watch over and enter in when there’s a need. I’m grateful for that. The truth is, no matter what our age, we’re all a bit like Grace. We human beings are a bit fragile, at times more so than others. We need a team around us. They become our safety net, locking arms and preventing us from falling or catching us when we do. They cheer us on to be our very best self. So, how are you doing? Do you need to build or add to your team? No time like the present to surround yourself with caring people who will help you and whom you can support as well.
The other day my husband and I stopped for lunch at a place we regularly frequent. My husband asked our server if she had any plans for 2019. She smiled and hesitated a moment, as if saying it out loud made it too real, or that she would be committing herself prematurely. She then responded by stating she was planning to run a half marathon in Canada in the fall. She had looked up the air fare and she thought she could save enough to swing it. She had enough time to train and it was something she always wanted to do. What she said next was interesting. She knew the race itself would probably be awful. She really didn’t like to run all that much but, “Everyone says that when you’re done the runners high is worth it!” She made us smile and I hope she gets to go. Dreams fulfilled often make for life-long memories.
New Year’s brings positive feelings. We think of new beginnings, of adventures, of things unexpected. It’s fun and exciting to ponder. The year will certainly bring some surprises but our server brought home an important point. Our choices have a lot to do with the outcomes we desire. There is great value in planning, preparing, and persevering. Some of that is not much fun and some of it no fun at all. But when we’ve passed the test, reached the goal, accomplished the task, the celebration is worth it all! This New Year, 2019, is certain to be different than we expect in many ways—every year is, but we have much to say in making each day count when it comes to fulfilling our dreams. Blessings to all for a wonderful year ahead!
I found myself drawn to watching the recent tributes for former President George H. W. Bush. I responded strongly to the salutes from those who served with him, many now in their twilight years, and the recounting of his own military service. I appreciated anew the recap of historical events under his leadership. Seeing the presidents and first ladies who followed him sitting front and center in the church and the powerful political figures and writers who spoke of his contributions, was impressive. The glowing admiration and deep affection from family members was tremendously moving and heartwarming.
If I had to say what touched me the most, though, it would have to be that President Bush seemed to know how to love well. In relationships he gave his whole self, was genuine, and down to earth. One person after another–whether friend, someone in the political arena, or family member, spoke of his loyalty, warmth, connectivity, humor, initiative, affirmation, forgiveness and grace. His letters, many handwritten and deeply intimate, illustrate these characteristics. The recipients had a sense that they were important to him, that they mattered in his life. It was mentioned that every one of his grandchildren believed they were his favorite. What an accomplishment, to convey to each impressionable young person that they were so special and greatly valued. When people disappointed him, President Bush had a pattern of forgiving and showing grace. He often reached out to affirm someone who had made an error in judgment, letting them know he was still there for him or her. Perhaps most challenging of all, he owned up to his mistakes and apologized when necessary. He truly seemed to operate from the perspective that he was here to serve, not just the country, but every person God brought his way.
President George H. W. Bush was a relational role model, something much needed in our current culture. Perhaps that is, in part, what held us captive to the numerous broadcasts. Too often loving, respecting, investing in, and putting others first is low on the hierarchy of what matters most in life. When I leave this earth, I hope those who knew me well will feel a loss—not because I did anything great, but because someone who loved them well would be away for just a while and be missed. Love is expensive, it costs us a lot, but the return on investment sure seems worth it, if what I watched this week is any indication.
My sister recently shared excerpts from letters written by our aunt. One, from 1981, was penned shortly after our father had passed away and as our birthday approached. She tenderly spoke of the sadness my sister might feel since daddy was gone. She commented on what a good daughter she had been and encouraged her to continue to move forward, enjoying her daughter and the little person that was on the way. In another note, my aunt talked about our mother, whom she still missed, some thirty years after her passing. She reflected on their growing up years and said from the time mom was a little girl, more than anything she just wanted to be a ‘mom’. She said our mother would be so proud of her girls; in essence, that we were a wonderful reflection of the love she had poured into us. I am touched when hearing these letters. During her life, our aunt was encouraging, affirming, and showed her love in many ways. What a wonderful blessing this continues as we re-read her beautiful letters and cards.
All of us, big and small, have opportunities to affirm one another, sometimes in ways that are very simple. I played a game of Go Fish with my granddaughter the other day. She would ask if I had any blue cards and when I gave them to her, she sweetly said “thank you” every time. I couldn’t help but smile. Her response sent a message—that she appreciated me. When I call my Boston crew, often one of my grandchildren will just yell out that they love me. You better believe I am smiling on the other end of the phone. I know they love me, but it warms my heart to hear it just the same.
Words of affirmation contribute to the quality of our lives and say much–that we are valuable and worthy of dignity and respect, just because we are, not because of anything we do. We won’t ever do it perfectly, but seeing others as bearers of God’s image, individuals to be valued, cherished, might help us use the right words – those that will bring about good and far less that have the potential to cause harm to another. “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18 (NIV)
I’ve had several unexpected and random conversations lately around the topics of death, dying and heaven. One began with my little granddaughter asking, “Do you have a mom?” I’m not sure where she thought I came from; I did confirm I had a mother and informed her that my mother was in heaven. This four-year-old proceeded to tell me she didn’t want to go to heaven because she would be dead and her eyes would be shut all the time. She was pleased to hear me share the good news. We are going to be alive in heaven and we will see all the people that are already there, like my mom. (She later told her mom, “Grammy told me we’re alive when we go to heaven,” setting the record straight.)
In a second conversation, experiencing the death of someone we love entered the discussion and we agreed among the most painful experiences in life. Separation doesn’t fit with how we’re made. In Ecclesiastes 3:11, where it is said that God “set eternity in the human heart,” touches on aspirations that go beyond this life and the material world.
These dialogues gave me, again, a sharp awareness of the value of relationships— meaningful and fulfilling in the hear-and-now, but of eternal significance. This past weekend I was blessed to spend a few days with my daughters on the New England coast. We were able to fully relax—especially needed for these moms with busy schedules and unending responsibilities. We ate great food, laughed a lot, played games, and talked about life. In a strange way, there was a sense of newness for me. My mom was gone before I was married or had children and I also never knew my grandparents. Subsequently, enjoying grandchildren and watching my girls be moms are extraordinary blessings for me.
Someday I’ll meet my grandmother and my mother will meet my children, and then their children, and so on. Our relational investments are worth every ounce of effort in the here and now, but how glorious that what awaits us on the other side is eternity—no more separation, the missing of those we love with our whole hearts. Can you imagine?
I have always had a passion for helping women grow into all that God has called us to be. Life is certainly an event-filled journey, interspersed with a multitude of ups and downs! Identifying a strategic life plan and overcoming obstacles that might hinder our steps, is what I believe lays the foundation for successfully moving forward throughout our entire lifespan.
To facilitate that effort, I would love to offer direction, insight, or share words of encouragement at your upcoming women’s retreat, conference, or gathering. Together I believe we can support one another toward personal growth that will also contribute in leaving a legacy for the next generation!
Please visit my website: amywildmanwhite.com, to learn more and consider ‘liking’ me on Facebook, following me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Thanks you for your support, I appreciate it!
My little granddaughter is a big girl this year. She started Pre-K. It’s an all-day, everyday affair, not just those few hours in the morning like when she was a kid. After the first day she told her mom and dad it was good, but she just “missed everyone way too much.” Yet, she returned in the days that followed and seemed to be doing well. Then it happened. It hit her one morning and as she stood in the hallway outside of her classroom about to say good-bye to her mom, a few tears rolled down her cheeks. Then came the deluge. Her mom comforted her and suggested she take a deep breath, which she did. She calmed down and then a repeat. Her emotions got the best of her. After several more deep breaths, her mom asked her if she was ready to go into her room and this little girl said she was, but first she had to wipe her tears off her face. Her shirt did the job and she turned, walked into her room, and sat down on the floor. She didn’t look back. What a big girl!
Like this precious little one, so many times in life we come face-to-face with a challenge that calls us to step out of our comfort zone. Ugh. It’s scary. We can’t do it. Who thought we could? This little 4 ½ year old was a star. She was in touch with and had the freedom to share her emotions (thank you wonderful daughter of mine), she was open to receiving the support she needed, and then she made a decision to courageously step forth to confront her fears. She’s got the recipe down pat! She doesn’t know it yet, but she’ll follow these steps many times over her life span, and that’s just fine with me. Feeling insecure, afraid, and maybe even alone, can sneak up on all of us from time to time. We just have to remember to let it all out with people we trust, hold a strong hand, take a deep breath, and make a decision to move forward! These experiences all contribute toward making us people of strong character and the folks that others turn to when they need to confront their own giants—suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope in a God that is worthy of our trust.
Watching the Olympians is more than entertaining. It’s awe-inspiring, nerve wracking, breath taking and more. The commitment and skill level of these athletes is almost inconceivable. There’s no question that each one is ‘all in’. That’s probably why we respond so strongly to their successes and failures. When they falter we feel their pain. Their tears, expressions of agony, awareness of disappointed parents, siblings, coaches and communities, are all too apparent. We also share in their victories, watching proudly when they stand on the podium to receive their medals. Winning is certainly more fun than losing, but the truth is that both are an equally important part of the journey. For these folks, and for the rest of us, what is difficult to see when in the midst of it all, is that an experience, even one of this magnitude, is only one chapter—an important one, but only one.
One evening in between events a gentleman by the name of Paul Norton “Pete” McCloskey Jr. was interviewed because he had fought in Korea where the Olympics are being held. Notable accomplishments of Pete: he graduated from Stanford with a law degree; served in the Korean War as a member of the United States Marine Corps. and was awarded the Navy Cross and the Silver Star; won the election to the House of Representatives in 1967, defeating Shirley Temple in the Republican primary; challenged President Richard Nixon in the 1972 Republican primaries; continually won re-election until 1982; in 1989 co-founded the Council for the National Interest; and has written two books. These are only some of the many chapters in Pete’s life, all of which—successes and failures—worked together to define and mold him into whom he would become and continue to be. Pete, now ninety, works everyday on his vineyard in California.
I think there is a lesson here for us all. While we often can’t help getting caught up in the moment, whether good or bad, that moment is not the sum total of who we are or who we will become. We are much more than a single victory or defeat and neither should ever totally define us. Perhaps keeping this perspective is the secret of a real champion, no matter what the wins and losses have been.
My daughter’s family was getting ready for newborn baby Will’s big trip out into the world, leaving the hospital for destination home. Will’s older brother, soon to be six, put his small hands on each side of the car seat and leaned close to the baby’s face. He said in a somewhat hushed tone, “Will, you’re going to have a great life.” Our hearts melt as we reflect on the love and care contained in these few words. We exhale a bit, believing this positive message just may indicate that our family has done a few thing right. Then we pray, because we so want this blessing to come to fruition.
We’re also realistic. We know that a great life for baby Will, his brother, sister, and cousins, does not mean have a perfect life. Henri Nouwen may have said it best, “Our life is a short time in expectation, a time in which sadness and joy kiss each other at every moment.” What we do confidently hope for, and will work fervently to achieve, is that Will and all of these dear children, will have people in their lives to love and support them; to celebrate with them in times of success; cry with them in times of sorrow; show up for them in times of need; and that whatever the number of their days, that they will learn, give, grow; that in this troubled world where all of us have struggled to find our way and make a difference, that they will too and not yield to all the things that could take them off track. Blessings to Will as Act One of his contribution to of all of eternity unfolds.
April 1st is notorious for practical jokes. This year I was grateful when my daughter called me and said “I decided to tell you what we were thinking of doing because I was afraid if I really did it you might have a heart attack.” We laughed as we thought about all the possible reactions I might have had. I thanked her for sparing me the emotional exhaustion that could have ensued had the practical joke been played out. Wouldn’t it be nice if we always had a head’s up on what was coming? I’d much rather talk about the what if’s rather than live them out. Most of us know what it feels like when we are blindsided by an unexpected hi t. Our world is turned upside down, the wind gets knocked out of us and what follows is often a long and arduous period of recovery. There are folks I know right now who are going through some of the most challenging experiences life has to offer. I wish I could just take them somewhere, anywhere but where they are, and make it all right. I ponder how long it will be before they are okay again, if ever. But here’s what I know. Just as I have been there and survived, most likely they will too. I also know they have a better chance if those who love them show up, help them, stand beside them, and catch them when they begin to fall. (None of us fare well if we try and go it alone). There is an overused expression these days, “lean in”. I think this does, however, aptly describe what we are called to do when someone we love is struggling, seemingly walking through a small corner of hell. They’re survival just may depend on whether or not we lean in and hold them tight. Investing in others can be uncomfortable and even costly. We may be tempted to stand back because we don’t know what to say, or because it may be emotionally draining, or we fear that our own world might be disturbed. We must resist the urge to hold back. Throughout history, God has used his people to help those who are suffering until they are able to return to the land of the living and once again invest in all he has called them to do. So, when we are given the privilege to be an agent of God’s healing hand, may we be willing to be a life line for someone who just might be drowning, to ‘lean in,’ in the most positive of ways.