By Diane Mayfield –
I’m constantly learning new spiritual lessons from my grandchildren. I don’t know why I’m amazed, except that I thought I’d learned all I could learn from my own children. Grandchildren either remind me of truth I’d forgotten, or I’m just now learning. Either way, I’m in awe.
My daughter just had her first child, a baby girl, so I have a newborn in my family. When newborns come into your family, they are beautiful in all their tininess and baldness. Their noses are often too big for their faces, and they are often all scrunched up like old men. Others often don’t see the beauty that you do. I’m sure my precious new granddaughter looks the same to an outsider but not to me.
Her tiny hands and toes are a marvel to me. I get lost in her big, deep-blue eyes, and that “too big nose” reminds me of my daughter’s nose when she was a newborn. Of course, it’s gorgeous to me. I love the way she moves her hands and legs with no real intention. Her communication skills are limited to wailing at the top of her tiny lungs at times, but I’m so grateful she makes her voice heard. I really could simply stare at her for hours.
When I hold her, I think of another newborn. The One who was The Word that “…became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14 NIV.)” When He was born, He, too, was totally dependent, like my granddaughter, except He was also God. He allowed mere mortals and sinners to nurture, feed and clothe Him. He cried for his every need. His bodily functions were just like every other tiny, dependent human being. He could not even hold His head up without the help of others.
I look into the face of my newborn granddaughter and I try to imagine what it was like for Mary to hold and care for the Son of God. I cannot really imagine what she felt or whom she was seeing in her totally dependent son. It had to be a little hard for her. What she saw and experienced just didn’t match up, and yet it was true and she knew it.
Wow, there are so many lessons for me from this tiny person. First of all, I am humbled that my God became like this newborn babe for me and for you, just to grow up and give His life that you and I might live with Him for all eternity. That truth never ceases to amaze me. Then, to think of Mary holding a totally dependent, little baby that she knew was God, and yet dependent on her reminds me that what I’m experiencing at times is not the total story. Truth is in the Word, what God says is true. What I see or feel does not tell it all. It has to be consistent with God’s Word and His higher and greater purposes. I often don’t see that until years later.
I’m so grateful for this precious new life in my family. I’m grateful for all three of my grandchildren. Not only for the joy and delight they bring to me but also for the spiritual truths that their existence reinforces for me once again. They truly are the richest of blessings.
By Diane Mayfield –
I just returned from a fabulous trip to Maui, Hawaii, with my husband Dave. We had not been back there for thirty-seven years. This trip was our honeymoon do-over. It was definitely better than the first one.
Thirty-seven years ago Dave and I landed in Honolulu, Hawaii, with no reservations for a two-week Hawaiian adventure. Dave’s uncle had encouraged traveling without reservations saying that you didn’t really need them. That idea was quickly crushed when we landed at the airport and had no clue where to go from there. We drove in our rental car to a Burger Hut for lunch and began to look up hotels in the phone book of a pay phone. Does anyone remember those?
We found a hotel on the beach with a vacancy. When we arrived, however, the bellman proceeded to take us to a room with twin beds. My young husband didn’t care about the twin beds; he was just ready to be in a room. This new bride had more romantic ideas, so I said, “no, I want one bed, please.” That was the beginning of our Hawaiian adventure. After that, we did meet with the hotel concierge and planned out our next two weeks in the islands. We lugged four big bags and golf clubs on small planes to three other islands before heading home.
We only knew each other for three months before we were engaged and then three months later we married. Communication was not down to a science yet. In fact, Dave was sure he’d made a mistake when we had our first conflict ever. He was out hitting golf balls early in the morning when this still starry-eyed young bride woke up to snuggle. When he returned to the room, he did not understand why I was upset. Reality set in.
Thirty-seven years later I am happy to report that we have really learned some things. I’m not sure communication is a science, yet, but we do know how to do it with authenticity and love. This trip no golf clubs were taken. I really wanted him to take them, though. For him, they were part of the wrong focus on a honeymoon. We stayed on one island, the beautiful island of Maui, where we had reservations way in advance.
Most importantly this time, our focus was on being with each other, apart and together. We gave each other freedom to enjoy our different interests. I took power walks while Dave read on the porch. I shopped, and he paid for it. We had leisurely breakfasts at the ocean-side restaurant, sat on the beach and waited for the whales to jump, shared what we were each reading and enjoyed each evening’s sunset. He indulged me in a luau that after the third course of a five -course dinner with the masses, we both decided we had enough and left. Back in our room, we each dived into a Hagan Daz ice cream bar, one of our favorite beach treats.
As we reflected on our past years together, we both recognized that we had grown spiritually, emotionally and psychologically. That to us is a testimony to the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives and our relationship. Without Him, we could not have made it.
So, the Honeymoon Do-Over was quite a success. We came home refreshed (except for the jet lag upon landing) and looking forward to more years together or, at least, more trips to Maui for honeymoon do-overs.
By Diane Mayfield –
Clear blue ocean water, the melodious sound of the waves gently rolling onto the shoreline, the sun’s rays dancing across the water and orange and pink sunsets filled my life last week. I took a girls’ trip to North Captiva Island with my daughters and daughter-in-law. We try to make this trip every other year if possible. Between weddings and babies, that is no small task. Our destination of choice seems to always be the beach.
I treasure this time together. We read our books while sunning on the porch. We eat seafood, French Fries, and ice cream. We take walks on the beach, talking about dreams, plans, children and memories. There is plenty of teasing Mom about her Mom ways— from being a bit technically challenged to a little OCD in the kitchen. At sunset, we all gather on the porch to bid farewell to the sun and see what glorious colors God gives to us to delight our soul. For a brief moment, it truly is heaven on earth.
One of our favorite past times this trip was to watch Downton Abbey. Two of the girls had not started the Downton craze, and they were eager to join the movement. My challenge was to not give anything away, which was quite difficult since I ooh and aw through most movies anyway.
I love Downton Abbey. I could watch it continually. I guess one could say it is “play” to me. I never want it to end. I love the historical time, the romantic culture, the glamour, and the upstairs-downstairs characters-all that makes up Downton.
If you are not familiar with the story, this English aristocratic family owns Downton Abbey. It is a castle estate with much land that the villagers support by farming. Part of the story centers around saving Downton. In fact, personal choices of marriage are based on saving this gorgeous estate and the way of life that goes with it. Saving Downton seems to be the glue that keeps the family together.
That gives me pause. The family lives for the estate. Two of the sisters don’t even like each other but they are bound by Downton, a structure. Magnificent as it is, it is just a building. They are all bound together for this cause, as if the people inside the house are second to the house itself.
To me, family is more that the house we grow up in. Family is more than a building or its land. It is the site of memories and relationships, but it’s not the family. Family is heart connection, where we are bound beyond the obvious physical link by something spiritual and intangible. Living people made in the image of the one true God make up a family. A house, even one as majestic as Downton, provides shelter for the family. It’s the connection between the inhabitants that really matter, that will really last for all eternity.
What’s funny is that I long for a house that brings my family together since we all live in different cities. I realized, though, that a house, even one as magnificent as Downton, is not what brings people together. It’s the relationships of love, caring and support that matter. It’s playing, laughing and even crying together that create bonds that bind us. I’m grateful to have a family that wants to come together even when there is no Downton to draw us.
By Diane Mayfield –
Growing up in my family, I was not allowed to express myself, especially if my views differed from the rest of the family. If I challenged the establishment’s perspective, I was properly put in my place. Disagreeing definitely upset the apple cart. For that I would feel like a bad little girl. When a child is not allowed to express himself or herself, or is shamed when he or she does, a part of his soul is damaged.
Last weekend I experienced some healing.
I was at a weekend retreat with men and women that I dearly love. Sitting around the fire, the discussion turned to a controversial subject in Christian circles. The details of the conversation do not matter. What matters is that I stirred the pot. I expressed an unpopular perspective in the group. It was uncomfortable for all.
For a woman who has worked hard most of her young life to be popular and accepted, I was committing Christian social suicide. I didn’t plan it. It just came out of my mouth. I didn’t agree. I had a different perspective. It felt wrong to go along with the group.
I know for some, what seemed like conflict was very scary. For me, it was an honest discussion of differences. The evening ended with hugs and professions of love, but my concern was the aftermath. I wondered what the morning would bring. That was the real test.
I woke aware of the “bad little girl” image knocking on my door. I chose to not let her in the room. Instead I embraced the truth of who God says I am. I am enough. I am a princess. I have a redeemed heart and I wear a robe of righteousness. There is no condemnation in Him. Those were the truths I embraced as I sent the bad little girl out of the room.
The real test was at breakfast. How would I be treated? Would it be awkward? Would the discomfort of others be evidenced by the strain on their faces? Those moments open the door again to the presence of that little girl. But, praise God, the atmosphere was one of love and acceptance. We debriefed the conversation from the night before. Some expressed what they had learned about themselves. One of the men told me he appreciated that I stayed in the conversation and did not walk away.
I stirred the pot. I expressed an unpopular perspective like I had done many times before in my family of origin. This time, my Christian family helped send the bad little girl away by responding with love and acceptance.
I would never have tasted such sweetness if I had not risked being authentic and unpopular. I put aside my fear and offered who I really am. In return, I received the blessing of unconditional love.
By Diane Mayfield –
The woman I knew as my mother is slowly slipping away. Alzheimer’s disease claims her mind. She no longer answers her phone. She either doesn’t hear it or doesn’t know what it is. She’s unaware of the day, the year or the season. She can’t work her air conditioning unit in her room. Recently she has given up putting on eye make up and she never remembers her hair appointments. She wears the same clothes every day, not really seeing all the others in her closet. These aren’t really the important issues but they are telling of the changes in her.
She doesn’t know her grandchildren. She confuses me with my sister. Lately she thinks my brother is her husband, my dad who has been dead for 20 years. She lives in the past, thinking she is 45, instead of 86. When I walk outside with her, she asks, “Where is my car?” Then we begin the loop discussion about her car. She hasn’t had one for five years, but she can’t remember that.
It’s all so very sad but only for me and my brother and sister, really. It’s not sad for my mom. She doesn’t know that she’s forgotten. Her reality is just what it is, the world as she knows today.
Gone are the shopping days, sharing of holidays at the family gatherings and talking about the grandchildren and what they are doing. She cannot engage in conversation. Oh, at times, I can direct her attention to the changing color of the leaves or the children getting out of school. But then we go back to the same conversation loop about her car that no longer exists. There is no communication, no engaging in life together, no connecting. And yet, she is still the woman who gave birth to me. She is still my mother.
What am I to learn from this sad reality in my relationship with my mother? To live without communication is empty. It sucks the life out of me. This is a slow death with my mom and I am helpless to change it.
However, there is a parental relationship that I can do something about. It’s my bond with my Heavenly Father. That relationship never has to die. His salvation brings me into a connection with Him. He becomes my Father for all eternity. Nothing can change that. But to stop there with no communication, no conversation with Him, no connecting in prayer would be like death, though I live. I have the assurance of eternity, but that’s not enough for me. I have to have more. I have to be in communion with Him.
Once again I’ve learned a valuable lesson from my mother. Not one she would have liked to teach me if she had a choice. In the absence of real communion with my mother, I’ve seen the immeasurable value in constant communing with my Lord. I never want to lose that. I don’t want to experience a slow death there.
In this New Year, I’m clinging to the gift of prayer that makes it possible for me to have constant interaction with my Father. My goal for the New Year is to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NIV), receiving the gift of constant communion with my Lord.