A Kiss for Daddy

July 28, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Jane Thornton –

The gray, metal battleship dominated the harbor. In our childish terms, it was humongous. Five, three, and two, my brother, sister, and I gave Daddy’s leg one last hug while he shared a final kiss with Mom.

“We’ll keep in touch.” He hiked his bag over his uniform-clad shoulder and headed for the gangplank.

“I’ll write every day.” Mom held our hands and bit her lip to stop the tears.

In 1965, keeping in touch meant letters. Handwritten, international snail mail. No e-mail. No instant messaging. No Skype. Long weeks between contacts. But we did have some high tech options—tape recorders. We could send cassettes back and forth, and we could hear Daddy’s voice and he could hear ours.

Mom pulled out the compact black box and set the tape rolling. We told Daddy we loved him and shared our daily sagas. We played the piano for him. I’m sure my rendition of Chopsticks brought moisture to his eyes:

Bling, bling, bling, bling, bling, bling,
Blang, blang, blang, blang, blang, blang,
Blamp, blamp, blamp, blamp, blamp, blamp,
BUMP, bump bump, BUMP!

“We got a tape from Daddy!” Mark would holler when he brought in the mail. Our feet would thunder and rattle across the wooden floor of our grandparents’ house, and then we’d skid to a stop by the machine, staring at the plastic strips of the speaker, waiting to hear that deep voice tell us he loved us and missed us.

When the tape ended, Mom pulled out a fresh cassette and plunked it in. We answered Daddy’s questions, asked our own, told him about boo-boos, and played the piano again.

One day, we were riding to the grocery store. Mom drove, and all three kids slid around on the front bench seat. Two-year-old Nanny announced, “I am going to give my daddy a kiss.” With great drama, she leaned down and smacked her lips against the horizontal stripes of plastic that covered the air-conditioning vent.

Mama cried.

In Nan’s toddler mind, it made perfect sense that her father was a machine. When Daddy came home about a year later, she adjusted very well to a human man with arms to hug and lips to kiss. Over the years, the laughter over the story outweighed its poignancy, but the tale reminded us of the sacrifice on both sides—given freely for our country.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13 NIV).

Our soldiers not only risk their physical lives, but they give up so much of family life, and we take that for granted.

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them” (Hebrews 6:10 NIV). Let us not forget either.

Comment Prompt: Do you have a soldier story to share?

Burton Family Christmas in July

July 7, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Diane Mayfield –

The weekend after the Fourth of July, my brother, sister and I with our spouses, children and grandchildren held our first Burton Family Christmas in July. It was a blast.

Usually we all gather at my house on Christmas Day. Now that some of the cousins are married, Christmas gatherings are more complicated. Then we added two grandbabies and two more on the way. Getting together on the holidays blew up as the family expanded.

This is a family that grew up playing together. We enjoyed many beach vacations as well as Thanksgiving and Christmas. None of us wanted to lose connection and we all wanted to know the babies and the new spouses. So the idea of The Burton Family Christmas in July came to light.

I rented a house on Lake Travis with a pool and a boat dock for the adult siblings and spouses to stay in. That would be our home base. Dave and I currently lease a house not far from Lake Travis that would accommodate all the cousins. The two houses were only 10 minutes a part.

Dave and I went over earlier than the others were scheduled to arrive to check out the place. We discovered that our lake house with its boat dock sat on dry land. Due to the drought in Texas, the cove was dry. Oh, what a disappointment. The good news was that the marina where we dock our boat was only 5 minutes away. In fact, we drove the 6- passenger golf cart over there. The pool was great. There were even two grills under an outdoor cabana for the cooking of our steaks and vegetables on Saturday night. Four bedrooms and a large kitchen and living space easily would accommodate the sixteen of us.

Gary and Marilyn, my brother and sister-in-law, arrived a day early so we could enjoy the house all to ourselves for a time. Then we started to decorate. I stayed with the Fourth of July theme instead of Christmas. We put up 75 little flags in the flowerbeds lining the front of the house. The American flag and Texas flag flew in proper order on the pineapple finials at the front gate. Next, we decorated the six-passenger golf cart with cheesy red, white, and blue bling and made a sign for the back of it declaring the “The Burton Family Christmas machine.”

Friday afternoon, everyone began to arrive. The kitchen filled with food. The refrigerator overflowed with ingredients that promised to fill our stomachs to the max. The kitchen echoed with chatter. Coolers with drinks lined the back porch. It felt like a true Christmas holiday.

Some jumped in the pool. Others baked and created delicious offerings in the kitchen. Deck chairs were pulled together for conversation. We all delighted in just being together.

We did not exchange gifts.

Maybe for the first time, we got it right. We gave the gift of ourselves in conversation, in play and in working together to prepare meals. I think it was the best Burton Family Christmas ever.

Enough

June 29, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Jane Thornton –

Locker doors clanked shut. Occasional spurts of laughter rose above the hum and bustle of a hundred students shuffling along the hallway. My thirteen-year-old heart fluttered as my eyes tracked Victor’s passage.

Oblivious of my gaze, the lanky athlete swiped hair off his brow and grinned at a buddy’s comment.

Sigh.

Tearing my attention from his broad shoulders and silky locks, I turned to Susan and breathed, “Did you get it?”

She waved a scruffy red spiral under my nose. “Right here.”

Nerves aquiver, I fingered the cover of the slang book. AKA, slam book. Breath held for courage, I flipped to the first page—“Sign in.”

Susan traced her hand over the second column of names. “Here he is. Number sixteen.”
We scanned the pages. What is your favorite subject? P.E.

“No duh.” Susan rolled her eyes.

I smacked her arm playfully. “Be nice.”

What is your favorite color? Brown.

Well, yuck, but good to know. File for future reference.

What do you think of Brian L.? Best friend.

Knew that.

“Hurry. We have to get to class.” Susan flipped the pages faster.

Paper brushed paper and crackled at our speed. “There. Stop!”

What do you think of Jane Hines?

I skimmed over Susan’s: Smart, funny, best friend with a distracted quirk of my lips. “Thanks.”

I found it. Sprawled across the bottom corner: N.N. No nothing.

The world blurred. Susan’s reassurances faded away. Hope died.

Cold, hard fact. Not everyone likes us as much as we like them. And it hurts.

Of course, not everyone is as cruel as a junior high boy. Thank God. But even the gentlest rejections make our hearts ache. Unfortunately, people rarely tender rebuffs tenderly.

When I was a teenager, I took a teen counseling course. For a symbolic exercise, we each had an IALAC sign—I am lovable and capable—and as the session continued, various people tore pieces off our sign until we were left with a ragged scrap.

A school essay is returned with a failing grade. Snip.

After a woman has been talking ten minutes, her husband looks up from the TV, “What did you say?” Rip.

A man follows up on a job application. “Sorry, you don’t have the experience we’re looking for.” Tear.

A mother says to her daughter, “You’re going out wearing that?” Slash.

A guy leaves several messages, trying to hook up with an old friend. The calls are never returned. Shred.

Sometimes we can’t even get angry about being spurned. Can other people help it if they just don’t find us appealing? We spiral into discouragement.

Look to the answer Paul received from God, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:9a NIV). We often seem to take God’s love for granted, echoing our children, “You have to say that; you’re my mother.”

No, He is not required to say He loves us…but He does.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17b-19 NIV).

He doesn’t just love us; he delights in us (Psalm 18:19), and that is more than enough.

Comment prompt: What comforts you during times of rejection?

Things Change

June 20, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Lori Freeland –

Love you—the text read.

And I was doing better too. Hadn’t cried in over 22 hours. My eyes were just to the point of deswelling and the gigantic gaping ache in my heart slowed to a smaller, more tolerable throb.

Kyle’s text negated all that.

Not that I didn’t want to hear from him, because I did. But knowing he was so far away—an unhuggable, unreachable distance—made me want to wrap my arms around him even more.

Things change. Time grows our children. Life opens up new doors. I know this. I expected this. I even wanted this.

But still—change hurts. Even when it’s good.

Last weekend, my husband and I moved Kyle, my oldest child, to college. Four hours away. It’s what’s supposed to happen. I birthed him, I raised him, and I loved him—and now I let him go. It’s the clichéd natural order of things.

Only letting go is not that easy when you actually have to do it.

When you have someone in your life for eighteen years and you worry about him, pray and anguish over his relationships, his heart, and his health for 6570 days, 22 hours, 37 minutes, and 15 seconds, he’s kind of stuck to you. A part of you.

And that’s not easy to shake.

My role in Kyle’s life has changed. I know that. But it’s going to be a journey. At least for me. He’s having the time of his life and I’m glad.

I’ll let you know how it goes for me and what God teaches as I transition from hoverer to distant advisor.

Love you—I reread the text. Wiped away a tear. And straightened my shoulders.

Love you more—I texted back.

Some things won’t change and for that I’m grateful.

Have you ever have trouble letting someone go?

Safe Passage

June 11, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen –

A bead of sweat courses down my spine, making it easier to dive into the chilled river. I emerge eye-level with caddis, baetis, pondering the small shucks left adrift as wings are loosed, and they discover flight. Fish careen around me. My fingers reach down to grip a mossed rock, an anchor to hold me mid-drift. The current swirls and my son grins, telling tales of moms and mermaids. My children’s laughter rings on the water, my body is cooled in the rhythm of the river, and the weight in my mind is interrupted with peaceful praise.

There is a continuous stream of need to see God’s hand in and on my life circumstances. I was born inquisitive. I think there is an added measure of grace for those of us who grapple with the “why’s.” God’s arm rests round my shoulders, He beckons me to see the love behind the courses He has put in motion. Look back daughter, don’t you see? He calls my uncertainty to remembrance.

A fresh generation of Israelites stand on the cusp of their new land, their inheritance. A mixture of excitement and fear tightens their bellies. The hello of a new adventure and a farewell to the wilderness. Roaming and wandering for forty years, the cloud and the pillar were in plain sight. What will life be like when God chooses a less direct way of providing shelter and food? It will be Him causing the rain to fall and the crops to grow. Will they remember this? When the giants stand to their full height and the city walls loom impenetrable, will they know the only battle is obedience?

Moses stood at the end of life marked with meekness: quiet confidence. This was not a man who needed to be seen. He gave palace life up in exchange for sheep herding. Hebrews 11 tells us that he would rather suffer and identify himself as one of the Lord’s than enjoy sin for a season. He refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king” (Hebrews 11:27a KJV).

Moses obeyed. Moses chose well. Who better to declare confident praise at the crossroad? Remember who led you. Remember who fed you. Remember who fights for you. He will lead on. He will feed you. He will fight for you. Moses stood, his voice calling a new generation to their inheritance. Was the sky charged with angels awaiting God’s command? A promise made long before was on the verge of coming to pass. God is not slow, He does not forget.

Life is composed of a million moments. And in some, God will call you to remembrance. He will remind you where you have been, strengthening you for the journey ahead. Remember Him when you are ankle deep. Remember Him when you are mid-current. Remember Him when the river rushes at flood stage. Its course runs through His divine hand.

Next Page »