Nana Time and Time Outs

I know that all grandparents thinks their grandchildren are the sweetest, most clever and most fun children in existence, proving their undying devotion by carrying around photos (mostly on their cell phones these days), and making smart remarks like, “If I’d known how much fun grandchildren were going to be, I’d have skipped being a parent the first time and just gone straight to being a grandparent.”  I assume that means that it’s much easier to “love ’em and leave ’em,” or—when a grandchild pitches a fit or needs a diaper change, you can hand them off to their parents…enjoying all the benefits without any of the responsibilities.  I’d been enjoying the luxury of such easy relationships with my grandchildren until the day after Baby Marius was born. That night, Grace spiked a fever, and the next day Michael took her to the hospital, where she remained for three days. Because the baby wasn’t born at the hospital, Grace didn’t end up in the Ob/Gen unit, so in order for Marius to be with Grace, Michael had to stay at the hospital with them to care for the baby.  This left me actually responsible—HOME ALONE— with the four older grandchildren. I hadn’t been completely responsible for four youngsters since my first four were kids, which was 35 years ago. (Well, even if I think about the youngest four of my seven, that was still 27 years ago.)  Here they are:  Eowyn is an angel. If it hadn’t been for Eowyn, life would have been very trying! She’s only 10, but she’s a tireless helper, knows where everything is and how all the family routines go.  She would read to the smaller kids and has such a gentle, kind spirit. Eowyn used to write me almost every day, but she’s started writing more serious stories, so she passed the baton (cell phone) to Nycteris, who has become my Foreign Correspondent, sends me notes and pictures, and helps me feel like Michael’s family isn’t so far away…even though they are! (For instance, she recently gave me a walking tour of their new home in Belgium!) Nycteris is also an able helper and was especially good with Paladin when I wasn’t sure how to handle him.  Judah is very sensitive and sweet. He’s a builder/engineer type, plays peacefully by himself for hours if left to his own devices (as did his father), and takes a lot of abuse from his little brother with way more patience than I would have, had I ever been an older brother!  Paladin will be wonderful, I am sure, but at age three, he was not at all with the program. Having a new baby, losing both his mother and father to the hospital, inheriting a Nana whom he’s only met a few times, having the house in a bit of an uproar as they were packing to move, trying to survive 98°heat every day and about the same in humidity… It was a big challenge for all of us, but for Paladin, it was almost more than he could handle. So, instead of tucking under my wing and enjoying his doting Nana, he decided to act out by throwing rocks at his sibs or attempting to beat them with sticks…or whatever.  Now, if there’s one thing I hate, it’s having to discipline, but I was afraid he was actually going to hurt the kids, so when he’d fly into a fit, I’d grab him and hold him on my lap until he settled down. I would say (as cheerfully as possible), “You must need a Nana Time Out!”  At first he would struggle and try to bite me to get away, but thankfully, he was small enough that I could hold him on my lap and avoid his teeth. In a few minutes, he’d settle right down, and after a hug and a kiss, we’d be friends, and he’d be calm.  After about the third tantrum, he stopped picking fights with the kids, and we all got along very well the rest of our time until Mike and Grace returned with Baby Marius…all fine and well!  Whew! It was just great to have them back and relax into chief helper and side kick rather than needing to parent the kids. It reminded me again just how exhausting and challenging it is to be a parent. God bless all you parents out there! Thank you for hanging in there 24/7 to love and guide your children!  Also, it made me appreciate what a good parent my heavenly Father is, who also holds me in his mighty arms. When I was young, he often had to hold me tight when I’d pitch a fit, although more often nowadays, I just curl up on his lap for comfort!

“The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27)

Rise Up, My Love (188): When Your Beloved Leaves

Full Moon Seen through bramblesSong of Solomon 6:1 “Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? Whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee.” “Whither is thy beloved gone?” That is a logical question. If he means so much to you, you must know where he went. How could you have lost track of him completely? Has this ever happened before? Where does your husband usually go when he leaves? Have you ever lost track of your husband at night? One such experience stands out vividly in my memory. It was early into the beginning of my husband’s solo medical practice. He only had one support person, who served as secretary, receptionist, nurse, and accountant, and between the two of them, they had to do everything that there was to do at his office. So, Alan was left at night to do all the clean up and paper work, and his last duty was to drop off any money that came in at the bank’s night deposit box. I always felt a little uncomfortable with his stopping at the bank each night, fearing that someone might notice and try to rob him. One night Alan called to say that he had to go to a meeting at the hospital and would be late. That was not uncommon, so I was disappointed but not unduly worried until after I’d put our four young children to bed for the night and found it was 11:00 p.m. and he still wasn’t home. I called his office, but there was no response. I tried to page him at the hospital, but he didn’t respond there either. By 11:30 p.m. I was fearing the worst, but I couldn’t leave the children alone. Finally, near tears, I called our next-door neighbors, who were old enough to be our parents and had become good friends. The husband asked me all the right questions…has this ever happened before? No! Where does he usually go? We discussed Alan’s normal patterns, and then my neighbor took off in his car to try to track Alan down. I waited on pins and needles. My neighbor was gone for an hour but could find no trace of him. I was about ready to call the police when Alan showed up…just fine and wondering why I wasn’t sound asleep. As it turned out, he’d returned to the office to do paper work after the meeting at the hospital and then had been called back to the hospital for an emergency admission for one of his patients. He hadn’t called to tell me because he was afraid I’d already be asleep and didn’t want to wake me.

He had no idea of the anxiety he’d caused! Thankfully, that was the first and last time he stayed out into the middle of the night without calling to let me know what had happened! Solomon probably could not have guessed the anguish in his wife’s heart as she searched for him. She had been lazy and careless…so slow to answer that he’d left without ever knowing she was even going to bother to get up and let him in. Where would he go? How could she guess? Where would your husband go if you locked him out? Where would you go if your husband refused to let you in the house at night?

I shudder to think of the foolish rebellion and sin that many fall into because their spouses refuse to forgive and forget…to go the extra mile…to give and receive love even when there’s stress and tension in the relationship. Where would you go? Where should you go? There’s only one right answer, and that’s to the arms of Jesus, the lover of our souls. No matter how we long to run to the arms of another human being, we must learn to run first— always and only—to the arms of God.

We are first and foremost his children and his bride. In an ultimate sense, we belong to no other. No matter who fails us, or how they fail us, we have no right to run to the arms of some other sympathetic person, no matter how wonderful or how understanding that person might be. So many of life’s tragedies could be avoided if we human beings would learn to run to the right arms. “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee” (Deuteronomy 33:27). May we memorize that verse until it burns into our hearts. The next time sorrow rips through your soul like a jagged streak of lightning, visualize yourself running to the arms of Jesus, comforted and secure in his embrace.

What’s at the Bottom of an Empty Nest?


Empty Nest PartyYesterday we celebrated  Steve & Susan’s “Empty Nest” 30th anniversary party. DSC02038 Their 3 daughters sponsored it, one of whom is expecting what will be S+S’s first grandchild next spring! (I took this picture at D+B’s Halloween party, but isn’t it cute? B+S are just preparing to start filling their nest!) Empty Nest 2 Susan’s father is Fred, whom I visited just one week ago and was looking forward to seeing again today, although he had a stroke over the weekend and is occupied having a bunch of procedures done in the hospital.  😦 DSC02250 Still, the party was a very happy occasion highlighted by a hymn sing ’round the piano. Daughter Sarah played, & even Steve’s dad sang along! DSC02260Lest they feel too disconsolate about having an empty nest, Empty Nest...Not until... someone gave them this little plaque.  DSC02257At this point, we 3 “Birthday Clubbers” and spouses are all empty nesters. DSC02255To keep up our spirits, Susan, Cindi, and I have already planned a prayer time together tomorrow! 🙂 IMG_2329 BUT, all the changes this fall have really made me do some soul searching. What is the real problem with having an empty nest? Robin on NestBuilding a nest and rearing a brood is instinctive in birds & most beings.NestBut, why does an empty nest seem like such a sad thing?Empty NestI think just this: There’s nothing at the bottom! 😦IMG_2324But, what’s so terrible about that? IMG_2325I knew by the time I was 50 that I lacked the energy to raise more kids. IMG_2308So, it’s not really the activity that older folks miss, it’s the intimacy! DSCN0368Last weekend we visited Kathy’s family, and I realized that what I (and empty nesters generally) miss is the constant, intimate, day-in-day-out love relationship with a child who wants to be on your lap all the time! DSC02296On my walk this morning, I was especially intent on finding empty nests. Empty NestWith the leaves gone, it was easy to spot dozens in the tree tops, Empty Nest near groundand a couple that were just inches off the ground, hidden in bushes. Baltimore Oriole NestSad as it was to contemplate the end of seasons, the passing of time, and the loss of intimacy that comes with empty nests… IMG_2321 I found something that made me even sadder: A nest that was not empty as it should have been. Squirrel on nestOne of the squirrels’ nests was occupied by either a dead or very disconsolate, sickly squirrel with his scraggly tail drooped over the edge. Squirrel in treeThis, my friends, is not the way squirrels should be! Squirrel with Nut copySquirrels should be chipper and busy gathering nuts in the fall. So should we! Empty Nest. CrossRoads ProjectIn Boston, I was very taken by a mother-daughter “empty nest” project, where they made “empty nests” from material fashioned out of the 3 kids’ outgrown clothing. Empty Nests in treeIn order to avoid emotionally flopping out like a disconsolate squirrel, let’s keep busy with good projects, shall we? But, there’s something even more important.IMG_2349Not only is it important to maintain and nurture intimacy with our children (and our parents), I’m convinced the empty nest is intended to push us in the direction of seeking the eternally enduring intimacy that can only be found in unity with God the Father, who is the best and dearest of all fathers, and his Son, Jesus Christ, who loves us so much that he gave his life to provide forgiveness for our sins and reconcile us to his Father forever. Intimacy with God can been found right at the bottom of our empty nest, if we’re only willing to embrace it!November. Empty Nest“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27)

“Who can cheer the heart like Jesus
By His presence all divine
True and tender, pure and precious
O, how blest to call Him mine

(Chorus): “All that thrills my soul is Jesus
He is more than life to me
And the fairest of ten thousand
In my blessed Lord I see

“Every need His hand supplying
Every good in Him I see
On His strength divine relying
He is all in all to me

“Love of Christ so freely given
Grace of God beyond degree
Mercy higher than the heavens
Deeper than the deepest sea

“What a wonderful redemption
Never can a mortal know
Ho my sin, though red like crimson
Can be whiter than the snow

“By the crystal flowing river
With the ransomed I will sing.
And forever and forever
Praise and glorify the King.”
(Composer: Thoro Harris, 1975-1955)