Wedding Thoughts for Our Son and Daughter-in-Law

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 In honor of our son and daughter-in-law’s marriage (the wedding was July 21 in Vancouver) I wrote a poem based on their creative relationship that has developed over the years.
For Christopher and Catherine:

Perhaps if we could, we might hear your silent vows to each other…

Your laughter floats above the music of my soul, like a twirling current shaping a sandy shore,

One by one our notes appear, discovering the melody, understanding the harmony, measure by measure composing our love.

Your curiosity intensifies the depth of my dreams, like a rushing wind lifting the morning mist.

One by one our voices blend, discovering the melody, understanding the harmony, measure by measure composing our love.

Your devotion dances with the rhythm of my spirit, like a sparkling meteor streaking through the sky.

Rising in crescendo volume, our solos merge, forging a new harmony, measure by measure composing our love,

Our passion inspires the path of our future, like a soaring eagle swooping towards the precipice.

Our chorus encompasses us, combining our melody, intermingling our harmony, measure by measure composing our life.

Our promises glide freely and willingly to each other, like rippling circles reaching to a sheltered bank.

Hand in hand we will create our arrangement, within our harmony, measure by measure composing our life.

Our future beckons, revealing our possibilities, like a sunrise shimmering beyond the horizon.

Together, composing, creating treasures for a lifetime, measure by measure our marriage begins.

With love,

Mom

Wearing the White Gloves

 I remember smoothing the wrinkles in my white gloves every Memorial Day as I put the finishing touches on my uniform.  Through the years as a Brownie and then as a Girl Scout I dressed to participate in the annual Memorial Day parade.  It began early in the morning with a special ceremony on one of the borough’s cemeteries.  There with tiny flags flapping over Veteran graves we solemnly lined up in our respective groups to march through the streets.  The Macungie Band performed patriotic numbers keeping everyone in step throughout the duration of the small spectacle.  In truth it didn’t last long, in a small town that measures a mile long and wide depending on how one views the boundaries.

The route took the marchers down Main Street providing a grand view of the borough from the top of the hill to the train tracks at the bottom. It wasn’t until later that I heard the story of how my Dad had surprised his Mother with his soldier’s homecoming by walking up the sidewalks of that very street while she was busily sweeping her broom across the front porch.  He had finished his tour of duty in Japan at the end of World War II, and decided to come home as quickly as he could without giving notice to his family.  Nana didn’t expect it, but she was swept up in celebration that day!

I’m certain many other soldiers have walked upon that hill on their way to catch the train to report to duty, or on the path to a happy homecoming. Footsteps of servicemen and women echoing up and down Main Street from many years of dedication and sacrifice by veterans of various wars.

As the parade wandered through the streets of Macungie, citizens would tag along at its end, making their way toward the final destination in the Memorial Park.  Many years ago a farmer donated some fields to honor those who gave their lives so that he might live in a free country. Later a monument with an accompanying flagpole was erected to stand as a continual reminder that family members who grew up and lived in Macungie courageously died in service to the United States of America.

For those who wished to gather in the park, the parade morning always ended with a service in the band shell area.

Not until the last stanzas of hymns held aloft the thoughts and prayers of many, not until the last group of servicemen stood in a group to a round of respectful applause, not until the last sounds of taps rose hauntingly through the shady trees lining the picnic areas of the park, not until we turned and walked away from the time of remembering…

Only then, did I remove my white gloves and enjoy the freedom of running through a park on my way home.

Today I join with my fellow Americans and humbly salute all those who have and those who continue to serve the United States of America.

Safe Crossing

The car had barely picked up speed as it left the school zone when its driver had to yield the right-of-way.  A young mother claimed the road crossing the street with her little ones scurrying behind her.

She stopped abruptly, her instincts sharp, her reactions primed.  The little ones bumped into themselves frantically looking to their mother.  She stepped backward assessing the situation, looking towards her destination then immediately to her little ones. She swivelled her hips, and side-stepped around the little ones.  Oblivious to the pending danger, the little ones ran in a circle bumping into each other again in their unsteadiness.  Then she seemed to gather her focus.  She pulled herself up to a commanding height and turned towards her original destination.  Like the lead dancer fixing a point on the stage, she led her little ones in a confident, decisive exit from the road.  The little ones hurried behind sensing the urgency of her actions.

At the same time the driver in the car ended his impromptu direction to the scene.  He had been motioning to the young mother, encouraging her with silent and friendly gestures while his face changed from pulling his brows together in concern to pulling his smile upwards in joy.

In the course of the crossing another car had stopped in the opposing lane of traffic.  That driver too had watched the young  mother and her little ones.  At the end of the crossing, both drivers looked towards each other, smiled and nodded.

The mother goose and her goslings scurried into the farmer’s field on the other side of the road. Like an audience that hopes for an encore, the drivers reluctantly began to leave.  They had witnessed one of life’s most priceless dances, a mother shepherding her children to safety.

What if the mother goose hadn’t followed her instincts to lead with confidence?  Her goslings might have bumped into each other and scurried away in different directions, lacking the necessary protection and guidance to survive.  They wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn to fly and become the goose they were meant to be.

Lord as Mother’s Day approaches, I pray in unison with mothers everywhere:

“Lord when the moments challenge us and we need to rise up in a confident, commanding manner give us the courage to guide our children as needed.   Lord, in the challenging moments we pray the prayer of David in Psalm 25:4-5 when he said, ‘Show me your ways, O lord, teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.’

As mothers we pray that we may show Your ways to our children.  Help us to fix a point in our minds and our hearts so that at whatever stage, at whatever point, we are guiding our children with confidence and helping them to continually find their safe crossings.

Praying Through the Mist

This morning a goose landed in our backyard as a lone seeker of refuge.  As the fog settled around him I watched him wander aimlessly behind the dogwood bushes bordering the area designated as the “prospective pond. “ Perhaps he tried to navigate towards the small wetland abode that lies just beyond the cul-de-sac, but unfortunately was thrown off course by the obscuring ground cover.

As I watch, he stops momentarily, allowing the fog to enclose his feet; his feathers ruffle slightly as if he is trying to identify the swirling mist.  He’s listening, allowing the hazy dampness to encircle him.  He waits, perhaps searching for a sense of an uplifting current that would help him arise and be airborne amidst the clouds.

The grayness above merges with the paler layers lurking on the ground.  I try to wipe the window to see the goose more clearly, only smearing a smudge on the glass, not clearing my vision.  When I look again, he’s gone.  Hopefully he discovered a way to rise up and find guidance for his flight.  Maybe he realized he had landed too soon to a place promising a welcome habitat.  Maybe the dampness encouraged him to seek an airstream that would lift him to a higher vantage point.

Following his brief visit I open the book on prayer I am currently reading, The Only Necessary Thing by Henri J. M. Nouwen.  He states, “The discipline of the heart…makes us aware that praying is not only listening to but also listening with.  We stand in the presence of God… with all we have and are: our fears and anxieties, our guilt and shame…our joys, hopes, dreams…in short, all that makes us who we are.  With all this we have to listen to God’s voice and allow God to speak to us in every corner of our being. “

Sometimes when I pray I feel like I have landed in a patch of swirling fog, admitting my mistakes, but still hoping to find the promises I am seeking.  I’m trying to acknowledge the greatness of all God does, while still justifying my prayer requests.  Sometimes I come wanting future plans to be revealed within my timeline, reluctant to wait for God’s designs.

Lord let me be more like a goose grounded in the murkiness of a morning fog, awaiting the right timing to take flight again.  Let me listen to you with all I am. Help me to reposition myself so that I am ready to hear and to find the place where you want me to be.  Lord let me listen like a goose ruffling its feathers sensing the uplift of a low-lying cloud’s hidden current.  Lord may your spirit flow to every corner of my being as I trust in your guidance and love.

I begin to pray, letting myself settle into the presence of God, knowing that He will be with me as I rise through the mist.

Bunny Breakfast Surprise!

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The bunny hops across the downspout over the matted brown grass, landing partially in a persistent patch of snow reluctantly giving up its presence on this early spring morning.


He places his hind legs and tail in the caramel colored camouflage of strewn leaves lost amongst last year’s dead grass.  Leaning into the snow, his nose pokes beneath to scout out a likely spot to forage for food. White fur tufts peek out from beneath his grey-brown coat, tangling their snowy likeness in their struggle to continue their cloaking capability.  The warm weather prior to this last snowfall ushered in the uncovered landscape that prompted the bunny’s changing outer cover, but now he is caught between the two seasons having already tucked away his winter garb.

The bunny peruses and pauses to determine the possible merits of staying in place on the refreshing mound of snow or bounding over towards the trees where his body could blend into the bark mulch, barely noticeable to the next backyard visitor.

Oh darn, he senses my movement through the kitchen window.  Alerted, his ears at attention, he instinctively hops under a spruce tree becoming completely sheltered, covered over by the bending boughs.  I refill my coffee cup, grab my camera and breath gently as if my calming presence could resonate within him, while he huddles and reassesses his next move.

As I watch and wait, I’m not entirely certain that he is still there, the low-hanging branches obscure my view.  Then a twitching nose stretches out to sift through the silence for any immediate danger.

“It’s okay, the yard is safe,” I think as if I could master a mind message to a bunny!

He looks up, seemingly to lock eyes with mine, suddenly seizing the moment to hop forward, flopping his feet firmly over the remnants of snow to a circular, protected area under the lilacs.  I’m certain he sends me a grateful acknowledgement before he bends over to snuffle and sort through the dirt.  He’s found a feast of seeds that only yesterday were scarfed and scattered by the hungry magpies.  I recall pounding on the window in an attempt to make them flee from the bird feeder hanging on the branches.

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At the time I had wanted to shoo them away so the chick-a-dees could enjoy a treat.  Little did I realize then that their magpie chaos would create a delightful bunny breakfast surprise this morning in my backyard.

Next Time?

“Oh, maybe next time,” I say to Dusty, “Here you go, catch it!”

Having missed his target, he anticipates my throw, and runs ahead of the foam disk, eager to jump up and snag it in the middle of a flying leap.  Unfortunately the direction I toss it in doesn’t always match his head start in this race.  Sometimes he’s half-way to the lilac bushes when in fact my forward fling has gone slightly askew, and he is forced to search for his favoured find beyond the fire pit.

Shortly, the resulting hoped for moment occurs, and voila, Dusty captures his prize.  Disk in mouth, he waits for me to venture close to him, but just as I draw near he mischievously runs in another direction.  Eventually he tires, drops the coveted slimy circle and rolls over for a belly rub.  I realize Dusty’s definition of “next time,” means he has happily conceded to a bit of loving after a good run with his floppy toy.

“Oh, maybe next time.”

That nagging word, “next” bothered me when I was growing up.  As the younger of two sisters, 15 months apart, “next” became a worn out refrain.

“Maybe next year you will be tall enough to go on the roller coaster.”
“Maybe next year you can take piano lessons.”
“Maybe next year your hair will be longer to braid in pigtails.”

Why “next” always dragged along that qualifying maybe, I don’t know.  It bothered me for many years and became a haunting phrase in my vocabulary.

So when it happened that my two sons were born 15 months apart, I paid attention to how often I used “next time” or “maybe next year” or “just wait, next time you’ll be able to do it,” especially when addressing my younger son.

However, the Easter when Don and Chris were only two and three, a simple revelation changed my entire perception.  The three of us were sitting at the kitchen table waiting for a few hard-boiled eggs to cool before painting them. I began to read a story about the week Jesus experienced leading up to his resurrection.  My tone of voice and sadness as I explained the crucifixion moved each of them to crawl into my lap as I continued with the unfolding events.

After a bit of pushing and shoving they settled down, looking at the pictures as I read.  Finally we reached the part where the stone had been rolled away from Jesus’ tomb.  I paused so they could see the huge hole in the side of the rock.

“He’s not there.  What do you think happened to Jesus?”  I asked.

At this point, little Chris had stood up on my legs in an effort to hug me tighter around my neck.  From his new vantage point he spied something that his brother had yet to see.  I had my finger tucked into the book, waiting to flip forward for the finale, creating a gap that gave Chris a sneak preview.

All of a sudden Christopher’s face lit up and he pointed.  I barely had a chance to ask again,

“Where do you think Jesus is?”

Chris happily shouted,  “He’s on the next page.”

From then on, I looked forward to thinking about the “maybe next times” or the “next year whens” or the “it will be your turn next.”  I didn’t dwell on the frustrating way that “next” sometimes sounded like a  call to doom as when the nurse holds up the vaccination needle loudly honing in on her “next” patient.  Instead, it became this glorious word that represented hope, and opportunity. I would picture Jesus, hear Christopher’s excited shout, and hold that thought close to my heart, “He’s on the next page.”

Yes, “next” is a simple word I say over and over again throughout my day, one that has a beautiful meaning for me.  I challenge you: how often do you qualify your moments with a “next time,” or “maybe next week,” “next month,” “next year?”  I often say the phrase, “Oh maybe next time,” since it comes forth from habit, from many memories over many years.  But it no longer pulls me backwards with frustration; I let it brighten my outlook as if it always holds a brand new discovery.

This morning Dusty reminded me to be constantly ready for my “next times” whether I’ve got a head start or I need to change my direction.  He showed me how easy it is to admit when I’ve dashed off on a crazy chase, and how wonderful it feels to submit to some reassuring love.

So as Easter enters into another year, I wanted to share my prayers by simply tossing “the next page idea” to all of you.

Dusty and I look forward to continuing our walk with you, page by page.

Moments Like Mary’s

As a mother of sons I awoke early on this day before Good Friday, my thoughts turning to the heart wrenching time of Mary’s moments, a mother near the cross at her son’s crucifixion.

I know what it feels like to share a moment of silent communication between my sons; a moment when only our eyes meet and we know the messages of our hearts.  I sense that Mary’s final moments with Jesus captured a poignant give and take when all they could convey centered on a look between them.  Her devotion and love to her son, His steadfast promises to provide support for her.  She stayed near him, she gave him all she could, a mother’s loving presence imparted in a shared, accepted look.

As I open my Bible to John 19:26-27 I read,

“When Jesus saw his mother there and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, Dear woman, here is your son, and to the disciple, Here is your mother From that time on this disciple took her into his home. “

As he faces death, Jesus demonstrates his compassion to his mother, Mary.  He boldly brings her comfort and protection in her earthly home by securing her future with his disciple, John.

What were Mary’s moments then?

Did she experience flashbacks of her son’s childhood as she cared for him…a wobbling toddler reaching with outstretched arms for her, a racing child running and laughing with his brothers, a serious student seeking knowledge with confidence, a gentle healer bringing solace to the suffering, a teacher daring to challenge the leaders of his time.

What were Mary’s moments then?

I think of the good-byes I have said to my sons.  We usually have a chance to give each other a reaffirming hug ending with a simple “love you, see you later.”  Our emotions tangle our tongues leaving us with one parting pause as we nod towards each other.  I cannot begin to understand how I would say good-bye to one of my sons as he dies before me.  I cannot compare my simple good-byes to Mary’s profound powerful moments.

Did Mary uphold his presence in the final moments breathing deeply to steady her shaking spirit?  Did she hold his gaze in a reassuring rapport that spoke silent words, “my son, I love you; my Lord thank you, I pledge my life to serve others in your name.”

Tomorrow is Good Friday. My prayers pull my viewpoint to a hill outside Jerusalem, where Jesus hangs on a cross dying.  Near the cross I see Mary, her face raised up to see her son.

Mary’s moments… a focused presence, at the foot of the cross.

May I strive to model my faith and trust in like-fashion.

May I continue to look up to truly see Jesus, to share continual moments of communication with him, to gratefully accept his loving compassion and guidance in my life, to strive to find ways to serve others in his name.

May I seek to accept and recognize that He knows, and sees my heart.

I pray for…  Moments like Mary’s.