Category: family

To be fair, I need to tell you Henry first told me he felt God’s calling to full-time ministry when I was pregnant with our second child.

We were sitting across the table from each other at a diner. It was 1980. Our daughter was 15 months old and our second child was due in 4 months.

I looked across the table and told him I didn’t think I could do that at this time in our lives. I didn’t want our children in daycare hours on end while we were at the mercy of someone else’s schedule, first through two years of seminary and then in full-time ministry. I had wonderful, godly in-laws. Henry talked to his mom who told him she agreed with me about the timing.

Henry and I met and married in South Florida in the late 70’s. We had two children in quick succession and planted ourselves deeply into the community. Henry was self-employed and worked hard to allow me to be home with the children. We were faithful to church activities and found a wonderful peer group there. Life was very good.

As our children got older, a few people began to joke with Henry about going into the ministry. I guess he would have been voted “most likely to…” I began to ask him if I was holding him back. He always said no. Until the spring of ’93.

He came home from a men’s retreat and told me he felt God calling him again. For something I can only assume was the Holy Spirit, my response wasn’t fearful or objectionable. It wasn’t so much a calling to ministry I felt, but a calling as a wife. Not one in a complementarian way but as ministers in The Salvation Army, husband and wife are both ordained. I felt a strong leading from God to accept Henry’s call as a call on our life together.

To read the rest of my story hop over to The Perennial Gen. My thanks to Michelle and Amanda for allowing me to share my story. 



faith family Salvation Army

Our son didn’t approve of the Christmas tree. It wasn’t the kind we’d always had.

It was our family tradition to get fat Christmas trees with full branches. The kind of Evergreen with long needles that fell and buried themselves into the carpet for you to find months later.

For our son, to do something two years in a row meant it was a tradition. We’d gone to the same tree lot, picking out our fresh cut tree together. Year after year.

But this year, we went rogue and our 18-year-old son wasn’t pleased.

Our first family Christmas Tree 1978
Our untraditional tree

Traditions are important. They make us feel safe. They can help us carry on beliefs and practices of people who have impacted our lives. Family traditions help us remember those who’ve gone before.

So important is a family tradition that we have two kinds of dressing at our Thanksgiving table. We open our presents Christmas day and we attend a New Year’s eve ‘watchnight’ service.

Advent calendar tree

It wasn’t until I was a young adult that our church started observing Advent. A wreath with four candles was placed in front of the church. The candles were the traditional colors of three purple and one pink. A theme was assigned to each of the four Advent Sundays.

I liked the emphasis it seemed to give to this holy season. It added to the traditional carols sung. When we became pastors I followed this traditional expression of celebration.

Every year the purple and pink candles were placed among greenery on a small table. Congregation members were assigned readings to accompany the lighting of the candles as we prepared for the coming of Emmanuel.

A few years ago I changed a few things. We went with white candles because the men we were now serving in a residential rehabilitation facility got anxious about lighting the “right” candle. I tossed out the prescribed order of themes. I place a proper long-handled lighter on the table but I’ve quit sighing in exasperation when a man flicks his Bic.

Twentieth-century scholar, Jaroslav Pelikan, describes the difference between tradition and traditionalism:

“Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”

Traditionalism, he says, goes through the motions.

We want every practice we include in our worship gatherings to be that of living faith. We want to carry the traditions of Jesus as we practice inclusiveness and celebrate communion. We don’t want to be bound simply by the colors, or words or obligations. We don’t want to just go through the motions.

We reached a comprise with our son the year we broke tradition. We got two trees. The one that wasn’t traditional for our family was adorned with ornaments he’d seen all of his childhood. The tree wasn’t the same variety of evergreen, but it was filled with family memories.

faith family

Ten years ago, our firstborn daughter snuggled her newborn into that warm crook between her shoulder and neck, tilting her head toward the baby’s crown. She gently patted her daughter’s back and whispered, “One day we’ll be best friends but for now I’m your mama.”

This wise, grown woman was now bending her heart into mothering her own child. Meanwhile, as she’s transitioned into motherhood, my daughter and I are transitioning to a new relationship – that of a friend.

How do we navigate the journey from parent to friend? We’ll always be a parent, but in adulthood, we can become friends. What is that status called? Are we priends? Frarents?

People will tell a new mom how awful teething is but will say, “Just wait until they become teenagers”. For me, the most challenging phase has been parenting adult children and learning to be friends.

We don’t live in the same town with our grown children but we are connected by text, FaceTime, and email. We may not connect every week but those quick communications are made easier by technology and living in the same time zone.

Our children don’t need our advice or financial support. They have married good people and love each other and their families well. I’m proud of them, but also had to deal with the feeling that a part of my mission has been completed. Of course, that’s not the case. We’re a family, and they’ve faced challenges, just as my husband I did as we were raising them. An injury keeps one out of work for weeks, or a job change comes with a move farther away from home. Uncertainty looms for a spouse as her company reorganizes and another meets a disappointment with unexpected change at her job. As I follow the ups and downs in my adult children’s lives, I have struggled with feeling helpless. When they were younger, I could comfort them after a lost volleyball game or help with a last-minute science project. But there’s nothing I can do to help them when they face grown-up trials.

We went through a particularly difficult time after our younger one graduated high school. I remember standing in the aisle at the Christian bookstore scanning the shelves in the “Family” section looking for guidance. I felt like screaming, “I’ve read all these damn books and it didn’t help!” In spite of the challenges and tough decisions, our love for him was clear. He saw our love was unconditional. We continued to believe in him. Our faith fueled our hope and saw us through. Today he’s the one who most enjoys times we can all be together.

whole puzzle

Today, I revel in the friendship I share with our adult children. Conversations on topics where we share similar interests in music or share memories of family times are easy and comfortable between us. We laugh and genuinely enjoy being together.

But these new relationships are not friction-free. There are times when I squirm a bit inside at the some of the adult decisions they make that seem foreign to how we raised them. Even though I treasure our friendship, inside, I am still a parent. I worry. I remind myself our friendship is more important. I have to refuse to give in to fear.

Our first-born daughter is in the midst of parenting her now-ten year old. As I listened to her weighing the options of deciding whether she wants to push her daughter to put on a sweater on a chilly day, or choosing to skip this particular battle so they can get out the door in time, I remembered my own years filled with everyday parenting decisions. I pray that her long-ago words will be true in her relationship with her little girl – she’s a parent now, but will one day be her daughter’s friend as well. The process of becoming learning to be friends with my adult children has taught me to be more observer and supporter. I’m no longer responsible for making the plans and scheduling their lives.

As we learn to adapt to this new season in our lives as a family, we are seizing the moments together to focus on strengthening our friendship. I’m loving this part of the journey.

This post first appeared on Perennial Gen blog.

Linking up with Holley Gerth and Coffee for Your Heart.





family grace

Their independent living apartment was at the back of the property. A birdhouse stood in their bit of backyard divided from empty fields by a chain link fence. It was usually quiet enough to hear the flutter of the bird’s wings as they arranged moss in their nest. In the afternoon, the silence was split by military planes flying back to their Naval base.

In contrast, our neatly kept green backyard is noisy with the sounds of traffic from the 4 lanes on the other side of our privacy fence.

Our office sits on a busy street where road construction never seems to end and sirens blare past on a regular basis.

Is there a store or restaurant anywhere that doesn’t play music constantly? It seems we can’t escape an unwanted soundtrack for our daily life.

I was raised in a house where the t.v. supplied background noise. It was always on. Even if no one was watching it.

It seems to provide a comforting white noise for some. Or maybe it’s just a way to protect ourselves from a silence that asks us to listen.

God-given gifts


The inside of my in-law’s apartment was as quiet as the outside. She would sit in the silence as her fingers worked the intricate cross-stitch designs. The tick of the kitchen clock seemed to be magnified by the silence. I don’t know how she could stand it. TICK – TICK – TICK – TICK….

Her Bible and devotionals were stacked nearby. I’m sure the words she’d read earlier in the day were the sounds she played in her mind as she worked in the quiet. She chose the sounds of truth over the noise of the world.

I’ve learned to appreciate the quiet more. To turn off the noises and open myself to what the heart needs to hear. I have a long way to go, but it seems to start with the sounds of silence.

What do you hear in the silence?

LInking up with Kate Motaung for Five-Minute Friday.

faith family Five-Minute Friday

To walk into the bedroom of our 10-year old granddaughter is to be on sensory overload. Her room is littered, I mean arrnged, with stuffed animals, clothes, shoes, dolls, Legos, more clothes and shoes, drawings, papers, books….did I say clothes?

It takes a lot of coaxing to get her to clean out what she doesn’t need.

I know the differenc between need and want but it’s still something I struggle with myself at times.

Writer, Emily Freeman, recently talked about the essentials. That’s a word with weight. It means absolutely necessary; extremely important.  It’s a word that needs more than a 10-year old maturity to understand. American Girl dolls are essential to her like health insurance is to us. (Oh for the days of childhood!)

Our retirment date is growing closer each day. Two years from now. Lord willing, we will be in another city, another house, another life. Even now, I am considering what our needs will be. The obvious ones are easy. We will need furnishings for the house. We’ve lived in furnished parsonages the past 23 years so this is a big thing. We will need to learn when the garbage is picked up and become familiar with new street names and directions.

But what is essential?

That’s not easy to answer a year and a half away. So I turn that question, as Emily did, to today. In this time of year that schedules get packed and to-do lists get longer, what is essential?

The answer is harder than it sounds. It may vary day to day. Can it even be answered for more than one day at a time?

Today, it’s essential I go to my dental appointment. It’s part of health/self-care. It’s essential that I eat and more beneficial if I eat nutriously.

Our basic human needs are just that: needs. And they are essential.

What is absolutely necessary, extrememly important to me is to know I am loved. To know I have hope. That’s what I desperately need and what I have in Jesus.


Most Friday’s I link up with other writers for Five-Minute Friday a 5-minute free write prompt. And most weeks I take more than 5 minutes. Sorry, not sorry.



faith family Five-Minute Friday hope

Some families are dancers with feet never touching the ground. They dance with words cutting wide circles around politics or problems. They smile and curtsy to others who are tripping on their own feet.

It’s okay. If you don’t say it it’s not happening. Just keep dancing to the song playing in your head, keep singing to the tune we’re playing.


It’s obvious he has a problem with alcohol but let’s never say it. Let’s not actually confront or intervene. They still have their job. They just don’t remember last weekend or the conversation with their son.

We might nod in agreement when someone uses the word relapse or raise our eyebrows as if in surprise. Really? I never noticed there was a problem.


You never smell the alcohol. You haven’t seen them touch a drink. She says she’s going through the change. Or maybe some kind of allergic reaction.

We can dance and twirl and sing and smile because as long as we’re playing this tune the song will never end.

There’s no dancing in recovery.


Our work is about naming the song. About learning new steps to new tunes that sing true words. Our work is about redemption. About reclaiming life.

We say you’re only as sick as your secrets. Ignoring the disease won’t bring healing.

You recognize the voices that are singing out of tune. We try to help them hear the pitch, to tune their ear to the words that are true. The counselors are vocal coaches really. We’ve all admitted we’re a bit tone deaf and we help one another find the pitch.

But there’s this tune the family has been singing for generations. The lyrics sing a happy song but the notes never seem to match. There’s always a clunker in the choir who’s offbeat and off key. The others try to fix it by singing louder hoping the volume will cover up their mistakes.


She’s trying, she really is. Him? His hearing has never been sharp. Sing louder and no one will notice. Maybe they can mouth the words and we’ll keep smiling. It’s our family song, after all.


A mama got tired of trying to sing the happy words. She came in with her 33-year old son who was fresh out of detox. Their voices carried pain and his seemed tinged with anger. There’d been a misunderstanding and the voices of both raised. A third part started bringing the crescendo down and then the rest for a breath. Everyone took a breath but the mama wasn’t letting hers out. She was afraid. The real song is terrifying. But it must be sung for healing to begin.

She hugged the counselor then grabbed me in her embrace while the tears couldn’t be contained. This song was a bit warbly. There were no words in this section, just the tender sound of tears.


I’m not sure what song their family has been singing. I’d guess it’s somewhat like the part in Bohemian Rhapsody where the two parts seem to be singing against each other.

Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?
No, we will not let you go!
(Let him go) No, we will not let you go
will not let you go

Only there are three parts being sung. The mama pleading to the drugs “will you let him go” and the son hearing the familiar refrain of heroin’s song “No, we will not let you go”.

It’s always the song of desperation that brings people to us. These are the songs of aching desire and fear of failing, again.

They are akin to the songs of King David as he wrote in his despair. His sins had found him. They had been named. There was no more hiding, no more dancing. Psalm 51:3 VOICE

There are songs of truth to be learned. There is a new rhythm in which to choreograph our steps. We sill sing and march and claim recovery found in truth. It is the only true recovery.

We will dance to the redemption song.

faith family hope recovery

I keep trying to know who I am. Now. In this part of life that is leaving me feeling stranded on a dirt road with nary a sign in sight.

Writing helps me process. It often reveals answers or offers a glimpse of possibility. In seeing the words spelled out, black on white, 14-point font, I may see answers, if only for today. But with retirement less than two years away, I want answers for the life ahead.

What will I do? Who will I be? I want to know with certainty, “I’m going to be an artist”. Something – anything.

I grew up in a Christian home with parents who had felt a calling to serve in full-time ministry. In my youth, I thought callings were only for pastors. I didn’t spend time praying that God would reveal specifics to me. Jobs opened up, and while I didn’t realize it until years later, God was always preparing the road ahead for me.

Life continued to unfold, and I followed.

Ten months after the first date with my now husband, Henry, we married. Thirteen months after our wedding, we had our first child. As we celebrated our daughter’s first birthday, I was pregnant with our second child. We hadn’t set out to live life at this breakneck pace, but we kept running.

I hope you’ll join me for the rest of my story at The PerennialGen blog today.

faith family hope

A few years after my father-in-law passed away I saw his phone number on my husbands iPhone. I made a comment about him taking it off and he mumbled some words I didn’t catch. It’s 15 months after my mom’s passing and her name and address still hold a place in my contact list. How could I have been so insensitive? How could I not have realized there is a bittersweet comfort in seeing their name appear as we scroll through the family list?

Long before mama died, I picked up this little book called Things You Can Save…when you lose someone close to your heart. It’s not much on words but it’s full of colorful illustrations which are probably why I was drawn to it. It simplistic in its words as it suggests saving things we can “keep in a pocket or put in a locket”. But even simple words bring sweet memories to mind and curl the edges of my mouth into the faintest of smiles.

There are reminders of our parents scattered about our home. Some things were given to us before their passing and others were found when sorting out their belongings in the task of cleaning out their home.

Daddy died long before the others. Even though he was in poor health his death was unexpected and life seemed rushed as we prepared to travel to Texas for his funeral. It was awkward and hard in many ways. We didn’t go to his home or sort through family pictures. We went where we were directed and, at times, felt like visitors in this place that was never our home. What I’ve kept from him came from mama, who hadn’t been married to him for over 20 years. She had their yearbook from seminary and a handful of photos. She also gave me his copy of My Utmost for His Highest that had been given to him in 1964.

The effects of divorce continue to rob us even in death.

It’s mama’s second birthday absent from us on earth. I believe she has done nothing but celebrate since her promotion to glory and reunion with the saints gone on before her. Celebrating wasn’t one of mama’s strengths. She didn’t dance or have much of an ear for music but I like to imagine her twirling round and round with her full-throated laugh that we all loved.

All of our parents are in heaven now. Some of left us with boxes of slides, old photos, and super 8 home videos. Others have left us with few tangible things and difficult memories. All have left us wanting to cling to something to remind us of their presence and their mark on our lives.

What we’ve been left that we hold most dear is our hope in Jesus. Our parents persevered through multiple moves, cancer, divorce, the death of a child, of hardships we’ve never known. Through it, their faith stood firm. It’s what they wanted most to give us. It’s what we continue to keep.


faith family

The first time I went white water rafting I insisted we go with a guide. I tend to be an anxious person and not much of an outdoorsy person. I like to know what’s coming and to feel safe.

This is sometimes at odds with the adventurer I married. He grew up boating and camping and hiking. He tells me about walking on train trestles exploring with his friends. I take him at his word with the story about having to swim faster than the snake he realized was in the lake with him. He was pretty excited about our rafting excursion and sure he wasn’t in need of a guide. After all, this is a river in North Carolina and not a particularly rough white water.

the Hudson crew on our first rafting trip ’91
15 years later and we’re still rafting the river every August. Now our son is in the lead spot.

We split up in two rafts. He and his brother would take our sons in one raft and my sister-in-law and I would go with our daughter and guide in our raft.

Most of the river was slow and easy. We’d sat through the orientation to know how to get off the man large rocks just below the surface but our guide steered us clear of those.

He sat in the rear and would call out when to paddle and when we got out of the current he’d say, “Take a break”. Over and over we heard his easy voice call out those words and drawing out the word break. It was more like breeaaakk. We did.

I’ve been down that river several times since then and am planning to go again next week. We’ve moved on from the days of having a guide, feeling more comfortable with the rhythms of the water. But I’m still going to take a break.

I could continue writing and posting while we’re away. There’s internet service at the house we stay in and a few quiet afternoons on the porch. While I could, I don’t think I should. I’ll probably journal while we’re away. It’s a good time to put thoughts down but it’s also a good time to take a break from public writing. We’ll be sharing life face to face. Catching up with friends and sharing hope with a group of men from our ARC (Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center). The stories will keep. Some will be shared but first, it’s break time.


family hope recovery

He picks up a shell from the shore. “This looks like a heart….sort of”, he says. Yes, it does, sort of. Close enough to add to the other sort of heart-shaped shells we collect. You tend to find what you’re looking for. We look for hearts.

No special reason except the first time we spied a shell that resembled a heart it seemed special. They aren’t made in heart shapes. It’s not how they are designed by our creator. At least not the ones lining our beaches. That started our hunt and turned our eye looking for the different. The shells that are surely meant for us.

I’m a collector, sort of, who doesn’t want a bunch of stuff. The kind that has to be carefully dusted and grows to more than your shelves can hold. I don’t tell people I have a fondness for black and white cows because your congregation and employees will give you cows on every occasion for the next ….well, forever! (Forget I said I like cows 😉

We all collect something. Some of us seem to collect aches and pains, our woes are out there for everyone to hear. Some of us collect friends and some collect more manageable things like shells.

What I most like to collect are stories. Some about grace, some about grief; some about love, some about loss. All about living out life in its fullness.

This is a collection I want to grow. There is always room for more stories. There is always room for more grace.

family Five-Minute Friday grace