I’m grateful for my grandchildren’s parents and for the things they model and teach my grandkids.
I’ve always used big vocabulary words when I talk to my grandkids and I describe things as if I’m speaking with another adult. Faith, a self-described “wing-wist” at age two, is now an eight year old book loving wordsmith. Last evening while stocking our ponds, I commented to the kids that the baby bass appeared to be very vigorous. She immediately asked me what “vigorous” meant. I explained, she took it all in, and then said that she loves to substitute big words for smaller ones. A few minutes later she said, “Mama Jan, you always use big words when you talk to me and I am so lucky to have you. You are the best Mama Jan ever!
While I’m incredibly proud of her vocabulary and reading skills, I’m even prouder of her willingness to use her words to express thankfulness and appreciation.
Words carry so much weight. And the best weight of all is when they come bearing thankfulness and blessings.
The God I have known and loved since childhood has this to say about those who serve small letter “gods”: they are foolish; they will be put to shame and disgraced; they display stupidity and ignorance; they cannot see or think; their minds are shut closed and they are poor and deluded fools who feed on ashes.
The following quote is the closing from Rep. Emanuel Cleaver’s invocation yesterday, January 4, 2021, to mark the swearing in of our 117th Congress:
“We ask it in the name of the monotheistic God, Brahma, and ‘God’ known by many names by many different faiths. Amen and awoman.”
Here’s what God says about grouping him with the gods of “many different faiths”:
This is what the Lord says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies:
“I am the First and the Last;
there is no other God.
Who is like me?
Let him step forward and prove to you his power.
Let him do as I have done since ancient times
when I established a people and explained its future.
Do not tremble; do not be afraid.
Did I not proclaim my purposes for you long ago?
You are my witnesses—is there any other God?
No! There is no other Rock—not one!”
How foolish are those who manufacture idols.
These prized objects are really worthless.
The people who worship idols don’t know this,
so they are all put to shame.
Who but a fool would make his own god—
an idol that cannot help him one bit?
All who worship idols will be disgraced
along with all these craftsmen—mere humans—
who claim they can make a god.
They may all stand together,
but they will stand in terror and shame.
The blacksmith stands at his forge to make a sharp tool,
pounding and shaping it with all his might.
His work makes him hungry and weak.
It makes him thirsty and faint.
Then the wood-carver measures a block of wood
and draws a pattern on it.
He works with chisel and plane
and carves it into a human figure.
He gives it human beauty
and puts it in a little shrine.
He cuts down cedars;
he selects the cypress and the oak;
he plants the pine in the forest
to be nourished by the rain.
Then he uses part of the wood to make a fire.
With it he warms himself and bakes his bread.
Then—yes, it’s true—he takes the rest of it
and makes himself a god to worship!
He makes an idol
and bows down in front of it!
He burns part of the tree to roast his meat
and to keep himself warm.
He says, “Ah, that fire feels good.”
Then he takes what’s left
and makes his god: a carved idol!
He falls down in front of it,
worshiping and praying to it.
“Rescue me!” he says.
“You are my god!”
Such stupidity and ignorance!
Their eyes are closed, and they cannot see.
Their minds are shut, and they cannot think.
The person who made the idol never stops to reflect,
Preparing for Christmas two years ago, I took Faith and Abram to a local discount store and let them choose presents for their Mom and Day.
On our drive there I asked, “Do you think Mom and Day would rather have books or toys?” The happy loud answer from the backseat was “Toys!” That particular year, Mom received a bath ball that turned into a dinosaur and Day got a toy ukulele.
This year I asked the same question and Faith told me that she and Abe had already discussed it (her words). She said they thought Mom would like a statue and a book about statues and Day would like a race car and book about the same. They weren’t able to find those exact items, but did choose some other things that reflected they’re growing up—except for one item. Abe saw a plastic bat and ball and was positive that Day would LOVE it. About five minutes after putting it in our basket, he confided that he KNEW if he asked Day if HE could have it, Day would give it to him. Made me giggle all over inside.
They always wrap these gifts themselves. This year they used the wrapping paper cutter and thoughtfully chose different papers for each gift. Their packages are extra securely taped—some with 12 inch pieces. Abe remarked several times that he wasn’t a very good wrapper, but he didn’t give up; and Faith asked for some advice on getting the ends neatly tucked. Now the gifts, chosen with careful deliberation and debate, then wrapped with love by four and seven year old fingers, are laid out and waiting for Christmas morning. Mom and Day won’t be looking for perfection in either the gifts or the wrappings, instead they’ll celebrate the love they represent.
I wonder if that’s how God sees what we bring to him. I wonder if he loves us all the more when we don’t know how or what to do—so we just do our best. Then, when our finished product is less than perfect, and we know we’re not very good wrappers and we didn’t know how to fold the corners neatly, we can still rest in Him because we know that He knows and remembers.
Breaks in life come in the most unexpected ways and times. Abram Michael Davis moved from understudy to lead role when the original Joseph decided he’d rather be a cow in the 4 year old’s Christmas pageant. In normal times, Mama Jan would have been in attentive attendance with camera clutched firmly in hand; but in these Pandemic days, a substitute picture will have to do.
As always, God calls us to be ready in and out of season.
I’ve never liked my birth name. As a kid I always wished my parents had chosen their other consideration: Jan Elizabeth instead of Jan Lanell. My dislike increased exponentially during a first grade awards assembly when all the other kids heard the principal announce “Jan Lanell Mooney”. Raymond Beall, my sweet friend whose untimely death I mourned, and funeral I attended a few years ago, immediately and loudly repeated it; but instead of pronouncing it “La Nell” he said “Lannel”. I was truly mortified. Introverted first-grade silly? Yes! But I still don’t like it.
I’ve had other names attached to me throughout my life: child, grandchild, niece, cousin, sibling, best friend, girlfriend, wife, in-law, aunt, preacher’s wife, mom, step-child, step-sibling, counselor, widow, grandparent, step-parent. Most I’ve loved, some I’ve struggled with, and one I hated.
God thinks of everything though and he has designed me a new name. He’s so positive that it’s perfect for me that He’s already engraved it on a white stone. He hasn’t told me what it is yet though because it’s a secret between us and he probably knows I’d want to start using it immediately. It’s a very special name—so special, in fact, that I’m the only one who will understand it and its meaning. He can do that because He’s the only One who knew me before he created the world and only He can give me such a perfect name. Whatever it is, I know I’m going to love it.
Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit
and understand what he is saying…
To everyone who is victorious
I will give some of the manna
that has been hidden away in heaven.
And I will give to each one a white stone,
and on the stone will be engraved a new name
that no one understands except the one who receives it.
I never set out to become personally knowledgeable on grief—no one in her right mind would. Rather, it was a crash course thrust on me when my husband, Dan, was killed on his way to work in 2011. And I’m only an expert on my own grief. I’d provided a fair amount of professional grief counseling over the years, but I’d not been the griever; and believe you me, they’re two entirely different roles.
Before I forget to say it: NEVER EVER tell a griever that you know how they feel. Because. You. DON’T. And if they’re like me, I hope they’ll quickly tell you that you don’t know what you’re talking about.
Random things I know:
The worst part of grief is knowing that something has been forever changed. The person you love (and your love doesn’t stop when they die) is never coming back to live in this world; but it’s complicated and hard work to get your heart and head to the same place on that immovable fact. Losing your spouse makes you an automatic member of a club that nobody wants to join.
Grieving is pretty much a solitary walk with or without God, as you so choose. It’s wonderful to have the loving support of family and friends, but no one else really understands the walk except the griever and God. For myself, I cannot even imagine how non-believers navigate it.
I know my first instinct, as a woman and helper, is to want to “fix it” for someone else; but it can’t be “fixed”. God will bring healing, but it takes a long time; and grief is exhausting—mentally, physically and emotionally.
Crying is NOT a bad thing. God gave it to us to help us cleanse our emotions. Tears were right under the surface for a very long time for me. I, and Richard for his Beth, sometimes cry even now; the difference is that we can do it together and for each other. Time is a wonderful buffer, but the heart will always hold tender spots.
God knows our every hurt; and until he walks us Home to be with him forever, he’ll keep holding our hand. And that’s the truth.
Sad things will come untrue…might-have-beens will be…and losses will work backwards…❤️ What’s not to love about a God who loves us this much…
“The Reason For God” (Timothy Keller) spoke to me throughout its entirety. Some of his words/comments, and quotes of other people, quickened my heart and made me smile:
“Jesus insisted that his return will be with such power that the very material world and universe will be purged of all decay and brokenness. All will be healed and all might-have-beens will be.”
One of Keller’s quotes from Sam Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings: “’Is everything sad going to come untrue?’ The answer of Christianity to that question is—yes. Everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having been broken and lost.”
And finally, his quote from C.S. Lewis: “They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”
I love Keller’s gathering of these thoughts—and being reminded that somehow, in God’s redeeming and restoring grace, someday every single hurt will be healed and made right.
And finally, one of my very favorite verses:
He will wipe every tear from their eyes,
and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.
I was the designated booking agent for our first annual sister’s trip; and Joy told me to book our second night hotel in Rockport. She said it was a charming seaside town with interesting shops and plenty of fresh lobster rolls.
We’d discussed various things to see and do while in New England and agreed our main objectives were to see fall foliage and eat lobster rolls. Joy said she’d love for us to see Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park off the coast of upper Maine, but Maine was further north than we had time to venture on this trip.
Our flight arrived in Boston after midnight and everybody was at the point of silly-tired by the time we claimed our luggage. When Judy made us take our first three-sisters-picture in front of the floor to ceiling mirror in the ladies room, we all dissolved into giggles.
We were truly exhausted; and it was wonderful to finally fall into our beds at our functional and clean, but non-descript hotel outside Boston.
The next morning, awakened by our hotel’s “gradual awakening system”—which was how Judy’s sleep-deprived brain perceived the morning sun glowing around the curtain’s edges—and fortified by a first-things-first stop at Starbuck’s, we set out to see New England.
The foliage was gorgeous along the drive; as was Good Harbor Beach where we stopped and admired the Massachusetts shoreline. Our giggles returned when we tried to casually position ourselves in the background of a German movie being shot in the beach parking lot.
Next stop was Rockport. As soon as we got to town, we called the hotel I’d booked to see if we could check in early and drop off our luggage, but our rooms weren’t ready yet.
True to Joy’s description, Rockport was New England seaside picturesque. We clambered over the cobble beach and took pictures on the boulders; then wandered through the small shops on the street lining the shore.
We sat on a deck by the bay and ate steaming hot lobsters—straight from the lobster boats behind Roy Moore Lobster Co to the stockpot to our buttery fingers.
Finishing our afternoon off with ice cream, we headed toward our vehicle so we could check into our hotel and then decide what we wanted to do that evening.
A problem surfaced when GPS couldn’t locate our hotel’s address. I knew it existed because I’d booked our rooms there and had spoken to the front desk earlier that day. Fortunately, I’d taken printed copies of our reservations and retrieved them as soon as we got to the car. I handed them to Joy—happy to let her sort it out—because she was the one who’d told me to book in Rockport.
She looked at my papers and said, “You didn’t book our hotel in Rockport, MAINE did you?”
And I said, “I booked it in Rockport. Just like you said.”
As it turned out, there’s a Rockport, Maine AND a Rockport, Massachusetts; AND they’re 3 hours and 19 minutes apart. But the best thing about traveling with your sisters is that you can laugh at just about everything, if that’s what you choose; and we do and we did.
We laughed about my booking confusion the entire trip; and my sisters shared the story about “our sister” with people we’d never met, everywhere we went—a nice police officer, an antique shop proprietor, the apple orchard owners, our waitress at The Franconia in New Hampshire, the store clerks in Vermont and on and on and on. And we’d laugh all over again.
The three best things about the trip were: the laughter with my sisters, the buttery lobster rolls, and the beautiful foliage. And my take-away lesson was: be sure I find out the state, as well as the town, before I make an on-line hotel reservation.
There are all kinds of reservations in life to be made; and I’m every so heart thankful that my final destination reservation was made a long time ago. No confusion there; and I’m anticipating lots of laughter when I arrive.
I love God’s color palate; and this year’s Japanese maples drenched in strident purples, sizzling reds, Popsicle oranges, and blinding yellows almost defied sensibility. They reminded me of a busted bag of Skittles generously spilled and bounced out all over the floor; and their late-blooming neighbors—fuchsia and coral azaleas—didn’t inspire much awe spread underneath the maple’s flamboyance.
Several years ago I happy-color painted my way through the house. My son made me smile when he teasingly told me that the results were akin to walking into a Pixar movie. I laughed; and then reminded him that he no longer lives here.
It’s hard to put too-fine a pointed word on it, but I do know that I’m at home in happy colors.
At year-end 2015, nametests.com, via a random Facebook post, informed me that my “word” for 2016 was “joy”. That pleased me to no end because I’d been actively seeking joy for some time. It also pleased me that it criss-crossed with a long-standing tradition Dan had established in our church’s Christmas Family Communion service: in the softly-lit quiet of each family’s gathered moment, he’d give them their word for the next year.
I love words and particularly love having a word. So I’m pleased to report that my 2016 was filled with joy. Self-fulfilling expectation? Perhaps. God’s blessings spilled out on me? Definitely.
I searched nametests.com this morning, but they’re offering different questions this year; which is just as well. And I’ve chosen my own word for the coming year: aware.
“Now learn a lesson from the fig tree.
When its branches bud
and its leaves begin to sprout,
you know that summer is near.
In the same way,
when you see all these things taking place,
you can know that his return is very near,
right at the door.
I tell you the truth, this generation
will not pass from the scene
before all these things take place.
Heaven and earth will disappear,
but my words will never disappear.
“However, no one knows the day or hour
when these things will happen,
not even the angels in heaven
or the Son himself.
Only the Father knows.
And since you don’t know when that time will come,