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Having spent the last couple of weeks on the coast of South Carolina, I’ve had several opportunities to people watch, and one morning I witnessed less than a minute of a family’s life that spoke volumes about their dynamic. I think it might be good material for a Human Growth and Development discussion board topic.

Anxious to begin reading a new novel and just “chill” for a while, I was walking down the beach heading back to the chair when I noticed a teenager in the water. He had a different look about him that captured my attention, especially when I saw him angrily gesturing “go away” to a woman standing in the surf, probably his mother. The teen’s facial features, posture, movements, and expression all indicated some physical and mental challenges. A man, presumably his father, was standing in the ocean beckoning him forward at the same time the mother was stepping closer and closer to him.

“You’re going out too deep!” her manner seemed to say.

“Go back. Leave me alone,” the young man’s body language said. “Let me breathe!”

“Come on, Son,” the dad’s gesture said. “The water’s fine.”

As the son was angrily pushing his mother back towards the shore with his behavior, his father noticed and also waved his arms at her in a frustrated manner as if to say, “Go back!”

I understood perfectly what was going on in a matter of seconds and was saddened for all concerned. At the same time I recalled something I’d read years ago about the need for both mothers and fathers in a child’s life.

Both parents recognize that the world is fraught with danger. Undertows threaten to knock us over, slam us down, shake us up, and maybe even take our breath away. There are scary animals that bite and attack, some of them disguised as nice people. We could go out too far and lose our way back to the shore.

Both parents see the same thing, but they handle it differently. Moms want to nurture and protect. “Be safe,” they say. “Be careful.” Dads, on the other hand, say, “Yeah, it’s a tough world. Let’s get you prepared for it.”

This is an overgeneralization but there’s some truth in it too.

As I came up directly beside the threesome, the boy was continuing towards his father, trudging as fast as the heavy water currents allowed. Determined, he pressed on. The father was smiling. The mother began taking baby steps towards them both.

I wanted to yell, “Leave him alone,” but that inclination was replaced with a thought of how touching it was to see both parents on either side of the child they loved. Children deserve and need nurturing, security, direction, nudges, and encouragement. At the same time, keeping them too close, too safe, can do more harm than good.

I walked on, turning back only once for a quick glance. The boy was within arm’s length of the father; the mother, although she had walked out a bit farther, was standing still as watched the pair just a little beyond her, waves crashing all around them.

As a parent, have you ever had that conflict between hanging on and letting go? Come on, I know you have. Question is, how did you resolve it?

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Olivia and Ethan have been dancing together. Carrie’s kids have been hiding toys in the freezer, and the older ones have been experimenting with cooking. I miss them so much and have been counting the days until I see them again next week. All seven of them will be in Myrtle Beach at the same time for a few short days, and for the first time in months, they’ll all be at the same church together.

So what’s the problem? Anyone who’s read very much of this blog knows how I feel about the sweetness of being in church with one’s family. And to hear Brooke sing? Well, that’s just the icing on the cake. She pours her heart into it, and her enthusiasm in “making a joyful noise” gives the people around her the courage to sing a little louder.

The problem is that I’m having one of those approach-approach conflicts, the kind in which the person is trying to make a decision between two equally desirable and attractive options. It’s sort of like a no lose situation, and yet in this situation, if I opt to do one thing, then I’ll miss out on some holy experiences in the other.

On that same day, June 30th, the women’s organization, Relief Society, in my home ward is having a two-hour conference. It’s going to be a spectacular event, and the women who have been planning it have many uplifting, inspiring, and faith building experiences in store for us. It’s so important that both the Sunday school and Primary organizations are going to be led by the men that day so that all the women will be free to attend. We/I have been looking forward to this for several weeks.

What to do? What to do? I love my sistas, and I love learning and being inspired, but I love Brooke’s singing more. When talking to one of my sisters-in-law about it, she reminded me that there are some experiences you just can’t get back if you miss them. “Thanks,” I told her. “You’ve reminded me of what’s more important.”

“Yes,” she said. “You can see your grandchildren anytime, but it sounds like this is a once-in-a-lifetime conference.”

“Oh my gosh,” I said, laughing a little. “I thought you were saying to stay in Conway with the fam.”

“Not really. You can see them later that day and the next one too.”

She’s right. And yet, I can’t see them in church with each other, their parents, and their aunts and uncles. And then there’s the luncheon we’re planning at Elizabeth’s afterward. Breaking bread with loved ones is a peak experience too, made even more special by its rarity in this case.

I’ve made up my mind. Can you guess where I’ll be on the 30th?

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I love Queen Esther. Since she’s become one of my role models, I have no problem being brave and doing what it takes to appear before the king (or anything symbolic of a king). Although I might be daunted by critical readers, difficult people, or possible rejection, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do! I just put on my equivalent of a queenly robe and whisper, “If I perish, I perish.”

There are at least half a dozen lessons I learned from Esther, and with limited success, I attempt to put them all into practice. Yesterday after my talk in church about Esther and some other women of the Bible, I learned that many of the little girls (princesses) in our ward (church) have Esther as their role model. One of them, little Tia, even drew me a picture of her that I now have on my refrigerator. I gleaned two things from that drawing: these little girls are on the right track and children listen to talks in church. About the former, if they already know about courage and loyalty and timing, what will they be able to achieve as they mature into their queenly lives?

But back to the major subject, the woman in the Bible that I have a problem emulating. It’s Hannah. Remember her? She’s the woman who wanted a child so badly that as she fervently prayed for one, Eli saw her and mistakenly thought she was drunk. Hannah assured him that she was completely sober and told him that she was praying for God to send her a male child. If that happened, she would willingly turn the child over to God.

Eli told her to go in peace and promised Hannah that her petition would be answered. Soon thereafter, Samuel was born, and when he was still a young child, Hannah brought him to Eli and left him there. According to 1 Samuel 2:19, Hannah saw her son once a year after leaving him in the temple with Eli. Can you even imagine that? It’s not as though he was an adult. He was just a little boy.

I don’t think that I’m quite as trusting, giving, or selfless as Hannah was. When my children were little, I hovered over them like a mother hen, and even now I’m aware of their goings-on, interests, friends, and activities. I think God entrusted my children to me and that He intends for me to take that trust seriously. At the same time, I’m wondering if this story of Hannah and Samuel has a latent meaning for me, for us.

Fortunately for me, my three children are all young adults with their heads on straight. They’re responsible, kind, hard working, smart, and healthy. I threw in the healthy adjective because that’s something I don’t have to worry about—at least not today. They have their “moments,” the times when they’re down, discouraged, anxious, or stressed (they are human, after all), but they know how to figure things out. They know how to ponder and pray and then press on.

Yet still, I wonder and worry. At times I recall my friend’s earnest question, “Jayne, have you turned your children over to God??”

“Yes, June, I have. And yet…”

Well, you can see what I’m getting at. I need to develop some of Hannah’s faith. What about you?

Nothing deep or ponderous today. Just a few recollections of the days I spent with Carrie and her family last week. As mentioned in a previous post, my daughter gave birth to Seth Michael a couple of weeks ago, and I went down to help her out with her other four children.  They range in age from 2 to 8, and they’re pretty typical children. By that, I mean that they’re active, inquisitive, busy, noisy, demanding (when’s lunch???), demonstrative (I got lots of hugs and kisses), entertaining, and distracting.

When I look back over the days and nights there, everything sort of melds together into one long day. So what I’m going to do is hit the highlights. Since Rich, my son-in-law, was off on Saturday, I seized that opportunity to go to the library to do some work. Anyone who’s ever tried to do any serious reading and grading knows it can’t be done (at least not well) in a noisy environment, especially if little people are crawling on you and trying to play with your computer.

Hence, off to the library I went. Two hours quickly passed, and I gathered up my “stuff” and headed to the car. It was so hot!!!  While hustling to the car trying to get out of the heat, I heard a precious voice say, “Hey Grandmother!” I looked up and there was blond haired Emma running towards me from the park. She and her dad were on a daddy/daughter date, and her request had been to have lunch in the park. Though he was HOT and miserable, Rich had agreed to her plan, and when I drove off, the two of them were sitting side by side, Rich listening away as she prattled on about something.

Sunday was an interesting day, nice and memorable but kind of slow. It rained, and that kept us all inside. The girls dressed up in my Sunday clothes, experimented with lip gloss, and posed for pictures. Braden drew and colored, and Colton, well Colton basically was his usual adorable little self. I love to hear him say, “I take nap.” Yes yes yes yes yes.  Later in the day, I put on my Susie Homemaker apron and made some snicker doodles, and they were a big hit. For dinner that night, we had bagel bites and cookies. Sounds good to me!

Every single night I was there, Emma would burst through the door at some point in the early morning hours and join me in the single bed in Seth’s room. It was a tight squeeze, but I couldn’t refuse the little imp.  On the last night of my visit, Brooke joined us. That was the evening/early morning when I gave up on the idea of sleep. I sat in the rocking chair and read my Kindle while watching the little princesses sleep.

Speaking of nighttime, I love the fact that 8-year-old Braden likes to read before going to sleep. Anytime to read is fine, of course, but there’s just something special about losing yourself in a good book before dozing off. Braden uses a flashlight; I use a book light.

Carrie’s birthday was Tuesday the 2nd, and one of her friends made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. As a birthday gift to Carrie, Cindy offered to keep the four older children so that Carrie, Seth, and I could go to Savannah for lunch and a tiny bit of shopping. We dined at the Olive Garden, her favorite restaurant, and although the air conditioning was on the fritz that day, we enjoyed our Italian cuisine and mother/daughter conversation. Seth is an angel baby so far and allowed his mother to eat without so much as a whimper. Our shopping consisted of Carrie going to Publix while I sat in the car with the sleeping baby. 

On the evening before I left to come home, Carrie and Rich went out to celebrate her birthday and left me with all five children! We all survived. Later we had cake and ice cream, and Carrie opened her gifts. I can’t wait to see her wearing the beautiful jewelry from Braden and Colton. I know that Germ-X from the girls will come in handy too.

If you’re still reading this account, you’re either a family member or a true friend. Interestingly, the more I write the more I remember. I won’t go into it all, however. I’ll just briefly describe our visit to Dairy Queen on my last day with the Masedas. It was wild and crazy and wonderful. After eating our kids’ meals, we all got Dilly Bars, and at the children’s request, we toasted each other with them. “Here’s to summertime!” everyone exclaimed. Then, “Here’s to families!”

Indeed. Here’s to families! Whether departed, separated, present, or distant, they’re awesome.

Mike and Lisa and I had some great conversations this past weekend. Mike is one of my brothers, and Lisa is his wonderful wife. Seriously, she’s like the woman described in Proverbs, you know the one who rises early and looks after the ways of her household. We were in Myrtle Beach so we did a lot more than natter away. We went to a movie, dined out, and did some shopping. The weather wasn’t conducive to beach activities, but we did manage to cruise down the boulevard for a glimpse of the mighty ocean.

But back to the conversations. One of the things that came up at lunch Sunday was happiness, and I said that I thought God wanted us, as his children, to be happy. I see our relationship to Him as similar to a parent’s relationship to a child. I love my children with a fierce love, and I sincerely want them to be happy. To do so, however, they have to make some good choices. They might falter and fall and take side paths, and when and if they do so, they’ll find some temporary pleasure. Not happiness, mind you, but temporary pleasure.

As a parent, I watch their progression through life with concern and love, and if one of them takes a “wrong” path or makes a poor decision, my heart hurts. Sometimes I might even wail and moan and ask, “Why???” However, my love for them is constant and not contingent on their behavior. They’re my children, and God sent them to me to love and guide, and regardless of what they might do, I’d cut them out of the will or snicker and say, “I told you so.”

All of the above is hypothetical, of course, since my three children are perfect!

At Sunday lunch, Lisa said she wasn’t sure whether God’s intention for us was to be happy or whether it was for us to find joy despite our suffering. Can you see why I love these family conversations? We challenge each other to think and seriously ponder some serious (and some not-so-serious) issues.  Being stubborn, I stated that YES, I think He wants for us to be happy just the way I want Carrie, Elizabeth, and Paul to be happy. Furthermore, I think we as mortals disappoint our Heavenly Father on a daily basis, but He never disowns us or wags his finger in derision.

I’m out of time (duty calls), so I’ll end with this: If a person wants to be happy, truly happy, and receive all of the multitudinous blessings that her Creator has in store, then she has to follow some basic commandments. Just like there are some very real “life laws” for success (just ask Dr. Phil), there are also some very real life laws for happiness (just ask God).

I hope someone out there disagrees with me. I’d love to get involved in a good discussion.

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  • Leo Buscaglia
    "Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy."
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