words and pictures by June Friesen
Parent/parents – a word that calls to mind a myriad of thoughts, often different for each and every one of us. As I pondered this phrase, I could not help but think about how different parenting is today from years past. The word parent or one’s understanding of parent will differ from person to person, from culture to culture and from era to era. This year’s theme is dedicated to all parents throughout the world who work, suffer and sacrifice for the comfort of their families. As I read this theme and pondered it, I could not help but think of how the experiences of parents are all unique and different, even if we live in the same community, culture and even families.
As I searched through my photos, I also was reminded of all the changes that have occurred over just my own lifetime. In the photo below there are three generations as well as two distinctly, well maybe three, families represented here. I am the little girl with my mother, and both of my grandmothers. My mother’s family was poor while my father’s family was quite well off financially (even during the depression). I learned throughout my childhood how much sacrifice and suffering my mother’s parents went through as they raised their children. My parents taught me through their own example how to not only help family (as they helped my mother’s family – parents as well as her siblings from time to time) but also to reach out beyond family and help others as well. There were times when I knew we did not have much extra but we always packed boxes of extra produce from our garden to help others and also put together boxes of meat and canned produce at holiday times for families. With these experiences in mind as well as my own life experience as a parent/grandparent and also foster parent I am well aware that work, suffering and sacrifice may be a part of our lives sometime in our lifetime.
So how do we show parents appreciation for all of their efforts? How do we embrace parents of children who find themselves in poverty today? How do we embrace parents today who find themselves along with their children homeless? How do we embrace parents who are finding it hard to even meet their own needs by working because of the huge rise in the cost of living? Where does God fit in this current scene of life in 2022?
7 Because of you I look like an idiot, I walk around ashamed to show my face.
8 My brothers shun me like a bum off the street; My family treats me like an unwanted guest.
Do some people today relate to these two verses? Because of the situation that they find themselves in, have their biological families turned them away? Or maybe it is that their church families have turned them away? And worse yet – maybe both their biological and church family have turned them away. I am very conscious of this situation as I see families lose their housing due to rents increasing 25 -50 %. Some landlords choose to sell their properties for a great financial gain and new landlords take over and look for ways to end current leases and not renew others except at great rent increases. I ask myself in light of this theme: How is this showing any respect for parents of children? How is this honoring to parents who are trying to provide the basic needs of their children? As I am considering all of this, I become overwhelmed and wonder – what more can I do? And if someone remarks that you can always pray about it, I realize that words do not fill empty stomachs or provide shelter from storms, heat and/or freezing cold. We can confront employers and landlords but words so often fall on deaf ears as it is all about ‘me first’ in the present-day world. Let us look at another couple verses from the New Testament.
1-2 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
Again, let us read the theme for this day: to all parents throughout the world who work, suffer and sacrifice for the comfort of their families.
So as people who are followers of God, we are to show love first of all to our physical children but I would venture to say that God would also want us to show love to other children around us treating them as we know God would want them treated. So, I am thinking that we need to be open to God’s care for children and people around us as He brings them into our path. My husband and I often say to each other there are no accidents with God – one who walks with God is on an adventure. And on that adventure each one needs to remember that God is walking before us preparing the path.
As I look back over my life, particularly as a parent, I can remember times when there was not money for an extra treat. But I am also mindful of the many times when God was indeed mindful of the ministry that we were doing for His kingdom and He would provide. One day it was a cheeseburger put in our order at a drive-through instead of a hamburger – we were not at home, our son was hungry, we counted our change and had enough for a hamburger. We ordered a hamburger, paid for it and were given our bag – when he opened it there was a cheeseburger. You can imagine our surprise and his delight. There were times when someone would show up with some groceries or money for groceries. I remember one day someone coming to my home and one of the things they set on the counter was milk. I was never so appreciative as the last milk had been used the day before and I was going to have to send my boys off to school without their regular breakfast. I recall the first house that we owned with bedrooms on the third floor and a bathroom in the basement. When it rained the water flowed into the basement at a steady pace but God opened up a door with the neighbor whose trade enabled him to repair the foundation break at a simple cost we could afford. It also built a relationship with a family we may not have reached out to readily. As our children grew up and I listened and still listen to them remember their growing up times – the memories they have and shared have definitely shown appreciation for the variety of things that they experienced.
We talk about places where we have lived as a family. We talk about the people we got to know, the things we got to experience. As I observe my children now as adults I see how they have also reached out to other young people encouraging them to grow into becoming responsible adults in society. I also have seen how they try to help others who are having struggles financially – they may not always be able to help them from their own resources but they will help them find the resources that they need.
As I close today I am going to make a few simple suggestions that each one of us can use from time to time to bless others along our pathway.
- Breathe a silent prayer for a family you see, meet or maybe live next door to.
- As you walk by a school, pray for safety for students and teachers as well as for the parents to have peace.
- Pray for parents not to get exasperated with their children as children struggle with their own fears and anxieties.
- Ask God if there may be specific ways that you can lend a hand of help and/or encouragement.
Each one of us can make a difference and together we can make an even larger difference. Let us take courage in these days and let us be found faithful by our God to cherish, nurture and pray for our children worldwide but more than that – LET US PRAY FOR ALL PARENTS, INCLUDING OURSELVES – that we will be conduits through whom God can continue to work in this world today. Let us build a network of sharing and caring through praying and being available to one another. Parenting is much easier when we share and care for one another supporting each other in any way we can.
Available as an online course, sign up here to gain 180 days of access while you work through this retreat at your own pace. Join Lilly Lewin and Christine Sine in the awe of the broad array of summer symbols that can gain spiritual significance for us when we stop and think about them. Everything from beachcombing to putting on suntan lotion can be the inspiration for practices that draw us closer to God.
Ground yourself in the earth and its summer season where you live and find the ways that God is speaking through it – all the details can be found here!