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Power and Purpose in a Family Blessing

 

BlessingWhen my mother was a young girl, her mom used to send her kids out the door each morning with a charge: Walk with the King today, and be a blessing.

 

Whether or not my mom and her siblings knew it, these words—spoken regularly, and with the authority that comes with being a parent—shaped their lives. They served as a daily reminder of God’s presence (“Walk with the King”), and they injected a sense of purpose into even the most routine or unremarkable mornings: Your mission today is to be a blessing.

 

Robbie and I adopted the practice of speaking blessings over our children when they were very young. Sometimes we spoke or softly sang these words in the tender darkness of their bedsides; sometimes, we practically hollered them at the kids as the school bus rumbled up the street and everyone scrambled to find coats and backpacks.

 

We had a few favorites, all taken from the Bible. Today, our kids (now ages 18-24) might not be able to quote the chapter and verse, but these words are locked in to their minds:

 

May the Lord bless you and keep you; may he make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord turn his face toward you, and give you peace.

(Numbers 6:24-26)

 

The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. The Lord will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with his love. He will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

 

And this one, which the children simply called, “Presence”:

 

Where can you go from his Spirit? Where can you flee from his presence? If you go up to heaven, he’s there. If you make your bed in the depths, he is there. If you rise on the wings of the dawn; if you settle on the far side of the sea, even there his hand will guide you, his right hand will hold you fast. (Psalm 139:7-10)

 

The Bible is full of verses that can be appropriated and personalized to create your own family blessing. You’ll also find rich words in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, the Methodist hymnal, and even The Fiddler on the Roof. (Our kids had bit parts in that high school musical, and family blessings don’t get much better than the Sabbath Prayer: “May the Lord protect and defend you, May he always shield you from shame…” I could have sat through that number, with Tevye and Golda warbling about things like peace and strength and good marriages, 15 times. Come to think of it, I probably did.)

 

If you’ve never spoken a blessing over your family, start today. If your children are young, snuggle them into your arms as you speak. If they are prickly teenagers, a simple “The Lord bless you!” as they walk out the door can penetrate even the thickest shell. And if they are adults, consider writing a letter of blessing, or giving it to them as a gift for birthdays, Christmas, or as a New Year’s benediction.

 

A family blessing does not have to be eloquent, complicated, or long. Simple works. But I can’t think of an easier—or more powerful—way to speak God’s grace over your children, and to remind them that he loves them and that his power is active in their lives.

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Test Drive

test-drive
I drove a Chevy Suburban for 19 years. I had three different versions—each one fueled by dog hair and the smell of soccer cleats—and they were all faithful.

Two years ago, with the empty nest looming, Robbie suggested that it was time to find a smaller, more fuel-efficient car. I wasn’t sure I was ready to say goodbye to my current road-beast, but I agreed to take a few test drives.

Oh my! Two decades and four kids’ worth of life behind the wheel of a tank had not prepared me for the feel of these younger, snappier cars. I took the on-ramps like I was channeling Danica, and even the salesman in the passenger seat marveled at my donuts in the parking lot. By the time we’d left the third dealership, I was hooked. Continue reading “Test Drive”

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A Life Complete

puzzleOur daughter, Annesley, loves puzzles. As a preschooler, she’d open a 500-piece box and start fitting pieces together. She didn’t bother with doing the edges first, or with sorting by color. She simply worked left to right, like some little towheaded computer, methodically checking to see if each piece fit before she rejected it and moved on to the next one. Row by row, piece by piece, the picture finally came into focus.

Today, as a 22-year-old architect, Annesley still welcomes a good puzzle—and each Christmas, she’s sure to get one from her brother, Robbie (who does his limited but effective shopping at Target). Annesley doesn’t waste any time getting started; usually by December 27, the puzzle is all but complete.

This year, an untimely swipe of the dog’s tail derailed her handiwork. Unfazed, Annesley picked up the pieces and collected them in the box, planning to start over once she returned to her Charlottesville apartment. Unfortunately, when she put the picture together again on her dining room table, she came up short. It was just one piece, but to a puzzle aficionado, to miss one piece is (I am told) to miss the whole victory. Continue reading “A Life Complete”

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I Want More Out of Life

I love old books. For one thing, their age is proof that they can stand the test of time. For another, at least when it comes to Christian books, the old stuff is usually a lot less about “me” and a lot more about God. Refreshing.

photo-2One of my new-old favs is Catherine Marshall’s Beyond Our Selves. I first read it as a teenager; I rediscovered it this year. The bad news is that this 1961 book is out of print. The good news is that you can get copies on Amazon for as little as a penny!

Marshall gets right to the point: Most of us, she says, yearn for something more—something that requires outside help—“either because of some problem for which we have no answer or because of a nagging consciousness that we should be getting more out of life.” She takes us by the hand and, using a refreshing combination of common sense and biblical teaching, offers practical guidance on everything from trusting God to slaying our egos to appreciating our own helplessness and imperfection. (And as a bonus, Marshall’s real-life illustrations, set against the backdrop of life in the 1950’s and 60’s, will appeal to anyone who appreciates the retro-hip nature of a housewife busy with her spring cleaning, or the bygone image of children picking violets and playing a twilight game of kick-the-can.) Continue reading “I Want More Out of Life”

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Better than Downton

photo-1Hey Downton Abbey fans! Were you sad when Sybil died? Bummed to see Matthew crash his roadster and make Lady Mary a widow? Confused about why, when we’ve said goodbye to so many stellar characters, we still have to put up with poor Edith each week?

If you’re like me, you find yourself watching the show—loving the costumes, hanging on the drama both above and below stairs, waiting for the next pearl to drop from the Dowager Countess—and then, at the end of each episode, longing for something more. Something…uplifting. Something happy.

P.G. Wodehouse is your answer! Like Downton creator Julian Fellowes, Wodehouse is thoroughly British (Fellowes is a member of the House of Lords; Wodehouse was a knight), thoroughly accomplished (both penned best-selling novels), and thoroughly versed in the social trials and tribulations of those who totter around in castles and dress for dinner. (Ever heard of Jeeves, the butler? Pure Wodehouse.) Continue reading “Better than Downton”

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