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Fence Posts: The Role Aunts and Uncles Play in Our Lives

fenced in sheep

Aunts and Uncles are Like Fence – Guide – Posts in Our Lives

I find myself grieving for my Aunt that I just lost a week ago.  It wasn’t clear to me how much sadness I felt over her passing until I awoke from a dream last night – in the dream, I was sitting on my cousin’s bed, crying in her arms about losing my Aunt and what I said in my dream was this:  “It’s like we’re losing all of our fence posts.  And I feel so helpless; like I can’t do anything to hang on to them.  No matter how much praying I do, I can’t save them or bring them back.”

When I awoke, I realized, perhaps for the first time in my life, just how important – and what a significant role my aunts and uncles have played in my life.  Our grandparents, on my mother’s side were blessed with eleven children, which made for 22 aunts and uncles in total.  Which is a wonderful blessing; until it comes time to say goodbye to them due to illness or aging.  Then, it feels like a part of you is being lopped off every time one passes from this physical world.  It’s so much blessing – and so much to lose.

I realized that my aunts and uncles have been so much more than simply relatives to love and get to know or laugh with – they have been fence posts, keeping the “protective twine” around our family.  They are, so to speak, the wiser, older sheep of the flock that keep safe the young lambs as they grow up.

They have taught us so many things.

I remember most vividly many of my aunts and uncles coming to visit and playing cards late into the evening with my parents and what always stands out in my mind, besides their boisterous – and sometimes cantankerous behaviour – is their laughter and simple enjoyment of spending time together around the dinner table.  There was so much laughter!

I remember one incident in particular with my aunt who most recently passed away.   Now, she was full of laughter and joy; but she also had a very stern – some would call it frightening to a young, impressionable child – way about her and she expected above else, that we nieces and nephews show respect to our elders.

She was not short on discipline or advice and I remember her saying something to me that I didn’t quite hear or understand – and my response was my casual, ten-year-old, “What?”  Well, she grabbed a hold of me by the elbows and said these words to me that were forever seared into my brain:  “You don’t say ‘What’!  You say pardon!”

I can thank my Aunt for that because I am sure for the rest of my life, I have always said pardon – rarely “what?” whenever I haven’t quite heard something right.  It’s funny how afraid we were to repeat the error and yet there was never a harsh hand – only timely given words – from our aunts and uncles.

I cannot begin to write how many lessons my aunts and uncles have taught me over the years; but here are a few “Guide/Fence posts” they surrounded all of us with:

1.  Respect your elders.

2.  When life gets hard, stand together and find the humour in it.

3.  Celebrate life whenever you can and focus on the positive because “There’s no ill wind that doesn’t bring some good.”

4.  Appreciate what you have every day and work hard.

5.  Be a good steward of money.  Rarely borrow and rarely loan.

6.  Family is everything.   Spend quality time together.

7.  If you get married; try to stay married and work things out!

8.  Tease, have fun; but be kind and compassionate.

9.  Give of yourself and volunteer your time.

10.  Learn all you can while you’re here; laugh as much as possible and love each other above all else.

Aunt Lois: you scared the heck out of me sometimes and you made me laugh more times than I can remember.  I miss you and I cannot wait until we are all together again!  Thank you for being a part of this family and being such an important guidepost in all of our lives!

We will always remember you!

If there’s an aunt or uncle – or many – that you know have been an important guidepost in your life, I encourage you to tell them today!

Three Sheeplittle lambs

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God or doG Wisdom? Ten Life Lessons According to Canines!

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We should never underestimate animals and what they have to teach us about life!

Recently, after observing my two dogs – Francesca, a 7-year-old Maltese, from the Island of Malta and Jack (Jacque Cousteau), a 6-year-old Yorkshire Terrier, from England – I have come to the conclusion that they have many lessons about life – and about God’s love – to teach me.

Here they are listed Letterman style:

#10:   When you wake up in the morning, before you do anything else, S-T-R-E-T-C-H!  A big long, extended stretch and Y-A-W-N!  This increases blood flow to our muscles and joints and oxygen to our brain!  I also believe reaching our hands above our heads is a way to surrender the day to God and ask him to ‘stretch’ us each day in those places where we’ve become atrophied!

#9:  Have a bowel movement and keep regular.  Need I say more?

#8:  Eat breakfast – and thank God for our DAILY bread each morning just as my dogs thank me for providing them their breakfast by coming up and licking me afterwards.  The dog-food breath is not great, but at least I know they’ve eaten what I have given them.  I think God also needs to know that we have received our nourishment from him each day and that we appreciate what he gives us on a daily basis.

#7:  Walk.  Run.  Play.  Get exercise and get excited about life!  My dog Jack literally squeals when he knows we’re going outside.  He is so excited from the moment he wakes up in the moment that he buries his head in the blankets and snowplows through them, not caring that his hair and his big ears are completely dishevelled – looking a little bit like the Tasmanian devil.  He’s completely ready for the new day, excited about the simple things in life: Eating, playing, running, eating some more, napping, playing some more and chewing on his bone!  Let’s get excited about our day!

#6:  Be Affectionate:  The first thing my dogs do, is come up and shove their little faces in mine in the morning, ready to give me a kiss and pat me with their paws for me to reciprocate their love.  Who wouldn’t want this kind of love and affection when we wake up in the morning?  Do we give our partner/spouse this kind of attention before we get out of bed in the morning?  Maybe we should!  And if we are receiving this kind of attention, do not take it for granted or push it away!  First of all, it hurts the other person and if you knew tomorrow that person might be there to give you this kind of love; you might be very glad to receive it.  At the very least, do it for all of your single friends who don’t have that kind of affection in their lives at the moment!

#5:  Be Persistent:  If you want or need something, don’t give up or give in!  My dog Franny will pat me with her paws, whine and carry on until I finally notice her and put her on my lap.  Although it’s not always convenient to have her in my arms, especially when I’m writing, she won’t give up until I do!  She always gets what she wants – eventually out of sheer persistence!

#4:  Be Single-Focused:  Although sometimes it’s frustrating when my dog Jack will not let go of his bone, even when I’m trying to give him a better, new one; I admire the fact that he is single focused on it when he has it!   Perhaps if we were like this, we would demonstrate more excellence in certain areas of our lives, instead of multi-tasking and doing a mediocre job at many things.  If you’re having a conversation with someone, put away your phone. If you’re talking with your child; stop whatever else you’re doing and really see your child.  We need to be more single focused in our relationships with people.  My dogs NEVER make me feel like there’s someone else or something else they’d rather be paying attention to – I wish I could say I never make them feel this way!

#3:  Look People in the Eye:  My dogs always look me in the eye and it makes me melt.  There is something powerful when we look people in the eye because we make a connection with them that says, I see you and I am allowing you to see me.  Be transparent and open with people!

#2:  Be Forgiving and Forgetful!  Jack and Franny, even when I scold them or spank them for peeing or doing something they shouldn’t be doing; they might disappear into the bedroom for a short time, but they never stay there long nor do they go ruminate for hours about what a terrible person I am!  They are right back out in my presence, loving me as if they’ve completely forgotten – maybe they actually do – and forgiven me.  How wonderful would life be if we all had short-term memories sometimes?

And #1:  Drumroll please…

Remember God loves you!  If you’ve ever had a pet, you know that even though they may do wrong or go off the trail and get themselves into burrs, thistles, fleas or ticks; and it might drive us crazy when we have to spend hours grooming them, picking through their fur or getting soaked when we bathe them; we also know that nothing they do diminishes or takes away our love for them.  If we, in our limited human capacity for love – can feel and exhibit such great amounts of it for our pets even when they “miss the mark”; how much more loving is our God?  How much more can he look past our inadequacies and “bad” behaviour?  This is called Grace and He promised us that it would “super-abound” from Him!

And that, my friends, are just some of the things that my dogs have taught me about life and about God’s love.

Want a new “leash” on life?  Go observe your pets for a while to remind yourself of how loved you are!

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