george_hancockstefanA couple of days ago, I took part in my Thursday morning ritual and went to Dunkin' Donuts for my coffee and non-fat blueberry muffin.  As I entered the store, a father with two little boys was coming out.  They seemed to be two and four years old. The oldest ran and opened the door and the youngest one was still dragging his feet.  In the middle was the father who was trying to help the youngest come out and cautioning the oldest not to run, only to be hit by the door. I chuckled as I stepped in to help him make his exit.

This incident brought to mind many of those events when I was in various places with two, three or all four of my children.  At times I remember being exactly like this father.  Many times I knew what I needed to do, many times I was completely lost and many times I was hit by both real and proverbial doors.  However, those times and seasons were so sweet, so challenging, so filled with laughter, amazement and joy to be together as parents and children. It was a season that came, was enjoyed and it has gone.

In the same day, I was talking with a colleague who received an invitation to go to Eastern Europe and teach for a whole week before Easter. There were times in the past when an invitation of this sort would come to me and because I was single, I could leave the next week.  I was blessed to travel extensively and to meet Christians on many continents and to teach in various seminaries and other settings. When invitations like those come these days, it takes much more planning and energy to accomplish these requests.

Many years ago, a small group of pastors met with a spiritual guide (mentor) on a bi-monthly basis in order to sharpen our spiritual walk with God. It was a steep learning curve.  In one of those sessions he asked us to share the most joyful event that has happened to us that year. After the first person shared, he asked the rest of us to share our first reaction as we listened to the joyful news of our colleague.  Were they feelings of joy, sadness, jealousy, envy? It was interesting to find out that many of us had to confess that we were wondering why this great occasion of joy and fantastic opportunity was not happening to us!  We found out how difficult is to practice that commandment, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”

These days, one of my daughters is married and has a son, two are in college and one is at home.  By now, when we go out as a family they hold the door and it does not hit me on the way out.  There are other things that happen which are very fun.  It is fun to watch our daughters creating new relationships with other people. Even when they do not spend as much time with us, we rejoice in the fact that we have raised them to have confidence in themselves. It is fun to watch our oldest daughter and our son-in-law raise their son (our grandson) with their own joy, anxiety and anticipation for what the future will bring for him and for them as a family.

This week an invitation came asking me to commit five years of participation in an international study group.  In my 30's I would have called the day that I received the letter, and told them that I was honored to be a part of this group. Now that my age has doubled, and I do not need as much affirmation, the letter is still on my desk because I am trying to figure out if I want to commit all the required time and money to be in that august group.

These days I am learning to rejoice with those who rejoice and encourage people to enjoy the seasons of their lives for indeed they are fleeting.  These days when I see parents being frustrated with their children, I tell them to enjoy their times with their children because this season will pass quickly.  When my friends receive invitations that I have never received, I try to rejoice with them because this is a season in their lives that is so important and for many will never come again.