Tag Archives: love

The Word Father Is A Verb

Steven is in the back row on the right.Note how many small cousins there were, and more were on the way!

Steven is in the back row on the right.Note how many small cousins there were, and more were on the way!

The following post is one I have chosen to repeat in honour of my son Steven’s birthday today.

My son Steven loves babies and toddlers and children of all ages. He enjoys engaging infants in interactions that provoke smiles and gurgles of delight, no matter how uncool his behaviour may seem to any macho type guys in his vicinity. Toddlers give him a great deal of joy too, as he plays their games, with the give and take of surprise that most of their fun is based on. Big and small giggles and smiles, and even rolling on the ground silliness often transpire.

For most of his growing up years, until he began high school, there were babies in our house, as we had a home Day Care for many years. With new little ones coming in each year at the same rate as the older ones started school, there was generally a baby in the mix, and a range of ages among the preschool children. Steven was my parents’ first grandchild, followed closely by his sister Carrie, and several years later by a dozen cousins. Because of the age gap, his role was more of a young uncle than a cousin to them. With older kids, he enjoys challenging them, with good humour, to show off what they already know, or even what they don’t. That way he can get on with the task of teaching them to learn those things in fun ways. He would make a great teacher. He is one of the few people I know who has thus far shown himself to be nonjudgemental of other peoples’ mistakes, not their deliberate wrong-doing of course, but their mistakes. In that, he has shown that he has the most necessary qualification for fatherhood.

Steven is a bachelor, but not by choice. If the right woman were to come along, I’m sure he’d be delighted. He does, however, have two girls in his life, two girls that he loves dearly, Amanda, and Samantha. He has loved them both for a very long time. They call him Dad, because that is what he is to them. He has been there for them since they were little, since the very first time they came to sit on his front step to have a visit from their neighbouring house. When things were not going well between these two sisters, and they would argue, as very close siblings often do, he would encourage them to get along, as any good father would. He was a friend to their mother, and he would often take all three of them out shopping, and even help out at times when they struggled to make ends meet.

Their mom was on her own with them, having tragically lost both of their fathers, in turn, when they were very young. So Steven gradually became the father figure that neither girl had and that both of them needed, giving help with homework, taking them fishing, or bringing them to family events. He made himself accessible and available as their protector and counsellor, and even acted as a disciplinarian if behaviour sometimes warranted a withdrawal of  any privileges that he had given them, and therefore was in charge of at the time.

This is a role that is hard to take on in today’s culture. We live in a society that is totally suspicious of even the most honourable of intentions in all interactions between men and girls, particularly when the man is not in a relationship with their mother. Simply caring about their well-being and their futures, justified to Steven his presence in their lives, no matter what anyone else might think or say about it. The first time I ever heard one of the girls call Steven “Dad” I was taken aback, and then I realized that that’s exactly what he had become; in fact in looking back, it was what he had been for a very long time. I mentioned it to Steven, who told me that for quite a while the girls had been giving him the Dad cards normally given for birthdays and Fathers Day too. I was thankful that he had remained steadfast in his determination to be there for them, no matter what, because having a father figure means so much to a girl.

On an early fall day in 2010 the girls, who were by then in their late teens, lost their mother. It was sudden, unanticipated and overwhelmingly tragic. Neither of them has a surviving birth parent now, and we still feel great sadness for them both. We are, however, incredibly thankful that God deemed to put into place for them, long before the tragedy happened, a man who chose to be their father. We know that his own life had prepared him to have the empathy and compassion to help them through.

The Word Father Is A Verb

To father is to care; to father is to share.

To father is to give, and to always just be there.

To father is to listen, to father is to know

Just what will make things better, and then to make it so.

To father isn’t always just what  matching genes support;

To father doesn’t always lead to adoption files in court.

To father is to care enough to love, and just to be

Where you are, and who you are, for the ones who need to see

That they themselves are valuable enough for you to care

To give yourself, to share yourself, and always just be there.


Your father and I thank you Steven, from the bottom of our hearts.

We are so proud that you are our son. Love, Mom and Dad

My Christmas Collage (Part Three)


Today I hope to complete the collage of Christmas memories that I have been working on for the last two posts. The stories that I have linked together and layered somewhat, one on top of the other, have so far had a common theme—disappointment. For that reason I imagine my collage in shades of blue. However, because I am a person who in no way lives my life in sombre tones. Trust me— there will be a splash of brightness there for all to see before I finish my creation.

Marsha,me,Keith, Jeannie, and cousins Dennis and Cindy.

Marsha,me,Keith, Jeannie, and cousins Dennis and Cindy

Buttons and Bows   Christmas is that time of year when people like to dress up in their gifts of Christmas finery— new ties, new sweaters, or fancy outfits bought for concerts or parties. It’s a time when people seem to want to give everyone the impression that all is right with the world— their particular piece of the world anyway. At our house when I was growing up there was one Christmas that is most memorable in that respect.

My father had recently bought the family farm from his father and we had traded houses with my grandparents. A brand new wood⁄ oil combination furnace had been installed to replace the ancient monstrosity in the basement, with its octopus arms of dangerous decrepit ductwork. Mom and Dad had been furiously painting and wallpapering for weeks so that the house could put on its best face too. It would finally be free of the sooty handprints and the coating of dust and ashes on every surface that the removal of the old furnace had caused.

We older girls had slept in pin curls all night in order to look our very best that day and we had put on our fancy dresses modelled after Snow White’s. Just before his side of the family arrived, Dad stoked the furnace up as high as he could with wood from our elm tree that had died a few years before. The house was warm and toasty as the heat from the giant turkey still roasting in the oven escaped from the kitchen and combined with that pumping out of the registers. But almost immediately we moved on from being warm to being hot.

Mom asked Dad to please hurry and open up some windows.That was how Dad discovered that every one of the windows was hopelessly jammed! Not a single one could be opened— they all had been painted shut! Even keeping the front, back, and side doors open to let in cold air was not enough for relief! Dad’s first big fire might as easily have been an enormous burning yule log!  We all began to perspire like Swedes in a sauna and soon our hair was as damp and limp as dirty dish rags. Within an hour of the relatives’ arrival, all the kids— cousins included, were stripped down to undershirts and shorts or slips. That year in particular there was no joy at all to be found in our buttons and bows.

Mistletoe, Ah Mistletoe   It was late December and I had a sweetheart. His Name was Rolly Rollason. He was a carefree adventurous fellow—never to be held back by the weather. He would arrive for Friday or Saturday night dates or visits, regardless of ice, snow, or freezing rain. One particular Saturday night, much later than my snoring parents would have approved of, we said our goodbyes and he went out to his car. I sneaked up the stairs past my parents’ room and went straight to bed.

Little did I know that down in the driveway the sub zero temperatures had done their work. Rolly could not get his car door lock to open. It had completely frozen up. Disturbing the sleeping household for something to thaw it out with was out of the question, so he got down on his knees and tried to warm up the lock by blowing into it. Perhaps fatigued by the lateness of the hour or in shifting positions to relieve the stony coldness in his knees, he faltered forward. Instantly his moist lips bonded with the sub-zero metal! With much courage he eventually freed himself! The next day he returned for Sunday dinner. From that day on, (perhaps due to my lack of discretion in releasing that information) the family jokingly has referred to Rolly as “Hot Lips Rollason”. Alas, that year, I was to find no  joy under the mistletoe.

fall and santa's farm market 041

The Christmas Tree    A few Christmases later, Rolly and I were a married couple with a mischievous crawling toddler underfoot. He was obsessed with plugs and cords and all things shiny and bright. We expressed our fears that he might electrocute himself or break an ornament and cut himself if we were to put a tree up. It was our brother-in-law Bob, who suggested an innovative solution. Why not put the tree inside the playpen? It was a practical manly solution, not aesthetically beautiful, but in fear for our baby Steven’s well being I agreed to it—as long as the tree was tall and skinny enough. When the task was completed we thought the tall skinny tree looked just fine— kind of like an exhibit in a Christmas tree museum, but it would do. We sat and enjoyed the lights and shiny ornaments for an hour or two after we completed the decorating and then headed off to bed.

The next morning when we entered the living room we were floored! In the heat of our little house the branches had dropped and the tall skinny tree had grown in girth by at least 50%! The tree was now jammed up against the outside perimeters and overflowing at the top like a  matronly primadonna with only enough money to buy confining undergarments for her lower half. Above that point it was wild abandon—a disproportionate abundance of the blinged-up top-most regions! The only advantage was that as the week wore on and the needles fell, most of those on the bottom half stayed inside the playpen. The tree was so tightly wedged in that it had to be removed with a saw and pruning shears. Another manly solution! We had sat around the spectacle we kept on display for a full ten days with a cup of cocoa or two from time to time but in truth that year there was no lasting  joy to be found in having a Christmas tree.

The Nativity Scene   A very vivid memory for me is of the nativity scene that was always placed under our Christmas tree every year when I was growing up. There was a roughly constructed wooden stable with a handful or two of straw strewn about. The figures were all made of painted plaster of Paris and some were a bit chipped from being played with by so many small hands. The baby Jesus wasn’t though— probably because we had always handled that figure with special reverence. Or perhaps it was because we felt no need to move the baby from the manger to anywhere else at all. He was at the centre of the scene—the most important one there, and that was where he ought to be. Another thing I can remember about the baby Jesus figure is that it was out of proportion to everything else. He was much larger than a baby would be in relation to the adult figures around him.

Perhaps the plaster of Paris mold was too tricky to use if the figure had been manufactured smaller, or perhaps the original sculptor who formed the first cast understood and wanted to demonstrate an essential truth. This is the truth that would eventually become real in my own life too. The real Jesus is greater than all and truly can and should dominate the entire scene in our lives.

And when he is there where he ought to be, we will have the ability to experience true joy no matter how difficult the circumstances of our lives or the unexpected things that happen.

Christmas joy really can be found and that is the brightness at the centre of my Christmas collage. That one true light who came and dwelt among us. And to think it all began in a straw strewn stable!

Patiently Awaiting A Brother (Revised)


DocImage000000877My two youngest sisters are Kathy and Janice. They are the girls who arrived before the brother who was promised to my brother Keith— and if not actually promised, at least  maybe’d. I actually remember the way that Keith’s belief that Kathy was going to be a baby  boy began. Mummy was sitting on the kitchen table in front of the big mirror in the little kitchen of our first little white house. That way she could see herself well enough to put her hair into pin curls because she was too short otherwise. I guess Daddy hadn’t asked her to stand in front of the mirror before he hung it up, and it was too high.

All at once she said to us, as we sat on our new kitchen chairs, wearing our new pajamas while watching her twirling her hair: “I’m going to be going to the hospital soon to pick out a new baby for us.” “Can we come with you to pick one out?” Marsha asked, and Mummy told us that they don’t let children into the hospital. Keith asked if he could have a brother this time as he already had Marsha and I and Norma Jean, who was the sister who was younger than he was.Whatever Mummy said, whether it was “Maybe.” or “We’ll see.” or “I”ll try.” he took it to mean a promise and was all excited at the  prospect of getting a brother.

Marsha, Jeannie, me, Keith, and playmate Kenny on the porch where Keith ate the June bug.

Marsha, Jeannie, me, Keith, and playmate Kenny on the porch where Keith ate the June bug.

I guess he didn’t realize at the time that this brother he was expecting to get, was going to take a very long time to get big enough to share in games with him and with the plastic army men that he hadn’t buried yet. All the rest of them were under the dirt beneath the big old maple tree that grew in front of the house, the one that got hit by lightning a few months before. Keith seemed to like burying things a lot that summer. Maybe he was just copying our black dog Judy. Maybe that was the reason that he ate the June bug when he was little too, the one that was crawling across the porch by the kitchen door. Maybe he had seen a dog do that once.

Keith liked to howl like a dog sometimes too; he did that one time when we were waiting in Daddy’s red pick up truck in Melbourne, when Daddy had gone into  a store to pay a bill. After awhile a whole pack of dogs were  gathered around our truck. It was really terrible what trouble little brothers could be— even if you only had to look after one of them for a minute or two.I didn’t know how he could ever want a brother of his own so very much.Girls sure didn’t do stuff like that!

I suppose if we had noticed Mummy getting any bigger before baby Kathy arrived we would have just thought that she was just eating a lot, and growing very fast like our puppy Judy had that summer. We didn’t know anything different about babies coming than that they were picked out at the hospital. Keith, who was called Butchy when he was little, was too young to remember Norma Jean’s arrival. She was called Baby until she was much older, and then Jeannie after that, and Marsha and I will always remember everything about her coming.

Both of us had been crying a lot, especially in the last few days before our Mummy finally came back. Our Grandmother, Mum, had been staying with us, and she told us that Mummy had to stay at the hospital for awhile, because when she went there to pick a baby she got a terrible kopfschmerzen. We were glad when we found out that a kopfschmerzen was not a really cranky screaming baby but just the German word for headache.When we thought we wouldn’t be able to stand Mummy being away for a single minute longer she finally came home to us with a little bundle all wrapped up in a white fuzzy blanket.

When it was unwrapped it was wearing a lot of pink so we knew for certain it was a girl. Butchy was so little himself at the time that he couldn’t have cared less what it was— even a cat— as long as it didn’t take up more than its fair share of space on Mummy’s lap. The idea that a cat would ever be sitting  on Mummy’s lap was a silly one of course. Mummy didn’t like cats very much. She thought they only rubbed up against your legs to get rid of their fleas. When we were little we never truly believed that story because we liked to rub up against Mummy’s legs too, and even hang onto the back of them if we could. Butchy would even try to sit down on her feet, right on top of her nice warm slippers if she was standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes and we knew we didn’t have any fleas!

Me, Keith, Kathy, Jeannie, and Marsha

Me, Keith, Kathy, Jeannie, and Marsha

When Mummy was off picking up the baby who turned out to be Kathy, we weren’t  moping around crying all the like we were when she was  away picking up baby Norma Jean. It might have been because we were a little older and there were more of us to keep each other busy. It might have been because we had heard this headache story not so long ago before and we remembered that at the end of it our Mother really did come home. Mummy and Daddy came in and she was carrying another white fuzzy bundle. We all came running towards her and hugged and kissed her and when she sat down in the middle of the couch and unwrapped the bundle it was  the same pink bow-covered baby doll outfit on this baby as the time before. “But it’s not a boy!” Keith said as he stood beside the couch, with his little arms at his side when Mummy asked him if he would like to climb up and sit with us and take a turn holding the baby. Then, in less time than it takes to sing Rock A Bye Baby, he was up on the couch too, and demanding his turn. As he sat and looked at her and touched the her fuzzy little head he loved her just as much as we all did.

Toddler Kathy and baby Janice

Toddler Kathy and baby Janice

Mummy brought another beautiful baby home to us after we had moved to the big house my grandparents had lived in, and they had moved into our small one next door. That was baby Janice, the baby who never hardly ever cried. Everybody was just as happy that time as they always were whenever we got a brand new sister. Even our brother Keith didn’t seem to mind when he saw all those pink bows and ribbons.

And because Keith was such a patient boy, God decided to make sure that there were enough baby boys to go around after that and he finally got his brother— two of them actually— first Jimmy, and  then Donny. That’s when he really got to know what it is like to have one of your very own.They are really a lot of work sometimes, and they break your toys and they spill your perfume, and they would rather make moats than mud pies, but I guess if you were another boy you would understand. And no matter how they act, you always love them anyway… just because they are yours.

Jimmy and Donny Stephenson on the move.

Jimmy and Donny doing “boy stuff”

He Made Us Proud!

Mom and Dad, with 7 of us kids. Number 8 is still just a glimmer in Dad's eye.

Mom and Dad, with 7 of us kids. Number 8 is still just a glimmer in Dad’s eye.

Today is the birthday of a real hero. He is my father William Peter Stephenson. He was born on June 7, 1925 and left this Earth on October 7, 2004. He was a modest man who didn’t ever think that he had accomplished very much with his life. Somehow, he always felt diminished by his lack of education because he was only able to go to school until grade 8. Because of the Great Depression most farmers were too dirt poor to board their children in town when necessary, so that they could attend high school.

It bothered all eight of us kids very much that he couldn’t appreciate in his own mind what a difference everything he had done, in and through his life, had made to those around him. Despite his own feelings of inadequacy, he was in fact quite well educated. He enjoyed reading the entire newspaper front to back daily whenever possible, The National Geographic and Time Magazine cover to cover, and watching the national news every night before bed. He could hold his own in any conversation, and had amazing math skills. I always felt proud to be in the presence of my father, at any social occasion, because he was an honest, honourable and loving man.

The following poem was written for my Dad for another reason, but I want to use it here as a tribute to his life. I am confident that I will see him again one day and when I do I want to tell him that I kept the promise I made when he passed away— to write for him.

To Dad,

Nobody could have ever loved us more than you did Dad

When I think of all the many things in life you could have had,

If you hadn’t always put us first and seen to all of our needs.

You will always be our hero Dad, because of your unsung deeds—

Putting shoes on sixteen feet not counting yours or Mom’s,

Paying at the counter for those dresses for our proms,

Putting more gas in every time you needed to move your car,

Even though we said we never drove it very far!

Paying for tonsillectomies before OHIP covered the cost,

Or glasses or retainers that some of us constantly lost.

Keeping our cupboards full of food, you worked so hard to be able

To provide a bounty for all of us, (and the neighbour kids at our table).

School clothes, class trips, insurance for driving boys,

Christmases unforgettable with special longed for toys

And keepsakes carefully crafted in secret late at night!

Your love for us seemed to have no end to its depth, its width, its height.

And so again on your birthday, we your family express our love.

To have you as our father was a special gift from above!

If you have a Dad, then even if things are difficult between you right now, make sure you make every effort to let him know you still love and  appreciate him. If you are blessed with a great relationship with your father, then surprise him and tell him before Fathers’ Day how much he means to you. It will be all the more meaningful for him because it is unexpected.

Count your blessings and have a wonderful day!



The Gifts We Are Given


Going to Sunday school at the Baptist Church. ...

On Sunday, I had the privilege of attending a little church in Mount Brydges, a small town near where I live. I wanted to be there to witness the christening of my little nephew Ethan, an adorable infant I sometimes get to babysit. He is my fourth great nephew and he has a big brother Joshua. My fifth great nephew was born that very morning, and given the name Brayden. The other two little guys are Finley and Jacob.  I don’t have any great nieces yet, but I am just thrilled that these five  boys are close enough in age to become really good friends. Such was the case in the generation before them. My own two children were born a number of years before my older sister Marsha’s daughter Sarah,and she was a few years ahead of  the mob which followed. The three of them didn’t have the advantage of having a cousin of the same age to chum with at parties, at family events and even for some who lived close, at high school. The thing about cousins is that they are often as much loved as a sister or a brother would be, without having to put up with them all the time. In fact, two of them, Andrea and Carl were so close that they actually did sometimes fight like siblings. Fortunately they’ve outgrown it (at least as far as I know.)

So it was,that in a rather short period of time, my  mother and father went from being the grandparents of  three, to the grandparents of fourteen. They were positively delighted! Just imagine though, if each of  us eight kids had been blessed with a family as large as the one we were raised in. Perhaps Mom and Dad would have been a little less excited after buying the sixty fourth birthday gift of the year.There is no doubt about it, some of us would have loved to have had more than the one or two children we were blessed with, but the circumstances of life got in the way. My having only two kids, who were older than all the rest, allowed me to be available as a kind of auxiliary parent figure, at various times in my life when opportunity presented itself.  This is what I am again enjoying from time to time as a great aunt. Funny, how we get to call ourselves “great” when all we need to do to achieve it is wait for our sisters’ and brothers’ kids to have kids. Thanks Ryan, Sheri, Andrea, and Alison! I couldn’t have achieved greatness without your help,and your spouse’s help too of course! This big mob of nieces and nephews of mine quickly modeled themselves after their parents’ close and loving relationships, and over the years they have shared in one another’s  joys and sorrows much as siblings would.

I am so thankful for this, because I really do believe that we can be what we need to be for whoever  needs us, whenever they need us, in the strength that God gives us to do it.We need to follow the example set for us in Psalm 68:5 that says that God is a father to the fatherless and a defender of  widows. Using the principal of caring for others in whatever ways you can  lends itself to a full and happy life. If you are wondering what needs there could possibly be that you can fill, because you don’t know anybody that needs your help, then you just haven’t been paying attention!  You don’t have to look far to see something you can do; it doesn’t need to be huge. It could be helping an exhausted Mom who needs a free sitter, or taking the time to let a child you know show you his latest accomplishment. Listening to a saxophone solo might show some genuine sacrificial love on your part and you will be blessed by it too, for  “Truly the fragrance of the rose remains on the hand of him that gives it.” Now a personal quote  for my nephew Carl, whose earliest saxophone performances are the ones I hold dearest in my memory “Truly, the sweetness of the music will be remembered in later years.”

These funny stories about children in church came across my desk  just in time to share them with you today. I think back on the christening  service of  last  Sunday with a smile.

The pastor was quoting First Corinthians 13:11,  just as the noise level reached a crescendo due to a group of loud but happy children, some of them having great problems staying in their seats. But not my nephews! They were as good as gold!

I Corinthians 13:11 says “When I was a child I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child, but when I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

A little child in church for the first time watched as the

ushers passed the offering plates. When they neared the
pew where he sat, the youngster piped up so that everyone
could hear: “Don’t pay for me Daddy, I’m under five.”

A little boy was attending his first wedding. After the
service, his cousin asked him, “How many women can a
man marry?” “Sixteen,” the boy responded.  His cousin
was amazed that he had an answer so quickly. “How do
you know that?”  “Easy,” the little boy said. “All you have
to do is add it up, like the Bishop said: 4 better, 4 worse,
4 richer, 4 poorer.”

After a church service on Sunday morning, a young boy
suddenly announced to his mother, “Mom, I’ve decided to
become a Pastor when I grow up.”   “That’s okay with us,
but what made you decide that?” “Well,” said the little
boy, “I have to go to church on Sunday anyway, and I
figure it will be more fun to stand up and yell, than to sit
and listen.”

A boy was watching his father, a Pastor, write a
sermon.” How do you know what to say?” he asked.
“Why, God tells me.” “Oh, then why do you keep
crossing things out?”

A little girl became restless as the Preacher’s sermon
dragged on and on.  Finally, she leaned over to her mother
and whispered, “Mommy, if we give him the money now,
will he let us go?”

Terri asked her Sunday School class to draw pictures of
their favorite Bible stories.  She was puzzled by Kyle’s
picture, which showed four people on an airplane, so she
asked him which story it was meant to represent. “The
flight to Egypt,” said Kyle.  “I see … And that must be
Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus,” Ms. Terri said. “But who’s
the fourth person?” “Oh, that’s Pontius – the Pilot.

Pastor Dave tells us, “After a worship service at First
Baptist Church in a city in Kentucky, a mother with a
fidgety seven-year old boy told me how she finally got her
son to sit still and be quiet.  About halfway through the
sermon, she leaned over and whispered, ‘If you don’t be
quiet, Pastor Dave is going to lose his place and will have
to start his sermon all over again!’   “It worked.”

Have a happy day today! Call your Mom, visit a friend, send a card, or volunteer. Do something for somebody. Be blessed!