Jennies' Blog - The Unseen
Thank goodness it’s not everyday we lose a close loved one. Yet, losing my father has shaped me in ways I couldn’t have anticipated.
One thing I know, for sure, Heaven means much more to me than before.
My father Rudolph “Rudy” Nehemiah Russell, affectionately known as “Brother Johnny” in old church vernacular, immigrated to Canada from Jamaica in 1966, the year before I was born. Even though he moved back and forth between both countries for the next nine years, he missed my birth. However, there wasn’t much else he missed after my mom and we seven children - eventually becoming eight - joined him in Canada. He was - in our home - stability. We didn’t have everything we wanted, but had all we needed. For his last job, Dad worked hard as a carpenter at Darlington Hydro Nuclear Plant, for over 25 years, but also worked hard at home, especially when we moved to a forty-five-acre farm, in Havelock, ON.
Along with his hard work ethics, Dad was a strict disciplinarian who kept three imaginative girls and five active boys in line. Dad also lived his belief in Christ, day in and day out. We had “church” before going to church during our weekly Sunday morning family devotions. What a legacy!
My dad loved my mom. They had their ups and downs, but celebrated 5o-plus years of marriage. Their common faith in God and active work for Him solidified their commitment to each other as nothing else could.
My parents never sold their Jamaican home, but wintered there maybe every 2 to 3 years, following Dad’s retirement. When Dad became more frail from spinal deterioration and arthritis, they moved close to my family. My family and I became his partial care-giver. It was difficult, but we loved him: his wit, dry sense of humour, and his regular admonitions to us.(Photo of my husband and I visiting my parents' Jamaican home)
My dad made a hobby carpenter out of my sales-rep husband – “Measure twice, cut once.” - and touched the lives of countless people in many ways, some of which we found out after his passing. Dad treasured my 1st and 2nd novels, always encouraged me in my writing. I’m so glad I embedded his first and middle names on a page of my third book (God in My House), as my main character’s late father, and that I had dedicated this novel in memory of him (search for my novels here).
A celebration is what best described my dad’s funeral! His life was celebrated, even as his death was mourned.
So, now, when I think of Heaven, it’s so much more personal. I love Jesus. He’s in my heart and is my Life, but I’ve never seen Him face to face. I’ve seen my dad, so now that puts more “skin” on Heaven. I’m jealous of my earthly father being with my Heavenly Father; jealous of my Lord, having my dad, but I wouldn’t change anything. My husband and kids need me here, and Dad – my kids’ Papa – is perfectly well. Heaven can wait, but it sure means more to me now…
Love you, Dad. Miss you so much…
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Canada is 100 years older than I, which tells you how old I am!
Canada became my home when I was eight years old. A lot has changed since then. With the internet and ease of travel, our world has become more of a global village where we can benefit economically, socially, and culturally from each other, but also where increasing terrorism has created more uncertainty, fear, and distrust. Despite this, being Canadian is still a blessing that Canadians need to be reminded not to take for granted. Not only that, but we need to be reminded to regularly pray for God's continued care and blessings.
I try to look back through the mind of an eight year old and remember . . .
What do I remember about my immigration experience?
Relief! My siblings and I no longer had to be left with others while our mother made periodic visits to our father in Canada. (photo with my youngest brother)
Inoculations! I had to get my needles updated. And mixed with the excitement of the reason why, was fear of the pain.
Blur! Many things became a blur in the necessary packing and arranging – most of which I do not remember.
Goodbyes! I miss my best friend from school still, even though I can't recall her face. I don’t remember how I felt about leaving my extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Closeness! I don’t remember ever feeling more connected with my family than the time of the “move-of-all-moves,” including the airplane ride, and our first few months in a new country.
Amazement! The hundreds of lights on the 401 thrilled me! White flecks of coldness falling to cover the ground mystified me! I don’t remember what I thought of autumn leaves.
Confusion! The “Canadian” accent of my teacher and kids in school stumped me for a while, making it harder to understand. Also, I found out for the first time that I was “Black.”
Adaptation! It wasn’t long before I could understand the “accent,” and snow soon lost its mystery. My Canadian uncle, aunt, and cousins became our extended family.
Security! Two constants in all of this: Family and God!
When my youngest child was eight, I remember asking her what it might be like for her if we suddenly left Canada for a new life in a different country. She looked at me blankly, shrugged, and ran off to play. I shook my head. I think I was “older” than her eight when I was that age. I was the oldest daughter; she’s the baby of our family. Nevertheless, at the time, I was completely content in her ability to not even worry about it in her secure child’s world. Now, I’m quite content, especially with so much uncertainty in our world, that the baby (who is now 13), my other four children, and one daughter-in-law have the stability and opportunities of being in a blessed country like Canada. As for myself, I wouldn’t trade the experience of two worlds – my birth country, Jamaica, and my adopted country, Canada.
And I do treasure those early memories of my birth country. It's also where I met my husband while visiting. But I have built so many more memories here, in the place that's been my home for 42 years!
Happy 150th Birthday Canada!!
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My husband and I have been married for almost 28 years. Been a breeze? Definitely not.
But it's worth it! There's something about making it through the trenches together. It breeds a type of resilient, deep relationship you get no other way.
Marriage: the epitome of the ultimate relationship! Hmmm. That says a lot, because many marriages are nowhere near that. Yet God designed marriage to be the knitting of flesh and purpose. Of one man and one woman (Gen. 2:24).
This past June, my husband and I celebrated the first wedding on either side of our families. Our only son was married to a wonderful young woman! No longer do the two walk separately, but as one. Not that the two lose themselves or their individuality, as in their personalities, ambitions, desires…. But they no longer live to serve their own interests without considering the other. And let me tell you, “living together” is not the same as making that commitment, that covenant, or those vows with each other.
Marriage is not easy!
It takes work, dedication, and commitment. A couple may come together because of attraction, love, or by arrangement, but will only last by sheer commitment and a maturing of love. The cloud-nine love that initiated the relationship will not last, and unfortunately many look for it over and over in “other” relationships. Choosing to love one’s spouse for “better or worse” is love that stands the test of time, love that grows and matures, and becomes what is impossible to know any other way but by experience.
Couples may fall in and out of love depending on the weather, the bills, the baby up all night, that time of month…. But the kind of love that survives is not so much about feelings as about choice, commitment. It’s like no other love, because it can incorporate the relationships of brother & sister in Christ, friendship, family, and lover. It’s physical, emotional, and, on some level, spiritual. Only two clear biblical ways out of it: adultery or death (Mat. 19:4-9).
Of course, keeping the romance alive goes a long way.
Something as simple as taking a walk together – alone. And, if it comes down to it, seeking mentoring, or marriage counseling, and a call to prayer, before the journey gets seemingly impossible, are serious considerations.
It’s said, go into marriage with your eyes wide opened and half closed, thereafter. Full commitment, like that of Christ and the Church. Yeah. Much to think about: a husband should love his wife as Christ loves the Church and gave Himself for her; nourishing her, cherishing her. A wife is to respect and submit to her husband as unto Christ (Eph. 5:22-33). Doesn’t sound too romantic here, but maybe in some biblical stories like Ruth & Boaz, where Boaz shelters and protects her; Solomon & the Shulamite woman, with poetic verses of passionate love; Esther & Ahasuerus, the King of Persia, where instead of reaping the king’s fury, she earns the salvation of her people; etc.
And even though there is biblical grounds for divorce, it’s not God’s first choice, as He hates divorce. The story of Hosea & Gomer transcends understanding, as it depicts a prophet’s obedience to God in keeping an adulterous wife. Again, portraying Christ’s love for us, even when we stray.
A lifetime commitment?
Yes! A call to guard our hearts & minds from straying from each other, striving always to stay faithful to those sacred vows. And even if one marriage fails, and another takes its place, having an accountability to the Lord still carries much weight. After all, He sees past all our pretenses and struggles to what’s really in our hearts, and He will always be there to help in every need.
I’m a romantic at heart. Almost 28 years, and I’m still in love with my husband. But not just for the poetry and passion, but for the strength of love & commitment. The hope and trust in each other. But especially the hope, faith, and love in a living God who gives us richly all things to enjoy (1Tim.6:17). And that most certainly means marriage!
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In my previous post – “So You Think You’re Falling in Love… Now What?” – a lot was still up in the air. You had to get to know your love interest for who they really are. You’ve developed a friendship where you feel you know her/him as well as can be expected.
NOW you BELIEVE you’ve met Ms./Mr. Right and want to begin a dating courtship. They’re the one! It’s marriage all the way! What's some sound advice?
My biggest advice is to seek out options that explore the engagement/marital relationship...
Some churches offer this. An experienced mentor couple is also an excellent choice. This can be done even before the engagement (wise option, especially for very young couples). Once you do make the promise to marry – the engagement! – premarital counselling is a must. And prayer should never be far from you, especially praying together (a great habit to develop even now).
No matter how much you and your honey seem to have it all together, it’s never that simple. Guaranteed, the time will come when you wish you had. Not that premarital counselling will miraculously solve everything – and you need a good Christian counsellor - but you’re afforded practical tools to help you through the inevitable pitfalls.
Please set boundaries for yourself, if you desire to honour God's will and command about sex (1Corinthians 6 & 7). Don’t ever think you can “handle it." This would be your first mistake. It doesn’t matter that you’re “going steady” or engaged. Heavy petting or fondling, deep kissing, etc., especially behind closed doors, will most likely lead to one thing – sex. This is especially true if you were sexually active in a previous relationship. We’re wired that way; and, even the Apostle Paul, with his message of sexual purity, would have a hard time.
Remember, your commitment to God is first, which means sexual purity of body and thought – even if you’ve already been down that road. Respect for yourself and your sweetheart is paramount, next to your respect and, yes, fear of God. You want to make sure your commitment to “become one flesh” with your love literally happens after you’ve made those legal/moral/spiritual vows with your words and heart. Sometimes, even at the last moment, breakups happen, and the one you were supposedly “saving” yourself for has already taken a part of you and is now on the run… away from the relationship.
Even more importantly, the sex act is more than just a physical joining. There’s also an effect on the soul. There’s also the possibility of conception, regardless of which contraception is used. That kind of intimacy is best left to a committed marital relationship. It’s God’s way, and He knows best.
After all, isn’t the marital relationship supposed to be more than sex? It’s also an intimacy of friendship, family, sharing, commitment… of ONENESS. Above all, it’s an earthly reflection of God’s ultimate plan for Christ and the Bride of Christ, the Church.
You’ve met the one? Are you sure? Then do all you can to make sure you succeed for better or for worse.
Our son and fiancee's engagement
Next blog: "So the Wedding is Over . . ."
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Our only son is getting married, so I decided to revive my relationship blogs.
I believe he's found Miss Right. But, unfortunately, not everyone is so blessed. In these increasingly confusing times, many young people need reassurance and direction.
It’s amazing what happens when someone experiences Cupid’s arrow. Suddenly the object of their affection is seen through rose-coloured glasses – as they say – and most common sense goes out the window, until the person wakes up and wonders how they got so involved with Miss Wrong. Well, I’ve got some safe guards for you.
Cupid’s arrow is as old as time. Boy meets girl. Woman meets man. If you’re fortunate, it’s not drop-dead love at first sight. It’s usually just a stirring interest that may or may not increase over time.
The “stirring interest” is more prudent, in that it’s easier to maintain your right mind and not make rash decisions. “Drop-dead love,” on the other hand, needs a definite cooling-off period before it’s determined to be “real love” – meaning the kind that will stand the test of time.
For stirring interest, I tell my adult kids, get to know the person on a friendly term, at first. See them as people who have strengths and weaknesses. Avoid romantic intimacy until you know you actually like this person and are not just infatuated. After all, we could become infatuated with the devil - who comes as an angel of light - if we don’t know who he really is. Ask trusted family, friends or acquaintances to “see” them for you, as they’ll be more objective than you. Be informed about their family life and background.
The drop-dead love must cool down. No one can see the real person while living on cloud nine. Follow the same principles as mentioned above: forcing yourself to be just a friend, until you know what the object of your pounding affection is really like. You may need friends and family to help you stay on track, and pray like crazy. Believe me, a cooling down will come. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t avoid the person. This will only prolong their “perfect” image, since you won’t really get to know them through avoidance; hence, prolonging the infatuation stage.
Above all, they need to share your love for Christ – very important. His plan is so much more than any arrows Cupid might shoot your way.
And, yes, I believe in courtship dating, not just dating for the sake of having a fling with the guy or girl at your side. Outside of that, guys and girl can still have social fun together without all the baggage of wasted, shallow romance. Some guys may not want to know the Bible’s instructions about how to treat women they have no intention of marrying. Same goes for how girls treat guys. It’s supposed to be like brother and sister ( 1Timothy 5:1-2).
When you’re of age where marriage can reasonably be assumed, and you meet and become friends with the one who you think is “the one,” then courtship dating means, I see a possible marriage future with you.
And since God knows each person best, make sure to ask His opinion. He has a way of bringing to light the necessary things needed to know about each other. And carefully consider your parents’ opinions. Most want the best for you and can see objectively what you won’t about the object of your affection. So, goodbye Cupid’s arrow, and welcome Light of God!
Our son & fiancee
Here’s to Love!
Watch for future posting about what happens after you’re sure it’s Mr./Ms. Right.
Next blog: "So Now You've Met Ms./Mr. Right..."
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The start of this year, one of my teenage daughters inspired me profoundly. She told me she was going on a fast - a part-day fast. No food. She wanted to spend time with God. She had some things to ask Him - to talk to Him about.
Then she told me she would spend part of it in our woods.
The woods? I hesitated a bit - thought - then remembered my youth. She wanted to be away from the distractions of the house, the yard. She wanted the trails, the woods, and God. So, I gave her boundaries and let her go.
We expect our kids to stump us every now and then, but spiritual stuff seems to affect a whole other level. It did when my youngest told me, months ago, she would join me in fasting and praying. She would fast snacks (2 out of 3), and pray, instead of eating. I remember chuckling to myself, thinking - how cute. Yet, who knew what the Almight was already establishing in her heart from the tender age of ten.
God does that. He starts things in us before we're even aware. Sometimes we see it, in retrospect. Often we don't.
I like to think He saves things from us, for us. Sometimes we have a way of messing up when we know too much.
Explaining what a fast is, to my girls, reminded me of why I do it. It's not for show and not for selfish gain. Sacrifice feeding the body, to feed the soul - the spirit. And not just the food. I usually spend time in prayer, reading the Bible, abstaining from things of little spiritual value. I watch what I listen to, what I read, say, do - as best I can.
Even more difficult is fasting while still having to do household chores, chauffeuring - and, yes, cooking, etc. It's not a perfect science, but hunger pangs are enough reminder of what I'm about. It's not easy to forget, especially if you're doing it in the woods.
It doesn't always work the way I hope. Sometimes I'm cranky and wonder why I even bother. Sometimes the distractions are overwhelming. The hardest fasts are the ones when I just don't feel like it, but He's given me clear direction I should. I get cranky with Him. But in the end, and not always the same day, I usually see why I needed that intense time with Him and the unforseen benefits. He's so good.
And, I have to say, fasting shows what's really important. May He truly be first now, while we're here and in these bodies, as He will be in eternity.
It'll be interesting to see where my daughter decides to go should she fast this summer. Guaranteed the mosquitoes won't be fasting in our woods.
(fasting - Matt. 6:16-18)
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