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Celebrating birthdays

 November 2008 

November has been a busy month for us. It seems to be a month of celebrating birthdays. Isaac's on Nov 7th, Kathy's the 11th, Matthew's the 18th and Grandma's (Kathy's Mum) on the 21st.

One thing we struggle with is how to celebrate birthdays without going "overboard" on partying and buying expensive presents.

One modern trend that we have noticed in New Zealand is the number of parties people have. It appears to us that people are looking for any reason to have a party.

Our boys continually get invited to birthday parties, farewell and welcome home parties, as well as all the regular parties such as 21st parties, engagement parties, stag parties and many other parties.

It almost seems to us as if the church is following the world when it comes to parties.

We try to celebrate family member's birthdays in a meaningful, yet modest way financially that affirms them.

One thing that has been a big blessing in our family has been birthday cards.(I owe this practice of cards to Kathy). Over the years our younger children have made their own while Kathy and I usually purchase them. It is quite significant and important, we believe, to write very encouraging things about another family member saying how much they mean to us and how much we love them.

As far as having a party is concerned, we usually try and celebrate our birthdays by giving a cake and singing "happy birthday" to them at our Saturday group.

On the night of their actual birthday we usually have a special dinner with our own family.

On the 18th November we celebrated Matthew's 21st party. In New Zealand 21st parties have been referred to as "Coming of Age" parties. Traditionally a large key is presented to the birthday person signifying that the person now has the key to the door, as he/she is no longer under the parent's guidance and influence. 21st parties therefore, are usually very big events. Matthew, however, asked that we keep it small and just celebrate it at our Saturday group.

Kathy and I don't believe it is Biblical to release children (give them the "key to the door" as it were) at aged 21. Many young people are still not emotionally mature at this age and we have seen many young lives "shipwrecked" through moving out from under the Godly covering of their parents.

I believe the key event for a person to move out from under their parents covering is marriage. In a number of places in the Bible it say this, "For this reason (marriage) a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh".

So how did we celebrate Matthews 21st? We had a special meal and cake at our Saturday group and in the sharing time people shared how much Matthew had meant to them. Our family has a little ritual that we go through at family 21st's that Jewish families may have done when a young man left home on a journey. Let me explain:

We know that many of the Psalms were written for special occasions such as Temple worship or the coronation of a king.

One Biblical scholar believes that Psalm 121 was written for the occasion of a young man leaving home and going on a journey. The young man would stand at the doorway of the family home. He could see the hills away in the distance. And so he would say, "I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord the maker of heaven and earth."

The family would then respond by reciting the rest of Psalm 121. "He will not let your feet slip, He who watches over you will not slumber, indeed He who watches over Israel will neither slumber not sleep." The last verse says this: "The Lord will watch over you coming and going both now and forevermore."

This little ritual may or may not have happened in ancient Israel, but as a family we do it with each of our children when they turn 21 rather than giving them the "key to the door".

We felt it was very meaningful for our family going through this little exercise in symbolically setting Matthew off on the journey of life.

We had a special dinner for Matthew at a restaurant for just our family on Matthew's actual birthday. Grandma who lives in a retirement village in Auckland came and stayed with us for a few days to celebrate Matthew's 21st.

We also celebrated Grandma's 94th birthday by having a family dinner. She is extremely fit and well for a 94 year old. She is a blessing when she comes and stays. She joins in our family sharing time by sharing her blessings from God and her Quiet Times.

Nana is gradually deteriorating. She has been diabetic for over 40 years and as a result has had poor circulation in her feet and legs. Some of her toes are now in the early stages of gangrene. Her doctor said that she may have to have surgery to remove some of her toes if they further deteriorate.

Despite this problem Nana is usually quite content and suffers no pain. She has morphine patches placed on her body which release a low dose of morphine. We would still love to have her with us for a few more years. We would, however, prefer her to die with a sudden stroke than to die by gangrene.

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