“Happy Birthday” to my mum! September 15th 1931, in the English town of Barking, just a handful of “tube” stops from the center of London, Arthur and Lily welcomed Grace Ellen Watts Kemp into the world.
It was a world fraught with the uncertainties of the Great Depression, social upheaval, the unresolved griefs of World War One, and the rising tide of fascism. When she was eight years old, war erupted again and Grace Kemp spent the ensuing years in a city essentially under siege, torn to shreds by bombing. She watched London burn, spent countless nights in air-raid shelters, and even witnessed much of her own street reduced to rubble.
In response to a world turned upside down, mum simply did what she knew how to do; and so she lived the next eight decades sharing the Good News of light, and love, and mercy, and encouragement, and grace. She accomplished this by marrying David Maul, and raising a family together where life was grounded and lived out in the sure knowledge of God’s unfailing love, and by emerging as a natural leader in each church community where they lived.
Wake Forest, 2020:
Mum and dad moved to join us here in Wake Forest in 2014. So today, in a world where COVID-19 has isolated so many older people from their families, we are thankful to have my parents next door where we are unrestricted in our ability to provide support.
Which brings me to the key image in today’s post. It’s impossible to quantify the amount of joy Max Retriever has brought and continues to bring to my parents, many times a day. The relationship really is a wondrous thing.
Max weighs in at a good 15% more than my mum, yet she can hold his leash when we’re walking without any issues. In their home he lays down at/on mum’s feet and literally pins her in place. He runs enthusiastically to say hello, but then stops and stands gently by her side.
When Max came home to be my parents’ neighbor, it was as if my mum had received the best birthday present in decades. So I think I may just tape a bow on his head, send him over for a visit, and save everything else I have for Christmas.
Between them, my mum and dad now have 181 years of life saved up. That is impressive in many ways. But most impressive is the cumulative love and faithfulness such a journey has sowed into the story of this world.
Here’s my challenge. We talk about change, and how badly we want to see the world heal. Well if we all lived with such purposeful faith and shone with such genuine light, then the love that spilled into the homes, communities, workplaces, and nations would become the unstoppable force Jesus had in mind when he said, “Go into all the world and introduce everyone to my love. And you can be sure that I will always be with you” (Matthew 28)…
Happy birthday, mum – DEREK