Category Archives: Beauty of God’s Creation

5 Friday Faves – No-Pressure Valentine’s Day, Travel Hacks, Prayer Habits, First Signs of Spring, and Wordplay Smiles

Friday! You made it. Joy! Here are five of my favorite finds for you…

1) No-Pressure Valentine’s Day – Seriously no pressure! Valentine’s Day is one of those super emotionally-laden days (maybe more for women, but I’m sure it’s not easy for guys either). I’ve always celebrated it, whether a man was involved or not, because of all the lovely stuff attached to it (cards, candy, dinner out, flowers, etc.). Never minded paying for those for myself or others. The best part is just being with people you love…whoever they are.

This week I came across a super-silly video by the Merrell Twins. They are these two YouTube stars and are pretty cute. The video is about Valentine’s Day with boyfriend or without boyfriend. The best part actually is their #TwinTalk at the end of the video…wait for it.

YouTube Video – It’s Valentine’s Day Song – Merrell Twins

I’ve previously written about Valentine’s Day (here and here). In fact, please read those pieces…for a no-pressure day. Seriously.

2) Travel Hacks – We who have the money and means to travel either love it or hate it. I LOVE it. In fact, it’s been too long since my last international trip…so I’ve been drawn to travel stories and articles. Tim Ferriss hosted Ryan Holiday on a blog about his 21 Travel Rules. Having lived in several countries and traveled through many more, I agree with many of his rules. Check them all out. Some you may already know like packing light, eating healthy, and don’t over-schedule your trip. Other bits of advice from Holiday were quite new for me – like not reclining your seat on a plane (THANK YOU!). Also don’t depend on guidebooks – talk to people where you’re going about things to do and see. Another idea: Note places or experiences described in books you’ve read and enjoy them again on your trip. One last favorite hack: don’t talk and talk about your upcoming trip or plan and plan – just go! Read the rest here:

Photo Credit: We Are Travel Girls

How to Travel: 21 Contrarian Rules

How to Travel – Some Contrarian Advice (shorter version of above article)

…and “Can’t Stop the Feeling” goes global!

3) Prayer Habits – Prayer is probably the most impactful thing we can do in life – for ourselves and those we love. Developing a habit of prayer can start today. I’m not talking about some sort of rote activity or just saying words out into the room. Prayer is not delivering a wish list to some benevolent father figure. It is a conversation with the God of the universe who calls us to Himself. He infuses all our lives with his love and purpose. He also actually taught us how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). Cliff Jordan of Movement Church spoke recently on how God Himself guides us to pray – listen here.

I learned the prayer Jesus taught his disciples when I was a child. It has been a comfort and primer for me ever since. Consider teaching your children to pray the Lord’s Prayer, and then guide them to grow up in a lifestyle of prayer…following your lead.Photo Credit: Faith Hope Love at Home; Courageous the Movie

Nick Aufenkamp writes about Martin Luther’s prayer patterns and offers a simple and sound approach to daily prayer:

  • Seek first God’s rule and reign and righteousness in our lives (Matthew 6:33).
  • Discipline our wandering minds.
  • Build a fence so our prayers can run wild inside (through the structure of the Lord’s Prayer).

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Four Ways to Lead Our Children Toward Bravery – Jill Waggoner

4) First Signs of Spring – It’s happening! Spring is showing up again. No matter how many cold and snowy days this winter still produces before it gives in to Spring, we can see it coming!

5) Wordplay Giggles – So I didn’t know the word for it until this week, but some people have a knack for turning the meaning of a sentence to something hilarious. Winston Churchill was gifted at the use of something you’ve probably never heard defined but you’ve enjoyed the humor within it.  A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to re-frame or re-interpret the first part.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Photo Credit: Frustrated Boomers

  1. Evening news is where they begin with ‘Good evening’ and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.
  2. Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
  3. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
  4. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  5. Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.
  6. A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.
  7. I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not sure.
  8. Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, you will be a mile away and he won’t have any shoes.
  9. “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.” — Groucho Marx
  10. “She got her good looks from her father; he’s a plastic surgeon.” — Groucho Marx
  11. Kittens play with yarn, they bat it around. What they’re really doing is saying, “I can’t knit, get this away from me!”
  12. I’m supposed to respect my elders, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to find one now.
  13. There’s a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can’t get away. – Monty Pelerin

Paraprosdokian Fun

Steven Wright Quotes – Good Reads

Have a sweet weekend and a Happy Valentine’s Day. You are loved!

5 Friday Faves – Stuff I Like to Do – Had to Think About It

Happy Friday!

A friend asked me yesterday about what I like to do around Richmond….this small city big on events, restaurants, and natural beauty. I had trouble coming up with things. Not because I never get out…but just don’t think in terms of stuff I like to do. It made me realize that my life these days is more reactive/responsive than intentional and proactive. Really got me thinking…

Here are 5 favorite things I like to do…not bound to location…

1) Team/Family Activities – As much of my life is spent in solitary endeavors, creating, serving, and playing as a team energizes me. I love to learn from others and the momentum and synergy of a group work inspire me to push through. This isn’t just doing sometime collectively as a group of people…not really invested in each other. This is working together as a team! It’s serving a great purpose…together, not just alongside other people.  Love that process. Also in play, game nights are special fun for the chatter and laughter around the table as much as for the adventure of the gaming itself.

2) Being Able to Support and/or Encourage Our Adult Children – There’s a strange tension in this. We are glad for our children to launch as adults and they are glad to be on their own and pursuing their own careers and interests. Still, after so many years of being under the same roof and intimately in each others’ lives, I’m glad for touch-points. Praying for them always (my privilege and special responsibility). Babysitting for a grandchild. Listening to their hopes and dreams. Offering counsel on a struggle (when asked…and sometimes not even). Supporting financially within healthy and honoring bounds. You hear a lot about Nathan in here. I long to be able to support him in his musical career…but didn’t really know how. Just this week, he made that easier by affiliating with Patreon. Now we’re a part of his small but growing community of patrons.

3) Travel and the People We Travel To and With – I’m not an experience or destination collector, so travel to tick off a bucket list isn’t a motivation. However, it’s possible that’s because we have had the great fortune of travel as a normal part of our lives over the years. We have lived in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco. Dave and I spent our 25th wedding anniversary in Paris, France. As a family, we’ve shared incredible destinations…from the Red Sea to the Sahara Desert, from trips in Europe and to Africa. My international travel has been curbed a bit, but there is still tremendous joy in trips to Laurel, Delaware and Hoschton, Georgia (to see family) and to such places as Midland, Texas and Nashville, Tennessee to see friends. Etc., etc., etc. It’s less the destination…as what the travel brings in times together.

4) Food Events – It’s my birthday today, and there will definitely be food events. Food itself is a delight, of course. The sweet side-benefit of food events is that person sitting across from me. Or the children and adults gathered close around the long family table. Or the folks cozied on couches around the room. Or even (gasp) the long-legged obstacle course of men filling the floor space in front of a televised football game. What food does to draw out conversation or bond people together is a marvelous thing. I have favorite restaurants, like you…but it’s the event itself that blesses the heart (less the work of it, more the people of it).

5) Divine Appointments – Okay…these are not within our control, really…so they can’t be scheduled into one’s happy life. Or, maybe they can. We can definitely grease the tracks to experience them. How? I know my whole day can be altered – both in awareness and experience – if studying Scripture and praying is part of my early morning routine. “Bible before breakfast” was a routine, growing up, of a friend of mine. Not in any kind of legalistic or ritualistic sense… as much as spiritual habit that can change a person’s thinking, choices, and engagement with God and others. That early morning time with God sets the tone for my day. His activity in my life and that of others around me becomes more obvious. God is a good and active agent in His creation and among his people. All we have to do is tune our minds to see Him…and He is there. Even when my early morning quiet time is on the lean side…or neglected altogether, it’s still possible to reset our sights on Him through the day and experience wonders. I just hate to miss Him from early on…because I’ve chosen other lesser activities…like even sitting down and writing…

There are my five favorites… They didn’t include writing…which is sort of a given (as in this blog). They didn’t include photography – also a given (in my desire to document everything). They didn’t include movie and popcorn nights which I actually LOVE as well….that will definitely happen on my birthday. Thanks, Friend, for stirring my thinking yesterday. Being more proactive in pursuing these five is now on my list! Do you have a list of favorite things you fill your life with? Please comment below. If you live in Richmond, maybe you could also share your favorites about this city. It’s possible I need to get out more.

Happy a safe and restful weekend!

Worship Wednesday – Where Were You? – Ghost Ship

blog-where-were-you-job-pray-write-growPhoto Credit: PrayWriteGrow

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?…”Job 38:1-4a

I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.  – Job to God, Job 42:2

How can this be?! How could this have happened? No way could this be right. No way could this be God’s plan.

We are all given to platitudes. “It’s all good.” “It’s not your fault.” “God’s still on His throne.” They may be true but they’re not very satisfying.

When we’re hit by a strange and unsettling reality, we want to call it something else. We want to cry out that it’s not good and it’s got to be someone’s fault…we ache to point our finger at someone…anyone. At times, the blame ascends all the way to Heaven…to God Himself.

Job, a righteous God-fearer whose story is chronicled in the Bible, found himself in that very situation. He didn’t just wake up one morning to news that he couldn’t stomach; he was singled out for the most devastating personal loss – the deaths of all his children and his own health ruined. His questioning of the rightness of this unimaginable occurrence was understandable.

Having friends who offered all sorts of scenarios as to how this could have happened…gave Job no relief.

Finally, he took his case to God, objecting to how such a thing could happen. In God’s defense of Himself in the matter (Job 38-41), He opened Job’s eyes to the wonder and goodness of all that He does.

God is not put off by our questioning, our fears, our confusion…this God who lovingly asks questions Himself for us to see our own strange thinking about Him…this God who is the answer to every question that’s whispered or shouted from the depths of our beings. Where were you, Child? …Where were we?! How gentle He is with our self-righteousness and presumptuousness that we know better than He. We may not understand…but we can be assured that He is working out our good and His glory in every page turned in history. We can question, absolutely…but He calls us to continue following Him, even in our questioning…to love Him, to love others…with everything in us.

On this past Sunday, we gathered at Movement Church, and worshiped together. This Sunday followed the Presidential election, the outcome of which probably surprised every voter and non-voter in America…either joyfully or sorrowfully. This Sunday was made for worship. No back clapping, or derision, or condescending opinions of any political ilk. Whatever hopefulness and whatever despair were set aside. Just voices raised in community to the God whose purposes are not thwarted…no matter what.

Worship, with me, through this great lyric Where Were You? (by Ghost Ship) – taken straight from the Job narrative.

I said, “God, I do not understand this world
everything is dying and broken
why do I see nothing but sufferingimg_0418

God I’m asking could this be Your plan
Sin has taken hold of this whole land
Will You not say anything else to me?”
He said, “Where were you the day that I measured
sunk the banks and stretched the line over
all the earth and carved out its corner stone?img_0423
Where were you the day that I spoke and
told the sun to split the night open
caused the morning dark with its light to show
Who shut in the ocean with stone doors
marked the reach of tides on those new shores
hung the day the waves rose and first broke forth
Have you seen the springs of that great sea
walked the caverns carved in the black deep
through the gates of darkness there on its floor

 

Have you seen the armory I hold
snow and hail are stacked up in silos
for the times of trouble and war and strife

Can you raise your voice to the storm cloud
would the thunder answer and ring out
does the lightning ask you where it should strike

Who has cleft the channels for torrents
rain to sprout the desert with forest
in the wilderness that my hand has built

Can you hunt the prey for your lions
can you use the cords of Orion
is this whole world bending beneath your will?”

I spoke of things I did not understand
things too wonderful for me
although I had no right to ask
my God knelt and answered me*

For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?  Isaiah 14:27

Lyrics to Ghost Ship’s Where Were You?

The Plan of God – J. I. Packer

Worship Wednesday – Do Something – Matthew West – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – In Suffering – Where Were You? – by Ghost Ship – Deb Mills

blog-where-were-you-tumblrPhoto Credit: TheMadeShop – Tumblr

5 Friday Faves – God, Zelda’s Lullaby, Tommy Emmanuel, the Long Goodbye, and a Beautiful Fall

Blog - Friday Faves 006 (2)

Friday, again! This will be a fast one. I am actually finishing writing this on my phone today. Between travel and more meetings than usual, there’s been little time at my writing desk. So here are my favorites this week.

1) God – Courage….. Every day I am grateful to know God…There are weeks, like this one, that I am even more grateful for the sovereignty of a good God. Margaret Nyman writes a beautiful blog on getting through whatever hard we find ourselves. In “Hand in Hand“, she talks about the reach of God into our lives and circumstances. A widow – who also, with her husband, endured a terrible economic loss – writes about the presence of God with her.blog-michelangelo-god-and-adam-getting-through-thisPhoto Credit: Michelangelo, Getting Through This

“When I [the apostle John writing here] saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.’ ” (Revelation 1:17-18)

God is not surprised by our situation.  As we look to Him, He will give grace…and make  a way through the hard.

2) Zelda’s LullabyNathan Mills this week posted his latest arrangement on YouTube. The Legend of Zelda: Zelda’s Lullaby Classical Guitar Cover is another beautiful entry for me into the surprising world of gaming musical themes. Blog - Guitarist - Nathan Mills - beyondtheguitar - TwitterSo lovely. Great for helping babies (and the rest of us) relax into a sleepy state. His latest is linked below. He performs these live on krue.TV.

3) Tommy Emmanuel – Speaking of guitar and live music, my husband’s favorite guitarist (after Nathan) is Tommy Emmanuel. We are so excited that he’s coming to Richmond, Va. in March 2017. If you ever have a chance to hear him perform, don’t miss it. blog-tommy-emmanuel-guitarPhoto Credit: WFPK

4) The Long Goodbye – These days, I travel a lot to Atlanta to spend time with my dad. Between Alzheimer’s and cancer, he is winding down. Very thankful for his caregivers there, as he has moved from assisted living into the home of my brother and sister-in-law. Dad sleeps a lot, but when he wakes up it is such a delight for all of us to see the spark in his eyes and hear his intelligence, humor, and sweetness break through the cloud of his illnesses. Thankful for this long goodbye…which gives us the opportunity to enjoy him more and spend time with various of our family members in ways that will galvanize us as family when he enters Heaven.

dad-and-debbie-july-2016dad-debbie-october-2016img_9157img_9580

5) A Beautiful Fall – Words aren’t needed here. So glad for the opportunity to live in a place of four seasons.

2015-october-blog-fall-trees-sadie-064fall-leaves-2

Hope you have a restful and reflective weekend. Would love for you to post some of your favorite finds in the Comments.

Finally, just for fun…

 

State Fair Fun – Photo Montage

blog-state-fair-wtvrPhoto Credit: WTVR

Who doesn’t have vivid memories of going to the state or county fair? When I was still in school, we braved the crowds at night to take in the lights, rides, and eat our favorite fair foods. These days, it’s a daytime outing…still with lots of people to watch and memories to make with our people…grown-up and small ones.img_9315

These are our highlights of this year’s Virginia State Fair:

First fair of many to come for our little grands – p1280311

Fair Food – At a much younger age, it was all about candy apples and cotton candy.p1280369

Now…it’s the glorious fried foods that are only found most authentically at the fair. Even walking on the fairgrounds, the dominant smell isn’t the animals or the gas propelling some of the rides – it’s the smell of frying batter.img_9316img_9321Blooming Onionimg_9276Fried Oreosp1280309Funnel Cake – Once a year, this fried dough sprinkled with sugar, is my go-to fair food. Sharing it with the grownup kids with me that day was wise, but now I’m thinking I should have eaten more….next year.

Agriculture Exhibits – like with farmers’ markets, there’s something soul-refreshing about seeing produce brought straight from the earth where it grew. To have an opportunity to talk with the growers is very special. The pumpkins are as natural a part of a fall fair as cotton candy. The prize-winning monster pumpkins and melons, however, were a bit unnatural…doubtful that anyone eats those.img_9308img_9311img_9303

Artisans and Juried Crafts – Watching craftsmen make their art is fascinating (in its way, similar to what krue-tv provides in the music world). To be able to talk to them and watch them work is part of the draw for me to come to the fair.

img_9286img_9285p1280343

I also love the exhibit hall where the baked goods are displayed and judged. Alongside are the arts and crafts, and my favorite are the quilts. Incredibly beautiful!p1280380p1280388p1280390

Exotic and Domestic Animals – Mamas and Babies – The animals are so much fun, especially when you have little ones along. All the different species of animals – such a menagerie only seen at a fair! We loved the cows and their baby calves, and the hog with all her piglets. The baby ducklings and chicks…need no superlatives.p1280307p1280306p1280336p1280326p1280327

People and the Stuff They Buy – People-watching is so much fun at the fair. We, of course, figure we’re boring and blend in maybe….but who knows? I love seeing all the fabric of people in our culture. As often as I take pictures of strangers (much to my children’s chagrin sometimes), the only face-forward pic I took this time was of these young men. You kind of wonder what their stories are…and if they were skipping school. Hey…the fair only comes once a year, right?p1280360

Then there’s the stuff people buy – a huge exhibition hall was full of merchandise to suit various tastes of fair goers. My son, Daniel, said, it reminded him of the Ramadan Fairs of our times in North Africa. Aisles and aisles of stuff to buy, and people crowded in front of the displays. The Ramadan Fairs, like the state fairs here, are part of my “happy memory” bank.img_9329

Still thinking of the people at the fair: my favorite fair-goers were the kids and grandkids who took off that day to make memories together. Thankful for that.img_9319

Hope you are able to make it to the Fair this year…it was an extraordinary day…and, in the end, there was no room for cotton candy after all…and I didn’t miss it.p1280333p1280399

Worship Wednesday – In Suffering – Where Were You?- by Ghost Ship

blog-where-were-you-tumblrPhoto Credit: i-love-to-love.tumblr

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” – God (Job 38:4)

Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”…and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.Job 42:1-6, 9b

I don’t cry easily. Maybe it’s all the years of cancer nursing where my tears were spent. Or having already lost loves of our own has drained them. Or this broken world has finished off my tears.

Or so I thought. This morning has brought tears as my sister-in-law texts with me about Dad. He is in his last weeks…days…we don’t know. This funny, intelligent, extraordinary and simple farmer’s son…this man who took in four more children when he married my mom…this man who has always been strong as an ox even in his 90s…this man who fiercely loves his family and friends…this man is winding down in this life.Dad and Debbie - July 2016

I don’t ask God “Why?” about Dad’s dying…he’s lived a full and amazing life. My prayer has been that he can enter the healing of Heaven without the terror of late Alzheimer’s or the pain of cancer spreading. So far, he still knows us all and has sweet moments of reflection…when he wakes from his long naps. The pain, like the cancer, is growing, but so far, with medication and the close care of family and hospice, he is managing to be comfortable most of the time…and we’re thankful.img_9067

The part of life, for any of us, when suffering looms large does cause us to ask “Why?” sometimes. This past Sunday, at Movement Church, we sang Where Were You. We are in an Explore God sermon series along with several other churches in the Richmond area. This Sunday the topic was “Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering?” [You can listen to that podcast here.]

The issue of suffering is a very personal one. It’s really a wonder, in such a fallen world, that there is not more suffering. God has always been intimately present with us in times of loss and suffering, and I hope to be able to trust Him in future hard places.

The song Where Were You? is taken directly from the book of Job. He suffered enormous loss and physical pain which could have entirely shaken his faith in God. The book describes his wrestling with the “why’s” with the help of three not-so-helpful friends. Beginning in Job 31, Job makes one last appeal to God to satisfy his questions. Before God speaks, another friend, Elihu, shows up and offers a glorious defense of God’s character. He speaks through 5 chapters of Job on God’s behalf. Then, God Himself, makes the closing statement to Job (Job 38-41). It is thrilling to read. God is the answer to all our questions…if we will listen.

Worship with me to the words from Job by the Christian band Ghost Ship.

I said God I do not understand this world
everything is dying and broken
why do I see nothing but suffering

God I’m asking could this be Your plan
Sin has taken hold of this whole land
Will You not say anything else to me?

He said where were you the day that I measured
sunk the banks and stretched the line over
all the earth and carved out its corner stone?

Where were you the day that I spoke and
told the sun to split the night open
caused the morning dark with its light to show

Who shut in the ocean with stone doors
marked the reach of tides on those new shores
hung the day the waves rose and first broke forth

Have you seen the springs of that great sea
walked the caverns carved in the black deep
through the gates of darkness there on its floor

Have you seen the armory I hold
snow and hail are stacked up in silos
for the times of trouble and war and strife

Can you raise your voice to the storm cloud
would the thunder answer and ring out
does the lightning ask you where it should strike

Who has cleft the channels for torrents
rain to sprout the desert with forest
in the wilderness that my hand has built

Can you hunt the prey for your lions
can you use the cords of Orion
is this whole world bending beneath your will?

I spoke of things I did not understand
things too wonderful for me
although I had no right to ask
my God knelt and answered me*

We are not alone in our suffering. There is plenty of great teaching on suffering elsewhere (including John Piper’s article linked below). For me, for today, thinking about and praying for my dad…this song was a just-right reminder of God’s power and His goodness. He can do all things and His purposes are not thwarted. Hallelujah!

[If you’re reading this just after it’s been posted, we would appreciate your prayers for our dad and for those most closely caring for him. Thank you.]

*Lyrics to Where Were You?

YouTube Video – Where Were You? – with Lyrics – Ghost Ship – Mars Hill Music

YouTube Video – Where Were You? – Lyrics without Images – Ghost Ship

Video Collection – Why Does god Allow Pain and Suffering? – Explore God

Job: Rebuked in Suffering – Job 32:1-37:24 – John Piper

Saturday Short – Sweet Plans for a Day in River City – #RVA – To Celebrate That Lovely in Your Life

Richmond sunrise - flickrPhoto Credit: Rich Terrell, flickr

It’s Saturday, late summer, in Richmond, Virginia, and you want to celebrate a special friend. No plans for a hike in the mountains, no movie wooing you to the theater, and no special outdoors event on the calendar (rare in Richmond). So what do you do? Here are some possibles.

McLeans for Breakfast – Best in town. Great diner food and the servers keep your coffee mugs full and never rush you. Yum!IMG_8480

Pedis – Richmond probably has as many nail salons as restaurants and they are a real draw for pampering that special lady. Blog - pedicured feed or pedis - organicauthorityPhoto Credit: Organic Authority

Even better to do it together…. you men might enjoy a foot soak and massage as well. Artizen Nails & Spa is one that won’t disappoint. At $25-35 plus tip, it’s definitely a splurge, but today is one of those days, right?

Mama J’s – If you didn’t start your Saturday at McLeans, then you are ready for some of the best southern food in town. Mama J’s slogan is “Welcome home.” The food is definitely worth the wait which is actually part of the whole experience. You will meet others preparing to celebrate and new acquaintances they meet during the wait. 2016 August - Mama J's - Blog - GirlsIMG_8495IMG_8499Such good food…fascinating people…and their rides….Blog - Harley Davidson motorcycle with alligator seatthrough beautiful historic Jackson Ward neighborhood. Blog - Jackson Ward - house front and garden

Stoplight Gelato Cafe – Just an easy walk from Mama J’s is this shop with an incredible back story. 81 y/o Barbara Given, a retired university teacher of teachers,  and her son Bryce had a dream of opening their own business together. They wanted to do a homemade gelato shop.Blog - Stoplight Gelato Cafe - Mrs. Barbara Givens - rvamagPhoto Credit: RVA Mag

Since 2010, they had worked on restoring the building and working out their building plan. Then, sadly…Bryce died. Cancer. On Easter 2015. Mrs. Given continued with their dream and opened this summer. This tiny shop has so much character, and service has expanded to breakfast and lunch items along with the sweet treats.Blog - Spotlight Gelato Cafe - Barbara Givens

Even after the gelato is gone, you want to linger there…to talk to Mrs. Given…or to catch some Pokemon.IMG_8513IMG_8521

Class and Trash – If you have any energy left, there’s still plenty of daylight to stroll through another new business. This antigue/vintage decor store just opened in Scott’s Addition. Class and Trash has something for anyone looking to add an unusual piece to their home. Just wandering through this warehouse takes you back to a very different era. All kinds of eclectic.Blog - Class and TrashBlog - Class and trash 2Blog - Beth at Class and Trash

Wegmans – At this point, your budget might be busted, and the day could end just perfectly with a bowl of cereal or popcorn and a movie on TV. However, if you have hearty appetites and decide on one more food destination before you catch the sun setting in Richmond…try Wegmans.IMG_8432IMG_8435

It’s the biggest grocery store I’ve ever seen. Their prepared foods are perfect to box up and then head down to the River or atop one of the scenic overlooks of the city.

A great day. Good night, Friends. Nice job celebrating!Blog - Richmond - Sunset - Angela BaumanPhoto Credit: Angela Bauman

Worship Wednesday – Praise Completes Our Joy – Hosanna – with Hillsong United

Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous!
    Praise befits the upright.
Give thanks to the Lord…Sing to him a new song;
    play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

For the word of the Lord is upright,
    and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
    the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
    let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
For he spoke, and it came to be;
    he commanded, and it stood firm.

The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
    the plans of his heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
    the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!

Our soul waits for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him,
    because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
    even as we hope in you. – From Psalm 33

Much to my chagrin, I’ve made a reputation for myself of being a documenter. That’s someone, by definition, whosupports (an assertion or claim, for example) with evidence or decisive information”.  Although journaling, note-taking and blogging are ways I document, it’s usually most evident in my picture-taking.

It’s hard for me to be “in the moment” without my camera. Taking in the faces of people I love, or the beauty of this world, or a unique situation before me all scream to be documented. I try to comply.

When Justin Wredberg took the pulpit this week at Movement Church, in our pastor’s absence, he brought to clarity that call in me to document. Using the text of Psalm 33 (podcast here), he taught how God wired us for praise. In fact, praise makes our joy complete as we share that person or thing we find praiseworthy.IMG_8095

God calls us to worship not because He has some need for our praise but, in praising Him, we “document”, in a way, his love, beauty, and provision. We document who he is, in our singing, and prayers, our giving, and testimony of Him and his greatness in our lives and in this world…sometimes in the quietness of our thoughts, but ultimately in our sharing God with others…

Like me with a camera…or my journal…or this blog…I can’t help but point out that which is noteworthy…the stuff that has made me stop in my tracks…and then want to turn to you and say, “Look…wow!”

That’s what the Psalmist does in Scripture…he’s a documenter…and that’s what we do in worship.

 As we sang on Sunday, I couldn’t help but take a few not-great-quality shots of the screen while we worshiped to the song Hosanna. Documenting some of the beauty of lyrics that speak to God and His character and work in us and all around us….Look…wow!IMG_8088

Worship with me.

I see the King of glory
Coming on the clouds with fire
The whole earth shakes
The whole earth shakes

I see His love and mercy
Washing over all our sin
The people sing
The people sing

Hosanna, Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna, Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest

I see a generation
Rising up to take their place
With selfless faith
With selfless faith

And I see a near revival
Stirring as we pray and seek
We’re on our knees
We’re on our knees

Hosanna, Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna, Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved meIMG_8089
Break my heart from what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause
As I walk from nothing to eternityIMG_8091
Hosanna, Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna, Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest

Hosanna, Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna, Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest

Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna in the highest*

*Story of and Lyrics to Hosanna by Hillsong United’s Brooke Fraser

Praise: The Consummation of Joy by Sam Storms for Desiring God Don’t miss this!

5 Friday Faves – Words, Trauma Healing, Street Smart Kids, Thunderstorms, #GrowingUpInABlackChurch

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday! Another whirlwind week. Ours is to savor the moments and those sweet finds of each day of  life. Below are a few of my favorites from this week. Would love to hear about yours [in Comments].

1) Words – You know when you mean to send that card or make that phone call? Or when you could speak to that downcast stranger or give a shout-out to someone worthy of celebrating…and you didn’t? This is a salute to all you folks out there who use your words for life – to encourage, celebrate, comfort, guide, and lovingly speak the truth. We are bombarded with words. Literally, blasted with words. Some sound so true, we are swayed by them…to find out later, they were not true…and the course of our lives, maybe even our country, was set in a direction we wouldn’t have chosen, if we understood what the words really meant.BLog - WordsPhoto Credit: Pinterest

I’ve been blessed by good friends and colleagues who use words in a life-giving manner. They inspire me to do the same.2016 Phone Pics 2449

2) Trauma Healing – The Trauma Healing Institute is a training and service arm of The American Bible Society. The goal here is to respond at a heart-level to the trauma in people’s lives. When you think of the numbers of people who have endured extreme trauma (1 out of 7 persons globally), it is a good thing to reach out to them with shelter and  supplies but also with listening ears and honoring comfort. This intervention is Bible-based so may not be the go-to training for everyone, but I’m hoping to take it in the Fall. Check here for stories and more info.
Blog - Trauma Healing - THIPhoto Credit: Trauma Healing Institute

3) Street Smart Kids – Earlier this week, I wrote about situational awareness. One of the resources I posted was the blog by Chonce Maddox on 50 Things You Can Do to Make Your Kids Street Smart I wrote this week about situational awareness here. Maddox talks about her reasoning for writing: “As a parent, my worst fear is that I won’t be able to protect my child when he needs it. My second worst fear is that he won’t be able to protect himself and make wise decisions depending on what situation he’s in.” Her list of 50 things are age-specific and are brilliant and easy-to-apply. Whether you have a newborn or a soon-to-be-launched teen, take the time to equip your children in this way.
Schoolchildren embracing happy. Multi cultural racial classroom.

Photo Credit: A Fine Parent

4) Thunderstorms and Heat Lightning  – I love rain and especially thunderstorms. It’s been really hot here in Richmond, Va., the last couple of weeks. Occasionally the lightning has only been heat-related. We had both heat lightning yesterday as well as an amazing thunderstorm last night. My pic below is of the late afternoon sky. The rains that came later were drenching and cooling. No electricity outages – just a glorious and wet light and sound show.Blog - ThunderstormBlog - Heat LightningPhoto Credit: Wunderground

5) #GrowingUpInABlackChurch – Growing up outside Atlanta , in the suburbs, was a pretty homogeneous experience for me, culture-wise. When I finished grad school, my first job was in an innercity hospital in downtown Atlanta. This was my first time experiencing the richness and otherness of predominately African American worship or “church”. In those days, working on an oncology unit, I went to a lot of funerals. Both in those times and regular Sunday services, I discovered a very different way of doing church and community. Sunday morning church is still too often a too-segregated experience, but I’m glad for the opportunities to be in a more racially and culturally diverse worship. What got me thinking about this was the trending hashtag this month which was fun to watch…although, not having the experience of #GrowingUpInABlackChurch, I celebrate it. ALso trending this week: #blackwomendidthat.

Blog - GrowingUpInABlackChurch - hbcuBlog - GrowingUpInABlackChurch - imgurPhoto Credit: HBCU, HBCU

Have a safe and sweet weekend out there. Use the Comments below to post your own favorites from this week. Thanks!

5 Friday Faves – Nursing Care, Air Conditioning, Guitarist, #TymmRhymes, and Fresh-grown Produce

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday! I haven’t been writing much in the last couple of weeks because of travel. Visiting my dad in assisted living in Georgia was a great delight, as always. Alzheimer’s takes its toll but he still finds joy and gives so much of it to us.Dad and Debbie - July 2016

I would like to write about the events of the last couple of weeks, but the words aren’t coming…at least not for here, for now. So my 5 faves follow instead.

1) Nursing Care -For any one of us who has experienced medical care recently, we understand the great gift of good nurses. Dr. Venu Julapalli wrote a thank you letter online to the caregivers who recently attended his very ill mother. It’s entitled The Sacred Ordinary in Healthcare.

“… when you lifted her out of bed so she could bear her weight on yours, when you respected our wishes for privacy, …when you gave us blankets so we could stay warm in that cold ICU room, when you let my brother sneak his two young boys into the ICU because he wasn’t sure if they would ever see their Nanamma alive again… Those were sacred acts…And when you tucked her in at night and wished her well — like she was fully present and listening, even in her coma…that was sacred.”

His letter was a beautiful testament to what nurses and other care providers do for us each day. Just this week, my chest has stopped hurting from the surgery I had weeks ago. What an amazing thing – the absence of pain. It reminded me of the gentleness and perseverance of the nurses who cared for me in those first days following surgery. With Dr. Julapalli, I want to thank you for your extraordinary acts on what most be ordinary days for you. For us, they were not.Blog - Nurses caring for patients - eclectablogPhoto Credit: Eclectablog

2) Air Conditioning – All week, we’ve been experiencing hot, humid days, with temperatures soaring into the high 90’s. We didn’t have air conditioning growing up – window fans were enough in those days. In fact, I remember the first air conditioning unit my parents bought for their bedroom window. Mom worked nights so this unit allowed her to be able to sleep during the hot summer days. Shortly after we kids had window units, and then central air followed sometime after. It is a very good thing.Blog - Air conditioning - goodhousekeepingPhoto Credit: Good Housekeeping

Blog - Air conditioning - riroxsPhoto Credit: Riroxs

3) Guitarist Nathan Mills, as you know, is my favorite classical guitarist. He teaches guitar locally and on-line, and arranges pieces for guitar from various films, TV shows, and video games. Blog - Guitarist - Nathan Mills - RichmondPhoto Credit: Duy Nguyen, Richmond Times-News Dispatch

You can see some of his work on his YouTube channel.

Something extraordinary happened this week. I don’t understand the phenomenon of “going viral”, but it happened for a bit for Nathan when someone posted the following video on Reddit.

That video has, to date, almost a half-million views. He actually trended on YouTube. His followers on kruetv went from 400 to 1300 within hours.Blog - KrueTVPhoto Credit: krueTV

It was surprising and fascinating to watch that phenomenon. The wave has passed, but I’m sure we will see more of this. After all, he’s got to make a living, and it’s thrilling to think he could on classical guitar. Stay tuned.Blog - Guitarist - Nathan Mills - beyondtheguitar - TwitterPhoto Credit: Twitter

4) #TymmRhymes –Tymm Hoffman is the digital production manager for Compassion International, in Colorado Springs. I discovered him on Facebook because a friend shared some of his Dr. Seuss-like poetry. Since them, he graciously allowed this stranger to “friend” him, and, ever since, I’ve been blessed by his postings, his heart, and his rhymes. He wrote a couple of pieces recently about the volatile situation in our country right now. Here’s one:

BAD vs. GOOD
there’s lots of bad cops, bad docs and bad teachers
bad bosses, bad pastors and even bad preachers;

there’s bad firefighters and bad store clerks,
bad pro athletes who act more like jerks;

bad friends, bad sisters and several bad brothers,
there’s even bad dads and lots of bad mothers;

there’s bad politicians and bad missionaries,
and there’s bad guys named Gary and Jerry and Larry;

there’s plenty bad husbands and plenty bad wives,
And plenty bad people living plenty bad lives;

And if all of life started and stopped with that there,
Then broad strokes would work and I wouldn’t care;

But there’s also good cops, good docs and great teachers,
Good bosses, good pastors and lots of good preachers;

There’s great firefighters and awesome store clerks,
And amazing pro athletes who negate all the jerks;

Good friends, good sisters and even good brothers,
And dads who DO care and lots of good mothers;

There’s a good politician and great missionaries,
There’s good Garys and Jerrys and even good Larrys;

And I know there’s good husbands and lots of good wives,
And a bunch of good people living really good lives;

So let’s not give the bad more than we probably should,
When the truth is – for the bad – there is just as much good.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

let’s address the jacked-up-edness in this world while we holster our fat brushes and paint with some thinner ones… – Tymm Hoffman

5) Home-grown Produce
We have a backyard garden. It’s therapeutic for Dave as he works and walks in it after work each day and on weekends. The flowers are just beautiful. For this summer season, we also enjoy the produce – greens, squash, peppers, and tomatoes. Thankful for such a space and a husband who loves to work the soil.imageimage

Hope you have a safe and restful weekend. Please share any favorites of yours in the Comments below. More and more, I recognize the blessing of every single day. Peace.