Category Archives: Contentment

Worship Wednesday – Take My Life – Here Am I – Chris Tomlin

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Romans 12:1

Don’t you love answered prayer? Even if it’s surprisingly different than what you were thinking. A week ago, in our community group (home group of Movement Church), I shared a struggle during the prayer time. My request was for God to restore a season of influence in my life…that I might influence others for good as had been my experience in times in the past. I was looking back and not forward, and my sense of what a life should be at my age and situation was different than how I saw it at present. Different and lacking?

Sigh…God have mercy…and…He did.

Those dear friends of mine listened, empathized, loved and prayed.

Then Sunday, at our time of corporate worship, there was great singing…and great revelation. The songs included How Wonderful, How Marvelous; Take My Life/Here Am I (which I’ll come back to); and To the Ends of the Earth. These were the kind of songs that call a people to revival…to hearts and lives poured out to God and for the nations.

On Sunday morning, I wasn’t thinking about that longing of my heart to be an influence for good, but God must have been. When our teaching pastor, Cliff Jordan, preached, I sensed the movement of God in my heart so strong, it was as if the message was just for me.

Cliff preached out of John 21 where Jesus appeared to His disciples during the days after His resurrection. Sitting around a cook-fire, Jesus ate fish with His friends, fish they had caught in a miraculous fashion (John 21:3-6). In a tender moment, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him…to which Peter answered in the affirmative. Three times Jesus asked, and three times Peter answered. The awful memory of his previous three denials of Jesus must have burned in Peter’s throat. Each time, Peter answered yes that he loved Jesus, and then Jesus told him to feed His sheep. No fanfare, no illusion of Peter’s excellent abilities to do so. Just a simple command, in the end, to follow Him.

In those quiet moments of intimate fellowship between sinner and Savior, Peter had to have felt the love of Jesus. Still in his impetuous, striving nature, he posed a question to Jesus about His will for another disciple (John 21:20-22). Again, Jesus drew Peter’s attention, not to what that disciple would be about, but what Jesus’s call was on Peter’s life. “You follow Me.”

Through Cliff’s sermon and those three words, the answer to my prayer rang from Heaven. It doesn’t matter my season of life or even what others, in my age or situation, are doing or how they are being used by God. I am to be about loving and following Jesus.

Even tonight, a friend reminded me of the story of the Apostle Paul’s incarceration which he entrusted himself into God’s hands. In Paul’s letter from prison to the church at Philippi, he spoke these words:

I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill:  The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains;  but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.Philippians 1:12-18

That friend who spoke truth into my heart has also struggled, as have I, with a season where it seems God has put us on some sort of shelf, or on the sideline. Oh, glorious truth, in every season, He calls us to follow Him. Paul, for months, chained to a prison guard, saw the truth. His ministry was not diminished in the least. It was only different…and his focus? Ever on the Lord. That is the key…for me.

Since Sunday’s gathering of our church right through tonight, I have been in revival. That old time revival where God’s Spirit would shake the rafters of a building or the folds of a big tent with the prayers, singing and preaching of His people. Where, of course, we would “sing another verse” until He had finished whatever work He was doing in the lives of every person present.

Photo Credit: Milanoapi

My children do not have revival meetings as part of their heritage. I wish they had…and maybe they will sometime in their future. I am thankful for growing up in the South when protracted revival meetings broke up hot summers into joyous returnings of hearts to follow Jesus.

Hymn-writer Frances Ridley Havergal wrote the lyrics to Take My Life and Let It Be in 1874. She along with Fanny Crosby and others wrote the hymns that stirred our devotion to God. In fact, these hymn-writers’ lyrics flamed the fires of revival across our world. The deep prayers of the faithful and the strong preaching of the churchmen in the 1800s and 1900s were all part of that.

Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio adapted the lyrics and melody of Take My Life and Let It Be for the worshipers of this generation.

Worship with me.

Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee
Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise
Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love
Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee

Take my voice and let me sing always, only for my King
Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from Thee
Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold
Take my intellect and use every power as You choose

Here am I, all of me, take my life, it’s all for Thee

Take my will and make it Thine, it shall be no longer mine
Take my heart, it is Thine own, it shall be Thy royal throne
Take my love, my Lord I pour at Your feet, it’s treasure store
Take myself and I will be ever, only, all for Thee*

*Lyrics to Take My Life/Here Am I – Songwriters: Chris Tomlin & Louis Giglio; adapted from the hymn composed by Frances Ridley Havergal

Hymn Stories: Take My Life and Let it Be – Tim Challies

Songs & Scripture: “Take My Life (And Let It Be)” (Chris Tomlin, Frances Ridley Havergal, Henri Abraham Cesar Malan, Louie Giglio) – Scriptural foundations to hymn lyrics

Photo Credit: Baptist Hymnal, Hymnary

Valentine’s Day – Making It Ours

Blog - Valentine's Day & Love

[Adapted from the Archives]

Valentine’s Day, as a holiday, is ripe with all sorts of possibilities… and potential frustrations. It’s a day that picks at our contentment and whispers in our ears, “Is this enough? this love I have? these loves I have?” I say we take this holiday, turn it on its head, and totally own it.

What do you love about Valentine’s Day? Most probably, you are women reading this blog, because men seriously don’t want any more information on how to celebrate this day. We women have this totally lovely day thrust upon us once a year to do with it how we want. ..so let’s get after it.

Here’s what I love about this day:

1) I can be as effusive and gushy as I want on this one day of the year. It’s allowed…tolerated…appreciated even. Cards, phone calls, and social media shouting out to those we love…there’s a lot of relational muscle pumped on this day…wouldn’t hurt to keep this going through the rest of the year. Words. Are. Powerful.Blog - Heart & Love Much

2) It’s a golden opportunity to hang with our best buddies. Not just husbands or boyfriends, but moms, grandmoms, the widow neighbor down the street. Those glorious women in our lives… Valentine’s Day is a fine excuse to have lunch together, cake together, movie night together. Whatever. How thankful I am for the great women in my life…from lots of places in the world.Blog - Morocco friends2014 Phone pics July-December 119

3) This day lends itself to a total indulgence (guilt deferred) of sugary delights. Valentine’s Day blesses all excesses. I don’t eat chocolate these days, but Hershey’s Kisses still speak. Whether I eat those foil-wrapped happy little candies or not, they still generate lovely thoughts for me on this day…as do the other treats that come out especially on this day of the year.Blog - Valentine Goodies

Blog - Valentine Hearts

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4) I love how cheery people are toward each other related to Valentine’s Day (kind of back to the gushy/effusive side of this day). Whether it’s decorating a colleague’s cubicle wall or lavishing gifts on your child’s teacher…it can make for a sweet day. Whether there’s a dear man in our lives or not, we can use this day to bless others…just for the fun of it (for them AND for us).Blog - Valentines on a cubicle by Heather TeaterPhoto Credit: Cublical Decorating – Heather Teater2013 Feb Valentine's Day 001

 5) Last thing I love about Valentine’s Day is its celebration of love itself. The history of Valentine’s Day is far from the romance and roses we expect today. Yet, if there is something worthy of setting aside a day, it is love – real, deep, sacrificial and satisfying love. Maybe it’s a stretch to consider that sort of love on a day that’s been riddled with commercialism, but that’s where I would like to end. Today, more than anything I celebrate the God of love who teaches us best how to love. First loving Him and then, because of Him, loving each other as we love ourselves. Blog - Valentine #2

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:37-39

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;   does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;   bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Happy Valentine’s Day, Friends.Blog - Friends - Valentines #1

The Single Way to do Valentine’s Day – Mandisa

A Tribute to Charlotte Ray – Cal Thomas

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!

Monday Morning Moment – Inner Rings – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty

Photo Credit: Chris Russo

[Adapted from a previous blog]

When C. S. Lewis introduced the occurrence of “inner rings” to a classroom of young men in university, he wasn’t talking about high school cliques.Photo Credit: Smosh

[You will want to read Lewis’ short, humorous, and piercing lecture…I read it aloud, attempting my “best” British accent. The British accent, in my opinion, gives what is true even more authority and winsomeness.]

Lewis talked about the universal, life-long allure of wanting to be “on the inside”…whatever that might mean at the time. Inner rings are, for the most part, morally neutral in themselves. What becomes the issue for us is how our thinking is altered and what we are willing to do to gain entry to these exclusive (and often secretive) inner circles.Blog - Inner Rings 2 - BPNews.netPhoto Credit: BPNews

Inner rings are part of every level of life – personal relationships, government, teams, military, clubs, organizations, and workplaces. They aren’t necessarily represented by team rosters or org. charts, as much as they are the more fluid unwritten associations. Like secret societies, they can change quite without explanation – sometimes you are in and then you are not. Inclusion and exclusion are defined by the group itself…and are not accidental.

Let’s face it – we all want to belong…somewhere among the best of the best. Even when we don’t say it out loud, some sort of identity appeals to us and drives our pursuits. Jeremy Writebol wrote a piece where he explores this pursuit of belonging, referencing C. S. Lewis’ Inner Rings. Lewis talked about what we are willing to do to be identified as one inside those rings, or inner circles. There’s the danger – what we’re willing to do.

Writebol presents 4 inner rings of belonging:

1) The Inner Ring of Acceptance [Position]

2) The Inner Ring of Authority [Power]

3) The Inner Ring of Applause [Prominence]

4) The Inner Ring of Abundance [Plenty]

None of us is immune to the influence of one or more of these inner rings or social circles. The deceit of pursuing membership to an inner ring is that it’s never enough. Like taking apart an onion, you find inner rings within inner rings…until there’s nothing left. No place to find belonging…because this passion is never satisfied. It becomes futile. Lewis does offer a two-part antidote:

  • In the workplace, make your work your focus. Whenever we lose our focus, the pull of desire for significance disrupts our engagement in the work. “The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it.”
  • Outside of work, pursue friendships with people you like. This seems obvious, but if our desires to belong in a certain group have hijacked us relationally, it might not even be clear anymore who the people are we truly enjoy.  “If in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the center of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that the secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship…It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it.”

Take the time to read Writebol’s piece. He defines each circle and asks clarifying questions, in a very kind way, to help the reader deal with the deceit or justification we may have developed, without realizing it.

[Writebol wrote a follow-up piece entitled Why Are We Chasing? which exquisitely unwraps the cost and consequence of our chasing – chasing after what we think we must apprehend, having become blind to what we already have.]

Here’s to work well-done and friendships that last for a lifetime. Here’s to choosing well and inclusion and celebration…and knowing we already belong.

Great Monday morning reads…Go!

The Inner Ring – C. S. Lewis

The Weight of Glory – C. S. Lewis – Collection of Addresses Including The Inner Ring

4 Inner Rings You May Be Pursuing – Jeremy Writebol

Why Are We Chasing? – Jeremy Writebol [Followup piece to above article]

The Inner Ring – Chris Russo’s Blog

C. S. Lewis and the Inner Ring of Cronyism – Elise Daniel – Institute For Faith, Work, and Economics

C.S. Lewis and the Inner Ring – Nicholas T. Batzig

The Inner Ring and the Moral Question of Our Time – Nozomi Hayase

Monday Morning Moment – Belonging and Going Deep and the Blind Presumptions that It’s Actually Happening When It Isn’t

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams – Philip Zaleski & Carol Zaleski

Photo Credit: Paste Magazine; Commonweal

80 Years Young – A Birthday Tribute to One Extraordinary Woman – My Mom-in-Law

Mother-in-law jokes are lost on me. They’re just not funny and are so rude, really, given they are perpetrated against the mother of the person we chose to spend our lives with… Makes no sense to me.

My mom-in-law may be extraordinary, but she would never think so. Her name is Julia and she grew up in a farm family. She married young and had two sons (after miscarrying a first child). I married her oldest. Her life has always been centered on her family…loving them, serving them…and always pointing them to God.

My own mom gave me wonderful counsel when I married – about how to treat my mom-in-law. She told me to love her like I loved my own mom. Now, you have to know my mom has been my best friend from childhood. She was wise, funny, loving…and I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. To even try to love someone like I loved her seemed impossible…but I knew she was right to point me in that direction.

This other young mom of the man I loved started out a stranger to me…but that didn’t last long. She welcomed me into her circle from the beginning, and I’ve been inside that circle for over 30 years now.

Julia has always treated me as something special…she somehow does that with each one of us – her husband, sons, daughters-in-law and now grandchildren and great-grands. It’s not a “something special” that puffs us up…like we’re the best out there…She marvels in a sweet humility…again, reveling in the goodness of God in bringing us all together. I totally feel that way about her as well. Grateful.

On this birthday, Julia becomes the youngest 80-year-old I know. She is as sharp and engaged in life as ever. Always a beauty, she is still lovely…smaller as the years have passed, but even cuter in her petiteness. Yet, she doesn’t draw attention to herself…ever. It’s just not her nature. She serves us…we are her joy…and visits home are always an occasion. A bountiful table. Beautiful touches all around the house celebrating the season. Special treats not just for the littles, but for all of us. She seriously thinks of everything. It used to tire me out, but through the years, I have relaxed in that I am not her, and that’s very o.k. Only one Mom-Mom is all we need.

A few highlights:

  • We are both picture-takers…so we’re not always in the picture. Still we are partners in this, as annoying as it is for the men (especially) in the family. We get those pictures…together.
  • With each child born/adopted into our family, Julia made the trip to spend a week with us – to help, love on us, celebrate the new babies and the big sister/brother. She cooked and cleaned, with zero fanfare – absolutely no drama – just lots of love.
  • She made birthdays and Christmas so special for our kids. There came a time that we finally insisted, “One package each, Mom”. That Christmas, when she and Dad John pulled into the driveway, that “one package each” was enormous…with lots of goodies tucked inside. Who could get mad at that? Such a heart she has!
  • When our lives took us in a direction that we would move overseas for a job, I was so afraid that heart of hers would break. It was painful at first, as she and John absorbed the shock of the news. Yes, we would be taking their only grandchildren to Africa… So hard… By the next day, she had steeled her heart. Not in an unfeeling way but in a hopeful trusting way. Distance would change nothing about her love for us…except to grow stronger.  
  • She and John would visit us in three countries. Complete with two 70-pound bags full of treasures for those grandchildren of hers. She had no ambition to visit the Pyramids of Giza, or Matmata, Tunisia (where Star Wars – a New Hope was filmed), or Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca. Still…we did all that, and so much more. She marveled…at the beauty of the places we love and even more so at the people we called friends and neighbors.
  • Part of her winsomeness to me was seeing the gentleness in how her husband and sons loved her. Once on a family trip to the Egyptian desert, we climbed Mt. Sinai. We took a slow, meandering route up to the top. It was amazing. However, on our return to the bottom, we chose a quicker (but unfortunately more brutal) route back down. 3,750 “steps of penitence”. At some point, over half-way down, Julia was feeling the burn of all that pounding down those stone steps. When Dave, my husband/her son, saw her struggle, he pulled back and helped support her the rest of the way down. Gently, quietly. That love and care for his mom spoke volumes to me…about him, and especially about her.Photo Credit: See the Holy Land
  • Julia doesn’t quit on people or things that matter. She is quick to forgive and always ready to reconcile. She is also brave, willing to do the hard thing, even when she wished it wouldn’t have to be hers to do. She and John have been a part of the same church for many, many years. As the membership aged, the church suffered  a lack of vision…and, in fact, began to die. Julia was one of a handful that continued to serve and believe God that He wasn’t finished with their church. She persevered…and when a revitalization program took off, with young pastors and many new members, she stayed the course with them. Oh I’m sure she may not always be easy on these young leaders…but they are wise to keep counsel with her. Her commitment to God, to the church, and to the nations is as passionate as ever…at 80. Think what a force to reckon with she might be at 90!
  • Finally, I want to speak of her servant heart. When she married John over 60 years ago, she took her vows very seriously…and continues to do so. In recent years, John has had to deal with Parkinson’s Disease…but not alone. She is right beside him… helping when he needs help, encouraging when he can do himself. She is there…”in sickness, and in health”…and she will be…there.

I can’t begin to say how much she has taught me about loving my husband and serving my family. When my precious mother died too many years ago, Julia drew even closer to love me through that… She has continued to teach me, on the foundation my mom laid, to put others first and to pray my heart out for those God has placed in my life. What stewardship I have learned from this sweet mom.

Mother-in-law jokes?! Please! What a grace God has given me in her. Is she extraordinary? She would definitely balk at that. Maybe she is just a picture of what God can do in an ordinary life surrendered to Him. She models for me a wife, mom, and mom-in-law I want to be.

Many things I leave unsaid. Some of the tears, and some of the laughter are ours to cherish privately… She did teach me her pie crust secret for which I’m forever thankful…on this side of life. As for the other side of life…and the other side of this 80th birthday…I am so grateful for our times together, for the witness of her life, for all she has taught me, and for the memories…all the sweet memories.

Happy birthday, Mom/Julia! Many more memories to make ahead!

Her children rise up and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
    but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
    and let her works praise her in the gates.” – Proverbs 31:28-31

Love Is a Laid-Down Life – Slowing Down for a Season – Deb Mills

5 Friday Faves – Stress & Myers-Briggs, Contentment, Olympic Heroes, Marriage Advice, and Jambalaya

Blog - Friday Faves

Friday…here we meet again. This was another week that fairly flew. Next week, I plan to slow it down. The Summer Olympics end this weekend, so my sleep schedule will return to normal. It’s been a fascinating series of games. Do you have a favorite event? For me, it’s women’s gymnastics, swimming, and track and field. Lots to celebrate there.

My five favorite finds for this week are:

1) Stress and Myers-Briggs – My first time taking the Myers-Briggs personality type inventory was at the start of my career. I am an ENFP. However, as the years have gone by, and my understanding of how to get things done has matured, I test more as an ESFJ. If you’ve never taken this inventory, this may be all psycho-babble to you, but for me, it was a tool that helped me grow professionally and personally. I was a more considerate teammate having this information in my work toolbox, so to speak. Susan Storm‘s article on stress and how different personality types react to it was fascinating. Storm also gives counsel how to help depending on the personality type. Blog- MBTI and Stress - psychology junkiePhoto Credit: Psychology Junkie

If you’re unfamiliar with Myers-Briggs [Personality] Type Inventory, you can find a quick explanation of it and the different personalities here. Storm’s article on personality and dealing with stress was affirming of what I already know and am doing in stressful situations. My husband is an ISTJ (Introvert, Sensing, Thinking, Judging – again study up if you assume you know what this means but don’t really). When he is stressed, it’s helpful for me to give him space, affirm the real ways he’s managing his stress well, and helping him carve out time to exercise. These are all helps to him. As an ENFP at heart, what helps me is your confidence that I can be successful, and not asking for details and not trying to “fix” the problem. What helps you in periods of stress?

2) Contentment – When I struggle with discontent, it’s because my focus has shifted such that all I have is distorted by what I think I want. Megan Burns, a counselor friend of mine, writes: “The ‘more’ that we hunger for won’t be satisfied by anything in this world. Our desires are met in God, and in Him we have all that we need… we lack nothing. Our joy and our worth are not defined by our situation or our accomplishments. In the Lord’s presence is fullness of joy… and that’s something that doesn’t change or fade; He is with us, and He is always good and faithful.” Megan points us to God who is writing his story in our lives. When we give into discontent, it’s like we want to erase the story he is writing. May it never be so. Read more here. Blog - Contentment - nancyarueggPhoto Credit: Nancy Ruegg

Contentment & Other Lessons – the Legacy of Jerry Bridges – Deb Mills

Satisfaction & Contentment – a Journey and a Destination – Deb Mills

Finding Contentment – Nancy Ruegg

3) Olympic Heroes – There were so many situations in the Olympic Games over the last two weeks where we caught glimpses of heroes. Young athletes who pushed through adverse situations. Teams who cheered one another, as well as athletes not on their teams, on to victory. This 5000m qualifying race demonstrated that heroism. When American runner Abbey D’Agostino clipped the foot of New Zealander Nikki Hamblin, they both fell . D’Agostino got up and helped Hamblin to her feet, and they ran a bit together. Then D’Agostino somehow injured her knee and went down again. Hamblin then helped her back up and they continued on. She finished the race before D’Agostino, but they both finished…because their compassion shown more brightly than their competitiveness.Blog - Olympic Heroes - FoxsportsBlog - Olympic Heroism - foxsportsPhoto Credit: Fox Sports

4) Marriage Advice – On Friday’s, writer/publisher Trevin Wax posts his Trevin’s Seven. They are his favorite reads of the week. This week, he posted a peculiar yet timely little piece on Charles Spurgeon’s mother-in-law’s marital advice. Written by Spurgeonologist, Christian George, the advice was spoken to Charles’ fiancée, Susannah, on an occasion when she became angry at his slighting her. Her mother advised her simply and wisely:

  • Think twice before marrying a minister.
  • Use your God-given talents in your Gospel-centered marriage.
  • Ministry comes first for the married couple.

This advice of another era (1850s) may not sit well with some today but please read Christian George’s further narrative on the subject. There is wisdom for anyone considering marriage and ministry together.Blog - Susannah Spurgeon - revive our heartsPhoto Credit: Revive Our Hearts

5) Jambalaya – This Cajun/Creole stew has become my children’s favorite thing I make. Crockpot Jambalaya. It’s from Taste of Home. The recipe follows with some of my adaptations. I buy the various meats when they are on sale; store them in the freezer, and when it suits a family gathering, pull them all out and crockpot them.

Blog - Jambalaya - Campbells KitchenPhoto Credit: CampbellsKitchen

Total Time: Prep: 35 min. Cook: 4-1/4 hours
MAKES: 11 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) beef or chicken broth
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste (or another can of diced tomatoes)
  • 3 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 medium green peppers, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced (not the biggest fan of garlic so sometimes I forget to add it – still tastes marvelous!)
  • 3 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes [I actually use boneless skinless chicken thighs or a mixture, and I use 2 pounds.]
  • 1 pound smoked sausage, halved and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (I use 1 pound frozen shelled cooked shrimp, thawed, removing the tails)
  • Hot cooked rice

Nutritional Facts

230 calories: 1 cup, 13g fat (5g saturated fat), 75mg cholesterol, 1016mg sodium, 9g carbohydrate (5g sugars, 2g fiber), 20g protein.

Directions

  1. In a 5-qt. slow cooker, combine the tomatoes, broth and tomato paste. Stir in the celery, green peppers, onion, garlic and seasonings. Stir in chicken and sausage.
  2. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours or until chicken is no longer pink. Stir in shrimp. Cover and cook 15-30 minutes longer or until shrimp turn pink. Serve over rice.
    Freeze option: Place individual portions of cooled stew in freezer containers and freeze. To use, partially thaw in refrigerator overnight. Heat through in a saucepan, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if necessary.
    Yield: 11 servings.

Even in the heat of summer, this is such a yummy meal…maybe for this weekend. Have a relaxing weekend, and share your week’s favorites if you will in Comments below.

A Year Missing Our Friend Jeannie Elliff – Remembering

Blog - Jeannie Elliff

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the Homegoing of our dear friend, Jeannie Elliff. She died on July 20, 2015, after a long battle with breast cancer – a young 69 years old. I wrote before about her here. Remember her with me and all who knew her…and loved her.Blog - Jeannie Elliff 6Photo Credit: Facebook

What I also want to point you to today is her husband, Tom, and what he wrote this week about her. In his blog he writes eloquently and lovingly of those last days before her Homegoing.

What a year it must have been for him. Marking special days and trips he would have spent with her and those closest to them. Experiencing the many graces of God that come in the painful loneliness of losing a spouse like Jeannie. Of course, he wouldn’t probably describe these days as losing her altogether. She just arrived Home ahead of him.

Besides his blog, I also wanted to give you a heads-up about his latest book coming out in September. You can pre-order through Amazon.com and others. In The Unwanted Gift, Tom reflects on the relentless cancer Jeannie experienced (and he, with her). Then, in the book, he expands it to any personal trial we might be having, and how God can penetrate and infuse that hard place with His great grace and strength.

Blog - The Unwanted Gift by Tom Elliff - clcpublicationsPhoto Credit: Amazon

We have read all of Tom’s books. He writes as a dear friend might, your own pastor maybe…coming alongside with encouragement and care…with humility and trust…as one who has been in a similar place…confident that God will meet us there, as He did with Tom and Jeannie.

Postscript: Like you maybe, we have a full week with little time for much extra reading or viewing. For this reason, I wanted to point you to two easy-to-use resources to help you know and reflect on the life of Jeannie Elliff. One is a video and the other is audio (with transcript) – listen in the car or working at home – you will be blessed:

Tribute to Jeannie Elliff   Jeannie’s husband, Tom, and all four of her children spoke at her memorial service. It was the most worshipful service and loveliest tribute I’ve ever seen honoring a woman who loved God and all of us so completely. The video of the service is still available on Vimeo – so beautiful. Revive Our Hearts Radio also posted a two-part tribute (October 1 & 2, 1015) entitled Faithful to the Finish: The Life of Jeannie Elliff. Nancy Leigh DeMoss moderated the tribute, using audioclips from the memorial service.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.2 Timothy 4:6-8

For us…there is still a race to run.  For God’s glory and for those He’s placed in our lives…as Jeannie so marvelously showed the way.Blog - Tom & Jeannie Need You NowPhoto Credit: Facebook

Jeannie Elliff – Home Now with the God She Loved So Well – Debmillswriter

60 Years Married – Mom & Dad – a Tribute & Photo Montage

MomMom PopPop - Wedding Day - Anniversary (2)MomMom PopPop - 50th wedding anniversary (2)John & Julia – on their wedding day and their 50th anniversary

This week we celebrate Dave’s parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. 60 years! How thankful I am to have been part of their lives for a bit over 30 years thus far. Living in the embrace of their love for God, us and each other has been a journey of constancy and intentionality.

Julia and John have been another set of parents to me. My own mom raised us four children pretty much alone, finally leaving my biological father, without looking back. She later came close to God again and wondered if she’d stayed what might have happened. After a couple of visits, right after their divorce, that dad never came again…and we grew up knowing he didn’t love us.

[I’m very, very thankful for a step-dad, who I write about, who loved us as his own. So I do know the love of both a devoted mom and dad.]

With my own mom with the Lord, and my dad dealing with Alzheimer’s, I am grateful for all the years with my mom and the years still with Dad, wherever his mind will wander.

That being said, what a joy to also have Julia and John, my “in-loves” still together, hanging in there with each other and with us. Growing older is not an easy thing. All the vows we make in our weddings become all the more vital in the days when mind and body wear down. To see the kindnesses between these two, and their enduring love, patience, and regard for each other is such a witness to what marriage is meant to be…

They teach us and our children so much through how they have both celebrated and weathered life together – the weddings, the divorces of loved ones, the births, the deaths, the distances between us, and the seasons of all our lives. All the stamps in their passports to be with us overseas…so grateful for that. They have spent long days apart because of work in the early years, and long days together in a different work in the latter years. The interruptions of illnesses and accidents. The great grace they’ve known and lavished on us. Their faith in a God who never left them; never forsook them…ever.

Pictures will tell you more than my words…let them speak for me:

John - PopPop - Dave & MarkMomMom home with us in tennesseeMomMom, MamaLu, Dave, & Christie - 4 Generations4 GenerationsMomMom, PopPop, ChristieMomMom, PopPop, Aunt nancy & Uncle BobJulia & John w/ her sister, Nancy & husband Bob – four close  friends

MomMom & PopPop - WilliamsburgMomMom, PopPop, Christie, Nathan, DanielMomMom & PopPop youngerMomMom, PopPop, DaveMomMom & PopPop earlierMomMom & PopPop 2014 (2)PopPop & ChristieMomMom, Nathan, Daniel 2015PopPop Stacie 2011 (2)MomMom & PopPop with grandkids2015 June - Mills Family PictureThe Mills Family, 2015

60 years…of faithfulness, and honoring, and loving through sweet times and hard times. So glad to be part of this journey with them…to be family with them.MomMom PopPop Nancy BobMomMom & PopPop - 60th wedding annviersary - with Dave and Mark, Stacie, and meHappy 60th Anniversary, Dear Ones. You show us what love is and how it’s done across a lifetime.MomMom & PopPop - 60th wedding anniversary

Valentine’s Day – Hit-or-Miss Holiday Or One Pointing to a Larger Love

Blog - Valentine's Day & Love

Valentine’s Day – what a holiday loaded with expectations! As with other special days of the year, the marketing for Valentine’s Day drives us to do something – something different (?) than we might do any other day of the year. That same marketing drains our hearts of joy if we miss the mark of those expectations…either as recipient or deliverer of the goods. Silly holiday.IMG_3775IMG_3771 IMG_3769IMG_3778

The pressure to express our love with gifts/experiences on Valentine’s Day is enormous. “How do I love thee? Let me count the dollars.” heads one fascinating infographic on how we spend Valentine’s Day. Americans on average will spend $100 and up on Valentine’s Day – “and up” more likely.

I actually like all the hearts and sweetnesses of Valentine’s Day, but the thought of spreading that love every day is much more appealing.

Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, describes five ways we experience love.  He wrote several love language books, each focused on a different group – children, teens, singles, men, and women. His books aren’t the Gospel on the topic, BUT they are immensely helpful. How we experience being loved is often weighted toward one or two of the following: acts of service, gifts, physical touch, time, and/or words of affirmation. Both my husband and I share the preferences of love received through words of affirmation and acts of service. Getting older, having time with those I love is also a huge gift of love, knowing how busy and pulled we all are in this life.

Still the oldest, most enduring, and deepest experience of love we can have…and you know where I’m going…is the love of God.Valentine's Day - God's Love - Crosstrain - BlogPhoto Credit: Not Consumed

We need look no farther than that. I was single more years than I’ve been married…what we need to fill our hearts goes beyond human relationships, as good as they may be sometimes (whether friend or family). In all the years of my life, after hearing of God’s love and then embracing it, He has never failed me. His love never fails (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Valentine Day John 3 16 - cdn - ministry to children

In fact, we don’t need to look as much for His hand as His face. God loves, exquisitely, because God is love (1 John 4:8). The very definition.

I bring nothing new to the table on this subject. My longing is to be a good steward of His love to those He places in my path. There is so much brokenness in the world – so much heartache. If mending would come through flowers, chocolates and a candlelit meal, how lovely would that be. Mending our hearts comes through a cross and a love that meets us in our loneliest places. By His grace in our lives, that’s the love we can extend…that love. Blog - God's Love - Valentines Day - countingmyblessingsPhoto Credit: Counting My Blessings

What Science Gets Right and Wrong About Love – Think Christian

12 Quotes to Remind You of God’s Amazing Love by Deb Wolf

Birthday Week – 2016 – Making Memories and Treasuring Them – and the Winter Storm Jonas

 Blog - Birthday Week - Dad on phone (2)

My dad and I share a birthday week each year. His birthday comes the day before mine. After all, I tell him, he will always be older than me. That joke doesn’t register anymore for him, because he doesn’t remember now that it was funny to us…before. Before Alzheimer’s.

For most of my years, even with living either overseas or out of state, we’ve celebrated our birthdays together. This year we traveled to Georgia for his birthday but would travel back home on mine. That was one of the many differences of this birthday week.

When I captured this image (above) as he talked to one of his grandchildren on the phone, it reminded me of an older picture of him, from many years ago.IMG_0004 (5)Dad was often on the phone, answering calls from people who needed his handiness for one reason or another. He was always happy to serve others and he was quite good at it. I wonder, as his strength and memory have faltered in the last couple of years, if he misses those days. So many phone calls…so much purpose in his life. It’s different now, for Dad. He often doesn’t remember even who called a few minutes earlier. For us, though, his life still has purpose.

We have this season to show him love like he showed us for so many years. We are grateful for him…and for what we’ve learned from him. For the joy of just knowing him…and being in his life.Blog - Birthday Week - Dad, Steph, BarbaraBlog - Birthday Week - Dad, Dave, Debbie

Every time I visit, we go through his picture books to help him remember. We also make new memories together. I’m not sure how many he remembers, but I believe that he remembers that we love him.Blog - Birthday Week - DadBlog - Birthday Week - Dad and Pastor DavePhoto: Dad & his pastor, David Lyle, who visits him regularly.

Dad and I didn’t have my birthday together this year. Dave and I needed to get back home. This would be the start of a very different birthday for me. My computer crashed while we were away, so I wasn’t able to write for days. Then winter storm Jonas would wreak beautiful havoc on our city over the weekend. Family dinner with our kids was cancelled, as was the game night with friends I was looking forward to. No date night with Dave.

The pity party for one was just getting started…and then I came back to my senses.

Before the massive snowfall, on the evening we arrived back home from Georgia, we had our regular weekly gathering of our community group from church. It was all the more special this week because they surprised me by remembering the day – being with these sweet friends lifted my heart so much.IMG_3105

No matter how old we get, we have certain expectations about birthdays. Some may not like to be celebrated…and I’m not much for being the center of attention myself. Still, to be remembered by friends and family with gifts of words, kindnesses, time…it is really quite extraordinary…and it encourages me to want to be more like those friends and those family members.

Thank you for making this birthday, overshadowed by much travel and an enormous snow storm, one that I will treasure. It taught me the lesson all over again to take nothing for granted and all things as gifts from a loving God who lavishes good on us through all sorts of people and experiences.IMG_3173

Winter storm Jonas shut down the rest of this birthday week. So beautiful and at the same time paralyzing.Blog - Birthday Week - SnowBlog - Birthday Week - Snow - BerriesBlog - Birthday Week - Snow - Birds

I was reminded of a devotional from Streams in the Desert:

“There is no music in a rest, but there is the making of music in it.” In our whole life-melody the music is broken off here and there by “rests,” and we foolishly think we have come to the end of the tune. God sends a time of forced leisure, sickness, disappointed plans, frustrated efforts, and makes a sudden pause in the choral hymn of our lives; and we lament that our voices must be silent, and our part missing in the music which ever goes up to the ear of the Creator. How does the musician read the “rest”? See him beat the time with unvarying count, and catch up the next note true and steady, as if no breaking place had come between.

Not without design does God write the music of our lives…If we sadly say to ourselves, “There is no music in a ‘rest,’” let us not forget “there is the making of music in it.” The making of music is often a slow and painful process in this life. How patiently God works to teach us! How long He waits for us to learn the lesson!” —Ruskin

This lament of a “forced rest” may seem strange to those of you who love to sled or play otherwise in the snow… I love the snow also. My heart struggle came with the snow. It kept me from being with others whom I wanted to be with and had all sorts of expectations in that wishing…because it was my birthday. Right? Sigh….

The snowstorm affected us all differently. For me, it was that forced rest…a time to consider God’s goodness, in the quiet reflections of a snowy winter weekend. A time to reflect and a time to repent…of expectations misspent.

I am so blessed…so blessed. Thinking of my dad, at the winding down of his life…dealing with memory lost, with strength waning…and yet he takes joy in the smallest of graces. That is a prescription for contentment for all of us.Blog - Snow - Mariah KingPhoto Credit: Facebook.com

We share a birthday week…and my dad, and this storm Jonas, reminded me of all the good woven into every situation of life…if we quiet our minds and look for it…it can be found.

IMG_3220 (3)[Dave’s card to me…on this very different and blessed birthday.]

As the sun sets on the winter storm Jonas, what did you take away from these days of a different sort? I would love to hear about it…IMG_3254 (2)